AMC+’s new Irish crime drama Kin follows a powerful family that gets entangled with a cartel after the death of their son. Clare Dunne plays Amanda, a wife and mother mourning her child while also being inducted into the family business after the tragedy.
Dunne spoke to Screen Rant about getting in touch with her character and stepping into a messy love triangle to boot.
Warning: This interview contains spoilers for Kin.
Screen Rant: Can you talk to me a little bit about Amanda and her role in the family?
Clare Dunne: Amanda is at first very much an outsider, I suppose, that marries in. At first, she’s keeping her hands clean; she cleans the money through the car dealership, but she never really gets involved. It’s almost like that makes everything okay.
I’d say her main objective is actually to enable Jamie and Anthony, her sons, to just have a great life and maybe have the choice not to be in that world – which is a very taboo thing. I feel like inside of Amanda, there’s always a little bit of a thing where she’s ready to take on what that might bring. A bit of tension in the family, or with what Amanda’s husband Jimmy [Emmett J. Scanlan] wants. I feel like there’s always a little bit of tension there, that she’s not quite kin. She’s not quite blood, and she maybe wants something different for the future generation.
But then, of course, that all suddenly changes when one of her sons is gone. And it’s like her whole moral fiber, who she is, what she stands for, and certainly what she believes in begins to change. Because it’s about her sons, and it’s still about family, and it’s about what she wants for them. It becomes a fight for survival, I suppose. And then it becomes: who gets to live? Everything just changes throughout the series, and to get to play that was kind of incredible.
It all starts as a domino effect with the return of Michael (Charlie Cox), the prodigal son. Can you talk to me about how Amanda feels about Michael’s return?
Clare Dunne: I think there’s an interesting thing with that because we all had to build up a history of these characters. I think it’s hard to just pinpoint, “Oh, she feels this one thing about him returning.” In fact, I’d nearly say she’s trying to test herself when he first returns. You can tell she’s nervous about him returning, and you’re wondering why. And then as the series progresses, you suddenly realize.
I think she has mixed feelings. It’s that thing in life where you tell your brain to tell yourself it’s going to be a certain way, and then you meet somebody that maybe you haven’t seen in eight years or whatever it might be – and your body, your heart, your soul, your spinal fluid that you have no control over; the chemistry in your body goes, “Oh, right. I feel that way actually.” And it’s really tough.
I think actually she loves Jimmy. She loves Michael as well, but it’s her ability to expand and love in different ways and grow. They all grow a kind of different story and relationship with each other all the time. I think that’s what makes it really interesting. So, it’s just no defined one thing, and I think she’s figuring that out as well.
Can you talk to me about working with Charlie, and what he brings to the role of Michael that isn’t necessarily on the page?
Clare Dunne: I would say that, first of all, I think he brings a certain economy to this that’s incredibly powerful. Because it’s very easy as an actress to come to a role, one where you have to carry a lot of history and somehow convey that, and actually sort of overdo things or overplay. And I think from what I remember because I haven’t watched the series yet, Charlie was actually very deft and swift and chooses moments of when to have a sneaky smile or a thought or something with himself. He doesn’t show off his cards. I think it’s his quietness and his stillness that serves that kind of history, and I think that’s what he brought to it. Also, I just think he was incredibly skilled with the accent.
He was so authentic to this world that he wasn’t born in or grew up around, while a lot of us in the cast did. I found it fascinating to watch him just completely become embedded in it. I just think he brought something really, really special to it.
In reference to your earlier question, I just remembered the one thing between Amanda and Michael that you’ll always see is that Amanda is the one person that is not afraid to confront Michael about the truth of things. I think that’s really interesting to watch. It’s a strength in her, certainly, but it’s what Michael hates and loves all at once with her.
Peter McKenna has done a brilliant job of creating this world and crafting these scripts. Can you talk to me about working with him as a collaborator?
Clare Dunne: Oh, Peter is just incredible. He basically got me to audition for Amanda first because I wasn’t really well known. I just remember reading scripts and going, “Okay. This writing.” First of all, I was hooked and was going, “This is deep. This is really, really deep.” Even just seemingly small interactions between characters were saying so much about the history and what they’re feeling. It was just detailed and – not Shakespearian, but bigger basically.
