Emmett Scanlan Offers Insight on Kin, Talks Working with Charlie Cox

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Emmett Scanlan is starring on the AMC+ crime drama Kin as Jimmy Kinsella, an integral member of the Kinsella crime family.

When we caught up on the phone, Scanlan was 30 minutes late, and it was for a very good reason -- his infant son kept his parents up well past their bedtime.

Scanlan hoped that the interview wouldn't go too deep into storylines or plots that he couldn't wrap his head around given his lack of sleep.

Emmett J. Scanlan attends the British Academy Television Craft Awards

He needn't have worried. Once the conversation got started, his excitement over the project was apparent. And since fatherhood is important to Jimmy, knowing its importance to Scanlan was welcome.

It's been a decade since Scanlan played bad boy Brendan Brady on the UK soap opera Hollyoaks. While some people don't like to recall their time on soaps, Scanlan feels blessed.

"Wow. That's a blast from the past," he said when I brought up Hollyoaks. "Brendan Brady was a beautiful pocket of time for me, two years of pure, unadulterated fun. And I was allowed to explore, to play, to fall, to rise on a weekly basis.

"It was a fantastic family to be part of, which in turn was a springboard for every other family since. That was me moving over to the UK at the time. I moved over in 2010, and I met my now wife in that show as well."

"So it's kind of their fault that we had a baby, and then he kept us up," Scanlan said, not the last time he would apologize again for his tardiness.

Scanlan grew up in Dublin, but he wasn't close enough to anyone like the Kinsellas to infuse his character with familiar traits. Jimmy plunged Scanlan into things he'd never before considered.

"So I've said this a couple of times, actually. And I don't mean it to be a little bit wonky or whatever like that, but Jimmy owns exotic snakes. This character owns exotic snakes," Scanlan said with a bit of awe.

"So it got me very much into snakes and documentaries and all sorts of stuff. And I came across this Nietzsche quote, where he said, 'The snake that cannot shed its skin must perish.' Nietzsche said that. And I thought to myself, 'That's absolutely genius.'

And that's not unlike Jimmy himself. In my opinion, Jimmy is probably the most adaptable to situations. He sheds his skin to whatever environment presents itself. It's just the way he is. And it saves him more times than it won't.

Emmett J. Scanlan arrives at NBCUniversal's 2015 Winter TCA Tour - Day 2

"He's fiercely loyal, probably, certainly, in my opinion, the most loyal. He's viscerally and outrageously vulnerable. Maybe outrageous is the wrong word, but viscerally and very openly vulnerable."

Scanlan fell in love with Jimmy. "He wears his heart on his sleeve. At least that's how I play it. That's what I saw in Peter McKenna's writing. And I loved playing Jimmy Kinsella. He was difficult to play at times because of the vulnerability that he shows."

He admitted that he found himself defending Jimmy. "I realized that I needed to stop imposing myself on the character and just let the character be the character."

"I loved him, and he was difficult to play," Scanlan said. "And it was exhausting after scenes because it's heavy material; it's heavy, real material. And some of the scenes, some of the episodes would echo in my heart for days after. I'd take them with me."

Emmett Scanlan attends the "A.D. The Bible Continues" New York Premiere Reception

Scanlan said he was very careful about leaving Jimmy at the studio but found scenes reverberating in his head and heart for days afterward. "And that was quite hard," he admitted.

"But when I look back on my time shooting Kin, and it was five months during the pandemic, the height of the pandemic, it was incredibly cathartic and therapeutic for me. Don't ask me how. It's just a feeling. I can't describe the feeling."

After my conversation with Maria Doyle Kennedy and how Scanlan explained how he immersed himself into Jimmy while filming, I wondered if he was a method actor. He honestly didn't know how to answer.

"I just try and get on set and be the character and let whatever happens be okay. And to be influenced by that, kind of like organically. I guess the mythology of that, the method side of that, would probably be a little bit too draining for me," he said.

