EXCLUSIVE: John Ortiz Gets Friendly With Greg Kinnear on ‘Rake’, Remembers Paul Walker

John Ortiz on "Rake" (Photo: FOX)

Keegan Deane is a hot mess, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact, there isn’t much this criminal defense lawyer cares about, except indulging in vices like gambling and prostitution. How is it possible that this self destructive attorney manages to not only maintain his job, but also do the right thing for clients who seem beyond redemption?

In his television series debut, actor Greg Kinnear brings life to Deane, a character who finds his equilibrium (and a warm bed to sleep in) from best friend Ben Leon (John Ortiz) on the new FOX series “Rake” debuting on January 23rd at 9pm.

We caught up with John, who most recently starred in “Silver Linings Playbook,” over the holidays to learn more about the Ying to Keegan’s Yang, similarities between the original Australian series and the American version, and he shared memories of his time working with Paul Walker on “Fast and Furious.”

Keegan is a difficult character to cheer for but he’s got a nice guy like Ben on his side. Will the show keep the focus on Keegan or will we learn more about Ben?

“It’s like an unconditional love type of thing between them. You’ll see Ben as Keegan’s best friend and how they have each others back. What’s great about the show is that it’s a great character piece, so it’s not just going to be about Keegan’s ride. At first, you will see them as extensions of him and what kind of function they serve in his life. But midway through, especially with my character first, the writing will take the viewer into Ben’s world. You’ll learn more about the trials and tribulations of Ben Leon with work and family, which will be very exciting.”

As an American remake of an Australian show, will the storylines remain the same as the original?

“Yes and No. Roughly yes, the episodes will be similar to the Australian version but there are some that are completely different. [The original] served as a source of inspiration and [the writers] did a great job of adapting it to American culture, specifically to life here in Los Angeles. You’ll see all the different neighborhoods and cultures here explored and a lot of storylines revolving around that.”

The original show has a storyline where Ben’s wife has an affair with his best friend. Do you think American Keegan would have the nerve to do this to American Ben?

“Yeah, I think so. Honestly we haven’t gotten to that point in the story yet and I know in the Australian version it happens really early in the series. But yeah, Keegan is not above doing anything and this is what makes him so compelling to me. This is a guy who is vulnerable to everything. It’s what he does to get himself out of those situations that make it dramatic and funny. I hope that storyline does happen; this is me speaking as an outsider since I don’t think Ben would want it to happen, but it would create some really juicy stuff!”

Ben is the total opposite of his best bud. Will we ever see him break loose?

“We started putting some stuff out there and it’s interesting. People are used to seeing me do things that are a little more explosive whereas Ben is a little bit more contained. So that’s been something that’s been really interesting for me to explore— to live in the skin of a guy who’s got his box and everything is cool. There’s unrest in his life at first, due to his relationship with his dad, but he’s dealt with it in a way with what he’s created. But yea, you’ll get to a point where you’ll want to see him break loose and there’s some of that. Specifically at his dad’s law firm that he’s now taken over. People just don’t respect him and it’s almost as if he’s invisible. So he really starts putting his foot down and standing up for himself.”

You worked with Paul Walker on a couple of “Fast and Furious” films. What do you remember most about him?

“The most striking thing about him was what a humble man he was and how at ease he was with all the hoopla and craziness that sometimes Hollywood can bring to your life. He was kind of like this light, full of generosity, and he always had a smile on his face. The last time I worked with him was on the cameo I did on “Fast and Furious 6” and it was just him and me in London. He was so down-to-earth and I found it very inspiring. I’m so saddened by what happened to him, it was so tragic. My heart goes out to his family, and I know he’s up there looking down on us. I’m just really lucky to have crossed paths with him.”

Catch all new episodes of “Rake,” Thursday nights at 9pm on FOX.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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