Mr Inbetween is back for season 2 on FX, and one of our top TV picks from last year has outdone itself in creating a rich story around Ray Shoesmith, an Australian man just trying to get about his day.
There’s a darkness in Ray, but he’s trying hard to compartmentalize it and carry on taking good care of those he loves. His inquisitive and sensitive daughter Britt, his lover and friend Ally, and his brother Bruce, who is losing a battle with MND (motor neuron disease). And his dog.
Ray Shoesmith’s (Scott Ryan) life is a Bento Box of obligations and demands. His day job (and sometimes night) is being a professional money collector and hitman for his friend Freddy who sometimes loans him out to others for jobs. And with Aussie laconic flair, Ray gets the job done.
Meantime, Ray is also a responsible single father to daughter Brittany (Chika Yasumura), while being a caregiver to brother Bruce (Nicholas Cassim), who has severe motor neuron disease that is stealing his life right underneath his feet.
But Ray weighs and measures; he isn’t a blind killer, he gives it a think. And if it doesn’t smell right, he walks.
The sliding scale of ethics and his ability to detach at the right moments means that his outward appearance is one of a centered and caring man. At least that is what his new love interest we met in season one, Ally (Brooke Satchwell) sees in him.
Season 2 of Mr Inbetween is a tightrope now, one where Ray is dead center between the gorge walls just balancing and hanging in there, trying to earn a living and also be the man he wants to be for his daughter, his lover and also take care of his brother. Would they still love him if they knew his secretive vocation?
More importantly, why does Ray do what he does, and with such dispassionate efficiency? What dented Ray’s can?
If Rocky, Sylvester Stallone’s epic film character, and HBO’s Barry had a love child, you might have a Ray Shoesmith. You are rooting for him despite his heinous deeds.
We spoke to both Scott Ryan who plays Ray Shoesmith and Brooke Satchwell who plays his love interest, Ally ahead of the Season 2 premiere:
Monsters and Critics: What can you tell us about Ray’s background? It wasn’t military. Did he do time? Where did Ray come from?
Scott Ryan: Yeah. He’s done a little bit of time. He was also in the army for some time as well. He grew up on a dairy farm, sort of out in the sticks. Sort of a troubled childhood, I suppose, had some issues there. So that’s kind of, I guess, the genesis of his character.
M&C: There’s this effortless chemistry that you have on-screen, and I don’t think that that’s coincidental. I feel like you either worked together before. There’s just something there.
Brooke Satchwell: That’s lovely. To be perfectly honest, when we first worked on the first series [season], we’d never met before. It was literally the audition. I walked in, and Scott [Ryan] and Nash [Edgerton] were both sitting there in this airless, windowless room, and they looked like death warmed up. I was actually just genuinely concerned for them. ‘You okay? What’s your day been? Are you all right?’
And then obviously, Scott, not having had a long back catalog of work in the industry. Pretty much [just] Mr Inbetween, and the Magician, the audition room wasn’t the most comfortable environment for him.
And that was just my natural instinct, to try and make him comfortable. That obviously proved to be the winning ticket and forged that connection. It was basically just about connecting with people, which is beautifully the environment that he creates on set. So that actually worked quite fortuitously.
We obviously worked together for series one, but with the incredible workload that he was toiling under with having written, produced and being in nearly every single scene, it wasn’t until after we completed filming and went out for a pub meal that we actually got to know each other really properly. And that’s when we worked out we were a bit “brother from another mother,” and we had a lot of things in common.
I needed a pet sitter and a house sitter, and he [Scott] needed somewhere to write the second series [season]. So we did end up half nights for a period of time. So we got to know each other very well. And that was awesome, to take that into season two. Because obviously, the relationship between Ray and Ally has evolved and progressed in the meantime.
Scott Ryan: I have to say though… That Brooke and I have different… What is it…. I like houses when they’re warm, and she tends to like them when they’re a bit colder. So we did have some issues there. But apart from that, it was great. Yeah. I’m like a reptile, I’m cold-blooded, and Brooke’s very warm-blooded. Apart from that, it was all good.
Brooke: But we also both keep our chocolate in the freezer, so that’s good.
Scott: Yeah, which this is [one of] the important things.
M&C: You can’t fake chemistry, you can’t act chemistry. Movies and television series live and die by it. If it’s not a tangible, believable thing, the audience is turned off. The more I read about your other interviews that you’ve done, I feel like Ray’s your Rocky. I feel like you’ve had this character brewing inside your head for a while. Would you talk about it?
Scott: Yeah. Well, really, it started when I was at film school. I was thinking to myself, I’ve made a couple of shorts, but I really didn’t want to keep making shorts. I wanted to make features.
So, I said to myself, well, what sort of feature am I going to make? And I said to myself, well, I’ve only got a couple of thousand dollars at that point, to make a feature film. So I said, well I’ve got to do something that… It’s not going to look so great. It’s not going to sound so great. So I’ve got to do something that’s… Where the restrictions of the budget are not going to hurt the film? That they’re going to actually help it?
