With Todd Kessler’s intense family drama “Bloodline” finishing its three-season run on Netflix in May — “We never had it in mind that there would be a happy ending or complete resolution,” he says — the executive producer is plotting his next move: a comedy.
The series finale of “Bloodline” came a bit earlier than you expected when Netflix canceled the show. Were you able to write the ending you wanted?
We wanted to bring the audience on a ride with each character, getting to know how complicated the roles are within this family. And we never had it in mind that there would be a happy ending or complete resolution. The desire was to have the audience have a relationship with these characters. And tell a story where we take them on a journey into this tragedy of this family. So the ending we had conceived when we first started the show was tonally right where we ended at the end of season three.
You’ve got a habit of casting actors against type. What’s the appeal for you?
The first step into that was casting Ted Danson in “Damages.” He had done dramatic work but not in a long time. It’s very exciting to work with actors and give them an opportunity to do things they haven’t done before. Playing against type is very inspiring not only to write for them but it feels like we’re seeing a side that has been underutilized. The actors themselves have very much appreciated it and been willing to take on the challenge. As evidenced by Ted and Kyle (Chandler) and Beau (Bridges), it’s been a huge amount of fun to work this way and I would definitely look forward to doing it again.
You also like ambiguous endings.
I like endings that are more haunting than conclusive — endings that continue a conversation, as opposed to “Oh, that’s what that all meant.” Or it’s all wrapped up and it doesn’t stick with me. So personally an unresolved ending that makes sense and is satisfying is the kind of storytelling that I like.
Would you work with Netflix again?
It’s frustrating that that happened, but at the same time they know their market and what works for them. We wouldn’t want to be at a place where they’re doing something that they’re not fully behind. If they were behind us on an idea and supported what we wanted to do, we would absolutely work with them again.
What does it take for a show to break out these days?
I have no idea, truly no idea (laughs). The only thing that I believe in is creating things from a place from passion and inspiration and trying to do things that are personal. Trying to target what will be a hit is kind of like guessing what’s going to be the next “Friends” or the next “Seinfeld.” Time after time, series that have become massive hits did not start out that way. And very few have been engineered by design. As evidenced for Netflix with shows like “Stranger Things” and “13 Reasons Why.” I don’t think they had any expectations that those shows would take off as they did.
What’s next for you?
The real feeling is to work on a comedy but also to explore the movie world in terms of being able to have a script that has a beginning and an end. That’s something that holds a great appeal at this point.
Things you didn’t know about Todd Kessler
AGE: 45 COLLEGE: Harvard WRITERS’ ROOM HE’D WANT TO BE IN: “Hill Street Blues” ON HIS NIGHTSTAND: “Lolita” MUST-HAVE APP: Waze GO-TO PODCASTS: “How I Built This”; “TED Radio Hour” GUILTY-PLEASURE TV SHOW: “The Voice”