On Season 3 of the TNT series Animal Kingdom, Smurf (Ellen Barkin) is in jail and she’s left her grandson J (Finn Cole) in charge of the family crime business, which isn’t going over well with the rest of the Cody family. As a result, Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary) are becoming increasingly divided, while trying to figure out how they’re going to keep money coming in, as they fight off outside threats that put all of their lives on the line.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Jake Weary (who plays Smurf’s youngest son, Deran) talked about the new revelations of Season 3, the evolution of his character, both losing and gaining a cast member this season, what Denis Leary is bringing to the show, as Deran’s estranged father, shooting the crazy action sequences, why this show always needs to have a lingering threat to the Cody family, what Deran would like for himself, at this point, and whether he’d ever consider directing an episode of the series, like his co-star Shawn Hatosy.
Collider: After two seasons on a show, playing this character, how does Season 3 feel for you?
JAKE WEARY: The thing with television is that, after you’ve had a chance to sink into a character, there are these new elements to this person that slowly make their way in, over a longer course of time. Come Season 3, you have these new revelations that maybe didn’t hit you in the first two seasons that, all of a sudden, are now coming into play. I feel like there’s a lot of that happening in Season 3. Now that Deran has had this time away from Smurf, he’s been able to deal with his own problems, and that just introduces all of these new hurdles that he has to leap over and navigate his way through. It’s like a new Deran that we’re seeing, in Season 3. It’s a grown-up Deran, and he has to figure out how to adapt to the real world.
When you think back to how he was when we met him, he was one of the bigger messes of this family and now he’s become the more put together one. Could you have imagined that he would get his head together like this, even if he doesn’t necessarily have all of his shit together?
WEARY: To an extent, you root for J (Finn Cole) because he’s the person we can relate to, on a human level. But then, there’s also Deran, who is still borderline sociopathic, but you empathize with him, in a weird way, because you want him to be happy and succeed, which is cool. It can get a little tricky when you’re making a show about criminals. I just feel like they do such a great job with that, on the show.
What was it like to both lose a cast member this season, with Baz getting killed and Scott Speedman no longer around, and also add a cast member, with Denis Leary joining the show?
WEARY: It’s funny because they both bring their own antics to the set. Scott became a really good friend of mine and it was a bummer to see him go, but at the beginning, we all knew that there was a chance that could happen, if they stuck to the source material. But then, Denis came along, and we really needed that kind of energy on the show. With Scott leaving, there was a bit of a void that needed to be filled, and not just on camera, but also with the morale, on set and off camera. Denis came in and really held his own, and just made everyone laugh and feel grateful to be able to do what we do. When you’re on a television show, after three years, it can feel a little overwhelming and things get a little comfortable. It’s really nice to have a curve ball thrown at you, like Denis Leary, where you have to be on your A-game again. He just makes you realize how lucky you are to be able to come to work, every day, and have fun. We really needed that, this season.
Any time you might have thought about who Deran’s father might be, is this, at all, how you would have ever pictured it?
WEARY: No! In a weird way, as soon as I found out that they were looking at Denis Leary for the part, I was like, “Of course! That makes a lot of sense.” It made the most sense, out of any other prospect for the part. Denis is from Boston and I’m from New Jersey, so there’s that east coast vibe going on. Honestly, the trickiest part about working with Denis Leary was trying to keep my east coast accent at bay. Our executive producer, David Rodriguez, is also a big New Yorker, so when he’s directing an episode, he tries his best to do a simple accent because my New Jersey accent can slip sometimes.
How does having that character around change Deran’s perspective on things? Will he see things differently or approach things differently, once he learns a little bit more about his own history?
WEARY: Yeah. Deran tends to look down on himself a lot and pity himself. With his father coming into the picture, Denis Leary’s character, Billy, helps him be a little more comfortable in his own skin. He forces him to look at the bigger picture and take himself more seriously, as a business man and as a free-spirited human being, who has the right and opportunity to be on his own. Smurf’s hold on him isn’t as strong as he thinks. He is a strong-willed individual. That’s a really interesting thing to see, especially when it’s someone like Denis Leary. We have so many scenes that will make you laugh, but then there are these really true and honest father-son moments between the two characters. There are these nice little moments, throughout the season, that make you feel good.