Previewing Netflix’s BLOODLINE with Jamie McShane
Friday, March 20, be prepared to binge watch your next new favorite Netflix drama – BLOODLINE. From the creators of DAMAGES (Gleen Kessler, Todd A Kessler, Daniel Zelman), and starring a ton of great, great actors (Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard, Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, and Jamie McShane), the show follows the story of the Rayburn family of the Florida Keys and what happens to their perfect little world when black sheep Danny return.
I spent time talking with Jamie McShane (who I will always remember as Cameron Hayes) who plays Danny’s best friend Eric O’Bannon, about BLOODLINE. Why did he want to be a part of the show and why does he think we’ll be unable to stop watching? We also chatted about his past on SOA and SOUTHLAND, plus what comes next for him.
What was it about the show that you wanted to be a part of? Did you know it would be Netflix and the guys from DAMAGES? How did that come together?
I got called for an audition about a year ago. It was funny – the first thing you look at is “ok, who is the character” and the character was described as long hair, tattoed skinny guy from the Florida Keys. I pretty much was 0 for 4. I was like, okay, why do they want to see me? I’m flattered, but I don’t really bring that to the table, but then I saw, alright, it’s the guys who did DAMAGES, it’s Netflix, and it’s the casting director, Deborah Zane, who is a big time casting director, who I had not met with yet. I was like, oh my god, this is great, however, it was going to shoot in Florida. I’ve got two little boys, and I’ve never been away from them, that long. So I thought, alright, I want to make a good impression, but I don’t really want the role because I don’t want to be away from my kids! I thought “how am I going to do this character, with the description” but once I read the sides, the audition page, I immediately got it. I immediately got how I wanted to present the character, and then I figured out how he should dress and move and talk, and I felt very free. I just totally trusted in my choices. That was my first experience.
Obviously the character has changed from what was on paper. What can you tell us about Eric, the show, and how he relates to this family?
The show is about the Rayburns – this family, they’re doing very well. They’re a very respected family in the Florida Keys. That side of it, it’s a beautiful sort of tropical dream life down there. Then, when the black sheep brother comes back, played by the amazing Ben Mendelsohn, it’s what happens to the family and the secrets that come out of all that. Eric O’Bannon is Danny Rayburn, Ben Mendelsohn’s character, I’m his long time friend from the Keys. We went to school together, we worked together, and O’Bannon, my character, he’s the gateway into the dark side, the underbelly, the not so pretty side of Keys life. I think Eric kind of opens that passageway into that element and helps bring that part of it into the story.
Talk about a great cast! You mentioned Ben Mendelsohn – of course Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, what was it like working with this cast?
First of all, when I got the audition, I don’t know if I knew Kyle was involved, I’m not sure, and then when I was in the running or offered the part, I found out that Sissy was going to be in it, and then Sam Shepard, and yadda yadda, and then by the time the thing was assembled, you’re looking at this amazing array of actors. I felt like, oh my god, I get to be on this chain! This is first string players, and a lot of them. Not just one or two, it’s the whole team is an amazing ensemble. And they picked me to be with them! That floored me! When I got there, you believe in what you’re doing, and it’s like, okay, I was hired for a reason, and all that, but it’s also, like, oh my god, here I am with these people! They were all so nice, I mean, unbelievably nice. Giving and wonderful. My first few scenes are all at the beginning with Ben, and he was just amazing to work with. Very free and unpredictable, and I loved that. The style that the creators let us to, and the director, and ultimately, I guess, Netflix – they kind of just let us play and create and find it. You’re out there, playing, creating, and finding with the best of the best. It was a great experience!
What is it like shooting a show for Netflix – any significant differences from shows on TNT, FX, where we’ve seen you before? They seem to do no wrong in this new “TV that’s not TV” kind of world!
