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. Former JWP president Andrew Stearn also executive produced the pilot. Animal Kingdom reunites TNT with Wells and Lisco, who previously collaborated on the network’s Peabody Award-winning drama Southland.