The critically acclaimed crime family drama series Animal Kingdom debuted on TNT on June 14, 2016. 

It centers on 17-year-old Joshua "J" Cody, portrayed by Finn Cole, navigating his new life with his relative after his mother's death from a drug overdose

But he quickly learns that his family has illegal dealings headed by the matriarch, his grandmother Janine "Smurf" Cody, and his uncles.

J has to decide if he wants to stay out of it or join the family business.

Audiences do not see J's grandmom, Smurf, played by Elle Barkin, for most of the series.

However, things changed in the fifth season as audiences were taken to the past and introduced to young Smurf, played by Leila George. 

Executive producer John Wells sat down with Entertainment Weekly and shared that they had told enough stories about Smurf in the present and wanted to explore her origins instead. 

They wanted to shake things up and keep the show fresh. 

Leila George on Taking the Role of Young Smurf

In an interview with Bonnie Laufer, George opened up about her role as young Smurf. 

When Laufer asked George if she was excited to be part of the popular show and play young Smurf, she said she was terrified. 

The actress explained that she had been a fan of the series for a long time and worshipped Jackie Weaver and Barkin. 

In the series, Smurf is a badass who does not play by the rules, and this aspect of Smurf's character was the most fun for George. 

Leila George and Bonnie Laufer

Leila George was interviewed by Bonnie Laufer about her role as young Smurf. (Source: Bonnie Laufer/YouTube)

She noted that she could do anything as young Smurf. 

But at the same time, she was nervous because Barkin had already established the character, which audiences loved so much as an icon. 

The actress stated many people watched the show for Smurf, and there was a lot of pressure on her to meet people's expectations. 

"So many people watch the show for that character and she [Smurf] was so so great so i was i was very nervous about how that was going to go so i hope you guys have been okay with that," the actress told Laufer. 

Leila George Thanked Elle Barkin

And part of the reason, George excelled as a Smurf, thanks to Barkin's assistance. 

During the interview, she said she found out a month before filming that she had landed the role. 

And to nail the character, she watched the show obsessively, sharing that she watched seasons one through three thrice. 

The actress also had help from her fellow veteran co-star, who was initially intimidated by her. 

"She looks me up and down for a minute, and then I think I passed the test. She was lovely. She let me like follow her around and come on set when she was working and come into her trailer and we'd go over scripts and like certain dialogue and lines," shared George. 

George was grateful for everything, and after filming wrapped, she thanked Barkin in a tweet for "being so available and open" to her.