Jamie McShane Talks Netflix’s New Original Series ‘Bloodline” And Playing Dark Characters
Drama, deceit and betrayal may not be the first things that come to mind when thinking of the Florida Keys, but the new Netflix series, Bloodline (from the creators of Damages), sheds light on the darker side of this popular vacation destination. The show, which will premiere its 13 episodes on Friday, March 20th, follows the Rayburn family whose secrets and scars seem to literally walk back into town with the return of their outcast brother, Danny, who is played by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn.
While Danny is not greeted with a warm welcome from his siblings, he is quickly reunited with his best friend and literal partner in crime, Eric O’Bannon (portrayed by Jamie McShane), who offers the “black sheep” of the Rayburn clan an intriguing, but risky business proposition.
You may recognize McShane from his role as IRA gun dealer, Cameron Hayes, on Sons of Anarchy, or as Sergeant Terry Hill on Southland. And if that doesn’t ring a bell, then one of his many guest appearances as darker characters on shows like Stalker and Law and Order: SVU, where he is usually killed off in the first 30 minutes or is revealed to be the killer at the end of the show, are surely to spark recognition in your mind’s eye. Additionally, he could recently be seen in such film productions like Gone Girl, The Avengers, and Argo.
Although some actors might rather play the hero, McShane offered an eye-opening and deep insight into the beauty of these dark and multifaceted roles when he spoke to us via phone, going so far as to say that Eric was definitely his “favorite role thus far” because of the freedom and complexity of the character. He and Mendelsohn are joined by Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek, Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) and Linda Cardellini (Mad Men) in Bloodline, which, for good reason, has been labeled as a star-studded lineup.
Besides the preliminary hype generated from the prominent cast, early reviews from the Hollywood Reporter and Business Insider suggest that Bloodline lives up to its Netflix-only predecessors, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as an intriguing thriller that will satisfy any drama-hungry fan. The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz described the show as irresistible, “especially the prospect of answers to the quagmire of doubts and puzzles the plot raises.”
The Sopranos might have broken ground on a cable network by bringing to life the modern American crime family, but Bloodline sets off in a new direction and on a new medium by showcasing what happens in life when family and lawbreaking actions collide.
Unlike in the past, we can ascertain that McShane will live to see another day in this thriller, but you will have to tune in (or in this case stream) to find out how his partnership with Danny ends up going, as well as to see just how deep these bloodlines run in the Florida Keys. In the meantime, read on to find out what this New Jersey native had to say about the show, the cast, and his own family.
GALO: “You don’t give up on family” has been the tagline used to promote your new series, Bloodline. Do you think the familial bond can truly never be broken, no matter what the circumstances? Or do you believe that there are some things you can’t forgive, even if you’re bonded by blood?
Jamie McShane: In my personal life, it’s been: you stick with family no matter what — until there becomes a breaking point. And then it is like, you know what, I gave all [that] I can and I did all [that] I could, and I am at the breaking point. Then it becomes: “That’s it; you’re done.” Maybe years go by and you try to fix it or rekindle it again. I am very close with my parents and some of my siblings. The family I have, [they] really have been my closest friends whom I have been close with since I was quite young,
GALO: Continuing with the family motif, I’m curious, just how big was your family growing up, and do you have any unusual family traditions?
JM: There were five kids in my family, still are. I was fourth and then there was about a seven-year gap with my younger brother. Every Easter, my older brother would make my older sister cry — that seemed to be a tradition. We had a pretty normal Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July — stuff like that.
GALO: So, from what I gather, your character, Eric O’Bannon, isn’t part of the Rayburn clan, the family the series focuses on. Can you tell us how your character is connected to the “bloodline,” and what his presence will mean for them and the series itself?
JM: My character, Eric, is very good friends with Danny Rayburn. We had grown up together in the Keys and been friends since we were young. He rolls back into town, and I haven’t seen him in quite a while — so, we pick up where we left off. But my character has known the whole family most of my life because Danny was my closest friend.
GALO: The previews seem to show a lot of drama and betrayal in the Florida Keys, a place most people go to relax or retire. How do you think this juxtaposition affects the overall tone of the series? Was this one of the more desirable locations you had to travel to for work?
JM: I think it is pretty cool because no one has done the Florida Keys in a TV show that I know of. There have been bits of movies — certainly Key Largo — but I have never really seen the Keys played out in that episodic [nature]. It really is another character in the show. You have the beauty. You have the tropical paradise. But then beneath that, there is the other side of that coin: the dark world; the seedy world; the crime world. And that is very much alive down in the Keys.
LA is a great place to live and to film. I don’t know. I have filmed in some pretty cool spots. The Keys were really nice, but you can get kind of landlocked. There is really only one road in and one road out. It is beautiful. It is lovely. It was difficult because my kids and my family were all back in Los Angeles. So I tried to fly back every two weeks or so, and that is an entire day trip both ways, but actually filming in the Keys was gorgeous.
