The idea of a scheming, lying lawyer whose personal life is in shambles doesn't sound like a very likeable one, but according to producers of Fox's upcoming show "Rake," star Greg Kinnear brings the necessary charisma to a role that could go wrong.
Cast and producers got together at West Hollywood's ultra-chic Soho House Dec. 9 to discuss the new lawyer show, based on a successful Australian series of the same name. The show focuses on Kinnear's character Keegan Deane, whose personal life includes massive gambling, an angry ex-wife and battles with the IRS, but who is a master in the courtroom.
"House," in that it stars a sometimes unlikeable character whose saving grace is his aptitude at his job. Producer Michael Wimer acknowledged the connection, and said the challenge they faced was that, unlike Dr. House, Deane isn't going to save anybody's life at the end of the episode. The solution to getting audiences to like him? Kinnear.
"What's particularly special about Greg, kind of in a Tom Hanks, Jimmy Stewart vein, is that women will love him because he's very charming," Wimer said. "With guys, he's so fun and does all the stuff that we do, the really dumb things that, to guys, make sense, and women go, 'How on earth did you do that?'"
"Greg brings such extraordinary charm to the role that lets us get away with Greg doing more extreme things," he continued.
The producers also presented a sizzle reel, which showed Kinnear getting into all sorts of trouble, including choosing a defendant who had been accused of - and unabashedly admitted to - cannibalism.
While it may seem a little edgy for network TV, Wimer said "Rake" is "probably not dark enough for where cable shows are going," and that Fox had approached he and producing partner Peter Tolan ("Rescue Me") for a character-driven story.
Peter Duncan, creator of the Australian show, who also became a producer of the American version, insisted that it was "not an exercise in trying to slavishly copy the Australian show."
Duncan, who used to be a lawyer himself, said that bringing the show to the U.S. was not as easy as he thought it was going to be. Among the contrasting features of the two shows are differences in the American and Australian court systems. Still, he said there are definitely noticeable similarities between the two versions.
"It's similar," he said of the American show. "It's naughty, it's irreverent. I think it's funny. But there is a palpable different culture between Australia and America, and I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that Australia's much more blunt."
Bojana Novakovic is definitely among those who is familiar with both versions and will notice any differences. The Serbian Australian actress stars in the show as, by her definition, a prostitute with a heart of gold.
She said she originally met with Duncan about the Australian show, and that his story was that she was too young for the role. Still, she remained a fan of "Rake," and when she heard about the upcoming American version, she jumped on her agent to pursue the role.
She insists that the show won't be too edgy for American audiences and, on the contrary, it will just be exciting enough, as it "takes the piss out of the legal system."
"I just think people, in general, love things that break rules," she said. "People love being shaken to the core and falling in love with the wrong guy and vying for the criminal."
"Rake" premieres Jan. 23 on Fox.