You have recently moved to California. Is there a different feeling in being a resident versus a visitor?
I was always a resident when I was student, the California lifestyle is much more laid back and around more people in similar industries and is different than lifestyles in London.
What have you found most surprising about Los Angeles and Los Angeleans?
Being a Londoner is very different; the weather has been conducive to a laid back lifestyle.
Did you have any emotional difficulty leaving England? Any fears?
Yes, leaving was one of the hardest decisions and I arrived at 25 for college (Stellar Adler for 2.5 years), created a whole new life, spent a lot time alone and learning who I was. And building a good support system.
You discovered acting after graduating from University. What was your area of study? What would your life look like today had the acting bug not arisen?
I studied business… I don’t know, I went into business as I didn’t have a goal established, but I always loved the idea of advertising, marketing via images at young age.
Had you ever tried your hand at acting before deciding to embark on a career in the field, at the ripe old age of 27?
Always interested in watching tv, always interested in sports psychology in College. A friend said he wanted to go New York City and try acting. Then I booked two flights and the next day we went to NYC to check out acting. We arrived in NYC without a place to stay and stayed for 2-3 months and caught the bug from there.
Did you face much discouragement?
From myself, “was this the right decision?” At 25, I questioned if it was a good idea; I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving for NYC to look into acting. It takes a lot of bravery to do something different, and America was better place for me to learn as it’s a more positive environment, rather than staying in London.
I notice quite a lot, on the resumes of established actors like you, the participation in short films. What is the draw? How do they come to your attention?
When trying to get an agent when starting out, short films were helpful to learn to be on camera and agents can see what you can do. And there is great talent producing and you do it for the love of the work. I would like to direct short films in the future.
Would you ever consider another occupation within or outside your current job? Do you have other interests work-wise, aside from acting?
I currently spend a lot of time writing, and would like get into directing.
You got to play a Viking, what an amazing adventure that must have been. Having last played that character from the very early centuries, and now playing a very modern Southern California Surfer circa now, does playing parts in such disparate eras require working differently, or is acting, acting… it feels the same, you’re just playing pretend?
Every role takes on a whole new understanding, no role is the same… two different timelines and lifestyles all bring their own challenges; I do research before hand. It’s more relatable to play a current day character versus a Viking and have to read books that are written about them as they didn’t record their history.
Are your characters real people, or based on such? How accurate of documentation is there on this time period, that you know of? What drives a man like your character “Kalf”?
Vikings were influenced by gods, they believed to live by the acknowledgement of gods… greatest honor. We treasure life now and Vikings didn’t; they believed in the next life. Imagine if you didn’t have fears, imagine what we would do. It’s very different as to how we live today, there was more spirituality on how Vikings lived. They lived at one with earth versus our now materialistic world, the destiny blinds us from great opportunities.
ANIMAL KINGDOM is based on the brilliant 2010 Australian film of the same name. It was a critical and award winning success, but it was a lesser known film then say FARGO or PARENTHOOD. What do you believe it was about this piece of work that broke through annuls of film libraries, and ample volumes of produced films, that called out to be adapted for television? In your words, how does the series utilize the original material?
Animal Kingdom, the movie, was one of my favorite films, and when I heard it was becoming a series I was interested. What I needed to move forward for TV adaptations… she instills a loyalty with her sons; in TV you can explore the character dynamics of the characters more than films… seeing the dynamics of the relationship unfold and shot in California was a great current day place due to proximity to Mexico.
Ellen Barkin! Ellen Barkin! Ellen Barkin! You play her son “Craig.” What is that like on your first day of work?
My first day on set was me being naked complaining about a non-working smoothie machine, incredible woman, very giving. A lot of fun.
What are some words or phrases that could describe “Craig”?
Craig is a middle child and he lives in the moment, acts before thinking, impulsive, adrenaline junkie: drugs, sex, parties, and gets himself in trouble. He’s the wild guy everyone is friends with, and everyone wants to be around. Everyone like to be around danger.
What was it like working in Oceanside?
Malibu, etc, has lost the authentic feel of California, Oceanside has a the authentic old school California vibe.
