PASADENA, Calif. — Greg Kinnear's return to full-time television comes in the form of one of the oddest-named shows in recent years: Rake.
He plays Keegan Deane, a criminal defense lawyer who is long on legal skills but short on social etiquette or the fortitude not to gamble himself into misery. The show is based on an Australian series of the same name.
Deane has so many flaws that even Kinnear's not certain he would want him handling a case.
"I don't mean that as an indictment on the guy," Kinnear says. "At the end of the day, he's — for the most part — brilliant at that aspect of his life in spite of all the other sort of self-destructive mechanisms in his life. I was intrigued immediately when I saw the show as to the mess of that guy, and that kind of absolute lack of need for approval is a hugely attractive thing, especially if you're an actor."
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This is a character who at times has a great self-awareness of what he's doing to himself but at other times is on a blind path to destruction. The writers were shown a photo from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones is running from the giant rolling boulder. That's the life Deane is living.
The appeal of the character is why Kinnear, nominated for an Oscar for 1997's As Good as It Gets, switched back to TV after making a series of feature films, including Little Miss Sunshine, Flash of Genius and The Last Song. He got assurances from executive producer Peter Tolan — one of the wacky minds behind Rescue Me — that Rake wouldn't be a typical TV legal drama.
Deane will see plenty of court time, but he also has to deal with an I.O.U. with his bookie that grows faster than the national debt. There's also a variety of women in his life, including a current love interest, an ex-wife and a high-priced prostitute. As if that weren't enough, he's dealing with an offspring who appears to be following in his dad's often twisted footsteps.
Rake has plenty of dramatic moments, but it also gets Kinnear back to his comedy roots.
"It's tricky to try and find that comedic/drama balance. But, the Australian show succeeds very, very much in that," Kinnear said. "It really struck a nice chord between the drama and the comedy, which is what appealed to me — doing that mix. It's certainly what I think I was most intrigued by, in terms of getting on board with this."
Deane will always be at the center of some personal or financial whirlpool, but he doesn't have to face it alone. Kinnear's delighted to be working with strong actors such as Miranda Otto, John Ortiz, Necar Zadegan, Tara Summers, Bojana Novakovic, David Harbour and Ian Colletti.
If the show is successful, Kinnear could end up playing the role for years, and he's OK with that. He says he's fallen in love with the roguish charms of his character.