TNT launched the trailer for the TV adaption of Animal Kingdom which will be aired during the American summer and I have to say – although I had my doubts – it’s got me interested. I hope it finds it way to Aussie TVs in some way shape or form. Although for me there will only ever be one “Pope”.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
“Animal Kingdom is a family crime drama set in a gritty surf community of Oceanside, Calif. — a far cry from 1985 Melbourne, which served as the setting for the film.
The movie “only scratched the surface on how far down we can drill down on these characters, and Smurf is a great example,” said showrunner Jonathan Lisco. “You learn that she’s capable of great menace, some emotional cruelty, but also capable of great love … but it never really answers the question whether or not her capacity of cruelty or her capacity for love is the scarier component of her character, and I know that’s something we want to explore in the course of the series. I think that’s a rather bottomless pit when you have an actress like Ellen Barkin.”
Barkin had the biggest challenge, taking over Weaver’s role as Smurf, the loving but also smothering matriarch of the family.
“She’s a very different character but lives in that same space as a mother,” said Wells. Lisco elaborated: “We’re going to make it a more nuanced portrayal of a mother who both loves her sons but also vandalizes them and has emotionally warped them while at the same time coddled them.”
Added Lisco, “We wanted to be very careful that we not try and replicate performances from the film.”
Barkin herself said she had no problem taking over a role made famous by someone else, comparing it to joining a play revival. “I don’t really think I’m stepping into anyone’s shoes,” the actress said. “I don’t think the movie was a beginning, a middle or an end point for us. It was more like source material as much as a book I might read.”
In addition to watching the movie, Barkin said she also did extensive research about the real Australian family that the film was based on and came to learn that the matriarch had a glass eye after having been shot in the face.
“I tried to convince John and Jonathan to let me have a glass eye,” Barkin said with a laugh.”
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“TNT’s new Animal Kingdom is more than a crime drama, it’s about a “riveting dysfunctional family led by a matriarch who has an emotionally incestuous relationship with her four…alpha boys, who drip with sexual anger,” EP Jonathan Lisco explained, telling TV critics nothing they didn’t already know even though they’ve not yet seen a pilot.
It was just last month TNT gave John Wells’ Animal Kingdom a 10-episode order for a summer 2016 premiere. Animal Kingdom, inspired by the 2010 Australian feature,stars Ellen Barkin as the matriarch of a Southern California family whose excessive lifestyle is fueled by their criminal activities, with Scott Speedman as her second in command. Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary, Finn Cole, Daniella Alonso and Molly Gordon co-star in the project, which was originally developed at Showtime.
Not surprisingly, most of the questions went to Barkin, and many focused on the “twisted mother” meme, which critics proclaimed “like a new thing” in Hollywood. Some wondered if she was concerned about backlash from the legion of “mommy bloggers” on the Internet, if not-good-mothers could be attractive, etc.
“For me it goes back to James Cagney’s mother in White Heat,” Barkin said, a reference that shot right over the heads of many in the room. “That was the archetype of that type of mother…She lived for her son and gave him the skills that she had, and that’s where these mothers started.”
Barkin noted how retro was the question. TV’s exploration of “the positive side of mothers,” got everyone “used to the idea of The Perfect Mother and let’s all be great mothers.” But, she said, it’s far more interesting as an actress to “divert it” and explore a mother who “loves her children to a fault. It certainly makes for a very juicy role” that’s far more interesting “than someone sitting there knitting socks for her children.”
“We’ve had our share of male villains. Now let’s seem some grown up bad girls,” she said, closing the subject.
Animal Kingdom is produced by John Wells Productions in association with Warner Horizon Television, with Wells and Lisco executive producing the series along with the original feature’s Liz Watts and David Michôd. Wells directed the pilot from a script by Lisco.”
From Slash Film:
“[Film writer/director] David Michod and [producer] Liz Watts are involved in this TV show,” Showrunner Jonathan Lisco said. “I think David would say the inspiration for the movie came from the Pettingill family, an Australian crime family. They’re a little over the top. I believe the matriarch of that family wound up with a glass eye. She got shot through the doorway by an adversary. I think the material is an example of truth being a little stranger than fiction and she wound up being a moustache twirly villain. We’re portraying a mother who infantalizes her sons, warps them while infantalizes them.”
Barkin, for her part, wanted to have a glass eye but he producers opted against it.
For me, what attracted me to the project was that it was a television show about not just a dysfunctional family,” Barkin said. “It to me is a family that’s using their skill sets to survive in a very dark and dangerous world. So far, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. They’re really succeeding I think. How that family works internally and in the external world is what fascinates me about it. Also, I always like playing with the idea of twisted motherhood and the ways in which that can go.”
The show begins when Smurf’s estranged daughter dies of a heroine overdose. Her grandson Josh “J” Cody comes into Smurf’s immediate family for the first time. Finn Cole plays J.
“It’s a really exciting role, a character that comes from where he has and has been brought up by a heroine addict, to experience real life for the first itme in quite an incestuous way,” Cole said. “The exciting thing about shooting the pilot was exploring those things. J is still exploring this family and exploring what they’re about. There’s a lot to explore. Where is this character going to go? Where could he go? What could be the potential of this family? And explore all the other issues the family has as well.”
One character not represented on the panel was Det. Leckie, played by Guy Pearce in the film version. Lisco said there would be a character in law enforcement on the show, but wanted to emphasize the focus would be on the Cody family dynamic, not their crimes.
“Look, there’s going to be a concrete crime component to the story,” Lisco said. “We’re telling a story about a family of criminals who pull jobs. That won’t necessarily be the A story. Will the cops eventually We’ll do it in a way that will surprise you and not hew to the movie. Were we to do that, Scott Speedman would not be sitting here.”