Sissy Spacek sinks her teeth into ‘Bloodline’

Sissy Spacek remembers the kaleidoscope of emotions she felt when she earned her first lead actress Oscar nomination as the tormented telekinetic teen in Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror film, Carrie.

“I was so excited when I got nominated,” Spacek said. “Then I was struck with terror and fear about what I should do” at the ceremony.

So like any good daughter, Spacek called her mother. “I remember she just laughed and said, ‘Have fun and be yourself. It’s a celebration.’ That was the most wonderful advice.”

Spacek, who made her film debut in 1972’s Prime Cut, describes the 1970s as the decade when artists ruled the cinematic landscape.

“It was a time when filmmakers were like modern painters,” said the Oscar-winning actress (Coal Miner’s Daughter). “They had an enormous palette. It was a magical time in Hollywood.”

And because of her early success in Terrence Malick’s first film, 1973’s Badlands, in which she played the teenage girlfriend of a murderous psychopath (Martin Sheen), “I got to ride the wave of that creative decade in film,” Spacek said.

“Many of those directors were friends,” she noted. “One director would introduce his actors to other directors and talk to them about us. It was a very unique time. It was a small group of filmmakers.”

Spacek not only worked with Malick and DePalma during that groundbreaking decade, she also collaborated with such filmmakers as Alan Rudolph in 1976’s Welcome to L.A, where she played a housekeeper who liked to vacuum topless, and Robert Altman in 1977’s 3 Women, in which she played a timid young woman named Pinky Rose.

“The important thing is to be part of a good project with good, talented people,” Spacek said by phone from the Virginia farm where she and her husband of 41 years, production designer Jack Fisk, raised their two grown daughters. “For me, I never really wanted to be in a ‘Sissy Spacek’ vehicle. That was not my intention. I got to be the ‘Everygirl.’”

She met Fisk when they worked on Badlands. He went on to direct her in two films — 1981’s Raggedy Man and 1986’s Violets Are Blue.

Fisk introduced Spacek to actor-playwright Sam Shepard. Fisk was the production designer on Malick’s 1978 classic Days of Heaven, which featured Shepard.

Over the past 34 years, Spacek and Shepard have done several projects together, including Raggedy Man, 1986’s Crimes of the Heart, for which the actress earned her fifth lead actress nomination, and the 1999 miniseries Streets of Laredo.

The two have teamed again for the Netflix drama series Bloodline, which began streaming in late March and has already been picked up for a second season.

In the latest series from Glenn and Todd Kessler and Daniel Zelman (Damages), Spacek and Shepard play Sally and Robert Rayburn, a longtime married couple who run an idyllic Key West inn. Though they seem like the ideal family, the Rayburns and their grown children have more than a few skeletons in their closet.

“We have a 40-year-deep relationship,” she said of Shepard. “That was a wonderful thing to work with somebody [you know] playing husband and wife.”

Todd Kessler said Spacek has a quality “that makes people respond to her, she is very nurturing and caring. People don’t want to disappoint her. They feel the caring and the generosity she offers.”

Though she had guest-starred five years ago on HBO’s Big Love, the Netflix drama is her first foray into series TV as a regular.

“The template has changed for television,” she said. “I go where the good work is being done.”

Still, she said, she finds doing a series a “different experience for me. It was intense. We worked together on this for nine months. The first few months I was trying to figure out how it all worked.”

Susan King

Los Angeles Times