From show creator Scott Ryan and executive producer/director Nash Edgerton, the Australian crime dramedy Mr Inbetween, now in its second season on FX, follows Ray Shoesmith (Ryan, who also writes and executive produces the series), a man who’s trying to juggle a relationship, parental responsibilities, friendships, a sick brother and court ordered anger management classes, all while being a criminal for hire. Balancing collecting debts with helping to raise his eight-year-old daughter Brittany (Chika Yasumura) isn’t easy when you’re a hitman with a growing body count, and Ray is realizing that keeping both sides of his life from imploding is going to continue to get more and more challenging.
While at the FX portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with the show’s creative team of Scott Ryan, Nash Edgerton and Michele Bennett (who is a producer on the series) to talk about the evolution of Mr Inbetween, the challenges of directing this series, how Edgerton’s daughter became such a big part of the show, the importance of the father-daughter dynamic, the need to have all of the scripts ready before they start shooting, just how often things change, writing yourself sex scenes, and what Ray could do if he ever retires from being a hitman.
Collider: I absolutely love this show and think it’s great fun. Scott, are you happy with how this whole thing has turned out and evolved?
SCOTT RYAN: I’m very disappointed by all of it. No. You think to yourself, “It would be great to make this show, and for somebody in the U.S. to pick it up, and for it to go everywhere,” but you’ve gotta be realistic in your expectations. It’s great. I’m very happy with the way the show has been received.
Are you pretty much able to create this how you want to, without a lot of outside interference?
RYAN: The thing with that is that it’s always helpful to have other people’s input in the show. You want to let people read it and tell you what they think because it’s hard to be objective about it when your head is in it 10, 12 or 14 hours a day. A lot of times, when you’re writing stuff, you know what’s wrong with it, but you just don’t wanna deal with it, so you hand it off. And then, people point stuff out, and you’re like, “Yeah, I know,” with a lot of that stuff. And sometimes, people say things that you don’t agree with, but it’s all in an attempt to make the show better. I don’t think anybody is out to make the show worse. Everybody wants to make it better. But what they don’t understand is that sometimes they can make the show worse. Sometimes there are bad ideas. You have to be a gatekeeper and let the good ideas in while you try to keep the bad ones out, or what you perceive to be bad ideas that are going to hurt the show. Let the good ideas come in and make the show better, and get the bad ones out.
How do you gauge that? Is it just an instinctual thing?
RYAN: Yeah, it’s just your gut. It’s all just personal choice. Nobody’s right, and nobody’s wrong. You just go, “That’s a good idea. I like that. That’s going in.” Or you go, “That’s not a good idea. That stays out.” That’s hard.
MICHELE BENNETT: A lot of the show is about authenticity, and that’s where you’re coming from, so that’s how you know what rings true. Most people involved in the show understand what it is and understand what Scott’s doing, including FX, so there are very few battles, relatively
NASH EDGERTON: Because of the way Scott writes the show, the descriptions are quite concise, but sometimes people just need to ask a few more questions about why the character is doing something a certain way, and he usually has already thought about why he’s made that choice, or why he’s laid out a specific action, a certain way. Sometimes people will say, “Well, can’t he do this?,” and Scott will say, “No, he wouldn’t have done that because of this, this and this.” And because the show, a lot of the time, will come into the middle of a scene, the scripts don’t ever over explain scenarios. People working on the show just need to understand a bit more about why choices are made the way that they are. Once you see it visually, it makes sense. We try not to spoon feed the audience everything.
I really like how it’s not an overly wordy show. These are not guys that have big monologues because most of what they’re thinking or feeling would be internal, anyway.
RYAN: I think a lot of people underestimate the intelligence of their audience, and they tend to spoon feed what’s coming next and why things happen, which we just don’t know.
Nash, what do you enjoy about directing this series?
EDGERTON: I love that we have such a varied cast with so many interesting faces, and that we get to find the right actor to play each of these roles. We don’t have to cast known people. We can just find the right people for the show. Ray’s daughter is played by my daughter (Chika Yasumura). One of my favorite things that I enjoy doing are the scenes between them.
RYAN: Working with me is probably twice as fun.
EDGERTON: It’s really special. Scott and I have a very similar sense of humor. I really enjoy the dark humor in the show.
Could you ever have imagined that you’d be working with your daughter, in that way?
EDGERTON: No. When Scott and I first met, she wasn’t even born. And when he first wrote the scripts for the show, she didn’t exist. It just took us so long to get the show made that, by the time we did, she happened to be the right age.
RYAN: Things happen when they’re supposed to happen.
EDGERTON: She’d never acted before. We were looking for somebody, and we just hadn’t found the right person yet. It was my wife’s suggestion for her to audition, which I was very hesitant about. And then, these guys saw her test and were like, “She’s the one. We’re gonna cast her.” And I was like, “Hang on for a second, she won’t clean a room when I ask her, so let’s just see how it goes with me directing her.” She’s a joy to work with.
BENNETT: She’s such a natural, and very, very professional. She’s probably the most professional actor on set.
Scott, what’s it like to do those father-daughter scenes, and to have that diversion from the intensity of this subject matter?
