Is 'Bloodline' Based on a True Story? Netflix Has Put Kyle Chandler In a Wholly Original Family Tale

Bloodline, Netflix's newest drama is about the slow decline of a hotelier family after the return of their prodigal eldest son just as they're losing their hold on their Florida town. But instead of Bloodline being based on the true story, a book, or another movie or TV show, it's a wholly original idea, which is the most exciting thing about the show. It feels like there are less and less original programs that aren't based on something else coming out each year. Even Netflix's last original series, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, was slightly based on the real-life Ariel Castro kidnapping case (give or take some more general cult stereotypes). Adaptations are still huge, and a few of the biggest shows on TV, like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, are based on ongoing series that aren't even complete yet.

Freed from the restraints of working from a different show or a book, there doesn't need to be special qualifications for reviewers who want to dive into the show's themes, and guessing about future plot development is just guessing, not spoilers or giving too much away.

But even though Bloodline wasn't based on any previous properties, that doesn't mean that its creators, Daniel Zelman, Todd A. Kessler and Glenn Kessler, don't have their own inspirations. No art is made in a vacuum, and that includes Netflix's original series.

Plenty of Novels

Because the show is a slow burn and the arc of a reveal about the Rayburn family's history, it's structured not unlike a novel, one of the benefits of working on all six episodes at once. And therefore, according to Variety, the creators are inspired by plenty of books, including Crime & Punishment , the famously impenetrable Russian novel.


In the same Variety piece, the FX drama Damages is highlighted the immediate precursor to Bloodline for these producers. They considered Damages to be a coming of age drama turned thriller, and this is their version of a family drama turned thriller. They incorporate thrills after they establish strong character work based on relationships. So, based on Damages, we know that they'll spend a good amount of this limited first season building up the Rayburns, before turning up the heat on the mystery part of the story.

The Actors' Previous Personas

Whether it was showing a new side of performers like Kyle Chandler, writing a distinct star part for underseen character actor Ben Mendelsohn, or relying on the presence of veterans like Sissy Spacek and Sam Shephard, the creators have said that the show was shaped by the actors as well.

Weird Stuff in Florida

America's most eccentric state proved to be a big inspiration for Zelman and the Kesslers. And how could it not? Pretty much every weird news story comes out of Florida. And it's the setting for some of the sweatiest, pulpiest thrillers of all time — they've cited Body Heat and Cape Fear in particular.

Their Own Families

In an interview with The Independent , Kessler said: "After we’d finished Damages we realised we really wanted to approach the subject of family." Ultimately, they wrote a show about a family full of secrets, lies, and bad things, so, man, the Zelman and the Kessler families must be messed up.

Image: Saeed Adyani/Netflix; Giphy (5)