Q: Do you think it’s fair to say that Pete seems like a guy who’s just trying to do the right thing, despite his father?
A: Everyone is trying to do what they believe is the right thing and, as the season progresses under extreme circumstances, there’s that huge conflict between the different perspectives of what the right thing is. Philipp Meyer [author and Executive Producer of The Son] always talks about how no one emerges from this bloody chapter in American history innocent. It’s definitely true to say that he is trying to do the right thing and is trying to do the right thing in relation to his moral code and his ethics. But I think he also knows that his father in some way is doing what he believes to be the right thing.
Q: How do you think Pete reconciles his ethics with his father’s seeming lack of them?
A: Pete does struggle with his ethics. He’s not necessarily at peace with them and maybe he hasn’t come to that ethical code intellectually. I think from an early age, when Eli was raising Phineas and Pete to protect the land and then to be able to fend for themselves and protect this empire that they were building, I think what they got up to then, Pete probably would have sensed the discomfort of the violence. But he might not have been able to question it so much because it was just how it is and it’s what his father said — so it must be right. As the season progresses, you see that the region goes back into an extremely violent period, so that’s when his ethics are then really tested.
Q: How would you characterize Pete’s relationship with Phineas?
A: With Eli raising them, I certainly imagine that they would be each other’s support. So I think they’re extremely close, but then the older they get, little bits of resentment might start to build because Phineas moves away to Austin, and I think Pete feels that’s a bit like running away and shirking your responsibility. Even though Phineas is taking care of the financial side of things, which is incredibly important, he’s taking care of it from afar, from the safety of Austin. Pete loves the land, he loves the ranch, but he also feels that he’s on the coalface of dealing with Eli and managing him on a day-to-day basis. So they’ve grown apart a bit, but they’ve always got that bond because of what they went through as a child.
Q: Why is the ranch so important to Pete?
A: It’s the way that he provides for his family, his kids. It’s a job that he feels he’s good at. He’s a rancher and that defines who he is. It’s what he does every day, day in and day out, sunup to sundown and beyond. He’s a physical guy and he’s physically capable. It’s also a daily connection to the earth, which gives him a connection to something greater than himself. I went out and did research, spending time at these ranches and with the ranch hands and the guys out there, and they’re very in tune with the natural rhythms of the geographical location, the weather patterns, the animal movements, and it gives them a great awareness of the landscape they live in. The Texan landscape can be so harsh and beautiful and vast. Pete has this incredible connection to the land, which is a huge part of who he is.
Q: What do you make of the fact that Pete reads to Jeannie and corrects her grammar?
A: That’s in line with Pete’s efforts to raise his children differently from how Eli raised them. He’s a lover of books. He’s a lover of reading. It’s an activity he enjoys, but he’s also aware of his daughter’s intelligence, so he wants to foster that and enjoys this activity, reading with her. He’s definitely aware of how intelligent Jeannie is, and the correcting the grammar is part of the education, but it’s also a fun game that they enjoy, and Jeannie probably corrects Pete more than he corrects her! So I think it probably goes back and forth, and it’s a nice way that they interact and have fun.
Q: Why was it so important for Pete to save Cesar?
A: It’s a chance for Pete to respond in a way that aligns with his moral code that he’s trying to establish for the McCulloughs. It’s easy to establish this moral code when it’s a relatively peaceful time, but when things start to heat up and the violence starts to increase, it’s an opportunity for him to say, let’s put it into practice and see if I can prove this is the right way to do things. He wants to prove to his father that there is a different way of doing things. Even though he goes behind Eli’s back, it would probably have been a little victory for him to show that Cesar’s free, he’s on the other side of the border, he’s not going to come back and hurt us, no one had to die. But it all goes horribly wrong. It is a chance to prove consciously his moral code, but also he just doesn’t want to kill anybody and his father’s pretty much just ordered him to take Cesar out to the brush and put a bullet in his head, and Pete just doesn’t want to do it. He’s not comfortable with violence. He’s not comfortable with bloodshed.
Read a Q&A with Jacob Lofland, who plays the Young Eli McCullough.
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