An Interview with Keegan Joyce of Please like me.
Keegan Joyce is an Australian actor and singer-songwriter, perhaps most well-known for his role-playing Arnold in the television series, ‘Please Like Me’ created by Josh Thomas. Arnold is a character with significant anxiety issues and boyfriend to Josh in the show. We chatted to Keegan about his work for this role and the making of the show, in particular, how he and the creators made sure they portrayed Arnold in an authentic manner.
There is a significant level of accuracy in Joyce’s portrayal of Arnold. Anxiety disorders of course vary so much and effect everyone differently, but Joyce’s portrayal definitely gives a good insight to what life with an anxiety disorder might be like for a person. In the creation of ‘Please Like Me’, so much research was put into the show in order to ensure it was authentic in particular with 'The Black Dog Institute' and 'The Melbourne Clinic'.
“I’m very relieved people believe there is a level of accuracy in Arnold. We did lots to prepare for portraying the mental illness in the show; I think Josh can best attest to how that work was carried out, and he himself had done much of the initial work and appropriate research, but I was always afforded plenty of time and resources to help me understand anxiety in Arnold’s particular case.”
‘Please Like Me’ presents such a raw and touching portrayal of life and talks about so many important topics including abortion, sexuality, losing loved ones and mental illness. Joyce revealed that he learnt a lot about Mental Illness in general whilst working on the show. He felt he had a responsibility to portray it in the correct way.
“The biggest thing I learned about mental illness, and in particular anxiety is how wide ranging and varying the illness can be for different people. At first this was a concern to me as I went about preparing for the role feeling I could never get it right, but I was comforted in the fact that everyone’s experience with anxiety is different, and that hopefully people would be able to sympathise and empathise in the moment Arnold had his anxiety attack.”
The show has a comedic aspect and comedy seems to be quite a good medium to break down the stigma surrounding tough issues, with many comedians now bringing it to the forefront of their shows. It’s a great way to reach people in a way that is accessible, however there is often a fine line between making fun of people with mental health issues and breaking down barriers. ‘Please Like Me’ definitely fits into the latter category, it is so true to life and definitely can help us all feel a bit less alone.
“I’m really no expert on either comedy or mental illness! But it was my way in to understanding mental illness, and I think a way for many other people to take the very first step toward a better understanding of what mental health and illness means”
Keegan has a few strategies for keeping his health in check, of course this isn’t a professional perspective, it’s just what works for him. Mental Health, just like physical health, is something which everyone needs to work on regardless of whether they have experienced mental illness themselves.
“I don’t meditate really, which I think is what would be ideal, but I do love to read - and I think that is probably my version of self-reflection. I will also add that I have spoken with and consulted mental health professionals at times for both reasons, and no reason at all”
Please Like Me has a uniquely Australian comedic take on life that is realistic, thought provoking and diverse whilst being enlightening, educating and highly entertaining. Keegan has stressed that he isn’t a professional in the area, but mental health is something everyone has and we all need to talk about to break down the barriers to getting help. “By talking about mental health in an appropriate and respectable way we can better educate ourselves and others”. Thankyou Keegan for answering our questions.
2 Quick Questions for Fun!
- Do you have a favourite episode out of the series? I loved the Christmas episode, and filming wise it was so fun to head down to the beach for the week with Josh, Tom, Emily and Hannah.
- Would you agree that John the dog is the star of the show?! You’d have to be crazy to think otherwise…ugh (I told you I was no expert in comedy…I’m sorry.)
Please Like Me is available on ABC in Australia, Netflix and Hulu in the US.
PS. Check out some of Keegan’s music, it is just divine! My favourite songs from his album, ‘Snow on Higher Ground’ is one called ‘Sydney’ and another, 'Cooma'. The album is available on iTunes and Bandcamp.