Emmett J Scanlan attends the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards

"Whereas I probably wouldn't label myself a method actor, I would go really deep into something, and I would devour the scripts and do ferocious homework on it. So by the time I get on set, none of that matters, and all I get to do is play because I'm happiest at any time in the day when I'm on set, and I'm playing."

He had plenty of time to grow close to his costars, especially during the pandemic. Several of them had booked at the same apartment block, which meant that Scanlan, Charlie Cox, and Sam Keeley were sharing that "unchartered territory together," and they realized how blessed they were to be working at that time.

"In a time where everywhere was shut and you couldn't travel far, we had each other. And for a better word, we had our kin with us while making Kin. And it was lovely," Scanlan said before playfully suggesting that Cox named his son after him after seeing him act.

"I will say something that we did for fun, myself and Charlie. And that would be in the underbelly of Kinsella household, in Jimmy's house, he has a kind of a man cave. And in that man cave, that set was dressed with a pool table.

Emmett J Scanlan attends the Inside Soap Awards

"So anytime myself and Charlie found ourselves shooting in that location, we would either sneak off, or in between takes, or in between setups, or turning around, or scenes or whatever, we went downstairs, and we played pool very competitively.

"I have to say, I think we racked over 200 games at least," he said.

Keeping up that playful side, Scanlan said, "I'll be honest with you, Carissa. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose. It's about partaking in the game, but you are definitely talking to the winner. I don't want to fucking brag, but you're definitely talking to the winner," he laughed.

"It's not about winning, but I'm the winner." Jimmy doesn't necessarily share Scanlan's sarcastic nature, but he does love his brother, and the family welcomes Cox's character, Michael, back into the fold with high expectations.

It's an interesting dynamic, and with the many layers of the Kinsella family, I asked about Jimmy's ambitions within the family and the business. "I don't really see Jimmy as ambitious. He's got his priorities set.

Emmett Scanlan attends the Oscar Wilde Awards

"He's an incredibly loyal soldier within the family group. That's not to say you don't cross with him. You don't cross him. You don't fuck with them because he's got a temper," Scanlan said of Jimmy.

"Regardless of who you are, he'll take you down. But that said, he is ridiculously loyal. And first and foremost to him, the most important thing to him is his kin, his family. And everything else pales in comparison. Everything else plays second fiddle."

Jimmy is a father and a husband, and his wife, Amanda (Clare Dunne), doesn't want her children to follow in their father's footsteps. But Scanlan assured me, Amanda knew what she was getting into. In other words, at the first mention of Amanda, he leaped at the opportunity to defend Jimmy.

"She knows that she's in; she's in like Flynn. That's it. She married into the family. She knew exactly what she was getting herself into," he said, agreeing that she hoped her kids wouldn't get into the life.

Emmett J Scanlan attends The 2012 British Soap Awards

"I think we all, just as human beings, kind of marinade in some sort of hypocrisy anyway. I do this, but you don't do that, kind of stuff. So I understand where that comes from, why she would want that," he said.

"My opinion of it would be that Jimmy wouldn't be as closed off from the idea. He would want his children to find their Dharma or their purpose in life. Whatever that would be, he would support it. He's not somebody that's going to push them into the family way of life."

"He's like, 'What do you want to do? What do you love? What's your passion? Because that's exactly what I was trying to manifest for you. And you can help me along the way.' I think that's probably his thinking."

At one point in Kin Season 1 Episode 1, Jimmy takes his eldest son on a kind of ride-along to give him a taste of the family business. "It's like, 'I'm not going to force you into any situation, son. But just so you know, this is what this life is. You make your own decision now.'"

To see Emmett Scanlan as Jimmy Kinsella, be sure to catch the premiere of Kin on AMC+ on Thursday, September 9.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Kin Quotes

Don't tell me to calm down, you know that winds me up even more.


Nikki: Michael. He's quieter than I thought. He's real shy or something.
Eric: He's not shy when you cross him.