Let’s not jinx it [laughs]! When I got the job, when I got the audition, it was like, oh my god, it’s for Netflix – cutting edge, the top of the top. And then you think about the cast involved. Shooting, you’re on a set, and you’re doing a job, and you don’t think about that. You’re just doing your job as your character with the other actors, the director, the creators, and the crew. And you’re just in that, so you’re not really thinking about “oh this is Netflix.” It could be anything, it could be whatever, a student film on a very big budget! You’re in your element, doing your thing. It’s not really until later when you look at it and you realize, wow, I felt more free than I ever have. Part of that is because the nature of who Eric O’Bannon is and part of that is because Netflix, they hired the guys from DAMAGES and said “we like what you do, go do it.” They didn’t micromanage them, from what I can see. And then those guys hired who they want, and they say go create and we’ll tweak you along the way.
Why do you think this is a show, or what is it about the show that people will start at midnight Pacific time, and just not be able to stop until they’re done?
I think story writing, the way they shot it, and it’s not linear like DAMAGES was also not linear. I think it’s got enough to draw you in, and I think it’s going to be a slow burn, where it doesn’t jump out – the first 5 minutes, you’re drawn into this world that’s shaking you up. It’s more like a slow burn, and I think the writing and the actors they assembled bring enough to it to make it so real, and so believable, and such a thriller that it’s going to keep you guessing from episode to episode. I think that once [you] get into the pilot and let it sink in a little, it’s going to keep going – “oh my god, I didn’t see that coming; I didn’t know that was going to happen.” I think it’s going to keep people guessing and hopefully they’ll like the characters enough and stick with us!
Do you get a chance to watch other shows? Do you binge watch on Netflix?
I haven’t, mainly because I haven’t gotten a chance. Down in Florida, I wanted to! I had binged on DAMAGES; I started on HOUSE OF CARDS. Unfortunately, the place I got to stay in in Florida, the internet never worked very well [laughs] until I was about to leave! It was kind of frustrating. I started watching PEAKY BLINDERS which I thought was pretty amazing. I want to get back into HOUSE OF CARDS. My girlfriend was floored by ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, and we’ve also been watching a lot of documentaries.
What else are you working on / where else can we find you?
I just did an episode of LAW & ORDER: SVU that was on a couple of weeks ago, and I did an episode of STALKER. But I’m recurring on TNT’s MURDER IN THE FIRST with Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson. I recurred last season, I did about 6 episodes; I play the coroner on the show, and that’s been a great experience.
I recognize you, obviously, from SONS OF ANARCHY. It was one of my favorite shows and seems to have left such a mark on how shows are done on cable. Do you get stopped, do people still remember you from SOA from being that guy who took Abel ha?
[laughs] SONS was a gamechanger for me. When I got that role in Season 1 and no one knew what it was going to be – here I was playing this Irish guy, and they wound up writing for my character, in ways you only dream of. I really gotta thank Kurt Sutter for that! And then once it came out, it was such a hit, and then it had such a cult following of fans. If you’re a SONS fan, you go in full on. That was really the first time in my career. Other times, people would be like, “I think I went to high school with you.” This was the first time people were going “you’re that guy; you stole the baby. Oh my god you’re the Irish guy!” It’s very flattering to be finally recognized for your work on a show that’s popular and a really good show, also. And a really cool character, in my opinion. Just how he was written in the story. Just such a neat role for any actor to get to play, and I lucked out.
I was also a huge fan of SOUTHLAND – there’s a show I wish could have gone on forever. What was the experience on that show like – it was doing things cop shows weren’t doing at time?
I think the key with SOUTHLAND – up until that point, that was the most genuine show I’ve ever worked on, as far as, it didn’t feel like there was anything that wasn’t real. The writing, the acting. Even all of the extras they used – the background actors, they used only real cops. Even plain clothes homicide detectives, they used real homicide detectives, so there was a realism to that show that they tapped in there, and then the actors kept it there. Chris Chulack, John Wells, that was an amazing experience. Michael Cudlitz, all of the cast, Ben McKenzie, Regina King, all of them, were fantastic, but Michael Cudlitz, I got to work with a lot, and he really looked out for me on that show, and I really appreciate it; I learned a lot working with him!
BLOODLINE debuts Friday, March 20, on Netflix!