Weary plays Deran, the youngest son in a criminal family with a bad attitude and a lot to prove. He struggles with being the youngest, his older brothers taking him seriously, and hiding an important secret from his entire family.
In short, Animal Kingdom isn’t what you’re used to seeing on TNT – it’s daring, edgy and, to be frank, raises TNT’s dramatic bar quite a bit higher than, say, Rizzoli & Isles.
Sling TV: Tell me about Animal Kingdom.
Jake Weary: Animal Kingdom is a new series for TNT that revolves around Joshua ‘J’ Cody, who is played by Finn Cole, and he moves into this kind of crazy family in Southern California. He comes into the family after his mother dies from a heroin overdose. At the core, the series is kind of an unflinching character drama that centers around this matriarch played by Ellen Barkin, who is kind of in control over all the Cody boys in the family and I’m one of them.
And you play Deran, who is the youngest.
Yes, Deran is the youngest son of Smurf, and he’s the troubled, suspicious one in the family.
I’ve seen the first two episodes already, so without spoiling anything, I know there’s a development with your character in the second episode – how does that development play into the series and how did it change your approach to playing him?
That’s one of the things that drew me towards Deran so much when I was cast in the show – the complexity of who he is as a person. It’s not so black-and-white, he’s a very emotional person and I think, with all the boys, they’re all trying to find their place in the hierarchy that’s taking place within the family. I think it’s hard for Deran because he is the youngest and I think he feels like the rest of the family doesn’t take him seriously and I think that all plays into the storyline that’s happening with him. He’s definitely struggling with his sexuality as well as the dynamics between him and his brothers as well as his mom. I don’t want to tell you too much, but it definitely plays a big part into Deran the rest of the season. There’s a big struggle between who he is, who he wants to be, and who he’s expected to be. I don’t want to give too much away.
Fair enough. Tell me what’s like on-set with all these seemingly cool guys – it seems like you would be close and act like brothers since you play brothers.
Oh, yeah. I’m so happy with all the cast, everyone’s amazing.
What’s it like working with Ellen Barkin?
Ellen Barkin is a fantastic woman. I mean, she brings this energy to the set that’s kind of becomes matched by everyone around her. It’s really an honor to work with someone of her caliber; I mean, she’s done everything. She’s done stage, television, films. She has such a strong body of work that reflects who she is on-set. She comes in and she’s the mom. It’s kind of funny how we all, in a way, kind of have become our characters on-set. The dynamic is definitely much alive when we’re all around – it’s a very testosterone-filled set. I mean, there’s competition between us – not work competition, we literally get [to the set] and will be playing sports and someone wants to see how high the other can jump and we’re competing like little school boys at recess or something. It’s fun, I mean, I feel so lucky to be able to work with these other actors. We really have become like brothers on this set. We trust each other and love working with each other and everything runs so smoothly because we’re kind of feeling each other’s vibe and really figuring out how to work with each other and what our strengths and weaknesses are together. It’s really rewarding as an actor to be able to get the opportunity to work with people that you really love.
There’s a lot of surfing going on in this show, are you a surfer or had you surfed before?
Yeah, we actually had a two or three weeks of surf training before we shot the pilot even. I think all of us have kind of found a new passion for surfing that we didn’t think we had. That’s really special. I’ve been going out a lot – once or twice a week – to get my chops up. It’s hard, it takes a while.
It is hard! I surfed once and I got up on the board fine but definitely did not stay up for very long.
Yeah, I mean, it’s hard just getting out into the water and trying not to get slammed by the waves. It’s kind of a test on your endurance and stamina, really. Anyone can stand up on the board but you’ve got to find the right waves – it definitely takes time. We all do it. We do most of the stunts in the show, it’s definitely a very physical show.
Within the spirit of the show, tell me what’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done that you can share and did you get caught?
Did I get caught? Oh, like in my life?
Let’s see… that’s a zinger! I don’t know, I guess when I was younger I used to play with my neighbors who lived down the street and I had one of those Razor scooters and this moped scooter thing that was actually pretty fast, it went like 40 mph – actually, probably not that fast, it probably topped out at 25, but still this thing was almost like a motorbike. Anyway, having the creative mind that I had as a child, I took all my belts that I had in my closet and I made a towline and I wrapped that around the back of the motor scooter and connected that to my Razor scooter, so I was pulling my neighbors along on the scooter and they were on the back. We used to do that a lot, and it was actually really dangerous! I mean, we got to the point where we were on main roads swerving in and out of traffic. That’s the most dangerous thing I can think of right now – I guess it was more dangerous that I was so young. [Laughs] That’s the one that I can share. I didn’t really get caught. I think my dad came out one day and was like, ‘What are you guys doing? Idiots!’
Is there anything else you want to add about the show we didn’t touch on?
Just that I really do believe this show has the potential to capture a wide audience. It’s really packed with everything that you could ask for from a show. It’s extremely entertaining and the performance are excellent. I mean, Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman and Shawn Hatosy just have such a strong dynamic. Everyone is involved is so talent and I just want everyone to watch it!