September 7, 2012
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'New Normal' characters 'deep': Barkin
By Bill Harris, QMI Agency


Ellen Barkin as Jane, Andrew Rannells as Bryan, Georgia King as Goldie, Bebe Wood as Shania, Justin Bartha as David in the New Normal (Robert Trachtenberg/NBC handout)

Archie Bunker was not a stereotype, according to Ellen Barkin. And she is insistent that her character on The New Normal won't be one, either.

"At the end of the day, Archie Bunker was a humane person," Barkin said. "He was afraid of the other, and as you watched (All in The Family) progress, you saw why he was afraid and he became a very complicated character.

"I think all of our characters (on The New Normal) are complicated and deep. None of these characters are dummies, so that's where a stereotype comes in for me."

The New Normal, which debuts Tuesday, Sept. 11 on NBC and CTV (sneak peek on Sept. 10) is a big-buzz sitcom that comes from the creative mind of Ryan Murphy, whose previous series include Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story. So no real pattern there.

The setup is that Bryan (played by Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are a gay couple in Los Angeles and they want to have a baby. Goldie (Georgia King) is a Midwestern waitress and single mother looking to escape her dead-end life and her big-personality grandmother known as Nana (Barkin). You can see where this is going.

Broke but fertile, Goldie bolts to California and becomes a surrogate mother for Bryan and David. But eventually Goldie is tracked down by Nana, who has some strong opinions on what's occurring.

"It's not going to be a stereotypical representation of some un-P.C., uninformed lunatic," said Barkin, a former Emmy and Tony award winner. "This woman is passionate about her beliefs. That passion comes from her own life experience. It comes from fear.

"She is informed. Now, whether or not she's misinformed by the media that she's surrounded by, you'll see. But the point is, she's not someone who doesn't read and she's in no way an ignorant bigot. I take great offence at that.

"She's very articulate. Whether she's right or wrong, my job as an actor is not to judge her. My job is to put myself in her shoes and find the truth in this woman, and I'm finding it easy to do that."

Easy in what way? Barkin's personal politics couldn't be further removed from her character's, after all.

"The way I'm doing it, if that's interesting at all, since I think my own personal politics are pretty clear, is by just flipping my own passion, and that's not hard," Barkin said.

"But this isn't a stereotypical liberal's version of someone who doesn't agree with their positions. Like Ryan Murphy did, I would beg people not to judge this character until they get to know her, because they are going to be very surprised."

Hey, Archie Bunker sure lasted a long time on TV, so if Ellen Barkin's Nana can tap into any of that, well done.

"The appeal was great," Barkin said. "I think 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."

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca




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