'Bloodline' Star on Season 3: Kevin Is "Gasping for Air for Survival"

Actor Norbert Leo Butz explains what motivates the early-final-season "bad decisions" of the youngest Rayburn brother.
Jeff Daly/Netflix
Norbert Leo Butz in 'Bloodline'

[Warning: The following story contains spoilers from the second episode of Bloodline's third season, "Part 25."]

Kevin Rayburn (Norbert Leo Butz) spends the first hour and a half of Bloodline's third and final season desperately trying to get out from under what he's done to his brother's detective partner, Marco (Enrique Murciano). By the middle of the third season's second episode, though, Kevin — with the aid of Roy Gilbert's (Beau Bridges) corrupt coroner's office worker — has an alibi. And all he had to do was make a deal with Gilbert and get shot — twice.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in New York earlier this month, Butz explained the thought process behind Kevin's early third-season actions, most of which he says "are Kevin trying to keep his head above water."

After bludgeoning Marco to death at the end of season two, Kevin panics at what he's done as he tries to revive Marco and hide the evidence. He winds up telling his mom (Sissy Spacek), his brother John (Kyle Chandler) and Roy some of what happened, including the facts that he got into a heated argument with Marco, things got out of hand, and now Marco's not moving.

Butz said Kevin's confessions are both a natural consequence of someone being caught up in that situation and evidence of how Kevin doesn't have a criminal's mentality.

"The thing about Kevin, the tragedy of Kevin, is that there could not be a worse criminal, a worse drug dealer, a worse conspirator. He just doesn't have that interior — the mind of a killer at all," said Butz. "So you're reading these things [in the script and thinking], 'He's doing what?' It all made a perverse sense for this guy. And I feel like most people would. Who does know how to do these things? I learned to really have a lot of empathy for him and sympathy for him. He's a big screw-up, and he's this hothead and this reactive guy, but I truly believe that's how most human beings are when they're in those situations that they have just no business being in. Kevin is constantly trying to figure out how to keep his head, his nose, above the waterline. He's just trying to keep gasping for air for survival. So all of those actions of telling his mom, of going to Roy, it is a guy grasping at straws. I also found a kind of nobility in that. He has this son, he has this baby, he has a reason to keep moving forward. That really affected the character. He sort of steps up in season two, and his child becomes his reason for survival, so all of these actions are Kevin trying to keep his head above water."

Indeed, it's partly wanting to be able to be around for his son, said Butz, that motivates Kevin to go along with Gilbert's guy's plan to pin Marco's murder and Kevin getting shot on Eric O'Bannon (Jamie McShane).

"Kevin is a naive guy. Again, the world of crime and forensics, he's just so out of his league," explained Butz. "He knows he has to do one thing. He has to survive. He has to stay alive so that he can raise this boy. I think that really becomes his mantra."

Butz said that when Gilbert's "crooked forensics guy" is trying to come up with a story that saves Kevin and feeds it to Kevin, the youngest Rayburn brother is thinking, "What, what? I can stay alive? I can not go to jail?"

Butz added that Kevin feels like, as he tells John, he was forced to do what he did to Marco because of John killing oldest brother Danny (Ben Mendelsohn).

"Then we go back to Danny: 'God damn it, I know I screwed up, but we had no choice.' So there is a sense of righteousness, or, 'I do feel like I have a defense in my actions.' We were put in this situation, and yes, we made it worse, but that initial thing is what [John] says at the end of season one, which is, 'God damn it, I am not going down for him. Not for him.' I think that also motivates some of these bad decisions, but decisions that are about survival," said Butz.

Stay tuned to Live Feed for more on Bloodline's final season.