Back in January, Netflix invited a few journalists down to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to visit the sets of Bloodline. One of the things that makes the series so unique is that beautiful landscape, and how the show uses the changeability of the weather to inform its stormy storylines. We never wanted to return to the mainland, as you can image, after visiting the Rayburn house (which is actually a small resort called The Moorings) and that hammock.
While we were there we got the chance to speak with Ben Mendelsohn (Danny), Kyle Chandler (John), Linda Cardellini (Meg) and Sissy Spacek (Sally). The cast told us about how they approach their characters, and the unique production process. It makes it a kind of actor’s masterclass, while also providing a lot of flexibility for the directors regarding how they want to tell the story at any point in time, adjusting as they go. (You can also read about some of their thoughts on Season 2, with the family’s shifting alliances and why Chandler wanted the show to kill John here.)
While Bloodline had many unique and fascinating qualities in its first season, Mendelsohn’s performance as the family’s black sheep, Danny, was spellbinding. He was consistently nuanced and layered in his portrayal of a man who felt deeply hurt by his family, to the point of viciously manipulating them and plotting their downfall. And yet, his countenance kept him empathetic throughout — you rooted for Danny even while you hated what he was doing. For Mendelsohn,
“I feel like in a lot of ways that I am still getting to know him, and I think that the way I thought of him has changed over time. Particularly in terms of what he does towards the end of Season 1. Why he would do something quite so grand and so difficult as bringing all that coke through here … So I have thought about him a lot […] He’s had a very difficult time of it in a very developmental way and he is pretty angry about what he finds out in the first season, and he’s hurt, and he wants them to know about it.”
Spacek also spoke about Sally’s particular bond with Danny, and how she feels responsible for everything that happened:
“He was her first child, and she was a child when she had him, and I always thought that he was the first pancake, you know? You gotta throw that first pancake away. She made all her mistakes on her first child and I think she had a lot of guilt and felt a lot very responsible for some of the things in his life, it wasn’t smooth. She feels responsible for a lot of his angst and a lot of the problems he has and I think that she over compensates for a lot of it. What we tend to do with a child that is struggling, we want to fix it, and I think because everybody was always mad at him, I think she was trying to make up for that.”
Though Danny will appear in Season 2 (in flashbacks and dream sequences), we don’t yet know how much we’ll see of him. Still, he was such a tour de force in the first season, it’s impossible to think of the show being without him. And yet, the producers have a unique way of playing with the material so that they can change things and adjust as they go. Mendelsohn talked about that in regards to Danny:
“You really get a sense of some cause-and-effect-type stuff […] I would do a couple of different versions of the same material, and I sort of let [the directors] chose what they like or how they like them.”
Kyle Chandler echoed that, saying,
“Every show offers different opportunities, and this show has specifics to it that are different from everything else. We play around with the material, we’re encouraged to find different things in the material, to do things different ways. Maybe to find different emotions, which allows Glenn [Zelman] and Todd [A. Kessler] and Daniel [Kessler] to do as they will with it … It makes for a lot of fun, it’s like hide and go seek in the dark.”
Linda Cardellini called the process “experimental at times,” and noted that, “There were times you realized someone was lying, and you didn’t know until the end. But to realize the actor also didn’t know, that informed that performance — or helped not inform that performance [laughs] — in a way that was helpful.”
When it comes to the many twists and turns of both Seasons 1 and 2, one might wonder why the Rayburns seem so cursed. Spacek summed it up as,
“Families are like that, these are people that you care about more than anything else in the world when you are mad at them you are madder than you are at anybody. I have a girlfriend that has a really big family — a lot of children, a lot of grandchildren — they have been through an enormous amount of tragedies and good things and bad things, and one of her children said to her, ‘Mom, why do so many things happen to us?’ She says, ‘Well there are so many of us!’ and that’s it. There are a lot of twists and turns, and the creators have made it interesting. “
All 10 episodes of Bloodline Season 2 premiere Friday, May 27th on Netflix; Season 1 is currently available for streaming.