Wrapped up in a grey coat and textured scarf, Richard Roxburgh is in the foyer of his Melbourne hotel, trying to work out if he should have a glass of wine, send some emails, do a couple of quick voiceover jobs or prepare for his turn that night on Ten’s The Project.
Sinking into a velvet couch, bag still at his feet, he decides on the wine.
The Rake co-creator, producer and star actor has probably earned it: for the past 12 days, he’s been sole parent to sons Raphael, 11, and Miro, 7, while his celebrity chef and author wife Silvia Colloca is working in Thailand.
Colloca, 41, took the couple’s daughter Luna, 16 months, with her and Roxburgh said the “lack of even a waft of estrogen” in the family’s Sydney household has turned it on its head.
“The boys turn into werewolves and I turn into chief werewolf trying to control them,” he tells The New Daily, describing bike rides with his sons and the cooking of chicken bakes.
“There are middens of underpants spilling into the hallway and while I set a lot of alarms every day to get on top of the organisation, there are still a lot of skittles that lodge under your wheels.
“Each time it happens it gets a little easier, but the hormonal machinery of the house is better when Silv and Luna are around.”
Domesticity came late to the 56-year-old, who earned an economics degree before graduating from NIDA in the late 1980s then building a career complete with Broadway stint, film and TV roles (Blue Murder, Hawke, Moulin Rouge) and three AACTA gongs and two Logies.
For the past eight years, he’s dipped in and out of five series of Rake as devil-may-care rogue barrister Cleaver Greene. In this year’s final season, “essentially good soul” Cleaver is an accidental crossbench senator wreaking his particular brand of havoc in Canberra.
The show’s return episode was the fifth highest rating show in Australia on August 19.
“I guess he is in my DNA. We’ve swapped so much over the years,” says Roxburgh, who has “loved letting him off the leash every 18 months or so”.
“It’s been a delight. He’s enjoyable to be around because he’s, you know, never boring.”
Roxburgh, whose debut role was the lead in an Albury High School production of Death of a Salesman, said while acting can be a slog (“I’ve done my fair share of donkeys”) he loves it more than ever.
“Over time, taking charge of my own work and choices a lot more has changed my relationship to it.”
It’s probably just as well.
“Oh God, yeah, I’ve got to do this for decades,” he says.
“I have to potentially put kids through college for the next 20 years. I’ll probably go down on stage. It will be like Johnny Farnham: ‘Oh sh-t, he’s back doing the last ever King Lear.”
His favourite role – father of three – means Roxburgh is a maniac for keeping fit. He sees a personal trainer, does Pilates and “I can still run, can still swim,” he says.
“Like I did with the boys I still need to be able to swing Luna over my head.”
Colloca is just as besotted with their family.
This day, two years ago, on the streets of my home town Milan, eating Panzerotti with my boys, filming my show Silvia’s Italian Table. Little did I know then, I would soon become growing baby Luna… my boys look so little in this photo. Time is precious. #feelingsentimental #nostalgia #myboys #milan #panzerotti
A post shared by Silvia Colloca (@silviacollocaofficial) on
Coming to parenting later has changed Roxburgh’s perceptions as well as priorities: “I love that it’s happening at this time. It opens your eyes more to life, I think.
“I still feel 26 and while that is sort of temporal dysmorphia, I’m happy to take it. If my body can still do things, I don’t feel the encroaching of age.”
He describes himself as a good husband and father, saying, “As life goes by, you understand more about what it takes, and the things you have to give up, and the things you have to give.”
Still, the huge delight he gets from “his mob” has “surprised me,” he admits.
“The length of my marriage is extraordinary to me – it’s 14 years now.
“There’s that thing of ageing together, I love the unexpected way that gives me great joy. It’s beautiful. You have a whole lot of different stuff to what relationships were about when I was a younger man.
“Having said that, I drive her nuts at times, and that’s OK.”
Rake is now screening on ABC TV on Sundays, 8.30pm