Warning: This article contains plot details from season 1 of Netflix thriller Reckoning.
Sam Trammell loves his complex Reckoning role, even if he is a killer. “It's definitely one of the very best parts I've gotten to do,” says the True Blood alum, who plays beloved small-town family man and murder suspect Leo Doyle.
Reckoning charts the colliding courses of the Russian River Killer, who turns out to be Leo, and Mike Serrato (Aden Young), the homicide detective obsessed with the case. Leo’s life is complicated enough dealing with the traumatic effects of his own mother’s murder, a father with Alzheimer’s, and the recent arrival of his teenage son who got in trouble for bringing a gun to school before you even factor in his secret life as a serial killer.
“I connected with the in-depth relationships, the different kinds of relationships you have with people,” Trammell says about the thrilling character study. “You are one human, but you have different parts of yourself that come out depending on who you’re with.”
John Platt/AXN/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
After a copycat killing heats up the investigation again, Leo's secrets start to become too big to keep. In a last-ditch attempt to clear his name as a suspect, Leo allows his creepy neighbor, and Russian River Killer (RRK) acolyte, John, to take responsibility for the serial murders. It fools most of the town, but Leo is far from safe when the season finale ends. His pregnant wife discovers that she was almost an RRK victim, and Detective Serrato realizes that Leo, not John, is the killer.
EW spoke to Trammell about Leo’s complex story, how the finale raised the stakes, if his character would survive in True Blood's setting of Bon Temps, La., and much more.
John Platt/Sony Pictures Television
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your first reaction when you learned what Leo was going to be responsible for and how the season would play out?
SAM TRAMMELL: I was definitely intimidated by the fact that he was a killer and how you get into the mind of somebody who might have a sociopathic side to him. The interesting part of it is that rather than somebody who's sort of feeding on his need, it's a lot more complicated than wanting to kill. In fact, that's not really what it is. He's trying to not have that be a part of his life, so that was a way I could get into it, something that I understood more than killing someone.
I’d only read three episodes, and as it played out, I was as surprised as the audience. It was really thrilling to see the twists and especially to see the discovery his wife makes and the whole story line with his neighbor John, who's a wannabe serial killer.
John Platt/AXN/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
What was it like to balance the colliding parts of his life, the family he loves and the secret of his serial killings, as they converge?
It's just really fun, you know? On any given day, you're going to have different kinds of things you have to do. Most of the scenes had two or three or four different kinds of things going on. It’s hard to play two of those different scenes in one day. There’s a scene with Leo’s son where he’s expressing concern — Paxton (Ed Oxenbould) brought a gun to school, and it was a great scene because a lot of what he’s saying to Paxton is kind of encoded. Leo’s expressing his own worries, but they’re coming out as concerns for his son. Then there’s that whole thing with his dad. Leo knows he killed his mom and he knows Leo knows what he did, but there’s this silent agreement not to talk.
Leo spends a lot of time in a shed where he keeps evidence of his crimes, including mementos from his victims. It's grim, but it seems to be the only place where he can be at peace in his very complex life. Can you take us inside what it was like to film those scenes?
The shed is a place where you really can see Leo just let go. It’s sort of like being with the women [he's killed] again, but it's really all about his mother. Those scenes were really intense. I mean, it was an actual little shed. A lot of those moments were less about connecting with the women and more about Leo wanting to connect with his mom. But there is that need to do it again. He needs more connection and looking up at the [photos of the] women [he has killed] is dangerous because it does remind Leo that he can do it.
John Platt/Playmaker Media/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
His wife being aware of his more sadistic side is a very different issue than neighbor John knowing Leo's secrets. Has Leo traded in one complication for an even bigger one in Candace (Laura Gordon)?
That's such a great thing you're pointing out is that Leo is trading one for the other, because that's exactly what happened. I've never really thought about it like that. Now that I know she knows and now that she remembers him attacking her, she's going to figure out that she’s married to the Russian River Killer. That is a big danger because not only could she turn Leo in, but she just has something over him. She suddenly has all the power in that marriage and in that relationship, because she could always just say, “You know what, I'm going to turn you in.” It really changes the tables and would make a really exciting second season.
Talk about the ending. The town believes John is the Russian River Killer, but Detective Serrato is sure it's Leo.
Well, it completely changes everything. Those are two huge things that change the whole dynamic of what the show would be if it went on. Serrato’s obsessed and he's the kind of guy that if he doesn't think they have the right guy, then he's not going to let that go. So, it would be a completely direct face between the two guys. It’s really exciting because it would be an uphill battle for Serrato because no one would believe him and Leo’s a smart guy. He’s a beloved figure and can cover his tracks. If this is the ending of the show, you're not sure how it's going to go. You just know that there's more story.
John Platt/Playmaker Media/Courtesy of Sony pictures Television
How would Leo Doyle do in Bon Temps?
Leo’s kind of a chameleon. He’s able to put on different faces and different personalities and he's able to assimilate and to survive. I think he would do okay. Depends on what season! I think that's a great way to just comment on the fact that he is really a survivor and able to assimilate.
Reckoning is available on Netflix now.