I saw something on your Twitter Feed about a documentary dealing with shark extinction. Could you tell us what this is? How are you involved?
That was a friend’s documentary and I like to support cool things that are beneficial to animals and the ocean.
TV’s most badass family is wrapping things up in the season finale tonight—but don’t worry: Smurf and her boys will be back next year for the recently-confirmed Season 2. Speaking of the boys, we got to sit down with Ben Robson who plays perhaps the roughest, toughest criminal/son in the bunch, Craig Cody. Turns out, Robson isn’t quite as fearless as Craig in real life, but he’s learned a few things about confidence from his character—that we’re definitely stealing for ourselves. We also talked fitness, extreme sports, and diet—and how he gets away with eating all those burgers and beer on the show.
Men’s Fitness: On the show, your character is known as a tough, fearless adrenaline junkie. What’s the toughest or most wild thing Craig has done on the show this far?
Ben Robson: God, there’s so many. It’s tough. I think the part where I was playing chicken with a truck … I was pulling a wheelie between Deran’s car and avoided the truck—that was crazy. Or, the fight when he’s skydiving and throwing his brother out before the right jump time is kind of amusing. I would probably still have to say that the wildest thing is the one all the brothers did together, in episode nine, when they head up to the naval base. [Watch here to find out what happens!]
MF: What about you in real life? Would you describe yourself as having a similar tough, fearless attitude?
BR: I’d love to think I was like that but I’m definitely nowhere near Craig’s level. I don’t think he ever feels there’s any consequences to his actions whereas the reality is … I find myself not getting away with it. I’ve always had an interest in pushing myself into positions that are uncomfortable, just because I feel that’s how you grow as a person. If you’re always challenging yourself, you tend to grow and find things out about yourself. It’s been fun to play a character like Craig, because he teaches you it’s okay to push yourself into places that you might not necessarily go—or challenge or dare yourself to a certain extent. Even when we’d been in the airplane, standing on the edge of the plane with a tiny cable as I was looking down 16,000 feet—I mean, that’s stuff I feel I’m learning from him.
MF: So, of all the stuff Craig has taught you, do you have any tips for us—how to be more fearless when we don’t feel super tough?
BR: Yeah, I think it’s like anything that’s scary or sort of difficult—like if you try to get into a relationship with someone, or a test, or just something that you know gets your adrenaline going to a certain extent. It’s always worth pushing yourself to see what’s possible and what you’re capable of. There’s always going to be something that’s instilled into me by my father. The more you try and the more you persevere with things, anything’s sort of possible. It just takes hard work and a certain mindset to achieve it. Craig’s very much loose, wild, and is up for that life to a certain extent. It’s exciting to see what you’re capable of doing. You only find out by challenging yourself.
MF: Craig’s a very strong—physically—character and you have to stay in great shape. What do you in the gym to maintain your physique that is often on full display on screen?
BR: Yeah, full display is the right word! I’ve always kind of stayed quite fit just because I get antsy if I’m not moving and running around. I definitely adapted my training for this. I knew it was very aggressive so I took up boxing and got myself a trainer. Boxing is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, but I’ve went into it a lot more and really learned how to do it. That’s obviously an incredible workout, and it’s totally addictive as well because you start getting better and better with the combos, the flow, and the routine. At the same time, I’m in the gym doing different routines. I manage to do some circuit training, then be out in about an hour. After the gym, you feel sort of strong and good about yourself, but it’s not something I enjoy doing for hours on end.
[When you’re in peak physical shape] you do start feeling a lot more confident in your own belief of what you’re capable of doing, which is something that each one of these Codys have. When they walk down the street, they have a certain swag about them. I think when you feel as if you’d be confident in a fight or be able to look after yourself, or strong, or in great shape, it definitely brings sort of a sense of confidence that I feel would be unrivaled.
Ben Robson apparently believes that what happens on the California set of Animal Kingdom stays on the set of Animal Kingdom.
“I’m not sure how much I’d like to say,” the English actor said, laughing, when asked about onset antics. “There were a lot of fun pranks. Everyone gets on. … It’s still a very tight group.”
