The TNT drama series Animal Kingdom, currently in its fourth season, sees Smurf (Ellen Barkin) back in charge and trying to keep the Cody family in line. But with Pope (Shawn Hatosy) becoming more unhinged by the day, J (Finn Cole) still on a mission to take over the family business, Craig (Ben Robson) trying to plot one of their most difficult heists ever, and Deran (Jake Weary) not wanting any of it to blow back on his legitimate business, having Angela (Emily Deschanel), the former best friend of J’s deceased mother show back up, fresh out of prison, and the tension is sure to reach a breaking point.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Emily Deschanel talked about what made her want to sign on for this TV series, what her Bones character would think of her Animal Kingdom character, trying to figure out who Angela is, finding the truth in someone who’s manipulative, why Angela wants to be a part of this family, no matter how dangerous they are, and how she’d like to keep trying to find different and challenging projects to be a part of.
Collider: Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite shows, and I was excited to hear that you’d be joining this season. After spending 12 years on Bones, where you playing the same character and you knew what you were going to be doing, every week, did it take some convincing to get you to return to TV, or was the fact that this was such a different show and such a different character just too enticing to pass up?
EMILY DESCHANEL: Good question. I was ready to return to work, so that was helpful. I was hoping to find something a little shorter. I mostly wanted to play a different character and do something different, with a different tone, and this was something that was different and seemed like a fun thing. It’s like going to the other side of the law, and there are all of these heists, and there are these criminals and sociopaths. It seemed like a fun thing to do, after taking some time off and doing the same thing for 12 years.
Your character on Bones was on the right side of the law. What do you think Temperance Brennan would think of your Animal Kingdom character, knowing that Angela is someone who’s not quite on the right side of the law?
DESCHANEL: Brennan was not judgmental, in a lot of ways. She certainly wouldn’t judge Angela for being an addict, or for certain things that she did. She’d probably be more curious. I think she would be interested in why Angela does things. She’s a cultural anthropologist, as well as a forensic anthropologist, so she would be curious about why Angela did things, and the world of being in prison and the drug world. Angela comes from being an addict and hanging around addicts, and going to prison. Those are the worlds that she comes from. She’s hanging out with criminals, so Brennan would be fascinated by that. That’s what I think.
What were you told about this character, at the beginning of all of this? How much of Angela had already been developed, and how much came out of conversations that you had about who she would be?
DESCHANEL: I’m still trying to figure out who she is, honestly. Is Angela a sociopath? I can’t tell. She may be. It’s something that is constantly unfolding. I was told about certain things, like the history that Angela had with Julia, who was Smurf’s daughter, and that she’s been involved with the family since childhood. And then, I had to extrapolate from there and make up my own things. I knew that she was manipulative and was trying to make her way back into the family, and that she was a little bit of an oddball. So, there’s an amount that we talked about before I started the show, and then we were trying to figure it out, as we went along. That’s basically what you’ll see on the season, an actor trying to figure out how to play a new character.
When you play a character that’s manipulative, how do you know when she’s being real, truthful, and genuine? Do you just make those decisions for yourself, and then sometimes find out later that you were wrong, in one way or the other?
DESCHANEL: That’s a good question. I don’t know of a time where I know that something I played was “wrong” once new information came out, but there’s always that risk because you’re making stuff up as you go along. I had conversations with the writers and producers, but you have to make decisions about what you’re trying to get out of a scene, on the day. As an actor, you have to figure out how to play a manipulative character, but also see where they’re coming from, understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and know the reason for it. I do believe that no person is outright trying to be evil. If someone is evil, there’s a reason for it. Most people don’t think they’re evil. They just think they’re doing what needs to be done, for whatever reason, right or wrong, or for justice or vindictive reasons because they feel wronged. So, you come from that place where the character feels like they’ve been wronged or hurt, if they’re doing stuff like manipulating people or situations. That’s the fun of it, as an actor. You have to find where the character is coming from, and you make it up, as you go along. Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you get it wrong.