Throughout Season 3, on the TNT drama series Animal Kingdom, the Cody boys – Pope (Shawn Hatosy), Craig (Ben Robson), Deran (Jake Weary) and J (Finn Cole) – have been faced with a series of tough decisions, in regard to their own personal ambitions, relationships outside of the family, and what to do about Smurf (Ellen Barkin). As it all comes to a head in the season finale (and thankfully, the series has already been picked up for Season 4), there’s no telling just how far Smurf will manipulate them next to get exactly what she wants.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Shawn Hatosy (whose Pope is one of the most fascinatingly complex characters on TV) talked about the journey that’s lead Pope to this point, whether Pope could ever live without Smurf, his favorite thing about the character, whether Pope knows when he’s being self-destructive, the experience of making his directorial debut on Episode 311 (“Jackpot”), what other TV series he’d like to direct an episode of, and where things could head for Pope and Smurf, in the future.
Collider: As always, this has definitely been quite the season. Where would you say Pope’s mental state is at, when we leave him at the end of the season, compared to how he was when he started the season?
SHAWN HATOSY: Well, last season, or Season 2, was so much about Pope being on this journey of forgiveness, and he was looking in all these different places. He stumbled onto church, and he was trying to find the answers through God and through Amy (Jennifer Landon). Then, the real salvation came from the most unexpected place, being Baz (Scott Speedman) and his forgiveness. It was a really nice arc, last season, because it was surprising and it came together real nicely, with Baz forgiving him for the murder of Catherine (Daniella Alonso). Then, unbeknownst to Pope, Baz was murdered. That’s where we dovetailed into Season 3. This family is so toxic and fractured, and he’s weighing the possibility, from the first episode, that Smurf is behind it. By the time we get to Episode 11, he has his answer and we’re jumping off into new territory. These characters, with this information, and particularly Pope, will never be the same, which is a good thing.
Do you think that Pope can ever truly be at peace while Smurf is still alive?
HATOSY: That’s a really great question. Look, this is my opinion, but as much damaged as she’s done, I actually don’t think he can live without her. I think he needs her. I don’t know what a shrink would say, but that’s what he thinks he needs to survive. I guess if you look at the bigger metaphor of the animal kingdom and all the animals that go out on their own, the lone wolf doesn’t necessarily survive. I think that for all of these characters to survive, they’re going to have to figure out a way to be together. That’s just my opinion. I’m not reading into anything. That’s just how I feel.
It just seems like a no-win situation because being the one to get rid of Smurf wouldn’t help Pope any either. Any way he’d deal with it, it just seems like it can’t possibly go well.
HATOSY: I know. Don’t you wish they could just have a nice Christmas Eve, where they’re all sitting around and drinking hot chocolate by the fire place?
It seems like Thanksgiving dinner with the Cody family would be the most terrifying dinner ever.
HATOSY: It’s just not in the cards for these guys. The other thing, too, is that she’s used Lena to basically blackmail Pope into moving back in with her because she needs him there to do whatever she’s going to do. I think that Pope understands that that negotiation is going to take a toll on his soul. It’s soul crushing. For Lena, it’s worth it because she’s the one bright spot in the family. She’s the one that has the opportunity to have that Thanksgiving that Pope never had. She can go be in a family. For him, it’s worth it to give up his soul for Smurf, so that Lena can be normal.
I would love to have an entire episode of this show with thought bubbles that come up for Pope, just to know what he’s thinking. It seems like he’s just always thinking about ways that he could gruesomely murder Smurf.
HATOSY: Yeah, that would be a great idea. That’s the thing about the writing. When you’re an actor and you’re first starting out, you think, “I need all of this dialogue to prove that I’m a thespian and I can do all of these great speeches and monologues,” but the truth of the matter is that the less they give you to say, the more of a challenge it is. It’s also more rewarding because you do get to tell that story with your emotional attributes – the way you walk, the way you dress, and the way you hold your facial expressions.
It’s so effective with a character like this. It makes him so much more unpredictable because you really don’t know what’s going on in his head, or what he’ll do next.
HATOSY: That’s my favorite thing about him. You just don’t know. In one moment, he’s sitting there making spaghetti for Lena at 2am, and then the next moment, he’s turning the guy in church in and taking him out for robbing the church. It doesn’t even seem to have any kind of effect on him, either way.
Pope is definitely at his most human when he interacts with Lena, and because of that, it was just so hard to watch him make that decision to give her a different life. What’s it been like to work with the actress who plays Lena, Aamya Deva Keroles, on developing that dynamic and bond between your characters?
HATOSY: It’s been incredibly rewarding. When I read that scene, there was a visual reaction. When we did the table read, I just didn’t really require any work. I had to try not to cry because it made me very emotional. I think that says a lot about her and the writing. To say the least, it’s not what I expected when I signed on for Animal Kingdom. It’s not, at all, where I thought this character was going, but the value that we got out of that relationship, it shows dimensions of Pope that I didn’t have any idea were there.
Do you think that if Pope were actually put into a position where he had to take Smurf’s life that it would just completely break him?
HATOSY: Yeah. I don’t think he could do it. I really don’t. I’ve thought a lot about it. He can hate her all he wants, but he’s not going to kill her, and nobody else is going to kill her either. She’s his to hate. He wants to kill her. He wants to, so badly, but I just don’t think he could ever bring himself to do it.