For the second time in an interview with TV Tonight, Roxburgh confirms the third season will be the last, preferring to see the ABC show go out on a high.
“We want this to be the last season,” he says.
“There might be other forces at work that are keen to not (conclude).
“But we want to leave a good-looking corpse and leave something beautifully, so that there is no sense ever that we’ve tried to string it out and it gets watered down.
“We want it to be intense, flavourful, and then it’s gone.
“I suppose what that means is we had to draw a lot of the loose strings together to make something that is quite different, in a way.”
His comments, made on-set last year, reiterate a previous conversation in which he indicated Rake was always envisioned as a 3 series drama.
It also means the series has had to approach the third season with an endgame in mind.
“Yes that’s right,” he acknowledges.
“You need to start figuring out where you want to leave your characters and you don’t want to tie everything up neatly. There’s no point in doing that. And you don’t want to kill everybody off, there’s no point in doing that either.
“But it’s a beautiful exercise as well.”
Roxburgh has felt the weight of the third season, not merely as actor but as producer. With the show’s co-creator overseeing the US adaptation of the series, he’s been without a key ally. Perhaps it’s this that has influenced his mood.
“This year has been different because one of our two writers, Peter Duncan, is over in America showrunning the American one. He’s normally been showrunning here, so if there were ever issues on set then he would be there to sort it out,” he explains.
“So that’s been tricky and I have to say I’ve had to end up doing some of that stuff.
“I can sort of work out what Cleaver would say and think or do in any moment, but it’s been much trickier to work those things out.
“We’ve had to divide it up with (Director) Jess Hobbs, who’s done and incredible job, me and Pete if he is available to do it.
“But I think you could only do that successfully by the third season because we know the characters so well.”
Speaking frankly, Roxburgh admits sometimes those decisions have impacted on him as performer.
“You tend in Australia to get each success rewarded with a budget trim. It’s nobody’s fault really, it’s just the nature of the industry. It’s kind of the opposite of the great corporate machinery of American television where success is rewarded with reward. Here you tend to get trimmed. So you have less days to film,” he notes.
“Because everybody is a trouper you get it done, but only just. There was a day where I actually thought I’m going to end up in hospital or something. I was almost in anxiety attack territory where I just could not remember the lines to a scene because my brain was so full, and so exhausted and I had not shut up for about five days running.
“So I thought ‘Each year, if you just trim a day here and there, there is a point where it actually will snap.’ But maybe they stopped trimming then.”
Nevertheless, Cleaver Greene shows no sign of going quietly. Roxburgh has relished the role of the legal rogue and come to know his various shades intimately. It’s what makes his performance so captivating.
“I think he’d be a dangerous friend. But in some sense he could also be your best friend too, because in his own way he is ferociously loyal. So there are characteristics that are likeable, or lovable,” he explains.
“The thing I’ve always liked about Cleaver that allows people to forgive otherwise-abominable behaviour, is the fact that he is incredibly loyal and he never stops loving people. Once he’s loved you, you will always be beloved by him. That in some way allows people an inroad into his heart.
“He champions the law but not necessarily justice, because he thinks it is kind of non-existent. In personal terms and in legal terms he thinks justice is the real ass whereas the law is the only thing you can hang onto.
“I don’t think it means he doesn’t have a moral compass, because I actually think the other thing about Cleaver is that he does. It’s a morality of his own demising, which perhaps is an unusual one. But it’s there and it has edges.
“I now know which way he would lie on almost all things. And when I say lie, I mean which way he would fall!”
Season Three began with Cleaver in prison but it wasn’t long before he was back in the courtroom having successfully appealed his conviction. Roxburgh says the prison scenes were temporary but brought new challenges.
“We didn’t want to do Porridge, so we had to figure something out!” he laughs.
“It was very good fun but strange doing Cleaver in prison. As a lot of actors will tell you, a lot of your character -weirdly- comes from your footwear. Once I am in my snug Cleaver leather booties, I feel very much like him.
“But once you take that away and you’re wearing nasty $10 K-Mart polyesters and a green tracksuit, I was very worried. It was odd for the first couple of days because I thought ‘I don’t feel like Cleaver anymore.’ But then I got into the swing of it. The great thing about the character is you can take him anywhere and put him in any situation.”
The US version, starring Greg Kinnear, has adapted to the US legal system as well as a network format of being written with commercial breaks in mind.
While there are new cases being explored, the writers are free to ‘cherry-pick’ from the Australian original.
“It obviously lacks quite a bit of the theatrical flourish, because of the absurdity of the wigs and gowns that we have here. It’s a much more colloquial environment than the high church of our legal environment,” he says.
“But he’s fantastic and I think a great choice for that character and I hope it prospers.”
Rake continues 8:30pm Sundays on ABC1.