Robson plays wild middle Cody child Craig in TNT’s summer hit inspired by the 2010 Australian film of the same name. Craig’s brothers include Pope (Shawn Hatosy), who was recently released from prison, and closeted Deran (Jake Weary, interview here). Baz (Scott Speedman) grew up with the boys and they consider him a brother. Throughout the season, they’ve been inducting their young nephew, J (Finn Cole), into the family business.
Despite all the boys, testosterone doesn’t rule in the Cody family. Their mother, Janine “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin), runs the family and its criminal enterprises with emotional and psychological manipulation.
Yet even in his unpredictable family of criminals, Craig sets himself apart with his love of drugs, fast vehicles—and nudity.
I caught up with the former “Vikings” cast member to talk about Craig’s clashes with his mother, how he prepared to play an adrenaline junkie and what’s in store the rest of the first season. Robson revealed one story from set and talked about all the attention a certain part of his body has been getting.
“Animal Kingdom” airs at 8 p.m. CT Tuesdays on TNT. Already renewed for a second season, the show’s first season ends Aug. 9.
How does a lad from Newcastle, England, become so convincing as a drug-loving, criminally-minded surfer dude?
I’ve got my parents to thank for that really. They really took me to the dark side. I’m only kidding.
I think I was quite lucky in terms of [growing] up watching a lot of American TV. California is one of the most celebrated states in the world, so you see a lot of it. You definitely have a lot of interest in that. In terms of actually getting over here and becoming an actor in California I would agree with you; it’s been a long journey.
But I think with any character you just have to find the truth of their core. You start there and start building everything else around that. In terms of being a wild party boy like Craig is, I spent six, seven years working in night life. You definitely find elements of his mindset over the years of working in that industry.
What were you doing—bartending, bouncing?
I did everything. [Laughs.] I started off as handing out the flyers in nightclubs just to get them into the clubs. Living in Bristol, I used to run four or five clubs a week. I think they had something like 6,000 to 7,000 people a week came in the clubs. It was another life.
I bet. Tell me about playing such an adrenalin junkie. What has been the most challenging thing and the most fun part of that?
The challenge is definitely finding the freedoms that being a person like that brings, you know? I think that’s a constant chase needing the next rush, whether it’s sex, murder, bikes, whatever— the latest drug he can get. It’s all very much down to an instant, a moment.
In the fourth episode of TNT’s new drama series Animal Kingdom, Craig Cody finds his girlfriend lying unconscious on her bathroom floor. He checks her pulse, like a gentleman. Then he absconds with her money, jewelry, and drugs. “I don’t think that at their core, anyone feels that they’re a bad person. I don’t think Craig necessarily sees his behavior as bad,” explains British actor Ben Robson, who plays Craig on the show. “It’s only bad when he’s actually got himself in trouble and then looks himself in the mirror a bit,” he continues. “But once he’s gotten over it, he’s pretty much back to where he was. He’s someone who constantly lives in the moment.”
Led by matriarch Smurf (Ellen Barkin), the Cody family deals drugs, robs banks, and generally engages in criminal activities. There is Pope (Shawn Hatosy), the eldest of Smurf’s sons, fresh out of jail and mentally ill at ease; Baz (Scott Speedman), Smurf’s adoptive son and de facto second-in-command; Deran (Jake Weary), the baby of the group and Smurf’s favorite; and J (Finn Cole), Smurf’s estranged grandson and the newest addition to the family business. Wedged in between Baz and Deran is Craig. “Craig definitely is a middle child,” says Robson. “It’s probably why he’s as wild as he is, to some degree.”
Next week, Animal Kingdom will conclude its first season (a second is already in the works). While the show’s premise is based on David Michôd’s 2010 film of the same name, the characters are more malleable, and Robson was not given Craig’s arc in advance. “I knew he was a wild character. I knew he was going to get himself into a lot of trouble because he is so impulsive,” he says. “[But] you get the script a week before shooting while you’re shooting the previous episode. You kind of find out on a week-to-week basis,” he continues. “You have to be prepared for the unexpected because anything’s possible—not only with the Cody family, but with Craig to a further degree.”