So that was where the idea of doing a mockumentary came from. Because I knew that the audience would be forgiving if it didn’t look so great, and didn’t sound so great.
I’d done a short, actually, about a similar sort of character. So I thought, yeah, I’ll just do that. That’s where the idea for that came from. Then I made The Magician when I was at film school. Then I met Nash Edgerton and Michele Bennett, and they helped re-edit, recut the rough cut of the feature that I’d done, and get it out there in the world. That’s the genesis of the TV show. That was it.
M&C: In season two, your daughter’s being bullied. You kind of open up to Ally [Brooke Satchwell] and you give her a little snapshot of your past, and it’s kind of a dark moment. You say that you had a rough time in school, but will Ally find out more about what you actually do for your day job this season?
Scott: I think the audience was going to expect in that relationship, that she would find out what he does. And that’s the reason I stayed away from going in that direction. So it’s not so much about…
Brooke: I was going to say, I think what’s really lovely about what you’ve done with the Ray, Ally dynamic, both for series [seasons] one and series two. She’s always just this light that’s just ahead, and he’s kind of moving towards it, and wanting to make those choices to have that companion, and have that intimacy in his life. But obviously, it flies in the face of the other elements that he’s chosen for his world.
With series two going deeper into Ray’s emotional landscape, it’s really four of us, and their lives are becoming more entwined. And Ally’s more involved in Bruce and Brittany’s lives, which are also both evolving in their own arcs. It’s these kind of wild threads of having real, proper, live humans that he cares about in his world, and what that means to him.
So you see these sort of domestic scenes unfold between Ray and Ally, and you see what she brings to him. But the question becomes what he’s willing to do to step towards her. As opposed to whether she knows what he does or doesn’t do for a living. That sits kind of on a deeper level, perhaps. Do you think, Scott?
Scott: Yeah, look, I think it’s an easy device to use story-wise — that she will find out what he does. I figured the audience would be expecting me to do something like that in the writing. That’s why I stayed away from doing that. I didn’t want to do what was expected. So it’s more about finding out, not so much what he does, but who he is.
It’s not about the job. It’s about the man doing the job. And that’s kind of what she discovers.
Brooke: Yeah. In series [season] two, they’re starting to share more parts of their lives. Ally takes Ray into her family life and Christmases, and there’s moments where even their most intimate moment is interrupted by his younger daughter, and they’re having to share that experience together.
She’s starting to see who he is by these shared experiences. Obviously, that progresses throughout the series, and choices.
M&C: By the way, I believe your sex education talk should go viral. It’s just brilliant, it really is.
Scott: Well, yeah, maybe we can just stick it up on the internet. And when parents want to have that chat with their kids, they just show that version. Just show the soft eggs, tadpoles, and your balls. There’s an egg and it’s a soft egg, and all that kind of stuff. That answers pretty much every question a kid could have, I think. Yeah, it’s about right, I’ll give you that.
M&C: Exactly. I think I like the small, day in the life bits of your character Ray, those quieter moments more than actually, the action scenes where you’re out doing a job.
Scott: Absolutely, yeah. I feel the same way.
M&C: I love when you’re with your daughter, or especially with brother Bruce. Can you talk about that actor and that character? I know that it gets pretty heavy. He asks you essentially, ‘when I can’t take it anymore, I want you to help me end it.’ Talk about that.
Scott: Well, Bruce, Nicholas Cassim, fantastic actor. Way underutilized in this country, that’s for sure. That scene, all that stuff, I had to show the progression of the illness, the MND (motor neuron disease}. I’d been doing a bit of research, and I read an article where somebody had had it, and the wife had asked her husband to help her die, and it was all about him having to deal with that.
Deal with, how do you answer that question? That sort of stuff. So that’s where the idea for that came from, was from a newspaper article that I read.
M&C: Okay. There was also a scene where the police come knocking on your door, and they’re very polite. Ray gives them nothing. Talk about that scene featured in the trailer clip.
Scott: It’s funny that you should say that because I actually got the idea for that scene from a YouTube clip. There’s a YouTube clip of, this cop comes out of the guy’s house and says, ‘I’m looking for so and so,’ and the guy just goes,’ I don’t answer questions.’
And the cop just basically walked off at the end of it. He just completely panics and walks off. There’s a lot of that kind of stuff on the internet, coming from the U.S.
What’s interesting about it is, you do have a right to remain silent. Which, we don’t really hear that much these days, but we still have that right. We don’t have to incriminate ourselves. We don’t have to answer any questions police, at any time. And most lawyers will tell you that if police try to question you about anything, you should never, ever, answer any questions.
Cause it can get you into trouble. Yeah. It can get you into trouble because they might ask you a question, and you answer incorrectly. You’re trying to be truthful, but maybe you don’t remember something properly. But in a court of law, they can use that against you.
They can say, well you said this, and then that can make it appear as if you lied, when in fact you just didn’t recall something correctly. Most lawyers will tell you, never speak to the police, and if you are going to do it, deal with the lawyer.
Mr Inbetween premieres and airs on Thursday, (beginning September 12) on FX.