GALO: Early reviews say that there are a lot of twists in the first season. Were you and the rest of the cast aware of all the plot twists prior to filming, or was the direction of the show kept under lock and key, kind of what J.J. Abrams did with ABC’s Lost?
JM: It is kind of in-between those two. Basically, we knew some things going into shooting the pilot, but then as time went on, we just waited for the scripts to come out to see what was going to happen. We didn’t really have any knowledge of what was going to go on or going to happen. I think one of the great things about the creators of the show — the writers, the Kesslers and Dan Zelman — is they seem to write and have ideas of what they want, but they are willing to go with what they get and change and rewrite [things]. So, it was new to us every time we got a script, [but] it wasn’t necessarily kept secret from us.
GALO: So, the show will premiere on Netflix on March 20th, where over 50 million people can watch all 13 episodes. Given that a lot of our media consumption happens via streaming devices nowadays, I’m wondering if you yourself are a Netflix subscriber, and if so, what five titles are currently on the “recommended for you section” of your Netflix account?
JM: I am a Netflix subscriber. I would definitely watch Bloodline above everything else [laughter]. I have gotten into House of Cards, my girlfriend has gotten very into Orange is the New Black. I started watching Peaky Blinders, which was pretty cool, and I would like to watch more of that. The documentaries they have available have been pretty interesting — we maybe watch one of those every week. It is an incredible medium.
GALO: The show definitely has a stacked cast and crew, from the Kesslers, to Ben Mendelsohn, to Linda Cardellini. I even saw a picture online somewhere of Kyle Chandler giving you a big kiss on the cheek. But as much as I would like to find out more about that story, I wanted to ask what was it like working with such a group of esteemed cast and crew? Were there any big disagreements or clashes of personalities behind the scenes?
JM: No, it was amazing for me to be a part of that list of actors. It is an incredible thing for me and I am deeply appreciative of it. We were all pretty tight and got along extremely well, which was great because you are kind of locked down there in the Keys, not that it is a bad thing. It is not like you are locked in Siberia — no offense to Siberians. You’re in this somewhat remote place and away from all of your family. We all have kids, and Jacinda [Barrett] and Linda [Cardellini] were the only ones that had their kids down with them, because they are still pretty young. We were a tight little group. There was never any bad blood that I noticed at all. Kyle [Chandler] and I grew very, very close; Ben also. It was a really great group; wonderful to work with. No attitudes and just very professional and extremely talented people, including the crew.
GALO: Not to sound mundane and repetitive but let’s go back to the family theme for a minute. What cast members took the figurative parent roles over the group? In other words, who would you say was the proverbial mother, father, etc.?
JM: Kyle really took a leadership role, kind of organizing everyone to get together. He had some parties — had a couple get-togethers for all of us, or set [us] up to [have us] meet [him] somewhere. No one really took a “paternal role” or a “maternal role.” We were just really close and there for each other and the crew, too. It was really just a great set. Everyone kind of looked out for each other.
GALO: I saw you on CBS’ show Stalker the other night — you were somewhat of a shady personal detective, but you got killed off pretty fast. I remember you best from your role as Cameron Hayes, though, a member of the IRA on Sons of Anarchy. Do you ever get tired of playing darker characters? Or do you enjoy the level of complexity that they offer in the psychological realm?
JM: I never get tired of getting roles, and I found a little niche in playing these guys who are very damaged. With Sons of Anarchy, I got to flesh out the character a little, but it wasn’t all dark to me. Maybe to the viewer it is. Even like you said, on Stalker, you thought I was a shady character. In my mind, I wasn’t at all. I thought he was one of the more straight-up guys I have played. But whatever dynamic people gleam from me when I play a role, maybe a lot of it seems darker [to them] than it seems to me. I have played a lot of dark, dark, dark roles and a lot of guys who are very damaged, but I find something beautiful in all of them, something I can connect to — which is tough, because there are some things in life I wish I didn’t have to connect to. I like the depth of these roles and Eric O’Bannon, especially, is my favorite role thus far. I have ones I loved, but I love the freedom of this character and the complexities [he offers].
GALO: After I, along with many Netflix users, go into isolation to sit and watch the entire first season of Bloodline in a single sitting, where will we be able to find you next?
JM: I have two things right now. I am working on a TNT show called Murder in the First. I had done six episodes last season before I did Bloodline. I play a coroner on the show. It is a wonderful cast and crew similar to Bloodline, where everyone is very nice and connected. I also had a little part in a movie coming out April 28th on wide release DVD; it was already in theaters, called 50 to 1. It is a family movie about the horse that won the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
GALO: From a viewer’s perspective, how would you recommend watching Bloodline?
JM: I would try and watch as much at one time as I could. I have seen the first two episodes. I haven’t seen the rest. So, I am going to try and watch them all over the weekend, depending on if my kids let me.