Snow turned to rain and rain to snow on a slushy, bitterly cold Tuesday evening in New York City. But that didn’t stop the cast and crew of “Bloodline,” Netflix’s upcoming family thriller set in the sunny Florida Keys, from gathering for their show’s red carpet premiere.
Coming from Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman (better known as KZK) — the team behind the cult hit “Damages” — “Bloodline” also features a cast enviable to any TV executive. From “Freaks and Geeks” star Linda Cardellini to “Friday Night Lights” legend Kyle Chandler, the series looks to emulate and exceed the Emmys success of “Damages,” which was always favorably-received by critics despite low ratings.
But “Bloodline” keeps the “Damages” spirit, telling a complex, character-driven mystery with flashbacks and alternating points-of-view. The writing style of KZK is optimal for Netflix, as their twisty, non-linear storytelling methods are rendered more digestible by the streaming service’s all-at-once release strategy. Early reviews have hit the web before the series’ March 20 premiere, and both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety have sung “Bloodline’s” praises and then some (Indiewire’s TV Critic Ben Travers had more of a mixed reaction).
Still, there was ample reason to celebrate on premiere night, even if that meant trudging through the horrid weather — and boy, did the mood reflect it. Chandler, slowly making his way along the red carpet, would frequently backtrack when the latest cast member showed, shouting out his/her name and racing to give them a warm embrace. By the time everyone was cramped into the tent just outside the SVA Theatre, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly jovial.
But after getting a chance to speak with some of the cast and crew, it made perfect sense. The “Bloodline” team spent many months of last year secluded in the Florida Keys, left only to both work and socialize with each other.
“We’re away from our family, we’re away from our kids, and it’s tough,” explained Jamie McShane, who plays a family friend. “You’re kind of locked down there alone.”
McShane, who grew up in a drama-ridden Jersey family of five siblings, gave a lot of credit to Chandler for holding everyone together: “Kyle headed it up; he’d have parties and barbecues and would bring us all together.”
Though not the only one to sing Chandler’s praises as a leader and mentor, he did note that the two formed a special bond. “It was like having a best friend. We kind of hit it off, and he’s just easy-going and nice and really generous,” McShane said. “And especially for him, as he’s really famous — me, no one really cares, but for him to have someone that he could just hang with was really special, I think.”
Jacinda Barrett, who plays Chandler’s wife, had more conflicted feelings about working in the Keys — exemplified best when she lamented that “if you went out for 30 seconds, you’d have about 15 [mosquito] bites on you” — but still found that an extraordinary sense of camaraderie formed out of the seclusion.
“It really threw us together, and as a family we got along so well,” Barrett noted. “We’d go out on Kyle’s boat, and had a lot of fun. But it’s a strange place because you’re completely removed.” She also echoed McShane’s sentiment, telling me that Chandler led the charge in establishing the cast’s familial relationships: “I just adored working with him. It was such a pleasure and a gift. He’s an awesome leader.”
As for Chandler, exhausted by the time he reached the end of the carpet, there were still plenty of words to say about the bonds he formed in swampy Florida. “There’s nothing magic to say about it, other than the fact that it’s a bunch of good people who are good actors, and we all just sort of came together,” he explained. “It’s a diverse group … and there’s not really a bad apple. That can hurt things really quickly, but we just had a great time.”
Given the lengthy commitment that comes with signing onto an ongoing series, it’s rare for a show to shoot in such a remote location. As guests began filing into the theater, the KZK gang stuck around to explain the necessity of shooting in the Keys.
“This idea of a setting that looks like paradise […] there’s a mystique around it,” Glenn Kessler said. “We wanted to set this story in a paradise-like setting because we knew there were very dark undertones. There’s a whole underbelly to explore, but we wanted to put it out in bright, beautiful sunshine.”
As “Bloodline” is densely driven by mystery and uncertainty, the question of whether or not early teases and bombshells pay off remains a justifiable concern. It was for Chandler, anyway, until KZK gave him the full run-down: “[What drew me] was the writing and the Kesslers, yeah, but also the idea that they presented and where they would take it for years as it progresses,” Chandler said.
“We were very, very aware of what the arc of this first season would be. It was the DNA of the show,” Glenn Kessler added. “There are very significant events that we start to learn of in the first episode that get paid off by the end of the season. We knew the ride that we wanted to take an audience on, and we laid that groundwork very early in the show.”
Not a seat was left unfilled as, at around eight o’clock, the dismal outside conditions were left for the show’s bright blue skies and towering palm trees. But as we were all quick to learn, it’s not all sunshine in “Bloodline.” Not even close.
All 13 episodes of “Bloodline” launch March 20 on Netflix.