HOMETOWN: Newcastle, England
FAMILY BACKGROUND: My father worked in manufacturing and was much more of a number cruncher. My younger brother works in wealth management. Most of my friends [work as] oil brokers and ship brokers and in the City. I have a younger sister who now works as an agent for directors and voice coaches. She was in casting for a while. A long time ago I actually had to go do an audition in front of my sister. It was quite a strange feeling. I did not get the part, but she assured me that it was a good audition all the same. She said it went well but I wasn’t right for the role—the old cliché.
I do feel quite like the black sheep between my family and friends to a certain extent. It makes it a lot more challenging because you don’t have that familiarity that you get when you grow up with a whole load of friends who are into the same things. I went to the movies with friends, but we never really discussed it.
STAGE DEBUT: I did a Nativity play when I was four. I think that was the last time I graced the stage. I can’t even remember [who I played]. I did have a strop in the middle of the play because someone had said my line or taken my mark or I didn’t want to do it. I stopped the middle of the performance. There’s a photo my mum has of me with my arm hiding my face having a big cry, not wanting to be on stage at the time. I think I knew right then and there that I needed to be an actor. [laughs]
SCHOOL DAYS: I wasn’t sure of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to be. I was always very creative; I wanted to get into photography but my school wouldn’t let me. I did design. I always enjoyed drawing. Some of the places I went were very rigid in terms of what they believed was a doss subject and what was a serious education. I wanted to do a lot more of the creative stuff and was stopped by teachers. They didn’t think they were the right things to be doing, but they were much more academic than I was.
THE TURNING POINT: I went to the University of the West of England, which is in Bristol. I was there studying business. A friend said he always wanted to get into acting, and I said I’d love to give it a shot. Within pretty much an hour, we’d booked two flights to go to New York. I didn’t tell any of my family or friends; didn’t let anything put me off in terms of how crazy it was to do in the first place. I got back, finished off my degree, and moved out to L.A. to study at Stella Adler in Hollywood. I had a lot of questions to answer to friends. I think my parents were pretty surprised to begin with because they didn’t know that I had decided to go on holiday. Then I told them I’d gone off to act and I think they were pretty stunned. My friends definitely were stunned. I got interrogated by them—”Do you really think you can do this? Where did this come from? Who do you think you are?”—which I can completely understand. I got into acting relatively late—I was 24, 25 when I really decided it was what I wanted to do.
FINDING CRAIG: I was coming off Vikings and I got sent the Animal Kingdom script. I fell in love with it immediately and really identified with Craig. I was just really drawn to who he was and the family dynamic—how they all fought for their mother’s love and attention. I sent in a tape and it went over to America. I got a phone call on a Sunday for a callback, went in on the Monday and the Tuesday, and got cleared from Vikings on Wednesday. Thursday, I was in the test read. I [found] out [about it] at nine o’clock in the morning and at ten o’clock I was at the Warner Brothers studio. I was pretty much shooting the next day. It was pretty wild.
BROTHERLY BONDING: Animal Kingdom was definitely a good vibe and everyone got on very quickly. When we would go on location to Oceanside and were all living there, it’s always a bonding experience. You definitely get to know each other a lot more on location. Even on set it’s a big bonding experience because you’re always up to mischief.
ANIMAL KINGDOM AIRS TUESDAY NIGHTS ON TNT.
Last week we welcomed you with arms wide open into the magical, mystical world of the Cody brothers and their Godfather-esque matriarch Smurf (Ellen Barkin). Assuming the uninitiated are now fully on board, we’ll spare you the preamble on why you should be watching Animal Kingdom—a slick series about five pseudo-related smokeshows doing illegal stuff and showing off their indented side tushes—and just get you cheek to cheek with the fellas. Because we do frisky stuff like that here.
To see what makes them tick, we asked each of the guys the same five questions via email:
1. In real life I’m most like ______ Cody because:
2. The Most Cody-esque thing I’ve ever done was:
3. The Cody I’d least like to see in a darkened alley is:
4. The most Smurf-esque woman my life is:
5. A woman who ______ is sexy.
They all played ball, of course, but little did they know we would get all Tiger Beat on their asses. Because we do risky stuff like that here. JTT, who?
