Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

May 2, 2015

Kyle Chandler fishing in new streams with 'Bloodline'

Kyle Chandler is all about the truth as an actor — a dark truth in the new Netflix drama 'Bloodline'
Kyle Chandler on 'FNL' role: 'If I'm 80 years old and people are still calling me Coach ...I'll take it.”

Kyle Chandler is trying to figure out the game plan.

The actor is hoping for insight on the Netflix manner of doing things. The family thriller "Bloodline," in which he stars, unloaded its 13-episode first season on the streaming service about two weeks before this meeting in late March — and it feels as if all the air has been let out of the balloon.

"How do we do this?" he asks a reporter at the midcity office of his publicity firm, the Southern cadence of his voice slightly less distinct amid his uncertainty. "I'm not sure how this dance goes, darlin.' Have you seen some of the show? Have you seen all of it? This is all so different from anything I've ever been involved with."

Chandler, 49, is best known for playing the man who had folks clinging to the idea of clear eyes and full hearts as the fatherly Coach Eric Taylor on the high school football-family cult drama "Friday Night Lights." That drama, which ended its five-season run in 2011, served as his first brush with Netflix — the uninitiated became part of the fold by binge-viewing the series after the drama's network run.

This time around, though, he's in the Netflix end zone as one of the central characters in its latest original series. "Bloodline" hails from "Damages" creators Daniel Zelman and brothers Todd and Glenn Kessler. It tells the story of a seemingly upstanding family in the Florida Keys with a trove of secrets. Chandler plays police Det. John Rayburn, the second of four children, who appears to be the peacekeeper, golden-child son. But as "Bloodline" develops, so too does his darker side.

"People want to trust him. People want to believe him. People want to root for him," said Glenn Kessler. "He's Coach Taylor! So to move him out of that zone as John Rayburn and have the audience start to question him and change their perceptions was so fun to do."

The heavy, time-shifting drama, which also features Sissy Spacek, Sam Shepard and Ben Mendelsohn, has been renewed for a second season.

And the 49-year-old Austin, Texas, resident has done his part, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to help spread the word. Moments earlier, the man who can talk at length about the merits of handwritten letters and the value of turning off one's phone, took part in a Twitter Q&A to promote the show — never mind that he dictated his responses via speakerphone to Netflix's social-media folks.

"I felt like I was a telegraph operator in the middle of the country," said Chandler, who is not on Twitter. "I found myself answering questions like in a 1930s movie when one of the boys went to New York City before he ships overseas — and the dad is on the phone holding the earpiece going, "Ma, come talk to him?"

Playing John was a different kind of challenge for the actor. "There are situations, especially toward the end of the season, that I have never played before," he said. "I just never have. And I wanted to make sure John's actions were earned. If there had been any doubt from the beginning about whether the justifications would be there, I would not have agreed to it."

Jason Katims, who served as executive producer and show runner on "Friday Night Lights," isn't surprised to hear Chandler say as much.

"Whether he was doing a scene with Connie Britton or with some random person in a grocery story, he always wanted to find the truth in that moment," Katims said by phone.

"I remember we cut out this huge speech Coach Taylor was going to give — it was half a page of dialogue. And he was like, 'You know what I think Coach would say there? Nothing.' He fought for the silence because he thought it was more authentic to what Coach would do."

After a string of big-screen parts in films such as "Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" in his post-"FNL" chapter, Chandler was set to headline the Ridley Scott-directed Showtime pilot "The Vatican," which was to explore the modern-day political intrigues within the Catholic Church. But the project got killed.

"That pilot was the absolute best choice for me at the time," said the actor, who was raised in the Chicago area and later in Georgia. "You never know with these things. It's always a crap shoot. Every single time."

It's then that Chandler leans in, as if sharing an embarrassing secret, to tell the story of landing his first acting job in Los Angeles in the late '80s.

"You know what I did when I landed a part in 'Freddy's Nightmares'?" he said, referring to the short-lived TV spinoff. "I ran to the window and shouted, 'I gotcha, you son of a ...!' Having the tiniest bit of my sandal in the door had me on cloud nine. And I'll tell you what, that night was just me and a full bottle of $3 wine."

It gets him thinking about the career-defining role in "Friday Night Lights" — and the shadow he can't escape and isn't necessarily trying to.

"It doesn't bother me," he said. "Eventually, it will be in the past. I mean, think of some actor whose played an iconic character and is now 80 years old. I mean, what can you do? If I'm 80 years old and people are still calling me Coach, my God, I'll take it with everything it's worth."

Oddly enough, his comments came just a few days after NBC announced it was bringing back bygone ABC comedy "Coach" 18 years after it went off the air — with Craig T. Nelson, now 71, reprising his role as Coach Hayden Fox.

"I have got to get on that show," Chandler said, noting his two teenage daughters went to school with the kids of Bill Fagerbakke ("Dauber" on the ABC sitcom). "I think maybe we can be on boats, fishing, and we cross paths and have a quick five-minute conversation on life and coaching and then move on, because as we've seen on 'Bloodline,' my track record with boats is not the greatest."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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