Ben Mendelsohn On ‘Bloodline’ Brutality, Kyle Chandler and Bad Work Days (SPOILERS)

Televisions Best Moments 2015
Courtesy of Netflix

[Spoiler Alert: This article reveals important plot details from “Bloodline” season 1, episode 12, “Chapter 12.”]

Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn has built up a reputation as one of the finest international actors around with standout roles in films including “Animal Kingdom” and “Starred Up.” But the thesp, a veteran of the smallscreen Down Under, found a true breakout role in the U.S. on the Netflix thriller “Bloodline,” playing Danny Rayburn, a down-on-his-luck drifter who attempts to reconnect with his well-to-do family in Florida. Unfortunately, Danny’s return isn’t exactly welcome, and instead stirs up long-buried secrets and resentments. Mendelsohn explains the weight of playing such a heavy role and butting heads with his primary sibling rival (Kyle Chandler), especially their fatal oceanside confrontation in the series’ penultimate installment.

“Bloodline” (Netflix)
Season 1 ep. 12, “Chapter 12”
Written by Todd A. Kessler & Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman; directed by Carl Franklin

MENDELSOHN: “Danny’s death was known from the very outset, but I think most of us were expecting that it was going to happen at the very end of the season. So that was the first surprise.

“The scenes that really got me about that episode were those with the entire family. Because I wasn’t expecting (the writers) to have a scene where Danny even got to say (how he felt). I was pretty impressed by that. But I wasn’t looking forward to any of those scenes. Not any of them. They were tough scenes. They weren’t fun to shoot by any stretch of the imagination.

“The scene in the kitchen (where I confront the family) was a horrible day. There was a bad feeling on set. But having a bad day on set is irrelevant. It completely doesn’t matter at all, if it helps the scene along. Those were horrendous days. But I think what we had to do was better for it.

“We rehearsed it a bit. And the rehearsal in a way threw up more questions than it sort of answered, and that, I think, left everyone feeling a certain way. And then we broke for lunch, so everyone was sort of babbling away to whatever degree. Then we got back in, and bam, we did it. And then we did it. And we did that scene I wanna say 40 times? Very tough. Very tough day. It was a combination of things. There’s a lot of people (in the scene) and a lot of coverage to get. And then we we were also playing with some of the levels in there too. The main component was lots of people.

“The final scene (on the beach) with Kyle and myself, that took us a couple of days to shoot. We got there on the morning of the first day and we ran it a few times and tried to figure out where and how it would all take place, and then we shot. By the time we got into the water, we had to come back and do it again the next day. They were very difficult days on a beach in the middle of the sun, but it’s also freezing in the water at that particular time. It was a weird combination. It was sort of like the elements come up and give you a kick and say ‘Ha ha ha! Enjoy this!’

“(Director) Carl (Franklin) was a genius at the mood. He was like a cool breeze, and most of the time you’re hardly aware of what he was doing until the crunch came. And that’s where I think his real mastery came into the fore. He has a way of visibly rendering the mood further down the track without you being aware that it’s going on. That’s Carl’s real genius. That’s a hard thing. He’s able to do it with great, great deftness.

“Kyle (Chandler) and I kept boxing together to the end. We stayed in the ring with each other from the first to the last. We never did a scene together where we weren’t trying stuff out on each other. That never stopped between us.

“To be honest, I really thought about it more on the days afterward than really going in. When I saw the death (scene), I was quite taken aback by how ugly it felt, and the underwater stuff, how horrible it feels to look at. It was an overwhelming couple of days.”