Interview: Ellen Barkin From ‘The New Normal’
This interview originally appeared on the Pop Culture Passionistas blog.
There’s no confusion when it comes to Ellen Barkin’s political leanings. The extremely liberal actress has made headlines stating her opinion and often takes to Twitter to express her POV. So the fact that she’s playing an uber-conservative great-grandmother in the Ryan Murphy sitcom The New Normal might throw some of her followers for a loop. But in a recent conference call interview, Ellen talked about taking on the role, which is so contrary to her own beliefs.
Ellen understandably jumped at the chance to take on the part when Ryan Murphy offered it to her. She conceded, “Any actor who wouldn’t be interested in bringing Archie Bunker types back into the conversation at this point in our history would need to have their head examined. So the appeal was great… Right off the bat this is a very un-P.C. character, but she is whip smart, she is extremely well-informed and extremely articulate.”
Ellen commented on the inevitable comparisons being drawn between her character, Jane Forrester, and that of one of TV’s very first most controversial conservatives. “Archie Bunker, he was very un-P.C. But every now and then, I remember the Edith Bunker rape episode, you saw a humanity in Archie where, you know it wasn’t just coming from hate. It’s not just hate. It’s fear of the other.”
The staunch supporter of LGBT and women’s rights tied that to the current political situation in the United States. She noted, “With all of the divisiveness that is going on in the country we live in, so much of it is based around just fear of the other. And anyone who does not look like me, walk like me, talk like me, have sex like me, they’re the other and I’m afraid of them. And hopefully we will learn that it’s just not scary. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Ellen took it upon herself as an actor to walk in Jane’s shoes without judgment. And she’s obviously come to respect the complex character. She revealed, “This isn’t a stereotypical liberals version of what someone who doesn’t disagree with their positions, whatever they are, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-any ethnic, anti-foreigner xenophobic character. She is not that.”
Instead, Ellen gave credit to Jane adding, “She’s informed. She’s passionate about our commitments and they are informed positions. And I would just, like Ryan Murphy did, beg people not to judge this character until they get to know her, because they are going to be very surprised.”
In fact, Ellen promised that there would be quite an evolution to the character as the season unfolded. “Like all TV series, no character is fully revealed in the first episode or the pilot episode or the second episode. I would beg that audiences stick with her and hear her arguments, which are just extremely intelligent, they come from her heart, from her gut, and they come from her own life experience.”
The New Normal premieres on Tuesday, September 11 at 9:30 p.m. EST/8:30 p.m. Central on NBC.