From executive producer/director Nash Edgerton, the Australian crime dramedy Mr Inbetween, airing on FX, follows Ray Shoesmith (Scott Ryan, who also wrote the series), a hitman who’s trying to navigate parental responsibilities, a sick brother and a new relationship, all while earning a living in the criminal underworld. Ray is the type of man who demands respect and doesn’t tolerate anyone who violates his very clear code of ethics, and if you find yourself on the wrong side of that, he has no problem with taking care of you, permanently.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Damon Herriman (who plays Freddy, Ray’s boss and friend) talked about the parallels between Mr Inbetween and Justified, in which he played fan favorite character Dewey Crowe, his long-time working relationship with Nash Edgerton, just how long Scott Ryan has been developing and playing this character, the fun of playing someone with a mysterious backstory, the Freddy-Ray dynamic, and amassing such an eclectic collection of stand-out characters.
Collider: We’ve talked about Justified before, but this is quite a different show and character.
DAMON HERRIMAN: It is. Interestingly, I think there are some parallels with Justified, in that it’s a drama with a lot of dark humor and a bit of violence. There’s also a lot of crime. I guess the major difference in Mr Inbetween is that the hero, or central character, is on the criminal side of things, rather than the law-abiding side.
And your character seems like he’s a little more aware of what’s going on than Dewey Crowe was.
HERRIMAN: I think anyone is more aware of what’s going on than Dewey Crowe, but that made him endearing. Dewey’s lack of knowledge, on any aspect of life, was what made him endearing. Freddy has a bit better idea of what’s going on. He’s not quite a criminal mastermind, but he’s definitely smarter than Dewey.
And compared to everybody else in this show, he is kind of the mastermind.
HERRIMAN: Yes, that’s right. He tends to be the one that’s initiating the jobs, and certainly the paid jobs, that Ray ends up doing.
How could this come about? Did you know these guys, at all?
HERRIMAN: Yeah, I’ve known Nash [Edgerton], the director, for many years. We’ve worked together a few times on short films, on music videos, on a feature film that Nash directed, and recently on a feature that Nash produced, so we go back quite a ways, probably 20 years. And Scott [Ryan] and I had actually met around the same time that Nash met him, when there was a short film version of the Ray Shoesmith story. There was a short film, called The Magician, that was more of a mockumentary style, but other than that, it was very similar, in terms of it being a dark comedy. The character was very much the same. And then, Nash ended up working with Scott to turn it into a feature length version of that story. That was about 12 years ago, so it’s amazing that now here we are, making this TV series version, and it’s even more amazing that it’s playing in the States. It’s very exciting.
It’s funny that it’s a character that they just couldn’t seem to let go of.
HERRIMAN: I’m not gonna say that Scott is Ray Shoesmith, because he’s a much more gentle guy and he’s not violent, in the slightest, but there’s a part of his essence, his humor and his very laid-back, laconic approach to life, which has something in common with Ray. It’s a character that he was born to play. Obviously, because he wrote the series, as well, he knows the character incredibly well. It’s great that he’s had this opportunity to explore the character a little further.
This character that you’re playing, Freddy, is just on the outside of the story. He gets to pop up, here and there, and generally in a strip club. What’s the fun of playing someone like that, who just shows up and does his thing, and then disappears for a bit, and we never really know when we’ll see him again?
HERRIMAN: Dewey was a bit like that, too. He would disappear for episodes in a row, and then come back and do something crazy. Those characters are always fun because they’re often in scenes that are just fun, in their own right. They don’t require forwarding the story too much. A lot of the time, they’re just there for the entertainment of the exchange between characters, and Scott writes such great scenes. The scenes he writes are always just such fun to do, as an actor. That line between drama and comedy is such a fine line, with the stuff that he writes and also with the way Nash directs, and it’s incredibly enjoyable to come in and work on.
Are there challenges in playing a character like this, where we don’t really know his backstory or why he’s doing what he’s doing, or is it fun to be the one responsible for filling all of that in, yourself?
HERRIMAN: Probably a bit of both. It is certainly fun to be able to have the freedom to just kinda go, “Well, who is this guy?” We don’t know anything about him. We do get the sense that he’s not very good with money and is constantly owing it. Other than that, we don’t know a lot about Freddy, certainly in this season of the show. Perhaps down the track, we’ll get to find out a bit more about him. I think it can be quite fun not knowing the circumstances. You like to have as much backstory as possible because you can draw on that, but there’s a certain freedom to just being able to do what you like.
What gets you into this guys’ head? Is it the sets and the wardrobe?
HERRIMAN: Definitely! It starts with the script. The script is so good. Scott’s writing is so good. It immediately paints a picture of who this guy is and the world he comes from. And then, when you add to that, things like hair and wardrobe and sitting around in a strip club, it certainly paints the picture quite fully.
How would you describe the dynamic between Freddy and Ray?
HERRIMAN: We’ll, it’s not a typical employer/employee type of situation. In some respects, Ray is the one in control, even though Freddy’s constantly trying to soften and lessen the drama. In other versions of this story, he could have been a Godfather figure, who’s the big boss, but I that Ray kinda wears the pants in that relationship and Freddy is just trying to keep things light and friendly. Freddy is constantly trying to twist things or get one over Ray, which he doesn’t really succeed at because Ray is incredibly smart, and he’s certainly very street smart. There’s a fondness for each other, but ultimately Freddy is probably a little scared, of Ray and Ray uses that when he needs to.
Do you think Freddy is the kind of criminal who will get things done if he needs to, or does he prefer to have other people do it for him?
HERRIMAN: I think he definitely prefers to have other people do it. He needs the Ray Shoesmiths of this world to do what he needs to get done.
The character that you played on Justified was such a stand out, and this character is just so fun and colorful. Because you’re amassing such an eclectic group of characters, when you read a script, what gets you excited about a particular character?
HERRIMAN: For me, it’s that the character jumps off the page. Dewey is a classic example of that. I could see him and hear him, as I was reading it. What I find harder to play or harder to get interested in, is when there’s a blandness to the character or a lack of clarity to them. I like it when a character is very clear to me, as I’m reading. Certainly the characters in Mr Inbetween all have that quality.
I also thought your character in the Cinemax series Quarry was great, and I loved the dynamic between you and Ann Dowd.
HERRIMAN: I loved working with her so much. I loved that character, and I loved that show. That show was gone way too soon. It’s crazy that that show didn’t get another season. That was another case of that, absolutely. Buddy completely jumped off the page, when I read that.
Those characters made me want a whole show just about the two of them.
HERRIMAN: Well, they did talk about that, for a second there. I actually just worked with Ann in Australia, on a mini-series (called Lambs of God), and I said to her, “You know, they talked about our characters being in a series. The writers still mention it.” And she was like, “I’m there, if you’re there.” So, you never know. She’s so beautiful. I love her so much. All of her scenes in Quarry were shot in two days because of her other commitments. We just did two solid days of Buddy and Naomi, and it was so much fun.
Mr Inbetween airs on Tuesday nights on FX.