Of all the dramas eligible for the 2015 Emmys, "Bloodline" has to have the most secrets. Shows like "Scandal" and "The Leftovers" carried their fair share of twists and turns, but the Netflix drama was so reliant on its surprises the creators even kept them from the cast.
"I call it the year of not knowing," Sissy Spacek said at a Netflix For Your Consideration event for "Bloodline" Monday night. "I surrendered to it. For whatever reason, I trusted these three guys and they delivered."
Spacek joined creators Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman along with her fellow cast members Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn and Linda Cardellini for a post-screening Q&A at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood.
"I asked a lot of questions," Cardellini said about shooting Season 1. "I even got on the phone sometimes before scenes to make sure I know as much as I could possibly know, but there were definitely things painted as a broader picture. […] You’re playing to the end; you just don’t know how you’re going to get there."
Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the black sheep brother [Episode 1 Spoiler Alert] who’s revealed to be dead in the first episode, said he knew his character was going to die, but not necessarily how or why. "We knew the big points," Mendelsohn said to Indiewire. "But all the other stuff, no. We didn’t know anything. We would find some of that out a couple of days before, that sort of thing."
Despite the first season of "Bloodline" being out for more than a month, the actors were still pretty tight-lipped in comparison to other panels. But for this group, they pretty much spoiled everything. Below, we’ve listed the highlights from their 45-minute discussion and Indiewire’s one-on-one time with the cast before the screening. [Spoilers for Season 1 to follow]
The Hard Days in Paradise
"You don’t know this, but Ben hates being underwater." Chandler, always ready to tell a good story, dug into the pivotal scene of Season 1 where we watch his character, John Rayburn, drown his brother Danny (Mendelsohn) just off the shore of a beach.
"There are those scenes that are just magic, and you know they’re magic when they happen," Chandler said about shooting the less-than-brotherly confrontation. "But that scene, when he puts his hand up on my face, even I knew when he was doing it — [to Mendelsohn] I don’t know what you were thinking other than ‘I want to get out of here’ — but when you felt that, you had to know that [it was magic]."
"I think the hardest scenes were the ones about, you know, planning a wedding," Spacek told Indiewire on the red carpet. "When the drama happens, that kind of sweeps you up and carries you away. It’s all the little scenes that stick everything else together, all the everyday stuff [that was hard]."
Daniel Zelman agreed. "The hardest thing to write is the connective tissue," he said. "For me, any time we’re able to fully dive into the characters in a given moment and the moment is very vivid to us because of how familiar we are with the characters, it’s often much easier."
Everyone Loves Sam Shepard
Though Shepard wasn’t in attendance, he surely wasn’t forgotten. Both Chandler and Cardellini told touching stories of their favorite scenes, and both involved the Oscar-nominated actor.
"It’s a scene no one would think anything about, and it wasn’t really cut the way I saw it in my mind when I was doing it," Chandler said. "But it was a scene with Sam Shepard. He and I were just sitting there the day I told him that Ben wanted to come home, and the only reason it meant so much is that he reminded me of my own father so much when I was sitting there, doing that scene. It was one of the most enjoyable moments that I’ve had. I felt like I was sitting next to my pop, so that was very cool — he passed away when I was 14, you know, so it was one of those moments."
"One of my favorite scenes was when I was sitting at the end of the dock with Sam Shepard," Cardellini said. "There were just two lines, I think, in the scene, but he and I sat there and he played the ukulele and it was right after he returns from the hospital. There were a couple of moments in there that I really love."
Who Is the Worst Rayburn Family Member?
Instead of answering the question with his words, Kyle Chandler just pointed across the stage at Sissy Spacek.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," Spacek replied after a big laugh from the audience of Emmys voters.
But then Cardellini agreed. "It’s a pretty close race, I have to say, [but] I’d have to go with…" and she, too, couldn’t find the courage to say "Sally," instead pointing at Spacek, who plays her on-screen mother.
"Wait, wait, wait," Chandler said. " We’re forgetting about ‘Dad.’"
"Yeah, no, for me?" Mendelsohn said. "Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad."
And there you have it. The Rayburn siblings really are just their parents’ children.
What’s to Come in Season 2?
Despite the fact that John Rayburn killed his own brother, making him the only cold-blooded murderer in the family (so far), no one made an argument that Chandler’s character was the worst of the lot. Before the Q&A, Indiewire asked him if he thought John was a good person and whether or not John thought that way about himself.
"I think that John’s a good person who just did a bad thing," Chandler said, before laughing at his own reference to the show’s tagline. "I think that the fun is going to be in Season 2, dealing with the consequences of what he’s done. We haven’t had time, yet, for it to really sink it. Those scenes haven’t been written yet where that pathology is fully evident. So the things that causes in his character will be very interesting."
"But yeah, I think he’s a good guy. I like John," Chandler quickly added.
There may be reason to, outside of Chandler’s personal bond with the character. When discussing the worst of the Rayburn clan, co-creator Zelman said, "There’s more of this show to come, so, you know, they all may seem like the greatest people in the world by the end of Season 2."
Sarcasm aside, Mendelsohn dropped a few hints about what "more of this show" might look like, or at least how it’s being created. Pertaining to the biggest, final twist of the series — that Danny had a son the family didn’t know about — Mendelsohn said, "There’s a lot of stuff you’ll find out in [Season] 2 and beyond, to do with that." Even more interesting, Mendelsohn said the creators informed him of the twist as one of many possible ways the story could go, and he didn’t know which way they’d end up leaning.
"We talked about some of the options, some of the likely leanings," Mendelsohn said. "They kept that sort of stuff open. […] I was aware that [Danny having a son] was a highly likely strand. They might have gone this way or that way, but they kept that very fluid — for all of us."
Anyone who believes "secrets, secrets are no fun," may want to start looking for a new series.