RYAN: It’s always good to work with somebody who’s just great, and who’s there, reacting to you while you’re reacting to them. A scene can change, right in the middle of it, because of what you’re doing.
EDGERTON: Chika doesn’t come in with a method.
RYAN: And I don’t have a method either. I’m untrained and she’s untrained, so we very much work the same way.
EDGERTON: It’s like two kids acting together.
RYAN: That’s exactly right. That’s basically what it is. When the camera is rolling, I am like a little kid, as I am in life, when Nash yells, “Cut!” I’m a bit of a child, so love working with her. I always look forward to it when I know she’s on set and we’ve got a scene to do. Some of the best scenes, so far in Season 2, are Ray and Brittany scenes.
What can we expect from the Ray-Brittany dynamic in Season 2?
RYAN: She’s getting a bit older and wiser, and starting to wake up to certain things that are going on in the house, and that’s a problem for Ray. His little girl is growing up.
All of the relationships in his life seem to create their own headaches, whether it’s his ex-wife, his girlfriend, his boss, or whatever. How is he juggling everything, at this point?
RYAN: Reasonably well, I would say.
EDGERTON: He has some good days and some bad days. He gets pushed out of his comfort zone, occasionally, by Brittany.
RYAN: More so this season than Season 1, for sure. It’s darker, more tragic, and more dramatic than Season 1.
Do you try to find a balance between the dark subject matter and the humor?
RYAN: As much as possible. I’m always trying to write stuff that’s funny. That’s just the way that I write. That comes naturally.
Do you finish writing the whole season before you start shooting it?
RYAN: Oh, absolutely, yeah. You’ve gotta have scripts.
EDGERTON: He’s in every scene, so there isn’t time for him to write while we’re shooting.
RYAN: You want to see the whole season, and see where it sits, before you start. Until you see it as a whole, you really don’t know whether it’s gonna work. Even in the late stages in the development of the script, things were changing dramatically, at the last hour. We were like, “We can’t have that episode there,” and we’d move stuff around, up until the last couple of weeks before we started shooting.
Michele, as a producer, does it make you crazy when things keep changing, right up until the last minute?
BENNETT: The only experience with television that any of us had was Season 1. It definitely all moves at a faster pace than film, which is what we generally do. So, yeah, the overlapping is not fun, particularly when there’s just one director, directing all of the episodes, and your writer is the lead in every scene. There’s very little room to move, once you start. It’s a juggernaut, and you’ve just gotta keep it all moving.
What are the biggest production challenges, in doing a show like this?
EDGERTON: Just trying to keep the whole show in your head and keep it balanced. We had around 90 locations, and over a hundred cast.
BENNETT: Both seasons have a lot of locations.
EDGERTON: Ray moves around a lot.
RYAN: In Season 3, he’ll be in a coma.
Scott, when you’re writing this, do you ever think about the fact that you’ll actually have to do what you write for yourself?
RYAN: Totally. I wrote a sex scene for Ray, and I thought, “You realize you’re gonna have to get naked and do this stuff?” The writer part of me was going, “But don’t worry about that now,” while the actor part was going, “Wait, hold on.” You’ve gotta put yourself in those situations sometimes. For the good of the show, you’ve gotta get your gear off. It’s all for the good of the show.
How long does it take to shoot the season?
BENNETT: Fourteen weeks.
Does that feel like enough time to shoot it in?
BENNETT: There’s never enough time. You always feel that. Last season, it was five days per episode. This season, it was about seven days per episode. When you feel like you’ve got a bit more time, what happens is that they’re some more elaborate scenes written and more characters, and you fill it out.
What can we expect from the relationship between Ray and Freddy (Damon Herriman), in Season 2?
RYAN: That’s expanded in Season 2. There’s a lot more of Freddy. It’s more a relationship of convenience for them because they’re working together. They get along reasonably well, but it’s mainly because they’re working together. There’s more Freddy. He’s got a love interest. When I wrote Season 1, I had no idea that Damon was gonna play Freddy. But then, when you see who’s playing him, you’re like, “I can’t waste him. I can’t just put him in one or two scenes. I’ve gotta make the most of it.” So, there’s quite a bit more of Freddy this year.
How is Ray’s love life evolving?
RYAN: The cracks definitely start to appear in the relationship with him and Ally (Brooke Satchwell), in Season 2. There are some problems. There are some serious problems. It would just be so boring, if you had a show where everything just went right for the guy and he was like, “Oh, it’s a wonderful day and everything’s lovely.” That would get pretty boring, after awhile.
Do you ever think about what Ray would want for his life? Is there a point where he wants to retire?
RYAN: I think eventually. Once we get to Season 26 or 27, he’d probably have been thinking about it for a time. He could drive a taxi in a small country town, or move to America.
Is this a show that gets easier, from season to season?
RYAN: No, it gets much harder. The thing about six episodes was that it was only six episodes. When you’re doing a lot more episodes, and you also compress the time that you’ve got to do, especially on the writing side, where I had a very short period of time to write the series, it’s harder.
Have you thought about a possible Season 3, or how much longer you’d like to do this?
RYAN: We don’t know, at this point. We’re still cutting Season 2, so I couldn’t even think beyond this.
EDGERTON: We only finished shooting two weeks ago.
Mr Inbetween airs on Thursday nights on FX.