Emmy Talk: The Award-Worthy ‘Bloodline’ Family

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·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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Norbert Leo Butz and Linda Cardellini in ‘Bloodline’ (Netflix)

As we enter Emmy season — nomination voting run through June 27 — Yahoo TV will be spotlighting performances, writing, and other contributions that we feel deserve recognition.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2 of Bloodline.

Being a Rayburn, the respected Florida Keys family at the center of Netflix’s intense family drama Bloodline, appears on the surface to be an insta-key to a great life. But as Linda Cardellini, who plays sole surviving Rayburn sister Meg, tells Yahoo TV, “She can never escape being a Rayburn, as none of them can. [Kyle Chandler’s] John says in the beginning, ‘I thought being born a Rayburn was the best thing to ever happen to me,’ and then you realize the show is about the opposite of that being true.”

John, specifically, goes on to insist that the Rayburns aren’t bad people, they just did a bad thing, which refers to the fact that he killed bad seed older brother Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) in Season 1, and Meg and younger brother Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) are helping him cover it up. Complicating matters is the fact that John is local law enforcement; that Danny’s teenage lookalike son, Nolan (Owen Teague), has come to town seeking answers about his dad’s past; that Rayburn mama Sally (Sissy Spacek) is suspicious of everyone, but doesn’t — yet — know the truth about what happened to Danny; that Nolan’s mom, Evangeline (Andrea Riseborough), has also come to town, with greedy boyfriend Ozzy (John Leguizamo) and intentions that may be both predatory and endearingly naïve; and that John’s detective partner Marco (Enrique Murciano) is closing in on the truth about Danny’s death.

Add in Danny’s involvement with a local drug kingpin who’s now blackmailing John, John’s decision to run the sheriff’s office to try to maintain control of the investigation of Danny’s death, and the involvement of Danny’s best friend, Eric (Jamie McShane), who’s weighing his suspicions about the Rayburns with his desire to, for once, stay out of legal hot water himself, and Bloodline’s sophomore season is as intense, slow-burning, compelling, and addictive as it was in Season 1 — with even more outstanding performances.

Chandler and Mendelsohn were Emmy nominees for Season 1, and has Oscar winner Spacek ever given a performance that wasn’t award-worthy? But Season 2’s storyline, with the family members’ struggles to remain intact and loyal to one another, meant that Emmy-caliber performances were spread across the whole Rayburn clan.

Cardellini, Butz, Riseborough, and newcomer Teague talked to Yahoo TV about the Rayburn dramas that stick with them most from Season 2, and even drop a couple of hints about their wishes for a third season (which Netflix has not yet officially announced).

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Linda Cardellini as Meg Rayburn
Her Big Episode:
Episode 3, when Meg is on her way to the airport to return to New York, and her job, and possibly her last chance to get out of the middle of the escalating sibling drama, and she gets a call from John telling her Kevin is missing. Is the spiraling Rayburn dead? No, but he’s a mess, which is not only putting his own life in danger, but also their secret. Meg, to the rescue, gives up her future in New York to babysit the vulnerable Kevin in a shady hotel room. Family Drama: “On the day Kyle and I were working on that scene, I said, ‘Grab my arm and make me go back into the hotel room.’ I love these moments that we have sometimes,” Cardellini says. “For instance, when I’m sitting on the bed in the hotel room, just watching television, sitting next to Kevin — there are these moments where you realize that these are sibling moments that happen in the interim of all the craziness and all the heightened drama. There’s still just two people who grew up as kids together, sitting there, having to watch TV in a hotel room together and discuss some of the worst things that have ever happened in their lives.”

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“Doing those scenes on that day was fun, because we had several of them in a row, shooting on the same day, and to arc that to mark the amount of time passage and the feel of these two people being locked in a room together for so long, people who know each other better than anybody else in the world. Then at the same time, having this giant divide between them, and just not looking at each other while having these conversations… that was fun stuff to do. I love those scenes.”
The Future: “I think it can go one of two ways: we can go to war with each other, or I think we can come together and go to war with everybody else,” Cardellini says of a possible Season 3. (In the Season 2 finale, Meg appears to be on the verge of telling her mother the truth about Danny’s death, and Kevin kills Marco.) “If Sally has really been told the truth, if we find out what [Kevin did], we’re going to have to make decisions as to whether we stay together or we turn on each other. If Sally learns what happened, she has to decide whether or not she’s going to protect her children or turn against them. Same thing with John and his wife: are they going to stay together or are they going to tear apart? You know, how strong are the ties that bind? Kevin and his wife, who’s pregnant with their first child… it almost becomes like a game of Survivor, where you have to pick and choose alliances to win the game.”

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Norbert Leo Butz as Kevin Rayburn
His Big Episode:
Episode 10, though the entire second season is a showcase of Butz’s skill in turning Kevin into a much more layered, sympathetic figure than he was in Season 1. The Season 2 finale is the culmination of Kevin’s desperation, trying to get a solid grasp on his sobriety and financial stability for his business, all in the name of being a good husband to Belle and a good father to the baby he and Belle have been trying to have for so long. Kevin and his brother and sister move ever closer to someone, in particular Marco, putting all the pieces together and coming up with the Rayburn siblings as those responsible for Danny’s murder and the subsequent cover up, and Kevin’s panic leads to another murder when he bludgeons Marco to death after Marco refuses to listen to Kevin’s explanation of what happened with Danny.
Family Drama: “When I read that, I was really, really upset, like I would be if I found out a brother did something unspeakably sad,” Butz says about Kevin’s killer act in the finale. “Yeah, I didn’t sleep for a couple nights, and I was really, really bummed. Then again, you’re like, ‘Let go, let go, let go. This is the story.’ Then, I have to say, I was really, really nervous to watch it. I was scared to film it, but we had Dan Zelman directing, who’s just among my favorite directors, along with the other great directors we have on that show. I mean, I can’t say enough about him, specifically for that episode. He’s really gracious to actors, extremely sensitive when it comes to those kinds of difficult-to-shoot things, and endlessly patient, because there are all kinds of technical things that have to happen, fight choreographers and all that kind of stuff.”

