How can you tell when you’re finally grown up? For Sissy Spacek, the moment came on the set of “Bloodline,” the new Netflix series debuting Friday.
“It was blazing hot,” said Spacek, who plays the mother of a large and troubled family on the show. “Everyone else was in shorts and a T-shirt. I was the only one on the beach in long pants, long sleeves and a floppy hat.”
The Oscar-winning actress is 65, but she looks decades younger, which she attributes to attitude.
“I like to live my life with as few regrets as possible,” Spacek said, speaking by telephone from a New York hotel. “It’s all about clean living.”
That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t age, of course, a fact that was driven home to Spacek on the “Bloodline” set.
“I do remember meeting my grown children on the series for the first time,” she said, laughing. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my God, they’re grown men!’ For a minute I worried, ‘Will I look old enough to be their parent?’
“Then I saw the first two episodes and called my husband and said, ‘The good news is that I look like their mother. The bad news is that I look like their mother!’ ”
“Bloodline” casts Spacek as Sally Rayburn, the matriarch of a family of hardworking hotel owners in the Florida Keys. When the troubled eldest son, Danny (Ben Mendelsohn), comes home for the 45th anniversary of his parents’ hotel, he threatens to expose the family’s dark secrets and shameful past. Linda Cardellini, Kyle Chandler, Chloe Sevigny and Sam Shepard co-star.
For Spacek, the fact that this was a Netflix series, rather than a film, a cable show or a broadcast series, wasn’t even part of the equation.
“I just loved this idea,” she explained. “I loved that this family ran an inn. I live on a farm, and I know what it takes to keep everything going, which is very similar to running an inn.
“I also related to the character of Sally because, like me living on the farm, she is a woman who always has something to do,” the actress continued. “There are things that need to be done, and she does them. Never a dull moment. I have the same life on the farm. I’m your woman to jump right in there.”
Her own family life is, fortunately, not as troubled as her character’s.
“Sally is a mother who had her children young,” Spacek said. “There are issues with the oldest child. It’s like that first pancake - you’ve got to throw out that first pancake. She never wants to give up on her oldest son. She keeps hoping that maybe he will still reach his potential. Maybe he will, maybe not.
“I also really embraced the idea that these are blue-collar people who do all the work themselves,” she continued. “The mother has worked so hard to keep the family close, but then the kids grew up and life changed. Many women face a new life with grown children and I found that interesting.
“Of course this is heightened, because it’s also a psychological thriller with lots of delicious secrets.”
She also embraced the chance to work with Shepard, an actor and a major playwright who also is an old friend.
“Sam and I have known each other for 40 years,” Spacek said. “We’ve been dear, dear friends. It was a real luxury to work with him, and such a gift to act with someone where you share that kind of history. It was so exciting when he arrived on the set. It felt like family.
“I was also in awe of Kyle, who is such a joy,” she added. “We have wonderful scenes together. The gene pool in this family is incredible!”
As for filming on location in the Florida Keys, count Spacek as a fan – with one reservation.
“This series felt like a movie because the show is quite cinematic,” she said. “We have these big, beautiful night shots slogging through the mangroves in Florida.”
Which brings us to that one reservation.
“Did you know there are so many crocs in that water?,” the actress said, laughing. “I was told that there were alligators in there, but don’t worry about them, because there are worse issues. The salt-water crocs are more aggressive than the alligators. I mean, who knew?
“Poor Kyle,” she continued, laughing harder. “He had to get down in there ... Well, I won’t give anything away. But poor Kyle!”
Otherwise, Spacek said, she enjoyed her time in the Keys.
“I think people go there to get away from the maddening crowds,” she said. “Before I went down there to film, I thought the place would be more Southern, but it really isn’t. It’s really about people who march to the beat of their own drum. They don’t mind if they can’t get to their favorite store. They just want to be.”
Spacek still is offered film roles, she reported, but she finds something appealing about television these days.
“I didn’t want to miss out on the exciting things that are happening on serial TV right now,” said Spacek, who previously had a recurring role on HBO’s “Big Love” (2010). “It is a whole new golden age of TV. It’s so cinematic, with no commercials. I want to be a part of this new phenomenon. I don’t want to miss out.”
A tomboy who was raised in Quitman, Texas, Spacek grew up climbing trees and riding horses. After she graduated from high school, her cousin, actor Rip Torn, pointed her in the direction of show business. She moved to New York, enrolled at the Actor’s Studio and studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute while also working as a model and singer.
She made her film debut in Terrence Malick’s classic “Badlands” (1973), which introduced her to art director Jack Fisk. They married a year later, and went on to collaborate on several films. A five-time Oscar nominee who won as Best Actress for her performance as country singer Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980), Spacek has amassed a filmography that includes such classics as “Carrie” (1976), “The River” (1984), “Crimes of the Heart” (1986), ‘“night, Mother” (1986), “The Long Walk Home” (1990), “JFK” (1991), “In the Bedroom” (2001) and “The Help” (2011).
Later this year Spacek will star in “Other People,” a film about a gay writer (Jesse Plemons) for “Saturday Night Live” who comes home to Sacramento, Calif., to be with his mother (Spacek), who is dying of cancer.
When she’s not on a set, the actress lives a simple life. Spacek and Fisk live on a horse ranch named Beau Val in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. They have two grown daughters, actress Schuyler Fisk and art director Madison Fisk.
She and her husband have been married for 40 years, and Spacek said that she has no regrets.
“He’s still my best friend,” the actress said. “We both have such wild passion for the arts, but that’s not our whole life. We have a whole other life outside of the business that’s also a deep connection.”
When she’s not working, Spacek said, you can find her taking long walks on the farm to clear her head and stay healthy.
“It has been interesting exploring my sixth decade,” Spacek said. “You kind of have to surrender yourself and say, ‘OK, this is what I am now. Let’s find out who this person is.’ ”