Even More Speedman: “In real life I’m most like Pope, I guess,” Speedman says, “because my mental stability is in question on an almost daily basis.” Oh, and this: “A woman who can cut through all the bullshit, mine or otherwise, is sexy.”
Even More Robson: “In real life I’m probably most like Craig Cody, because I went through a phase in life where I would get myself into some questionable situations.” That said, Robson shows respect where it’s due: “My mum and my little sister are pretty badass, but I would have to give the Smurf award to my grandmother, who started life as an orphan in the Ukraine during the war and was smuggled through Eastern Europe into Germany to survive before ending up in France.”
Even More Weary: “The Most Cody-esque thing I’ve ever done is rob, like, ten of those red lollipops from a bank,” Weary jokes. “Turns out they’re free.” You know what isn’t free? A killer sense of humor. Wait….
Even More Cole: The British import says he’s most like his character, orphaned high schooler J, because he’s “calm and clinical in tough situations.” The Cody bro he’d be most nervous to encounter in a dark alley? Ben Robson’s Craig. “He’s too big.” And there you have it.
Even More Hatosy: Hatosy, who ironically played a police detective on five seasons of Southland, likes to stay close to his character—arguably too close. “In real life I’m most like Pope Cody because I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m fiercely loyal,” he says. “Oh, and I like to stare at people’s feet while they sleep. What?” Told you.
TV’s newest crime family just landed a second season. TNT has renewed Animal Kingdom, the Ellen Barkin drama about a family who surfs by day and steals by night.
The series, which airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET, is based on the Australian film that scored Jacki Weaver an Oscar nomination. In addition to Barkin, the show stars Shawn Hatosy (Southland) and Scott Speedman (Felicity).
“Animal Kingdom has signaled the new tone for TNT dramas and is moving the network in the direction we hoped it would,” Sarah Aubrey, EVP of original programming for TNT, said in a statement. “I’m confident that our strategy of working with high-caliber talent and then getting out of their way will continue to pay off.”
Also renewed by Turner are two TBS comedies, Angie Tribeca and Wrecked. Tribeca, starring Rashida Jones and produced by Steve and Nancy Carrell, returns for a third season, while the Wrecked, a parody of Lost, will be back for a second season.
“A year ago we began reinventing TBS, and thanks to the incredible talent behind these shows, we’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time,” said Brett Wietz, EVP of original programming for TBS. “Pulling the trigger on renewals early allows us to build on our success by giving fans new seasons more quickly.”
Angie Tribeca airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET and Wrecked on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.
PEOPLE.COM – Say hello to Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, Ben Robson.
The Newcastle upon Tyne, England native, 32, made a name for himself as one of the stars of History’s Vikings, and his latest role has him going from the rugged life of a sea-rover to that of a sandy SoCal bad boy in Animal Kingdom. Robson, who plays a troublemaking lothario in a twisted crime family in the new TNT drama, is quickly earning his spot as one of Hollywood’s sexiest new breakout stars.
Here are five things to know about the actor.
He didn’t know he wanted to be an actor until after he finished school.
“I got into it very late. I went to university and [finished] out at 25, and told my parents I didn’t feel I was doing the right thing and that I wanted to go to acting school. I didn’t finish until I was 27. Acting was something that kind of came later. I was always interested in it, I love film and the escapism of it all and that was always my interest. It was actually when a friend told me at University that he wanted to go into acting I was like ‘Oh my god I always wanted to do that.’ ”
His first professional acting role was on Dracula: The Dark Prince.
“I was sitting in Romania with the director and producer and tell me Jon Voight was on the way over from America because he is going to be playing opposite of you. I was just like ‘Oh my god that’s an Oscar winner!’ He really was an incredible teacher and a very generous person. It’s very surreal as a first gig to get to work with him and it gave me a lot more confidence to carry on in what I was doing.”
Wielding a sword as a Viking isn’t his only special talent.
“I used to play a lot of soccer and was pretty good at it. I could do a lot of kick-ups and freestyle tricks. But I haven’t seen many soccer scripts coming around recently so it’ll be a while before anyone gets the chance to see any of that. I’ve always really enjoyed sports, it was the one thing I really liked at school. I just loved being able to get outside and run around for a while.”
