Bloodline actor John Leguizamo finds crime thriller “too intense” to binge-watch

John Leguizamo plays Ozzy Delveccio, a shady character, in the second season of Bloodline.
John Leguizamo plays Ozzy Delveccio, a shady character, in the second season of Bloodline.PHOTO: NETFLIX

New cast member John Leguizamo feels Netflix series Bloodline is so intense that he cannot binge-watch it

Netflix shows are synonymous with binge-watching, but John Leguizamo, the newest cast addition to the family drama and crime thriller Bloodline, says this series is so dark, even he found it tough to binge on.

In Season 2, which debuted on the streaming service in May, the actor joins an Emmy-nominated ensemble led by Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini and Sissy Spacek, who play the Rayburns, a prominent, hotel-owning family that starts to unravel when prodigal oldest son and black sheep Danny comes home.

The acclaimed first season saw John (Chandler) - the supposedly good son - killing his brother Danny (Mendelsohn), and siblings Meg (Linda Cardellini) and Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) helping him cover it up.

Chandler and Mendelsohn were nominated, respectively, for Outstanding Lead Actor and Supporting Actor In A Drama at last year's Emmys.

When the cast spoke at a screening of the Season 2 finale in Los Angeles last month, Leguizamo, who plays a shady figure from Danny's past, admits it took a while for him to catch up on watching all the episodes.

"It's too intense," says the 51-year-old, who has starred in films such as Moulin Rouge! (2001). "I could only do two episodes at a time and, then, I had to watch (the sitcom) Silicon Valley or something.

"It looked like real family dynamics and problems, but it felt like Making A Murderer,'' he says, referring to the true-crime documentary series.

"Every episode is like an independent film. They give you the room to just exist as a character and let things be character-driven. It's like jazz and I kind of know where my character's going and I kind of don't know."

Co-star Chandler, 50, says this intense and slow-simmering character plot was a risk for the show, whose creators were inspired by no less than Crime And Punishment - the 1866 Russian novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky about a murderer psychologically tortured by his guilt.

But it was this creative gamble that convinced the actor to return to series television after taking a break following the sports drama Friday Night Lights (2006-2011), which bagged him the 2011 Emmy for Best Dramatic Actor.

"When (the creators) came to me, one of them said, 'Listen, we don't know if this is going to work or not - it's an experiment of ours and it could flop right on its face.' And right then, I knew I was in because it was a challenge."

For Cardellini, who had starred in Mad Men (2013-2015), the show works because it pauses to explore how people who do bad things live with themselves - either by bending the truth or finding a rationale for what they have done.

"The interesting thing about the Rayburns is that they each have their own truth that they're living, whether or not it's actually the truth," says the actress, 41.

"So I think with a lot of people who lie or do terrible things, there is some form of justification for doing them. In their minds, they think what they're doing is right for some reason at the time."

The setting of the story - the islands of the Florida Keys, where the show was filmed - also feeds the gritty, introspective atmosphere of the show.

Series co-creator Glenn Kessler, 46, describes the locale as "a very unique place" that is "picture-postcard beautiful", but "has a creepy underbelly of human and drug-trafficking".

"There's a pace of life that's very different. It's spread out. It's beautiful physically, but it's basically a two-lane highway. It's like 80 or 100 miles of roads with businesses just along the highway," he says.

"It is the most southern point in the United States - the closest point to Cuba - and there's a lot of weirdness, which is great for the show. There's a lot of texture. People do seem to drop out of their lives to go there. They're either running to something or running from something."

Leguizamo does not mince words about what it is like filming there. "I find it creepy. I was losing my mind down there. If you're not fishing or you're not an alcoholic... I couldn't do it."

Kessler and the actors say the series has grown darker and creepier in its second season.

Chandler finds that "the obstacles are multiplied and it's far more internal" for his character John, who has more on his plate as he turns to "self-preservation and figuring out how to negotiate the obstacles and still survive while protecting the family".

Kessler promises that the Rayburns' predicament will continue and escalate even though Danny, who set things in motion, is now dead.

"It's about the family and the relationships of those family members. Danny was always going to die, like in Crime And Punishment and other stories where it happens early. Bloodline is about watching these relationships evolve."

•Bloodline Season 2 is showing on Netflix.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Bloodline actor finds crime thriller too dark'. Print Edition | Subscribe