Rake returns for its second season tonight with more escapades for criminal barrister Cleaver Greene, but there’s good news and bad news for fans.
The good news, according to star and co-creator Richard Roxburgh, is they are already busy at work on a third season.
“I don’t know if it’s officially confirmed but we’re certainly working as if it is,” he tells TV Tonight.
The bad news is he plans to leave audiences wanting more.
“It’s not written in stone, but our vision is that we should only do three and then that story will be done. It’s certainly what we feel,” he says.
“You certainly don’t want to be flogging a dead thing.”
The ABC1 series is far from a dead thing right now, with glowing reviews for the second season. The scripts are strong and the guest cast is top-notch. Rake looks set to be stronger than its first season.
Roxburgh acknowledges there is more confidence that comes with a second season.
“You come into with more of everything and you know the shape of the beast. The directors know the shape of the beast, so there’s not a question mark over “Is what we’re doing Rake? Did I just shoot that in Rake way?” You kind of know what a Rake-way is,” he says.
“The same thing goes for the narrative elements. One of the great pleasures of this season was pushing the experiences of the characters. How far can we go? Where do we want to take him?
“You’re dealing with human beings as characters so there is complexity to them. Also so that you’re not just reiterating the elements that were successful the first time around.
“There wasn’t any of that ‘difficulty of second album’ about it. The challenge was we wanted to make it better. By the time we got it up, we were working on 12th draft of some of these scripts and that was pretty much the writers working for free just to make sure it was as good as it could possibly be.”
The second season takes a detour into politics, with Toni Collette guest starring as a Premier caught in a compromising position with Greene.
“Cleaver has ostensibly not learned any lessons about cause and effect from everything that happened in Season One,” Roxburgh explains.
“What you have you have to look forward to is the movement into the dark and murky world of state politics. Cleaver bumps up against both sides of state politics and ends up getting everybody’s noses so far out of joint that they all want him destroyed.
“His personal life of course gets ever more wretched and by the end of the season he’s never been in anything like the position that he ends up in.
“He is great fun to play, I can’t tell a lie.”
Also guest starring this season are Garry McDonald, Don Hany, Jack Thompson, Stephen Curry, Rhys Muldoon, Martin Henderson and Jacqueline McKenzie.
“There’s an amazing door of lofty talent and that’s down to having exceedingly good scripts, so that Toni Collette will come on board and play the Premier of NSW.”
But despite a sometimes-fine line between truth and fiction, Roxburgh isn’t admitting if Collette’s role is based on any individual politician.
“She’s not really based on anybody. People will draw some conclusions because she’s female and she’s a Premier but she’s a Liberal Party Premier,” he says.
“I guess what we’re describing is a world that is conceivable now. It’s conceivable that a Liberal Party Premier could be somebody like Toni Collette.”
Cleaver Greene is described as brilliant, self-destructive and an addictive in nature. Creating a hit-series around such an unlikeable character is not without its challenges, but Roxburgh brings such spirit to the role.
“I guess he’s really an anti-hero because he never really does anything halfway decent or good, and yet he still appeals to people,” he says.
“Part of what’s interesting about anti-heroes is that they explore the outer-reaches of things we might like to explore ourselves and they express themselves in ways that we wish we could express ourselves. A lot of that has to do with being politically incorrect. I think we live in such stringently enforced political correctness that there’s a sense of being entrapped. So to have a character who gives free vent to sometimes-quite-wayward opinions is really appealing. As long as they’re not axe murderers I think there’s something in the ongoing trajectory of those lives that is appealing to us.
“We’re probably used to being spoon-fed particular types of dramas that are easily palatable, but Rake is an odd shape because it’s not a drama it’s not a comedy. It’s a combination of both things in equal balance, but I think life is like that. Funny shit happens to us all the time.
“If you look at NSW politics in the last ten years you could make an extraordinary comedy-drama about the layers of corruption. By the time Kristina Keneally was voted out she was presiding over about 3 people left because everybody had jumped ship. It’s funny and it’s also tragic, and that’s the shape of Rake.”
Would he ever consider a political career?
“Incontrovertibly, no. I can guarantee I will never, ever do that!” he laughs.
But Roxburgh is enjoying being a co-producer. Rake is is first outing as a TV producer, one of the few actors in Australia afforded the opportunity.
“Because I’m one of the creators sometimes I get to pitch things that are personal bug bears, stuff that drives us personally insane you can deal with and get it out on screen. So that’s also a gift,” he says.
“A lot of the time, contrary to popular opinion, I actually think actors are on the whole, smart. I think they’re really good with Story. They understand stuff. Once you’re a mature actor it’s not just about trying to make your stuff look great and trying to give yourself more words to say. In fact if anything with Cleaver I’m constantly saying ‘Can you cut this? Can I just say it in one sentence?’
“But in terms of storytelling I love it. I love being able to stick my oar in. I love talking about possibilities, where the character can go and the shape of the stories.”
Rake airs 8:30pm Thursdays on ABC1.