Scott Ryan, the creator and actor of Mr Inbetween, says Ray Shoesmith isn’t exactly Mr Optimistic about his life this season.
FX airs the Australian dramedy about a hit guy with a moral compass on Tuesdays. It’s based on Ryan’s 2005 film The Magician, which tracked Ray’s underground activities as well.
“He’s lost a lot of things. He’s lost a lot of people. He’s lost his brother, his girlfriend,” Ryan told UPI about Ray in a recent phone interview. “The overwhelming or overriding theme of Season 3 is how the work side of his life is starting to take its toll on him.”
Ray is also dealing with the aftermath of his heartbreaking assisted suicide of his ill brother, Bruce (Nicolas Cassim), at the end of Season 2.
“That was one of the most important relationships in his life. I think it impacted him pretty heavily,” Ryan said of Bruce’s death.
Ray is also concerned about how his tight relationship with his preteen daughter Brittany (Chika Yasumura) is being strained as she begins dating boys and is more interested in what her father does for a job.
Viewers who have remained with Ray as he maimed and killed people will probably laugh as he tries to explain his recent prison to a suspicious mother he is attempting to persuade to let her daughter remain at his house for a sleepover with Brittany.
He also had a delightfully off-kilter sequence in which he instructs a disobedient suitor to take his feet off the coffee table in his flat.
“She’s growing up. She’s kind of 12 going on 20,” Ryan said of Brittany. “She’s getting a little bit wiser, a bit smarter, less naive and she’s starting to ask more questions, which makes it more difficult for Ray.”
Although Ray’s restraint of emotion and economy of language make him a unique character in the current television landscape, Ryan regards these traits as typical of most people who are successful in Ray’s line of work.
“I think that’s generally the way with most criminals. When you do a job that could basically land you in jail for the rest of your life, you have to be cagey and careful with what you say and who you say it to,” Ryan said.
While some of his scenes are grisly and serious, it can still be a lot of fun to play a man who always keeps people guessing about what he is thinking and feeling.
There also is another upside to playing a character like this.
“It means I don’t have to learn so many lines because he doesn’t say a hell of a lot,” the actor laughed.
Having dreamed up and then lived with this character so long, it stands to reason that Ray would be hard for Ryan to let go of after the three-season run of Mr Inbetween ends this summer.
“You just stop writing episodes. If I kept writing episodes, then he’d still be around. You just stop, basically, and go, ‘Right. That’s enough of that, and I’m going to go do something else,” Ryan said, adding that the character is not haunting him yet because the show still is airing, but he might do so after the finale. “Who knows? He might wake me up in the middle of the night [then].”
Ryan didn’t always envision the show as a three-season story, but feels it was the right time to stop.
“It just kind of worked out that way, I suppose. It just felt like this was the time to wrap it up. It just kind of naturally happened,” he said, admitting he is satisfied with how the show turned out — but doesn’t feel he accomplished everything he set out to with Ray.
“I don’t think you ever can make exactly what you wanted to make, thought you could make,” he said.
“As an actor, you go, ‘I could have done that better.’ As a writer, you go, ‘I should have written this. I should have done this. I should have put a twist there.’ I’m never happy, unfortunately, with anything I’ve ever done. I’ve never looked back and gone, ‘That’s great!’ You do your best, I guess. That’s all you can do.”
The show has been well-received by critics and viewers, and while Ryan keeps track of what they say they like and hate about it, he didn’t write it with their approval in mind.
“If you give the audience exactly what they want, then they are going to just get bored,” he said. “You’ve got to surprise them. You’ve got to give them what they want and then take it away and give them something else.”
At the end of the day, people are tuning in to see what Ray does next because he is a fascinating character and a walking contradiction, Ryan noted, adding, “Which we all are.”