Netflix series filmed in the Upper Keys debuts
There goes the weekend. When the first season of “Bloodline” is released on Netflix on Friday, March 20, expect to find many locals glued to the TV set. Many are eager to see how the Keys are portrayed and broadcast to a national and international audience.
Rest assured, Daniel Zelman “gets” us.
One of three producers for the show, Zelman said the Florida Keys was a natural setting for the family-drama-turned-thriller starring Sam Shepherd, Sissy Spacek, Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendelsohn, among others. The TV production crew spent the summer of 2014 — mostly in the Upper Keys — battling heat and mosquitoes to make 13 episodes, each about 45 minutes long.
“This story could be set in any number of places,” Zelman told The Weekly in an exclusive interview, “but we were really looking for a part of the country that isn’t on television, but still an iconic place.” The TV family’s “home” is actually The Moorings Village and Spa in Islamorada, recently named No. 10 by Conde Naste readers. On a scouting mission, Zelman and his fellow producers Glenn and Todd Kessler stayed at the Blue Charlotte on the property, a two-story plantation style house and promptly fell in love with the place. (The three men also worked together to create the streaming blockbuster “Damages” starring Glenn Close.) Plus, Zelman said the Keys geography works, too.
“We needed a place where a family could be well-known and committed to the community,” he said. “When things go bad, they have nowhere to run. They live on an island, surrounded by water, and are known to everyone. It becomes a pressure cooker when living a double life. The Keys felt like a great place for that.”
“Bloodline” tells the story of the Rayburn family. Patriarch and matriarch Robert and Sally Rayburn (Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek) own and operate an inn. They have four adult children — John, a Monroe County Sheriff (Kyle Chandler); Meg, a lawyer (Linda Cardellini); Kevin, the happy-go-lucky bro with a dark side; and Danny, the black sheep (Ben Masterson). The story begins as Danny returns home for a family reunion, but the show’s tag line “We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing” makes it clear the family harbors terrible secrets.
Zelman said much of the editing and writing is done in Los Angeles and New York, but he and the Kessler brothers make frequent trips to the Keys on the weekends. The more they visit, they more they learn about the natives.
“There’s a very intriguing underbelly of the Keys, reaching all the way back to the pirates, rum runners and drug runners. It’s a place where people go to hide for many reasons, even if it’s someone from Chicago that just can’t take that life anymore,” Zelman said. “The Keys are home to an eclectic bunch of types and characters and it’s a great equalizer.”
Later in the season, look for a bit about the American Crocodile. Zelman said the idea was sparked from news reports of a dog snatched off the dock by a croc in Islamorada.
The cast, crew and writers have found the Keys spots and things they love the best. Zelman’s favorites, in no particular order, are: “anywhere on the water,” mangroves, manatees, pelicans, osprey, sharks, The Moorings, John Pennekamp, Snapper’s, Marker 88, The Fish House, Mrs. Mac’s, Bud ‘n’ Mary’s, and Alabama Jacks.
Zelman was complimentary about the Keys welcoming atmosphere.
“I can’t tell you how pleased and grateful we are by how inviting everyone down there has been. They seem to be genuinely excited about the show. We understand that filming can cause a hassle at times, and we couldn’t do it without the support of the community. I want to thank everyone down there for that.”
“Chalk up another forceful punch with ‘Bloodline,’ a riveting, superbly cast slow-burn family drama set between the oceanfront paradise and the murky mangrove swamps of the Florida Keys. Serving up startling moments in meticulously measured doses, the show leans just hard enough on the teasing thriller elements to point the way to ever-darkening waters ahead.”
— The Hollywood Reporter
There are times when Bloodline feels closer to a soap like How To Get Away With Murder than the sunshine state noir it wants to be. But three episodes in, owing to quick plotting and strong performances, I’m hooked.
— Entertainment Weekly
There’s little urgency to the storytelling, which is as slow-paced and easy-breezy as lying in a hammock strung between two palm trees on a Key West beach.
— Pittsburg Post-Gazette
An intricately drawn and superbly cast portrait of a family in crisis that evokes Raymond Carver and James Dickey, Bloodline has the feel, the imaginative reach and aesthetic depth and resonance of a novel.
— Philadelphia Inquirer