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“I did start to have secret hopes for Kevin. You kind of treat your characters like they’re your clients, and you’re their defense attorney. You want to go to bat for them, and maybe it’s your own vanity that makes you want them to be a little bit more noble than the story needs them to be or a little more virtuous. Not that I expected him to become a pastor and coach baseball for his son or anything like that, but I love Kevin, so I want good things for him.”
All the Keys Is a Stage: “In New York, a couple years ago, all the rage was this sort of environmental theater, where you would go to site-specific performance spaces and watch something being done in a construction site or a real field or in a real forest. That’s what [this show] feels like,” says the two-time Tony winner. “It feels kind of like environmental performance art. There’s just no faking what that [Florida Keys] air does to us. You’re in a scene with each other, but you’re battling the heat, the mosquitoes. You’re in the middle of the scene, and suddenly, you swallow a termite or something. You’re in the middle of a scene and the bar next door starts blaring out some Tom Petty song or some Lynyrd Skynyrd song. It makes you jump. It’s all in the air, man, so it just informs, informs, informs. Personally, I just have fallen in love with it. I’ve now made really good friends in the community. I’m completely smitten with the water and sky. It’s an incredible place to be because there’s just so much light. Having been in New York for so many years, with so little sky, to have that huge, huge sky… and it’s just reflected off the water constantly. I felt very grounded there. It really does chill you out, which is good, because the work itself is really intense.”

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Andrea Riseborough as Evangeline Radosevich
Her Big Episode:
Evangeline’s slow burn is the slowest of all, because she keeps you guessing for the whole season… and beyond. She’s swiped credit cards from the guests at Sally’s inn, she’s stolen clothing for John’s daughter, she arrived at Sally’s to try to get payments from the late Rayburn father to continue after his death… and yet she seems sincere in her desire to be a part of the Rayburn family, especially when, in Episode 8, Sally offers her and Nolan a place to live on the Rayburn property.
Family Drama: “What Evangeline craves above all else is stability. What that looks like to her, because she doesn’t have a very healthy perspective on the world, is accumulating money,” says British actress Riseborough, who spent several summer vacations in Florida with her family while she was growing up. “To get to that stability, she’s using all the wrong tools. She doesn’t know what stability looks like. When she keeps saying, ‘They’re my family,’ to Ozzy, over and over again about the Rayburns, she absolutely means it. As I, as Evangeline, was saying it, I remember being almost scared to say it, so as not to trigger him to go off like a firecracker and make him feel left out. Because it’s so clear that Evangeline is Ozzy’s stability, which is a terrible choice! [Laughs] If you’re going to go for stability, don’t gravitate towards Evangeline.”

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“But actually, there are some good instincts inside of Evangeline. She sort of knows what she’s missing in her life, she just doesn’t know what the healthy version of that would look like, I think. And the Rayburns… they’re critical with their family, there’s so much kind of emotional incest and fear and deception, but to Evangeline, she can’t really imagine life being more perfect than living with them.”
So Much For Her Happy Ending: “It’s interesting to think about what happens from this point on, because clearly that’s not going to fill the hole in Evangeline’s heart,” Riseborough says. “Drugs haven’t filled that, Danny hasn’t filled that, Nolan isn’t filling that, although she loves him dearly. She doesn’t really know how to have a proper relationship with him. She doesn’t know how to be intimate with anyone, really. So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when her restlessness comes about again. I feel like it’s going to be quick, and it’s going to be explosive.”

Related: ‘Bloodline’ Star Owen Teague Understands Why You Think He’s Ben Mendelsohn’s Son

Owen Teague as Nolan Rayburn
His Big Episode:
Episode 8, in which Nolan takes his grandma Sally to Miami to see the remains of Danny’s restaurant. What he doesn’t tell her is that he’s the one who burned it down, hoping his dad would get insurance money that would allow him to pay off some very dangerous people he’d borrowed money from. In flashback, Nolan also visits Danny in jail, and Danny harshly tells him not to visit him anymore.
Family Drama: “There were a lot of scenes that were really difficult to shoot. There were also a lot of scenes that were a lot of fun to shoot. I think one of my early favorites filming was the one between Sally and Nolan, where he meets her for the first time. We have that kind of little verbal battle at the family house. It wasn’t fun at the time because it was such a difficult scene to get through, but the thing about those kinds of scenes is when you’re done with it, it’s like a hundred times better. You did it, and it feels great. You got all of that out,” Teague says.

“The jail scene with Ben, when Danny’s technically disowning Owen, that was an amazing scene to shoot. It wasn’t fun at the time, either, but doing that kind of scene with an actor like Ben was incredible… I don’t know if you realize you’ve nailed it, but there is a ‘You did it!’ feeling. Getting that kind of stuff out always feels good at the end, weirdly enough.”
Location, Location, Location: Teague’s experience playing young Danny in flashbacks in Season 1 helped him tremendously with playing Danny’s son in Season 2. “I knew Danny’s backstory, and I knew the area. I knew the Keys, Miami, as I’d spent quite a bit of Season 1 down there. It helped knowing where Nolan was coming from, where he had been, and the areas that he had grown up in,” he says. “Nolan had been in runaway homes and shelters throughout Florida. I knew some of those areas, too, and it was cool to know what he was talking about.”

Bloodline Season 2 is streaming on Netflix.

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