EXCLUSIVE : ANIMAL KINGDOM Scoop: Interview With Shawn Hatosy

This summer’s breakout hit is TNT’s new drama series ANIMAL KINGDOM, which revolves around the Cody family, after the death of one of their own and how a new member is welcomed into the fold and introduced to the family business which is not exactly on the right side of the law.

In an exclusive interview, Shawn Hatosy talks about his complex character Pope Cody and his intertwined and uneasy relationships with his mother Smurf (Ellin Barkin) and his nephew “J” (Finn Cole).

Pope’s kind of become a breakout star this season, but I don’t know if the writers anticipated it that way.
SHAWN: Very well put. Who knows – I can’t predict what they’re going to do, but the character is unpredictable and he’s got a lot of degrees and levels and dimensions.

That’s perhaps because of your performance. I think they wrote it a little “flatter” for Pope, but you had more fun with it and infused a few more layers.
SHAWN: I think once the writers see what you bring to it — John Wells calls it “leapfrogging” — that they’ll then write towards that. There’s a lot of fun little things we find with Pope. Just discovering that he’s a bit OCD. So that affects the wardrobe and it’s all shirts all buttoned up, and how he sits and how his world is compromised by this dirt and things. It’s fun to sort of needle him.

You can see the wheels spinning in his head sometimes and I think that’s partly what you’re putting into the performance which is kind of cool because you don’t want him as just somebody who’s there and being crazy all the time. You want to think of him analyzing things and trying to assess what he wants to do.
SHAWN: 100%. He’s very thoughtful and deep. Deeper than you would even know. I mean, I really like the guy actually. We’re not supposed to, but I feel for him because, as a product of that environment and having Smurf as the example and how she’s manipulated him and programmed him to do what he does. And then when you add all that with the mental health issue and her making Baz the apple of her eye. It has an affect and so I end up feeling bad for him.

He also had a lot of time for introspection when he was in prison.
SHAWN: He did.

He made some personal choices about who he wanted to be and it made him like develop a plan. He stuck with it. I’m getting a sense that he is just waiting to put it in motion.
SHAWN: No, you’re right. But then he gets there and I think Pope, at his truest, he is a Cody. Because he went in there and he did the time and he did it on his own. Coming out, I think he would still find himself being fiercely loyal to these people that he’s been treated so, so poorly. But we’re going to come to a little bit of that coming up. Episode 9 is a big episode.

Would you describe your journey as a little bit of a redemption journey or is it more strategic? Has Pope got a bigger plan? Maybe not so redemptive?
SHAWN: I think he does have a plan. I mean, and I’m just speaking because I don’t know, I do think that part of the problem when you have a mental — and I don’t know whether it’s borderline personality or some sort of mental health issue he needs to be handled and he needs to be managed, and she manages him — but he kind of needs it. So he’s going to brush up against that a little bit towards the end of our season and it’s going to come to a big moment.

Like a big problem?
SHAWN: And I don’t know what it means for him because Pope, on his own, is not able to survive, I don’t think. So we’ll see.

He might survive, but he definitely seems to be intertwined in this codependent relationship with his family.
SHAWN: Yeah.

But then you’ve got the new element in “J” as well. It’s interesting how Pope kind of took “J” under his wing and I wasn’t sure if that was like a master plan or if he felt some sort of kinship to the boy.
SHAWN: I think that it has a number of different like things going on with Pope. One, he’s just done time and he’s protective of the family. So you don’t just let somebody in without – as Smurf says – sussing him out. So they’re so quick to accept him and I think that doesn’t work well with Pope and how he’s programmed. Number two, Pope had been hiding his feelings for Julia for most of his life. And Smurf hated her. So even coming home to find that she is gone, he wasn’t really truly able to express his grief in the manner that he probably needed to. So I think that connection he has with “J” is a result of that and he doesn’t have that with anybody else. So I think he’s very protective of “J” in a way that he’s maybe not letting everybody see. It’s just another level that I love about him. Do you know what I mean? There’s all these different – it’s such a complex character.

Well, if it came down to it, who do you think he would side with? Smurf or “J”?
SHAWN: I think Smurf has him pegged and she can literally make him do anything.

That’s kind of scary in that she’s not a nice lady.
SHAWN: She could make him do it.

Are you guys have to be excited about Season 2?
SHAWN: So excited.

Are you guys kind of getting ready to get back in that crazy world again?
SHAWN: Yeah. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.

How can they top this season where they had you literally jumping out of planes?
SHAWN: It’s a great cast. The characters are all so distinct and have their own point of view. I was — at first I didn’t really know when I heard they were making that movie into a TV series — and I’m kind of thinking like: where could this go? But after seeing what they did with Oceanside and the setting and the surf, and then this family of water creatures, it just worked so well. There are all these channels that they can take it on.

There’s certainly a lot of criminal activity they can get into.
SHAWN: [Laughs] Oh, for sure.

To see if Pope is really a man with a plan and where Season 1 is going to leave the Codys, be sure to tune in for the climatic Season 1 finale on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 9:00 p.m. on TNT.