The Codys are back for Season 2 of the TNT series Animal Kingdom, and the tension between Smurf (Ellen Barkin), the matriarch of this volatile clan of criminals, and her sons is higher than ever. As the family dynamics are becoming more fractured than ever, with Baz (Scott Speedman), Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary) looking to claim their independence from Smurf, J (Finn Cole) has no idea where he fits in with his grandmother or his uncles and can only test the waters between them for so long.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Shawn Hatosy talked about what he was most looking forward to exploring with Season 2, why Pope is even more unpredictable now, his character’s journey this season, what each of the Cody men bring to the table, the guilt Pope feels about Catherine, his feelings about Smurf, and that he’d love the opportunity to direct an episode of the series. Be aware that there are some spoilers discussed.
Collider: I love this show and I love watching the Cody family, but it always feels like you’re watching something that you shouldn’t be watching and that they might kill you, if they knew you were watching.
SHAWN HATOSY: That’s a great way to draw a picture of it.
After everything that Pope went through in the first season, what were you most looking forward to digging into or excited about getting to explore in this second season, and has the journey been headed anywhere close to what you thought it might be?
HATOSY: I knew that it was going to be tricky for me because of the actions of Pope last season, and what that would mean for him in Season 2 and if he would even survive. Once people start getting killed and he’s responsible, what does his future look like? I think the direction it’s taking him is pushing back against Smurf and setting out into the world without her management, her manipulation and her toxic influence. What does that look like? Can Pope be viewed by the world as a normal person? That’s what he wants. That’s the path that he’s on. He’s seeking forgiveness for what he did. He’s keeping this huge secret from Baz and, in many ways, those two are bonded over her disappearance.
As the actor playing him, do you feel like Pope has become more predictable in his actions this season, or do you feel like he’s more unpredictable?
HATOSY: I feel like he’s more unpredictable, and it might not be in the manner that we’re used to seeing, but that’s what I love about him. You just don’t know. He steps up because he has this guilt and feeling of connection with Lena, and that’s unpredictable, that he would be the one to be responsible for her.
Volatile and unpredictable were probably the two best words to describe Pope in Season 1. How would you describe his behavior and actions in Season 2?
HATOSY: I would say that, in this season, because of what his journey is now becoming — trying to get away from mom — you would have to describe him as somebody who’s trying to transform. I’m not saying those attributes aren’t there. They do surface. But for the most part, he’s on this quest to normalize. Now, will he be successful? I don’t know about that. He has this history, and Smurf is always going to have that over Pope. She presses those buttons and uses those triggers to get him to do whatever she wants.
As the Cody boys are looking to find their place without Smurf, when it comes to doing jobs on their own, who do you think is the weakest link?
HATOSY: I don’t think there is a weak link. They’re king of like The Avengers, in that they all have a skill that they bring to the table that helps the Cody family business, and they all have flaws, too. As great as Baz is, his ego gets in the way. And as great as Smurf is, she’s too connected and emotional about it. For all of Pope’s flaws, mistakes and disturbing creepy qualities, he’s the most loyal and would do anything to protect his family. And Craig is the bull in the china shop who can’t stop breaking stuff, but we need that muscle. With Deran, his brain and his emotion helps. If you look at J, each character represents a piece of who he is. Eventually, I think he’ll be the strongest.
Baz has made it clear that he doesn’t trust J, but Pope hasn’t really voiced how he feels about him. Does Pope trust J, or does he just not trust anyone?
HATOSY: I think Pope doesn’t trust J because J is new. There’s a bond that he shares with J that he doesn’t share with anybody else and he is attracted to that bond, just because of Julia and his feelings about his twin sister. I don’t think there’s every going to be a time where this family is just very, “Oh, okay, that guy is not doing something behind my back.” They’re always looking over their shoulder and waiting for something to go wrong.
What is Pope getting from taking care of Catherine’s daughter, Lena? Does it help his guilt, is it some kind of escape, or is it simply because he sees how bad of a job Baz is doing at it?
HATOSY: I think it’s the guilt. When he looks at Lena, he sees Catherine, and he didn’t want to do what he was tasked to do. In his own disturbing way, he is trying to protect her legacy. Also, there’s a certain amount of his understanding of how Smurf parented and what the results of that look like. Baz hasn’t stepped up, and the only ones that are really taking care of her are Smurf and Pope, so I think he wants to protect Lena because of his guilt, but also because he’s the one that’s most responsible in this family.
Pope seems like someone who’s always simmering under the surface and that it wouldn’t take much to get him to explode. What would you say is the biggest trigger for him, this season?
HATOSY: Smurf is the one that’s ready to erupt, at any moment. It’s forced him to remove himself from her. At any moment, Pope could reveal what happened. That’s there and underlying everything. Baz goes into detective mode to figure out what happened, but there’s the sense that, at any moment, Pope could tell him, and he would do it to get back at Smurf. He’s so broken by what he’s done. You saw, at the end of Season 1, that he really does clue into how she has used him, and it has crushed him. It’s wrecked his soul.
What do you think Pope sees in the church that the Codys are trying to rob, that keeps him coming back and keeps him wanting to establish a relationship with the woman who’s there?
HATOSY: It’s perfectly in line with what he needs. He’s trying to find forgiveness. I think Pope spent a lot of time reading the Bible in prison, so when they needed someone to go to Bible study, he stepped right up because of his experience with Jesus, but I don’t think he expects what’s waiting for him when he got there. Not only does the Bible help him with his guilt, but he’s also met somebody who’s looking at him like a normal person, and that’s what he’s craving right now. He’s had a mom that’s basically turned him into this monster and said, “Nobody is ever going to love you as much as I love you. It’s impossible. You do bad stuff. I love you, but nobody else will.” Now, he’s met someone who has her own flaws and history, and she looks at Pope and doesn’t turn away. It’s what he craves.
I’ve read that you’ve been shadowing directors and that you hope to get behind the camera yourself, at some point. Ideally, would you like to try your hand at an episode of this show, and how do you think the experience of directing your co-stars would be?
HATOSY: I, 100% for sure, would love the opportunity to direct Animal Kingdom. I think it would be a great opportunity, and I’m sure there are other members in the cast that would love the opportunity to direct. There’s no better chance for an actor who’s worked on a show for so long with the crew to get that opportunity.
I have to say that I, for one, love to watch this show because it is so unpredictable and I never know where it’s going to go next.
HATOSY: I can assure you that you are never going to be able to predict how Season 2 comes out. It is a strong season. It’s compelling. It’s a deeply woven character piece, and it’s a ride, for sure.
Animal Kingdom airs on Tuesday nights on TNT.