He doesn’t mind his heartthrob status
“You appreciate anyone who is enjoying anything you’re doing which is obviously a lovely thing to hear. It’s lovely to speak with the fans and people who are supportive in what you’re doing and who are interested in how you’re doing.
He could see himself working behind the camera.
“I’d really love to get into writing and I’d love to direct one day. That might be waiting a little so I can learn more, but I’d love to just keep working with great people and on interesting subject matter that you can really sort of delve into. I’d just like to be in a position where I can continue to do this for the rest of my life.”
MAXIM.COM – Not everyone can get away with playing a viking. You need to be rugged, bearded, aggressive, and an all-around BAMF. Luckily enough for Ben Robson, he fit in with all those qualities—and then some.
After blindly shipping off to New York from London with a buddy and few bags in tow, Ben found his day-to-day life transitioning from sports at college to studying scripts and performance art.
While he may not have had much recognition before traveling stateside, Robson quickly landed a big time role as Kalf on History Channel’s Vikings. Fortunately, this Aaron-Taylor Johnson lookalike found it easy to embody the greatest travelers and explorers of our time.
“It was obviously a very different time compared to how we live now,” Ben tells Maxim. “We cherish life so much and the Vikings looked forward to a great death on the battlefield so they could be recognized by the gods and be sent to Valhalla—especially Odin. They became great warriors to give themselves the best opportunity to achieve this. That insight gave me a good place to start, and then the beard came later!”
His latest role has him transitioning from life as Norse Viking to the sandy SoCal beach vibes of Oceanside, California in Animal Kingdom. TNT’s latest indie film-inspired crime drama follows 17-year old ‘J’ who finds himself living with the Cody family, a criminal clan led by Ellen Barkin. Ben takes on the character of Craig, the rambunctious middle child and most loyal who usually finds himself acting much more than thinking.
“Craig is an adrenaline junky that’s always looking for that next fix or high,” Ben said of his character. “I trained with motocross bikes in the Mojave desert in California with the stunt coordinators on the show. I would push myself to take on bigger steeper hills and do them faster and faster each time to recreate that rush which Craig lives for. To play such an uninhibited character has been really freeing for me both personally and in my work.”
Find out if Ben’s switch from swords and shields to surf swells and board shorts suits him well when Animal Kingdom premieres June 14th on TNT.
Robson spoke with Maxim about surviving a zombie apocalypse, owning a good watch, and what’s next.
What is one movie that really enjoy but your friends always make fun of you for?
It’s been a while, but I used to have Finding Nemo constantly on repeat in my room during my first year at university. If I didn’t have the movie on, my TV had an aquarium setting with Nemo and all his mates swimming around that was on all day and night.
What would be your weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse?
Well not very long if we are going by the old Call of Duty standards. I think my friend and I managed to pass six stages. I chose the worst guns that constantly ran out of ammo while I was trying to save my buddy! I’m pretty sure that I tried every weapon in the game to survive and failed horribly. So maybe I’d choose a bomb or explosives. Or maybe I could train with Call of Duty until I felt like I was ready to try something a little smaller!
What is the one item that every guy must have in his wardrobe?
A great watch. I think it says a lot about who is wearing it. I like the history behind watches, there’s just something about holding time on your wrist that says a lot more than checking your smartphone.
You’re on a 10 hour flight—who do you want sitting next to you and why?
Winston Churchill. They don’t really breed men like that anymore. I would be fascinated to hear his outlook on life first hand over a couple of drinks. Not sure he’d appreciate a ten hour flight with no cigars though.
Your about to get into a fight – what song comes on as part of your personal soundtrack?
Probably ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ – Prodigy.
What’s one thing a guy should never do when he’s out with a woman?
Start chatting up another one!
What’re two things that you don’t know how to do that you probably should know how to do?
Skateboarding and working out percentages. Which has been a struggle when sorting the tip at the end of a bill in the states!
What’s next for you?
Hopefully work on more great material and interesting characters, and later down the line, I would like to get behind the camera at some point.