TV crime capers

POLICE drama shows have been a part of Australian television since the early days, but rarely has the approach to solving a murder mystery been as irreverent as in Network Ten’s Mr & Mrs Murder.

The drama-comedy series currently screening sees Jewish actor and Underbelly star Jonny Pasvolsky play a major role as harried homicide squad detective Peter Vinetti.

Short on time and resources, Vinetti calls on eccentric crime scene cleaners Charlie Buchanan (Shaun Micallef) and his wife Nicola (Kat Stewart) – the Mr and Mrs Murder team.

“There’s nothing on television like it,” Pasvolsky tells The AJN. “The series is quite quirky rather than the usual crime show formula. It’s about time Australian television did something like this.”

Vinetti, a former lover of Nicola’s from her days at the police academy, has recruited the couple on the sly to help him solve difficult and unusual murder cases.

“My character’s main motivation is to be near Mrs Murder,” says Pasvolsky. “He’s a lonely fellow and she’s the one that got away. He knows he hasn’t got a shot despite this semi-childish infatuation with her, but that doesn’t stop him from sparring with Mr Murder in every episode.”

The 13-episode series, which started screening on February 20, offers former McLeod’s Daughters and Home and Away star Pasvolsky a much-coveted opportunity to flex his comedic muscles.

“I grew up in a home full of laughter so I’m interested in roles that have a certain amount of humour,” he explains. “The show is very funny and there’s also a sensitivity to it that I hope people will relate to.”

The South African-born actor says he’s been able to score more roles with a comedic element to them since his light-hearted turn on another quirky Network Ten series, Offspring.

“Mr & Mrs Murder is the most fun I’ve ever had on set,” says Pasvolsky. “I’m working with brilliant people both in front of and behind the camera.”

The series was filmed on location around Melbourne over a six-month period last year. Scenes were filmed at venues ranging from Chinatown to golf courses to pig farms.

Pasvolsky, who lives in Bondi, has nothing but praise for co-stars Micallef and Stewart, whom he has worked with previously on Offspring and the 2006 Australian film Macbeth.

Stewart’s role as Roberta Williams in the first series of Underbelly won her the 2008 AFI award for Best Lead Actress and the 2009 Logie for Most Outstanding Actress.

“Kat’s a sensitive, nice and funny person. She’s great to work with,” says Pasvolsky. “Shaun can improvise in any direction, which is a gift to work with as you’re given gems the whole time. He’s very funny and so quick. I’d never try and outdo him!”

Also starring in the series is Jewish actor Lucy Honigman, who began her acting career while at school in Melbourne. She has appeared in many TV series including Offspring, Neighbours and Stingers, and in films such as Handle With Care and Remembering Nigel.

Pasvolsky, 40, studied acting at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne after being inspired by the work of actors including Gene Wilder and Steve Martin.

He first hit the headlines for his Logie-nominated role in the Nine Network hit series McLeod’s Daughters.

Pasvolsky has appeared in the second Underbelly series, A Tale of Two Cities, as well as guest roles in Australian television series including Seachange, Farscape and All Saints.

As well as Mr & Mrs Murder, Pasvolsky will next be seen in a guest role in the ABC-TV period series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

He is currently working on a comedy project for television with his brother, director and one-time Oscar nominee Steve Pasvolsky.

“It’s all shrouded in secrecy at the moment!” he laughs.

The actor will also continue his work with the Clean Water Foundation, a non-profit organisation he founded with long-time friend Dan Howard to raise money for the installation of clean drinking water infrastructure in developing countries.

“We want to ensure kids around the world have clean drinking water,” Pasvolsky explains. “It’s a really good cause. The simplicity of being able to go to the tap and get a glass of water is something we really take for granted.”

The foundation, which was established two years ago, recently installed its first well in Kenya’s remote Aberdare Ranges.

“I’m always developing my own projects,” says Pasvolsky. “But hopefully Mr & Mrs Murder will have a great impact and people will enjoy it and see it for the fun that it is.”

Mr & Mrs Murder screens on Network Ten on Wednesdays at 8.30pm.

REPORT by Alexandra Roach
PHOTO of Jonny Pasvolsky (centre) with Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart in the TV series Mr & Mrs Murder.