From the beginnings of her career, to her recent, sparkling roles in everything from Mad Men to Avengers: Age of Ultron to oddball indie darling Welcome to Me, Bloodline star Linda Cardellini’s work in film and television has so often been met with an unusual sort of fan fervor. Examining Cardellini’s substantial resume, her career-transforming role as Lindsay Weir—in Judd Apatow’s short-lived 1999 comedy series Freaks and Geeks—stands out in this regard. Canceled in the middle of its first season, Freaks later became a cult sensation, continuing to expand its fan base to this day as a new generation experiences the series on Netflix.
A far cry from Freaks in all regards, Netflix crime drama Bloodline seeped rapidly into the bloodstream in its 2015 debut, quickly amassing an avid following. And with the May 27 release of Bloodline’s second season, Cardellini remains a bit in awe of fans’ intense engagement with the series. “It’s fun, with Bloodline, because people who come up and recognize me for that really want to know what’s happening,” Cardellini shares. “The people who have binge-watched it are very obsessed with the characters, which I love.”
The critical thumbs-up on Season 2 is particularly impressive, as the series continues to expand and complicate the drama, rising above the death of the series’ beloved black sheep centerpiece. Though the brutal demise of Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) was trumpeted in the series’ pilot—in unusual fashion—the season concluded with a number of unsettling questions, and only one major clue as to the direction the series would take. “We knew Danny would be back [in Season 2],” Cardellini says, “and in what capacity, we weren’t entirely sure.” Apart from a few father-son flashbacks, Mendelsohn’s on-screen presence in Season 2 was largely spectral, and therefore limited, to Cardellini’s chagrin. “I was so disappointed,” Cardellini says. “I wish that Meg could have had some scenes with Danny.”
In any case, Danny’s death widens the hole in the fabric of the Rayburn family, upping the stakes for the second season and raising new questions for those who remain to carry the weight of guilt and sin. “I don’t think [Danny’s death] is used just as a device,” the actress says. “John is so terrorized by his own conscience. He has been his entire life, and Danny’s been a big part of that, so getting into that gives greater insight into how he’s held hostage by all of these events that happened between him and his brother. When that one person is gone who caused all of the trouble in the family, and the family still manages to implode, what does that mean about you, and how you grew up? What does that mean about the truth of who and what you are?”
Though Cardellini’s Meg seemed the most logic-driven, levelheaded and morally-sound of the Rayburn clan in Season 1, the second season sees Meg driven to the dark side of crime and culpability. Season 2 spends a lot of real estate on Meg’s tragic transition; in fact, the season is bookended by Cardellini’s performance, with several New York-based scenes hinging only on Meg. “Meg’s always so much a part of everybody else’s story, but to have her own storyline going in its own time and its own place was really fun to shoot for me,” the actress says. “I think she changes the most from the first season to the second. She drinks a lot more and gets a little more out of control—those scenes were really fun to play.”
In Season 2, Meg experiences fresh tension, as series creators Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler and Daniel Zelman inject some exciting new blood into Bloodline. Along with Birdman alum Andrea Riseborough’s Evangeline, John Leguizamo’s Ozzy Delvecchio leads Meg into some dark and threatening corners, perpetuating the curse of Danny in a financially motivated quest for the truth. “I think what Andrea and John do is they add this element of danger, but it’s not necessarily a gun to my head,” she explains. “It’s this sort of overwhelming dread and anxiety that they bring. They’re telling the truth about things in a way that becomes dangerous to the family and the way that we operate.”
With the pot boiling over in Season 2, the atmosphere on set was markedly different. “Last year, we began the series with family—there’s a bonfire, and people singing and dancing, and playing volleyball. That was our introduction to each other,” Cardellini remembers. “Then this year, there’s all of this isolation that we feel with each other; our relationships are all fractured. There is a heaviness to all of it, and an intensity and anxiety that needs to maintain at a certain pitch.”
With Season 3 as yet unannounced, Cardellini’s thoughts on the series drift to her final scene with her mother, Sally (Sissy Spacek), who remains oblivious to the seedier crimes of her kin. “I have no idea the next sentence that they’ll write for what Meg says, if it picks up where it left off,” she confesses. “I think it’s a moment of truth for her, but at the same time, that could be written in 100 different ways. I can’t wait to see if and how my mother gets brought into the truth, and what that says for all of our relationships and alliances.”