Rake star talks about life as one of Australia’s top new actors

For one hour every week Keegan Joyce explodes onto our screens in the acclaimed ABC series Rake. Joyce plays Fuzz, the mischievous and bad behaving teenage son of Sydney barrister, Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh.

At 24 Keegan Joyce has some impressive titles under his belt. The longest serving actor to play Oliver in the musical production of Oliver, appearing as Starkey in the Doctor Who spin-off series K9, playing the audacious Fuzz in Rake and in his latest role Joyce has dived into comedy, performing in Josh Thomas’ second series of Please Like Me.

Joyce, a former student of the King’s School in Parramatta, shot to stardom at the age of 13 in Oliver. With no background in dance or drama Joyce was amazed when he landed his first big role.

Playing the orphan Oliver Twist, Joyce was told by Choreographer Geoff Garratt, “you’re not the actor Keegan Joyce playing Oliver Twist, you’re Oliver Twist being Oliver Twist, that’s the hard part”. It seems Joyce incorporates that mantra into every character he plays, expertly portraying the innate temperament of characters as diverse as Starkey to Fuzz.

Since peforming in Oliver all those years ago, Joyce is now focused on Rake, where he expertly conveys the quirky and quick-witted Fuzz, who has a penchant for choosing the wrong partners. Unashamedly Australian, Rake attracts an audience of over 500,000 each week and neither Joyce or the hit drama is showing any sign of slowing down.

In between a break from playing Fuzz and jetting off to Melbourne to work on Please Like Me, Sydney Observer got the rundown on what it’s like to hit the big time and mix with Australia’s most celebrated actors.

You landed your first big role playing Fuzz in the critically acclaimed ABC drama, Rake. Since then you have started on Josh Thomas’ comedy series Please Like Me. Is there a particular genre you’re drawn to?

I’ve been very lucky in the last few years of my career to work on two great shows with fantastic scripts. I’d never worked on a ‘proper’ comedy show before Please Like Me and it has been fantastic experiencing something different to what I’ve come to know from Rake’s special blend of ‘dramedy’. At the moment I can’t really say what genres I’m drawn to, but I can say that what drew me to Please Like Me was the wonderful writing and storytelling.

From dating his English teacher to an evangelical Christian and returning from Africa with a Congolese wife, your character on Rake, Fuzz, leads quite a chaotic and wild lifestyle. Are there any similarities between yourself and Fuzz?

I’d love to say yes – that I’m a chaotic mess with a great mind like Cleaver or Fuzz, but alas no! Fuzz and I share a few similarities and I think that’s our absolute stubbornness to do anything but what we want. I was always a ‘teachers pet’ in school and I hate confrontation. I keep to myself nowadays and would never ever consider doing some of the things Fuzz tries to get away with.

What have you gained from your first experience in a supporting role?

It has been absolutely wonderful to work with incredible scripts, incredible crews and some of Australia’s best directors but as for inspiration it’s hard to beat the likes of Richard Roxburgh and the entire ensemble and guest appearances in Rake. I’ve been really fortunate to watch them perform their jobs amazingly, so it has been a great learning experience for me. In the most recent season of Rake my character returned as a replica of his father. Richard was wonderful and helped me get the perfect ‘Cleaver’ down on tape.

Why do you think audiences continue to return in droves to watch the fictional scandals and self-destructive characters in Rake?

I think Rake is kind of special because not only is it a great story that people are drawn to (people love seeing chaotic genius), but it’s also special because it’s iconic to Sydney and so Australian in the way of location, quotes, and actors. Audiences are loving the hilarity of this remarkable character and the stories that are trying to push the envelope of Australian TV, but it really is Richard Roxburgh who brings him to life. So I think it’s a combination of everything that keeps them wanting more.

Why did you decide to embark on a career in acting, has it met your expectations?

I’m glad you asked this question; some actors say that they chose a career in acting because they “can’t do anything else” or they “don’t have a passion for anything else”. It seems like their career was thrust upon them. I hate to think of it this way because I’m really passionate about the fact that I chose it, not the other way around. In saying that, I’ve had some incredible luck working from a young age and then getting more and more work as I’ve become older.

I love my career because it gives me the opportunity to work in so many different fields and think about so many different things. No day is ever the same and I love it.

I had a really great grounding from my family and teachers when I was growing up. They knew I was going in this direction and I think were wise enough to guide me into having realistic expectations about the industry. I’ve got a great family, girlfriend and management team behind me who support me in what I do and what I want to do.

You were the longest serving actor to play Oliver in the musical production of Oliver! Would you consider returning to theatre?

I’d love to return to the theatre. I’d especially love to do a play as I’ve only ever done musicals in the theatre. As for music theatre – of course! It’s where I started and I’m currently finishing my degree in Musicology at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music so I’ve never lost my passion for Music. Hopefully I’ll be returning there real soon and continuing to film for television.

What are your long-term goals and future career plans? Will we be seeing you in films?

You will I hope! I’d love to continue working in television. I think I’ll make a go at the US market eventually, but I’m not in any hurry at all. I want to make sure I’ve got a great grounding here before I try anything elsewhere.

As for my long-term goals I’d love to conduct for choir one day and also write my own music and release a record. There is definitely enough to keep me occupied in television and theatre at the moment so I won’t rush into anything. Unless it’s going to be really great and something I’ll be proud of there’s no way I’m going to touch the music venture stuff so I think it’s a little way down the road. On a side note I sang tenor on a recently released album “Mysteries of Gregorian Chant” and things in music are happening for me as well I guess.