August 29, 2012 11:41am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Ellen Barkin Hopes 'New Normal' Helps 'Redefine What Normal Is' (Video)
Ellen Barkin is down to play a modern-day Archie Bunker, and hopes that her portrayal of a racist, homophobic great-grandmother on NBC's freshman comedy The New Normal helps redefine what a "normal" family really is.
The actress who co-stars on the comedy about a same-sex couple (Andrew Rannells andJustin Bartha) who turn to a surrogate (Georgia King) to expand their family, Barkin avoided addressing the Utah flap but used her platform during a conference call with reporters Wednesday to ask audiences to stick with her controversial character -- and the show.
"In my character, you have a very articulate, informed in her own world -- it might be a bubble and it might be misinformation -- but she's not uninformed," Barkin said. "Her idea of normal no more applies to her family than a same-sex family. She's a 56-, 58-year-old great-grandmother, which means for three generations women have had babies between ages of 15 and 16. There's a lot of people in the world who do not consider that normal, either. I think that they would even have to admit that in their own world of same-sex parents aren't normal, I would say then is a 15-year-old mother normal? I'm just curious, who's more fit to raise a child? A loving committed same-sex couple or an unmarried 15-year-old with no income and really no skills to parent?"
The typically outspoken Barkin -- she took to her Twitter account to defend the series from Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler after a Utah-based NBC affiliate refused to air the series -- declined to address the flap, but instead said she hopes her "un-PC" character educates and informs the masses.
"I beg people not to judge this character before they see it because they are going to be very surprised. I beg that audiences stick with her and hear her arguments, which are extremely intelligent and come from her heart, gut and own life experience," she noted, confirming that the as-yet-unnamed character isn't a "stereotypical liberal."
"This isn't a stereotypical liberal version of what someone who doesn't disagree with their positions, what ever they are: anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-any ethnic, anti-foreigner, xenophobic character," Barkin said.
"The show is a very open show in terms of how it approaches these seemingly very different characters on the opposite ends of the spectrum," she told reporters. "They will all learn from each other. There is not going to be a stereotypical representation of some un-PC, uninformed lunatic; she is informed. The point is she's not someone who doesn't read and she's in no way an ignorant bigot. I take great offense at that."
Ultimately, she hopes her character -- much like All in the Family's Archie Bunker did in the late 1960s and '70s -- helps educate and inform those who have very specific ideas of what constitutes a normal family by showing the character's humanity.
"I hope that everyone starts maybe opening up a tiny bit and are able to redefine what normal is," she noted. "Archie Bunker was very un-PC but every now and then you saw a humanity in Archie where it wasn't just coming from hate," she said, pointing to the episode in which Archie's wife Edith is raped.
"It's not just hate, it's fear of the other. With all of the divisiveness that is going on in the country we live in, so much of it based around just fear of the other and anyone who does not look like me, walk like me, talk like me, have sex like me, they're the other and I'm afraid of them," she said. "Hopefully we will learn that it's just not scary and there's nothing to be afraid of."
The New Normal premieres Sept. 11 at 9:30 p.m. on NBC. Watch the pilot below and hit the comments with your thoughts.