(L-R) Scott Ryan, Nash Edgerton, Chika Yasumura, Michele Bennett, Nicholas Cassim and Brooke Satchwell.
In the writer’s room that is Scott Ryan’s head, the marginalised and charmingly transgressive characters of Mr Inbetween have staged a coup. Unconcerned with character arcs or narrative demands, they flow with dark authenticity.
“I sit down and I just write a bunch of shit, I sit at the computer and stuff comes into my head. It’s like being a medium that channels spirits. I just channel down whatever it is up there,” explained Ryan the creator and star of the dramedy, the second season of which begins today on Foxtel, at a Q&A screening earlier this week.
“I think we have to be open to that creative force or whatever you want to call it and let it work through you and not try to put conditions on it. You let the characters be who they want to be and go where they want to go.”
The collective of shadowy outlaws that pulse through Mr Inbetween took residence in the showrunner’s head over 15 years ago when he conceived, wrote, directed, produced and starred in the The Magician. The 2005 film served as the introduction for Mr Inbetween’s central character, diabolical hitman and doting suburban dad, Ray Shoesmith, and it also attracted producer Michele Bennett and director Nash Edgerton into Ryan’s orbit.
While season one of Mr Inbetween, produced by Jungle Entertainment and Blue-Tongue Films, had a long lead time into manifestation from the film’s release, once the series was greenlit by Foxtel and the then FX Australia team, the creative and production was aligned and ready.
Bennett said season two happened a lot faster, spurned by the success in both US and Australian markets for the debut series.
“This season FX (US) were the commissioners and were involved on the editing and the script process as well. They have been very understanding in terms of working with Australians and parochialisms and have not tried to Americanise anything. They have very respectful of us as filmmakers and very collaborative,” she said.
For American audiences, Mr Inbetween takes the contemporary underworld model built and celebrated by The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Dexter and Weeds and distorts it with raw Australian individualist subversion. There is no American styled veil for the anti-hero to keep up a façade of respectability; Ray Shoesmith and his clients present a singular survivalist agenda, which captures the growing Australian zeitgeist of social and economic desperation, but it is gallows humour all the way.
“No idea is too far out there,” says Bennett. “We will work with great script editors and consultants that are a lot more mindful of character arcs and storyline, but Scott provides the direction. This season has more of a narrative and storyline than season one and we have worked on developing each individual character a lot more. It has to be real to Scott and to his life that he understands,” she adds.
For Ryan, the blessing of a renewed season success brought the curse of an accelerated writing period. He had a couple of episodes of material in the bag but had less than five months to write the entire new season and do multiple drafts.
FX commissioned ten episodes for season two but Edgerton concedes that due to both he and Ryan’s zeal for creation, there are currently more than ten in the pipeline.
“We are still making the show as it is being screened and this is the first time I’ve been involved in something that is going to be screened before its fully complete so that’s going to be an interesting thing.
“There is a lot of great material there. The main thing for us was to find the right structure for them. Sometimes we get into the edit suite and we shift things around as we are getting glimpses of Ray’s life at different points, we get the freedom to move them around,” Edgerton said.
Brooke Satchwell, who plays Ray’s whip smart but naïve-to-the-truth, love interest Ally, said: “There is overwhelming support from FX, Foxtel and audiences for the authenticity of the voice in this series.”
“Scott likes to write a lot of shit and Nash likes to shoot a lot of shit and the beauty and integrity comes from what you leave out. They have all this material and they refine it and they deliver this series as it is and that is resonating with people beautifully and with us as creatives and we love being part of it,” Satchwell said.
The FX connection has allowed the cast and production team a significant window into America. For producers Jungle Entertainment Mr Inbetween is one of three shows it’s screening in the US during this quarter. Season three of No Activity will air on CBSAA and A Moody Christmas will also air on Fox in the US during Q4.
“We’re very excited to have had three shows commissioned in the USA this year, all going to air over the next three months – this is proof that there is a growing appetite for Australian stories in the international marketplace,” Jungle Entertainment CEO Jason Burrows told IF.
The production house has been investigating opportunities to open a US presence for some time, but has yet to confirm plans.
Mr Between season two premieres today on Fox Showcase.