But working with Peter was amazing because he would be on set writing and rewriting episodes on the set while we were there. But also he’d come up and give you a little tip if you’re struggling with something, or he was just there to support. We had to do a little pick-up for a day this summer, and I hadn’t seen him in months. but he was there on set even with all the COVID restrictions and everything. He’s always there to ask for help, and he really knows who these people are. I could ask him anything.
Throughout the series, your character goes through a major shift, and my heart broke for your character. How does Amanda view the family after this tragic event with their son?
Clare Dunne: I think it’s one of those things, isn’t it? When something massive happens in your life emotionally, it’s like a bomb goes off inside you. When the dust settles, there’s this weird clarity that can happen, because there’s just been this huge death and a weird grief and cleansing of things. Everything is different now.
I think she suddenly sees the family as a) vulnerable, actually, and not as macho as they make that they are, and b) maybe flawed in their approach. Because she is fresh eyes to this. I think when she first is in a family meeting or a strategic meeting, and she just asks questions, people are like “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” But it’s because she can just see it with a fresh pair of eyes and be like, “Well, why are you doing it that way?” And it’s taboo, taboo, taboo. But I think she just sees it the way she’s been watching the car dealership or how she watched something else. She’s kind of like, “Okay, I see how this functions, and I think we could clean up that a little bit.”
She is smart. And suddenly her talent that never got to express itself is suddenly being tapped into because now everything’s different. She sees the family and is like, “Okay, hang on a second. I’m starting to see what the working parts are. I think we could do this a little bit differently.” I’d say that’s the main thing. Also, I think she’s not as afraid of them anymore. She’s already had one of her worst fears happen, literally, so you can’t just exclude her anymore. “I have lost my son because of you.”
I think there’s a certain brashness and bravery that starts to grow in her against them, but she also obviously knows the consequences of that. So, she’s struggling between the lines of “Have I gone too far there?” but also, “I’m going to push the envelope.”
Grief hits people in different ways, and we absolutely see that with Amanda and Jimmy. Can you talk to me about how their relationship is affected by the death of their son, and how they handle it in different ways?
Clare Dunne: I suppose there’s a thing of realizing that Jimmy was his father. I think she knows that and respects that and, as she begins to realize what he actually knows, she actually develops a bit more respect for him and respect for his grief.
Initially, though, there’s this weird survival thing in Amanda that comes into play, and she sort of wants to immediately make another son as well. There’s this beautiful intimacy scene that they have together, and there’s this strange thing that happens where they’re bonded in this grief, and it weirdly pulls them closer together for a while. I think it’s all gray area, and there’s an element of just honoring each other and honoring the marriage that they have managed to keep together and the family they raised together – even if it’s on rocky grounds sometimes.
I would say, across the series, it’s up and down. There’s also a little bit of power exchanged as well. Because, as you know, it all ties in with the different things – there’s these meetings that happen in the family that Jimmy gets a bit annoyed with. But I think he also sees Amanda’s view because, “Yeah, we’ve lost a son, we’ve lost half of our children.”
There’s this constant to and fro of understanding that begins to grow between those [two], which makes me interested in how that might grow or develop. It’s not as simple as, “Oh, it’s like that.” Boom. And it’s done. Everything is always evolving with them.
Can you talk a little bit about the triangle between the three characters: Amanda, Jimmy, and Michael?
Claire Dunne: Yes. And this is with the view to the audiences who have already have seen a few episodes, so I don’t have to worry I’m going to give spoilers.
It’s all the different stages of grief that bring different things out of Amanda. I think at that point, she’s almost angry on Jamie’s behalf and just wants to honor the truth. But she doesn’t see how much that absolutely kills Jimmy, who has raised him.
I remember on the day, I was very torn about it. Like, “Jesus, oh my God, how does she not realize?” But actually, when you’re inside of Amanda’s pack, it’s almost like she embraces every single human emotion to do with grief as it comes. She goes from that moment of, “I just want to honor the truth for Jamie,” to then organizing getting somebody killed for Jamie – which is a huge amount of revenge and anger, and completely blind anger. To then seeing the consequences of that on the news the next day or whatever. She goes to the extreme guilt and realizes what she’s doing to another family.
I feel like, with Amanda, it’s almost one emotion at a time – but to the fullest extent. It’s like a bowling ball, and then what happens with all the pins after? It can be riveting, but also difficult watching.
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New episodes of Kin premiere on Thursdays exclusively on AMC+.