Linda Cardellini is deep into some family drama.
The “Freaks and Geeks” actress heads into the third and final season of “Bloodline,” the Islamorada, FL-set thriller about a tightly-knit family unraveling after the black sheep, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn) returns home. In her turn as daughter Meg Rayburn, the “Mad Men” alumna plays a charming, yet tightly-wound lawyer (with a drinking problem), who does her part to mend the rifts in the family while wrestling with her own demons.
Since Danny met his fate, literally at the hands of the eldest son John, (Kyle Chandler), in season one, siblings Meg and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) have tried to cover up and recover from the mess. But season two closes with even more bloodshed. Heading into the show’s final ten episodes, airing Friday, May 26, “there’s even more splintering of the family,” Cardellini tells us. “Where they were trying to survive together last season, now they’re trying to survive on their own.”
The 41-year-old actress calls in from Boston, where she’s filming the comedy “Daddy’s Home 2” alongside Mel Gibson, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg — quite a departure from the intensity of “Bloodline.” She chats about playing a lush, getting to know the vibe of the Florida Keys and how she’ll never tire of talking about “Freaks and Geeks.”
In a way, Meg and Kevin betrayed John last season. Up until that point, at least, they were loyal to each other.
That’s the fun thing about the show: it’s all about whose side you’re on. Because if you’re on Meg’s side or Kevin’s side, you could look at it like, they were just trying to help [John] and they just kept going down this rabbit hole. For Meg, I think she really believes that she picked up the phone and helped her brother, and she didn’t kill anybody, but from an outsider’s perspective, she was very much an accomplice in everything. Where do they stand and how guilty are they? It weighs on their own moral center to figure out how they’re going to deal with it and live with themselves and with each other. Danny was the scapegoat for them for a long time, and once he was gone, everybody points to the other as the reason their life is miserable.
I’ve been thinking about John’s voice-over from season one: “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing”; now, it’s like, they’ve done so many bad things, maybe they are bad people, actually?
Well, that’s the thing: when does your behavior actually catch up with your perception of yourself? You can excuse [it] for so long and perhaps you think you know all the justifications for why you do something, but to another human being looking in on it, it’s a totally different story.
Meg does a good bit of drinking, especially this season. What’s it like playing a lush?
[Laughs] It’s always slightly daunting, but it’s really fun too. She’s a mess and a lot of times she has feelings she can’t really cope with, so that’s her coping mechanism. It’s sort of been in the family for a long time; the family drinks together a lot and they drink on their own as well. And there are varying degrees of it, too; there are times when she’s just a little tipsy and other scenes where she’s just sort of out of it, she’s so wasted. It’s trying to find degrees of how drunk she is.
The setting is so key to the show. What was it like filming down there and how do you think the story reflects the culture of the Florida Keys?
The Keys are a very fascinating place. On the one hand, it has this history of people hiding out there after they do strange, nefarious things. And then it has this other part of it, this beautiful, heavenly, gorgeous, tropical paradise. Going there and being there over the past few seasons — it’s been beautiful. We’d have manatees come up to where we were living. And then it’s hot and it’s humid, and the sweat on us is all real. Living in a very sunny place and having really dark things happening…it’s the swamp meets paradise meets hell. [Laughs]
When news came out that “Bloodline” would be canceled after the third season, we read that Todd A. Kessler had planned for up to six seasons. What was it like cramming everything into ten episodes?
We never really knew how it would end. We were always surprised by a lot of things in the past. I don’t know what those two or three season would have been but I think we end up in relatively the same place as they’d wanted us to end up in the very beginning. And I think the way you get there can always change. For me, when there are three seasons of something, it’s really great to binge. I can manage that. [Laughs]
You’ve been in so many pop culture favorites. What are you watching right now?
I just watched “Grace and Frankie.” I love that show so much, I just finished that. I just started watching “Feud.” And I love “Vice Principals,” have you seen it?
Yes, with Busy Philipps! Now we can talk about “Freaks and Geeks” and it’s not forced.
[Laughs] We can talk about “Freaks and Geeks” anytime you want.