By Paul Hall
Interviewing the star of a new television show can present challenges. In fact, “sitting down” with Greg Kinnear, star and co-executive producer of Rake, took place while he was out for a little jog before shooting a scene of the new FOX show.
“I’m just taking a slow run,” the somewhat-out-of-breath Kinnear told us over the phone, “and about to shoot a scene for Rake, and then I’m going to get home and start brining a turkey.”
Rake follows the exploits of Keegan Deane, a brilliant and frustratingly charming criminal defense attorney, whom Kinnear describes as having “a very sort of screwy life and living in the orbit of some very unusual, different people.” His passions are gambling and at times debauchery, but he maintains some level of hope.
“People both love him and are deeply frustrated by his behavior all at once,” Kinnear says. “It’s a guy who is struggling. He’s as brilliant as he is stupid and makes catastrophic mistakes but is trying. … I don’t think he is a lawyer with a heart of gold. I don’t think he wants your help, and I don’t think he is soliciting sympathy from anyone. I think that, for better of for worse, he is on a very particular course and there’s people he loves and things that he cares about but I don’t think — hopefully it’s done with a wink — I think there might be some element of self-discovery mixed with all the messiness, ugliness of his life. But I really admire the Australian show for not ever trying to play to those passions too much.”
If you think Rake is simply another procedural courtroom drama, think again. The show is based on an Australian series created by Peter Duncan, whom Kinnear met years earlier in Australia while doing press. Duncan’s American adaptation caught Kinnear’s eye. Fast-forward to 2014 and it is now on the FOX midseason schedule.
“I just thought that there’s a big element of trust,” Kinnear says, of his attraction to the project and to working with Duncan. “Peter is an outsider. I like the idea of his background not having been built up in the traditional world of TV. [That] was appealing to me … his mind is bent — and I mean that in a good way.”
When asked what genre he might put the series in, Kinnear would “let others decide. … There’s a tone and vibe and all of that is a hard little evasive thing to capture and clearly this is an adaptation of a previously existing show. We’re not reshooting an Australian show; we’re trying to find our own voice in all of this, our own kinda vibe. … I mean, there are great moments of drama and I think there is some really strong comedy I don’t think it tries to push you one way or the other. I think it’s really accessible to the audience to find their own place in the show, but I can say it’s really an evolving thing; it starts, you know, with a guy who really is up against it and spinning way too many plates and running way too fast — often in the same place. He is trying to, I guess, afford himself a lifestyle that not everybody would choose, but his passions are, you know, gambling and at times debauchery.”
The show does have a semblance of a case every week, but Kinnear explains, “There’s as much conflict and discovery in the people in this community that surround Keegan’s life and who ultimately become very important.”
As a defense attorney, Keegan’s clients range from serial killers to cannibals — yes, cannibals. And while inside the courtroom Keegan seems to be acutely aware of everything surrounding him, he definitely has issues outside of the courtroom that cause him to make grave mistakes in his personal life. But as Kinnear relates, there is a sense of hope with this guy, and that hope was part of the whole package that appealed to him.
“I think the guy has some level of hope that I really responded to, but as the show goes on, those addictions and those needs and those, sort of, life shortcuts begin to take their toll and catch up to him and start to really affect him and those people that are around him,” he shares. “The stories of the people around him start to really take root and take on their own lives and start to affect his story, and his story affects their story. It’s a growing organism.”
The first episode is a “funnier case” and sets up Keegan’s journey. “They’ve done a good job, I think, of starting at a place where you get to watch the clay harden a little bit,” Kinnear says.
Keegan is a strange breed of man. “He despises hypocrisy unless it is his own,” says Kinnear. And he has a real “inability to do any self-examination or self-reflection” to help himself along the way. But as a lawyer, he’s top-notch though far from mainstream. In fact, Kinnear opines, “He’s an extraordinary attorney by choosing not to follow the standard-fare law-firm route and, you know, live in the bubble of hypocrisy that permeates the legal world in some cases. I think his choice to kind of go rogue is something that benefits him.”
But Greg, bottom line, would you have Keegan defend you?
Kinnear is straightforward. “I’m not sure I would want him to give me any personal life counseling, but I sure as hell would like him to be able to represent me if I got into serious trouble.”
Rake premieres Jan. 23 at 9pm ET/PT on FOX, and airs Thursdays.
Rake on FOX: © 2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Warwick Saint/FOX