'Animal Kingdom' Star Shawn Hatosy on Making His Directorial Debut (Exclusive)

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TNT

After more than 20 years in Hollywood, Shawn Hatosy is finally making his directorial debut on TNT's Animal Kingdom. So why did it take so long for him to step behind the camera?

"It is something that I had wanted to do my whole career, and they don't just let anybody do it. You can't just raise your hand and say, 'Hey, I think I would be good at this!'" he told ET of his directing aspirations. "Fortunately, I have worked with John Wells since ER and I did five seasons of Southland. I knew that directing was a path that I wanted to take, so I dropped some subtle hints during Southland. Had we gone another season of Southland, I probably would have had a chance to direct that, along with Michael Cudlitz and Ben McKenzie."

On Tuesday's episode of Animal Kingdom, titled "Jackpot," the 42-year-old actor puts on the director's hat, helming an emotionally fraught episode that puts his character, Pope, front and center -- which was itself its own challenge.

"My biggest fear was that I was in episode 10 quite a bit. How are we going to schedule the pre-production, the scouting and all of the meetings that occur prior to actual production? That was a big factor for me," Hatosy said, giving credit to the crew and producers for giving him enough time to prep. "Another concern [I had] was when you're on the same playing field as the other cast, how [does] taking on this leadership role would affect that relationship? We had no issues there."

Because Hatosy has been with the show since the very beginning, he felt comfortable with taking on a pivotal episode.

"I've been around the show for so long that I know things that other directors aren't going to be privy to. I know the strengths and weaknesses of our cast. I know the set better than most people and having me there as a director is an asset in many ways," he said. "And just having been around these characters and having read every script and being so familiar it gives me an edge that is really helpful."

But how does Hatosy the director operate differently from Hatosy the actor?  

"It's a great question because I do think that when I'm playing Pope, I tend to become a little bit quiet and maybe a little bit introspective and internal," he explained. "Part of that is I'm just trying to stay as focused as possible, particularly on days when Pope has a heavy scene or a heavy workload. You just kind of want to keep all the distractions away. I think my demeanor does change. As director, that's not going to work. You're in a position where you need to be available and present and ready to answer all the questions -- and there are a lot of questions."

Animal Kingdom airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.

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