Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Ellen Barkin will get an Emmy nomination for her portrayal as Nana on The New Normal and potentially even snag the prize?
Whether you’re gay or straight, conservative or liberal, a friend of the show or a foe (because it’s just one of those series that you either love or hate; there’s no in-between), you cannot deny that the veteran actress has poured her heart and soul into the character. On the surface, it looks wicked easy to play the part: just look grumpy, bring your voice down a few octaves to give the impression that you’re constantly angry, and scoff every time the two gay leads walk into the room. Right? Wrong! Barkin brings all that, but also something very unique to the role.
Though her antics are meant to be funny, she enables the audience to believe she is dead serious in her beliefs that have been shaped by a long, sheltered past that only Ohio can provide (sorry, fellow college buds who came from Ohio). You feel her hatred and her venom with every scathing remark she makes. Yet, there are moments–tiny moments–where you witness some good shine through. You see that, underneath all the bigotry, she cares very deeply for her granddaughter and great-granddaughter and that she’d go to the ends of the Earth to protect them. This week’s episode, entitled “Obama Mama,” was her strongest so far. At the dinner party scene, the writers gave her a chance not only to demonstrate that she can defend her right-wing beliefs (and this kind of made me sit back and go, “Oh. Okay. She’s not just drinking the Kool-aid.”), but that she deserves a little bit of our respect as well. I can’t imagine anyone else but Ellen Barkin doing this while still managing to rouse a laugh or two (or three) out of us.
Regardless of the show’s future (it’s considered a moderate success right now), Ellen Barkin won’t go unrecognized at next year’s Emmys ceremony.