From the moment he stepped onto a stage for the first time, playing a rat no less, a young Russell Dykstra knew performing was his calling.
It was a knock on the door from his amateur theatre enthusiast neighbour that led the 10-year-old into his first role in a local production of Toad Of Toad Hall.
All these years later, with countless roles under his belt — including as loveable Barney Meagher in his series Rake — he can’t imagine having done anything else with his life.
As the latest season of Rake comes to an end, Dykstra reflects on the antics of his onscreen mate Cleaver Greene and talks about his affection for the colleague who plays him, Richard Roxburgh.
How did you and Richard first meet? We did a play together called Ray’s Tempest about 10 or so years ago, for which he was the director. My first impression of him was of a very open man who was quite respectful of the craft, and obviously a huge talent. He’s very personable too. I have a great deal of admiration for him. We worked together again in Romulus, My Father and of course now in Rake.
Are you two mates outside of work? We are. It’s nothing as crazy as the antics between Cleaver and Barney though, thankfully. You’d hope not — I can’t do that. Can you imagine if that was your reality in life — having a friend like Cleaver Greene? I don’t know if I’d have the patience.
How does Barney have the patience to put up with him? I think it’s their old friendship, the history. Sometimes you look at old friendships and you’re a lot more tolerant of people who’ve been in your life for a long time and think, I’d walk away if we had just met. But you’re invested.
Their friendship has certainly been tested over the years. I mean, Cleaver slept with Barney’s wife! Indeed. And especially in this season, the friendship is tested like never before. You feel it in every season — you wonder how it could possibly go on. But you know there’s an incredible friendship underpinning things too. For all his faults and flaws, Cleaver is incredibly charming and those two have a lot of fun together.
Speaking of fun, it looked like the Rake party was over for a while, but it came back. Can we expect another chapter? It’s the nature of the beast nowadays, that it’s hard to gauge what’s going to continue and what’s not. I’m not sure what’ll happen next but it’s such a great quality show. I personally love the show as a viewer just as much as I love working on it.
RAKE, ABC, THURSDAY, 8.30PM