Fired Up: The True Inside Story Of Ellen Barkin’s Firing

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Photo Courtesy of AMC



“You’re fired!” It’s not a phrase anyone wants to hear. Most people depend on their job to live. And to maintain a certain lifestyle. For celebrities, there are many variations on the phrase, like “we’re writing you out,” or “Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert is more popular than you.” When something like that is said, it is usually the start of a career drought.

Sometimes though, it is an earned statement. Such is the case with Ellen Barkin and her hit show, Animal Kingdom. There is a major spoiler coming up, so be prepared. In this week’s episode of the show, Barkin’s character Smurf was killed. It might seem like a decision that was made to serve the story, but there is much more to the situation.

What Wells Said

John Wells is the executive producer of Animal Kingdom. He has worked on so many hit shows that it’s an embarrassment of riches for him. This show is just another feather in his cap. One that will go down as one of the most riveting shows of its time. And his ability to gather an A-list cast together, that includes Shawn Hatosy, Jake Weary, and of course Ellen Barkin.

Fans started speculating something was wrong when Smurf was diagnosed with cancer. Many were frustrated with what they felt was a fake-out from an otherwise solid show. There was no way they would kill off the biggest star, not after losing Scott Speedman. They were right and wrong. Smurf did indeed die, but not from cancer. She asked her son to kill her. Wells gave a series of interviews, where he explained the decision:

“A big part of the challenge on any show is to try and keep it feeling real for the audience in the sense that it’s still fun to watch because you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, We ended up spending a lot of time talking about: What do we do this year to keep shuffling the deck and mixing things up? It’s the animal kingdom, not everybody’s going to survive. We were feeling that we were repeating a little bit the Smurf stories. We had told the Smurf stories in the present that we wanted to tell but what we were really interested in is how did she get to be Smurf? And that led to where we ended up. We came to the realization that the thing that would shake the family up most is if Smurf wasn’t there to hold them together anymore.”

Wells, an A-list showrunner and writer could not think of another way to keep his show interesting without killing off the leading lady? Seems a tad unbelievable right?

Diva On The Set

Indeed it was a bit odd that the man who kept ER running for 15 years, could not think of a way to keep this show interesting without killing the leading lady. Inadvertently he admitted that there was more to the decision than the story. He told reporters: “She doesn’t ever want to be perceived as weak. She doesn’t want pity. What would really terrify her would be losing control of herself and her body,” this was about Smurf. “Then there were endless conversations about who would actually shoot her. The cast was very interested in that. We really didn’t let anybody know until when we gave them the script for the read-through.” Why would everyone want to shoot the star of the show?

She was a diva on the set.

In fact, there was an incident on the set with her more often than not. When someone told her no or disagreed with her, she would accuse them of some sort of discrimination. Blind Gossip was told: “She is a just a nasty, negative person. Complains about everything. She got so mad about something she actually threw a prop and hit someone with it. If she doesn’t get her way, she accuses you of discriminating against her because of her age or her gender. Everyone has had it with her.”

In And Out In The Past

With the rest of the cast fed up with Barkin, writers had to find a way to keep them happy and secure the future of the show. To that end, they began telling Smurf’s backstory with a younger actress taking the role. Something that will seemingly continue.

“We had told the Smurf stories in the present that we wanted to tell but what we were really interested in is how did she get to be Smurf? And that led to where we ended up,” Wells said. It is quite possible Barkin will claim later on that there was some sort of discrimination at play. But the truth is, when you misbehave on the job, you lose it.