Happy to be granny with attitude

Pro gay marriage, Ellen Barkin has had to channel the opposite, more conservative views for her character in  The New Normal . Photo / NBC
Pro gay marriage, Ellen Barkin has had to channel the opposite, more conservative views for her character in The New Normal . Photo / NBC

Screen siren Ellen Barkin was so passionate about the storyline of The New Normal she took time away from big Hollywood movies to appear as a regular in the US television sitcom.

Barkin, whose lengthy movie career includes Sea Of Love, Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas and Ocean's Thirteen, didn't even have to audition for the sitcom.

Rather, she was sent a script by director Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee).

The series centres on two gay men wanting to have their own child by using a surrogate mum. Barkin was asked if she would like to play the conservative grandmother of the surrogate mother in the series that airs on Network Ten.

"It was a very passionate 'yes' on my part," Barkin says.

"It was Fox and NBC really taking a chance and if they are willing to open up this conversation to such a broad market, then how do I not be a part of it?"

Barkin praised the work of Murphy and co-writer Ali Adler (No Ordinary Family/Glee) for successfully tackling a subject in such a way it was embraced by a major network.

The gay couple is played by Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells and Georgia King is surrogate mum Goldie Clemmons.

Barkin says the series takes openly gay couples on a TV series to a new level.

"I was fascinated to see how they were going to get this brave, complicated, very multi-layered idea across in sitcom genre," Barkin says.

"This is the first American show, and there have been gay couples on TV, but this is the first network show where gay men are seen in bed kissing, having a very openly affectionate and sexual relationship.

"People can say Modern Family has a gay couple, but I don't see them in bed making out and snogging ... "

Barkin, who is based in New York and travels to LA to shoot the series, says there was a vulnerability about appearing in a television series that tackled a controversial subject that also appealed to her.

And at 58, she is still ready for a challenge and says nothing fires her up more than being in a movie, stage play and now a television series where she could personally fail.

"At this point in my life, as an actor, I am looking for a challenge and I like to go to work with the idea in my head that I could fail," Barkin said.

Playing conservative granny Jane Forrest, Barkin channelled the complete opposite side to her own thoughts and her own pro-stance on gay marriage and surrogacy.

Barkin said the character has been described to her as a modern day female Archie Bunker, a fictional New Yorker in the 1970s comedy All In The Family and considered one of the funniest characters ever to grace US television.

But the character in The New Normal fights from a position of knowledge, says Barkin.

"I've been told I'm the female Archie Bunker, which is a great compliment," Barkin said.

"The difference is Archie Bunker is like the idiots that tweet me back, the idiot hatemongers, whereas this women is really ... informed.

"That's a great way to reach that other side, not just represent an ignorant hater, it's a very well informed hater and she has an informed opinion.

"The part is really easy for me to play because I take myself [my own views] and flip it."

TV Profile

Who: Ellen Barkin

What: Sitcom The New Normal

When and where: TV3 tonight, 8pm

- AAP

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