Animal Kingdom makes its Season 5 return to TNT Monday, July 11 at 9/8c. Spoilers are ahead, so if you’re not caught up, stop reading, you’ve been forewarned.
Killing off the main character is never an easy decision on any TV drama, but what a wallop it was when cancer-stricken mama queenpin Smurf Cody (Ellen Barkin) got taken out by her grandson J (Finn Cole). But we didn’t have much time to grieve before we learned that she really stuck it to her boys by leaving her fortune to a mystery woman named Pamela Johnson. With only two seasons left to pick up those bombs and wrap up this story, we went directly to the source — Daniele Nathanson, one of the co-executive producers — for some answers.
- First, what an ending to Season 4 — congrats — so many questions now. Smurf’s death has really messed things up for the boys. What excites you most about the new direction of the story? Daniele Nathanson: What excites me most is exactly what you mentioned — what Smurf’s death means for the guys. She’s the narcissistic sun they’ve all been orbiting their entire lives. Her loss creates a black hole in the power dynamics of the family. This raises all types of interesting questions: Who will emerge as the leader? How will they keep the business going when Smurf was the one with all the contacts and connections? Will they work together or tear each other apart? Will Oceanside still fear and respect them in the same way now that Smurf’s gone?
- I read that you are going to jump ahead in the past story narrative for Season 5 — can you explain what you plan to cover a bit there, as well as how much we will be jumping back and forth? We jump ahead around seven years. We wanted to focus on the relationship between Smurf, Andrew (before he was known as Pope) and Julia, and this felt the best age to do it. We wanted to spend some time showing what it was like growing up with Smurf as a mother. (It’s both fun and scary.) In addition to exploring Smurf’s relationship with the twins, the past story is about her moving into Oceanside and beginning to establish her crew (comprised of Manny and Jake) as a force to be reckoned with. It’s the beginning of her rise as the Queen of Oceanside. We’ll check in with the past storyline about 20% of each episode.
- Who struggles the most now that Smurf is gone? They’re all struggling in their own way. Some of them may not even know it on a conscious level. That said, Pope and Smurf have always been the most entwined, and his feelings about her are extremely complicated. He hates her and he loves her. So I’d say he’s the one struggling with the loss most obviously. Her death will also make him question his own identity. Who IS he without Smurf controlling his every move and telling him what to do and think? All of the guys will be dealing with this question of identity in some way or another.
- Where’s J’s head at now — looking to take charge, walk away? J’s looking to take charge for sure. The only problem is the other guys are as well, so it’s not going to be a smooth ride. They also can’t just forget that J shot Smurf, even if she was begging for it. That was a major move and the rest of the guys have to come to terms with it one way or another.
- Was the Pamela Johnson character always a part of the storyline since Day One? How far back might we need to review to search for some additional nuggets surrounding her story? Well, I haven’t been here since Day One and don’t want/can’t really speak to the previous showrunner’s plan, but we all saw how the fantastic relationship between Janine/Smurf and Pam developed in Season 4 and wanted to show more of it. Also, at the end of Season 4 it was revealed that Smurf left her entire estate to Pamela, so clearly there’s a lot of history between the two women that we were excited to explore!