'Bloodline' Star Sissy Spacek on Sally's Complicated Relationship With Danny's Son and That Slap

The actress, who plays the matriarch of the family at the center of Netflix's dark drama, says her character can't "comprehend the seismic proportions" of her kids' secret.
Saeed Adyani/Netflix
Sissy Spacek as Sally Rayburn (right) in the second season of Netflix's 'Bloodline'

[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from the second season of Netflix's Bloodline.]

At the beginning of Bloodline's second season, Sissy Spacek's Sally Rayburn is already dealing with the deaths of her husband, Robert (Sam Shepard), and her eldest son, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), when a teenage boy claiming to be Danny's son shows up, along with his mother. Sally initially doesn't seem to want anything to do with either of them but ultimately learns about their lives in Miami and invites them to move into the inn she runs that also serves as the Rayburn family home.

Meanwhile, she appears to have put away concerns about what her kids weren't telling her about Danny's death, believing that John (Kyle Chandler) was trying to help his older brother when he secretly visited Danny's apartment. But as the season comes to an end, a tearful Meg (Linda Cardellini) shows up at the inn saying, "Mom, there's something you need to know." Sally hugs her daughter but the audience doesn't see or hear what Meg has to get off her chest. Still, Spacek says if it's the truth about Danny, Sally's not expecting that.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at Bloodline's second season premiere, Cardellini said of why her character needs her mom, "I think that Meg really misses her mom and all of the secrets have very much fractured the family, and I feel like she's really lonely for her mother. Her mother and her had a really good relationship before everything happened, and now she can't even look her mom in the eye. She's very alone."

Spacek talked to THR about what's going through Sally's mind when Meg comes to see her and her complicated relationships with her grandchildren, specifically Danny's son Nolan (Owen Teague) and John's daughter, Janey (Taylor Rouviere), whom she slaps in a memorable scene.

Why does Sally push away Nolan and his mom, Eve (Andrea Riseborough), at first?

I think she reacted that way because she didn't know about [Nolan] until he was almost a grown man and with all of the things that have happened, she's having to reconstruct her life and dig deep within herself to do what needs to be done and move forward and take care of what needs to be taken care of. The grief of [losing her son] coming right on the heels of the major loss of her husband, but then to find out not only that she has a grandchild but that he's the spitting image of his father. I just think that she's afraid and she doesn't know and she's stunned. I think she also has guilt about it because she knew about the pregnancy, but she didn't know that the mother had the child. It's missing all of those years with him and what does he know and all of those things.

She does she ultimately embrace Nolan and Eve, in a sense, and invites them to stay at the inn. Why do you think she changes her mind?

She realizes, when she starts to find out things about the past that she hasn't been privy to, I think she thinks, 'All of these people have been making decisions about my life and it messed things up and things did not work out well. Maybe I'm going to do what my gut, my heart, is telling me: I'm going to get to know him and I'm going to try to make a difference in his life.' As she finds out what his life was, she feels great remorse and guilt about not being there for him. It was an innocent child born into a situation that shouldn't have been — things happened that shouldn't have happened. When she finds out things as time goes along, she decides she's going to run things her way. She's running the show now. Her husband's gone. 'He's my grandson and he's welcome here and that's just the way it is. We're going to be a family and we're going to move forward and we're all going to be good.'

Why do you think Sally and the rest of Danny's family didn't know about Nolan and didn't explore that aspect of his life?

Sally had Danny at a very young age. She was married to someone who was a number of years older than she was and had been in the military, and she was kind of a flower child and she got pregnant and had this baby really before she was — I think she has real misgivings about her parenting skills and the way she raised Danny and the way things were with Danny. I think she didn't think Danny was responsible to be a father and so she didn't want the baby to be born. And she thought it hadn't been born. It's very complicated.

She has a dual life and so do her children because she's in the service industry and [the children] grew up [at the inn]. It was also their home. They had to behave in a certain way and they had to put on a certain professional face. So all of the things that happened in their personal life, you think they buried it, they pushed it under the rug, they didn't deal with it because they're in the service industry and the thought was, 'You can't air your dirty laundry. You have to [act as if] everything is just fine,' but then at home behind closed doors they're dealing with all the things that happen to human beings in life. She's just trying to run the inn and grieve her family losses and put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

When Meg comes to Sally at the end of the second season and says she has something she has to tell her, what does Sally think that is?

I have no idea, but I know that she can't even begin to imagine or would never think it was anything like what's going on. I know that for a fact. It could be she ran over her neighbor's dog, she's pregnant, who knows. All of these things. Meg, she's the only girl, she's always been the one that was closest to Sally. And she expects it's going to be some other drama and they'll get through it. I don't think she can even comprehend the seismic proportions of this thing she's going to learn — this secret.

In the sixth episode of season two, Sally gets into an argument with John's daughter, Janey, and Sally slaps her. What was it like to film that scene and why do you think that Sally reacted in that way?

It was wonderful to film that [episode where the family all comes together] because at this point the family's all kind of shattered, estranged, awkward, the [adult] children are all being so careful. There's a real distance and they're trying to get back together. She's had trepidation about this night — she doesn't know if she's emotionally ready for it because everything is just weird. I think that with her granddaughter. You know, she didn't really think it was such a big deal what happened, and she followed her into the house, but I think it just escalates, as things do. It's just kind of a knee-jerk reaction. She regrets it immediately, but her granddaughter was being a little you know what. Things happen like that.

Bryn Elise Sandberg also contributed to this report.

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