Friday, June 24, 2011

Law & Order UK: Dominic Rowan on Jake Thorne, Senior Crown Prosecutor

(Source: ITV publicity)
Dominic Rowan is 
Senior Crown Prosecutor Jake Thorne

Playing Senior Crown Prosecutor Jake Thorne certainly had an effect on Dominic Rowan; he started to cross-examine in his sleep!

"Apparently I wasn't cross-examining a particular witness but I was lodging 'an objection my lord' in my sleep, which I have no recall of," says Dominic. "Because of a relatively tight schedule and courtroom scenes between me and a witness, which can be four or five pages long, I was drumming the lines into my head so I had flexibility and always knew what was coming up. I must have been rehearsing it in my sleep because I wanted to be sure I could do it well. Luckily the sleep prosecuting didn't last.

"In the first episode I had James Fox in the witness box and we had a four and a half page duologue which was fantastic but a bit nerve wracking. It was tricky because not only was there 'legalese' but as he was playing a doctor, medical terminology too but he was great and very professional and we just got on with it."

Talking about his character Dominic explains: "Jake has only recently joined the CPS. He had previously been practicing as a Treasury Council prosecutor, but his heart wasn’t completely in it. He is an only child, whose father died when he was very young and he never forged a particularly strong relationship with his mother. She sent him to boarding school which gave him a measure of self- reliance and a strong sense of right and wrong.

"Alesha asks of him 'Is there no grey in your world?' But Jake believes there’s a time for that in the pub over a drink, not in the law. He has a strong sense of purpose in the job of convicting people. His mantra is about people making a choice. He is less in favour of mitigating circumstances; he may be sorry about a defendant's background but he believes ultimately they had a choice.

"He is tough and while Alesha wants to know context for people's actions he is more concerned at prosecuting them for what they did not why they did it.He will always push for the harshest sentence possible and use every means he can to convict. I also think Jake is quite competitive and wants to prove his self- worth, fight his way up. His sense of making sure people do the time for the crime attracted him to the CPS; he wants to see justice done but is not shy of using techniques to win if he finds a sneaky route.

"It was useful to learn about the relationship between the CPS and the police during my research. The creation of the CPS caused resentment in some quarters which was helpful to know. I have scenes where I go and see the coppers to hear what evidence they have and charges they have made but it is then my say whether we go ahead with a prosecution or not. Being aware of that status helped as Jake has a run in early with Ronnie Brooks where he is telling Jake 'you can’t drop a murder charge to manslaughter; you couldn't do this if you had kids.' But it doesn’t matter to Jake, it wouldn’t make any difference as to how he does his job. And that’s not how the law works. The police get very close to it, they see disturbing scene of crime stuff but ultimately they present to the CPS who make those final decisions."

Talking about his character's relationship with colleague Alesha Phillips, Dominic continues: "Initially when putting a case to the boss, Henry Sharpe, the prosecutors have to argue the relative merits of the evidence they have. There are a couple of case in the series, particularly ones involving children, where Alesha says we need to know why this is happening so we can stop it and Jake has a waspish response about it being time to put away the liberal text books. Alesha was close to James Steel and he was more crusading in his approach so we tend to spark off each other initially. I’m not dismissive of her but am a bit abrupt. Jake is adamant that officers of the court are not social workers and her attitude gives him something to butt up against.

"But although he is a bit grumpy with her at times, Jake realises her abilities and although he might not agree with her opinions, he can’t argue with her results. In her investigations Alesha finds out crucial bits of evidence which means he can do his job. So there is respect, to the point where we have this scene when I am about to cross-examine a witness and I am practicing on Alesha who says my approach is too harsh. Jake trusts her opinion and encourages her to cross-examine on his behalf. He thinks she has the ability and certainly doesn’t treat her like a junior partner. They still have a bit of knockabout with each other and Alesha puts him in his place."

Dominic is no stranger to legal dramas…

"Ten years ago I did a Channel 4 drama called North Square and that was the last time I had visited the wig makers Ede and Ravenscroft to get a wig and gown. I defy anybody to look good in a wig, so it wasn't something I relished. This time after trying on many wigs I had a new one but it looked too new apparently so Sam in make-up had to rough it up a bit for me. The barristers carry them around; sling them in a box or a locker. Wearing the wig is second nature to me now. But it doesn't get any more comfortable. The courtroom set in Law&Order: UK is a climate control room but they can’t control it so by the end of the day I am melting under the wig."

Dominic wasn't a Law&Order devotee when he landed the part but is looking forward to a box set marathon.

"When I got the job I hadn’t seen the series as I'd been doing a lot of theatre …it is one of those things if you’ve watched, it's quite compulsive. But when I got the audition I did a compare and contrast and there is a tonal difference. In America it seemed as though everybody who came into the room was as important as everybody else. Status levels didn’t seem that different. In Law & Order: UK it seems people are deferring to other characters a lot more. I didn’t want to watch too much of the UK series after I had the strange experience of learning a scene for a cross-examination then turning on the telly and seeing Ben Daniels doing a cross-examination.

"Ben and I had done a couple of plays together at The National Theatre; The Three Sisters in which he played a proud, alpha male character and I was an overweight boy who hid away, and brothers in Iphigenia at Aulis when he was the warrior hero and I was a jumped up oik. So having played the minor to his major in those then seeing him in full flow I thought it best not to watch any more! But it felt nice knowing him and having the baton passed on. I’d love him to come back and be a defence barrister opposite me…but only if I won."


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