Aussie stars meet Cleaver

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Tv - HOLLY BYRNES

GET­TING un­der the skin of a lawyer as the in­fu­ri­at­ingly lov­able rogue Cleaver Greene in ABC1’s Rake has al­ready won Richard Roxburgh crit­i­cal ac­claim and a le­gion of new fans.

It’s just that a few in the le­gal pro­fes­sion haven’t taken too kindly to hav­ing the ‘‘ folly of law’’ and some of its more ec­cen­tric char­ac­ters ex­posed for TV au­di­ences.

Walk­ing down Phillip St — Sydney’s le­gal dis­trict — has proved a good mea­sure of where peo­ple stand on the se­ries, Roxburgh says.

‘‘ To my mind, they fall into one of two camps. There are those who ab­so­lutely love the thing be­cause they re­alise that what we’re fi­nally do­ing ac­tu­ally is a piece of en­ter­tain­ment, show­ing the folly of law, but also its com­plex­i­ties, its ab­sur­di­ties, its old habits.’’

And then there are ‘‘ the men in wigs, car­ry­ing those navy blue li­brary bags — I re­ally get the stink eye from some of them’’, he chuck­les.

Rather than be­ing shamed by the re­ac­tion, Roxburgh says be­ing ac­cused of ‘‘ drag­ging the law into dis­re­pute is ter­ri­bly grat­i­fy­ing. Just won­der­ful’’.

The ac­tor’s keen sense of black hu­mour is at the heart of the show’s suc­cess.

The acutely ob­served writ­ing and ra­zor wit made Rake one of the sur­prise hits of 2011 and a mag­net for top ac­tors.

The AFI award-win­ning Roxburgh says the se­ries, in which he is star, pro­ducer and cocre­ator, has been em­braced like no other pro­duc­tion he has worked on.

‘‘ There’s an en­thu­si­asm for the show that has been re­ally grat­i­fy­ing, that we’ve tick­led so many peo­ple’s fancy.’’

Re­sist­ing the urge to rush out sea­son two was both a side­ef­fect of de­mand for the team be­hind Rake (in­clud­ing writ­ers Peter Dun­can and An­drew Knight) and Roxburgh’s head­lin­ing stint in the Sydney The­atre Com­pany’s New York sea­son of Un­cle Vanya (costar­ring Cate Blanchett).

But the wait is worth it, with Cleaver back to his wicked best and a stel­lar line-up of guest stars in­clud­ing Toni Col­lette, Garry McDon­ald, Jac­que­line McKen­zie and Don Hany.

Just like his cor­rup­tion of ‘‘ good girl’’ Lisa McCune last sea­son, when the Blue Heel­ers star played a bed-hop­ping temptress, the new se­ries opens with Col­lette and Roxburgh in the back of a limou­sine. Rake, ABC1, Thurs­day, 8.30pm

On a win­ner: Richard Roxburgh plays Cleaver Greene in Rake.

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