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For the past three years, Leila George has portrayed one of TV’s most complicated mothers: the younger version of crime boss Janine “Smurf” Cody in TNT’s “Animal Kingdom” flashback storyline, which enters in its sixth and final season on June 19. (Ellen Barkin portrayed an older version of the character in the current storyline on the action-packed drama’s first four seasons.)

Season 6 sees Janine in the early 90s facing arguably her biggest challenge yet: raising teenagers. The scenes she shares with her teenage children – twins Pope and Julia and her adopted son Baz – are intense, to say the least. But it is her exchanges with her daughter – whom she skillfully manipulates – that are particularly difficult to watch.

Courtesy of TNT

Leila, the only daughter of ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’ alumnus Vincent D’Onofrio and Italian-Australian actress Greta Scacchi, drew inspiration from an unexpected source to bring the latest iteration of Janine: his own mother.

“Maybe I show off, but aren’t all mother-daughter relationships sometimes dark? I love my mother so much – she’s my ride or die, she’s my North Star. She’s become one of my best friends. But when I was a teenager, we used to have fights like that,” she said. during a recent conversation.

“It’s kind of relatable. At some point a girl has to steal the nest and there’s a struggle for a few years. I feel like we can all relate to that,” she added.

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While Janine – who introduced her brood to a life of crime before she hit puberty – makes motherhood seem anything but easy, stepping in her shoes hasn’t deterred Leila from wanting her own great offspring one day.

“I’ve always been someone who wants kids – lots of them. I envy that in her,” said the 30-year-old beauty, who split from Sean Penn in October 2021 after just 14 wedding month. “Take away all the crime and give your kids booze, take away all the bad stuff, I love that [she has this] big family. I love that they have Sunday lunches and parties and yes they are dysfunctional but it’s nice to see a family reunion isn’t it? I like this.”

From what we’ve seen so far, “Animal Kingdom” Season 6 family reunions are particularly dysfunctional…

Leila had this to say about how her on-screen alter ego is handling parenthood after a major time jump after the end of Season 5: “She’s trying to make it work with [her kids] and pull jobs – they are in a stream,” she said. “They don’t have it as easy as in the future, but they’re getting there. They learn and she works with young Baz – played by Darren Mann – and he slowly begins to take on a bit of a leadership role. But she argues with Julia and Pope – played by Jasper Polish and Kevin Csolak. All three are phenomenal and so fun to work with such lovely young actors. I say young, but they’re around my age, which is kind of intimidating. But it’s a family dynamic. …and in true ‘Animal Kingdom’ style, s*** hits the fan. But that’s where she’s at: feuding with teenagers.”

Courtesy of TNT

Leila has portrayed Janine at different ages over nearly two decades – from her early 20s in the 70s to her late 30s or early 40s to the early 90s. He presents a unique challenge to the actress.

“It was fun to figure out what the look would be in each season,” she said. “When I joined the show, I didn’t know how long I was going to be on it – I started with a six-episode deal. So I didn’t know that was where it was going. been really interesting thing to know how much of her to hold back. How much of her was already there when she was 20? How much did she slowly get like Ellen Barkin along the way?… But to be able to become Smurf fully fledged into season 6, it was really freeing because I was waiting to do it and hoping I could do it. Plus, being able to work in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s was so fun – just the fact to do all my wardrobe arrangements was one of the things i most look forward to and listening to the music of the era and all the decor of the era and the props of the era. It’s been a really interesting challenge – a challenge I’m grateful to have taken on I don’t know if I’m going to do it again er.”

Like many “Animal Kingdom” fans, Leila couldn’t help but wish she had more time with the role — her first in a TV series.

“I feel like every new season I’ve been able to take part in has been a gift. Of course, I was hungry for more because [the show] skips 10 years, so there’s so much you miss seeing,” she said. chance to go really deep into each decade. But isn’t it better to leave something wanting more? It’s good that I leave him wanting more instead of being like, ‘Ugh, thank God!'”

“He was such a fun character to play. I just hope the fans feel good about the final season. That’s all I really care about,” she concluded.

The sixth and final season of “Animal Kingdom” debuts on TNT on Sunday, June 19.