Jess Weixler, who plays Sally McCullough on The Son, discusses how Sally relates to her husband and brother-in-law, and what it was like acting in a period production.
Q: How would you describe Sally and Pete‘s dynamic?
A: They have been married for a very long time, over 15 years, and I would say there’s a lot of love there that has kind of calloused over the strain of everything happening in Texas. Because Pete is such an anxious, introverted man, Sally can’t figure out how to reach him, and I think she’s left very alone in this world. She is a woman that doesn’t have enough friends in this town, that is in a man’s world, with a husband who won’t communicate with her.
Q: How do you think Sally and Pete ended up getting married?
A: I think they got married when they were very young and, in some regards, it was an arranged marriage, like the families probably thought they would be good together. But I believe that Sally really fell in love with Pete. I mean, they have three children together. They’ve been through so much together, I don’t think it could be a marriage without love. I think, on Sally’s end, she’s still in love with him the way I can only imagine a wife might be after over 15 years of marriage, but he just seems to be getting further and further away.
Q: How aware do you think she is of Pete and Maria‘s past?
A: I don’t think she’s very aware at all. I think maybe she saw some flirtation at some point, but I don’t think she knows that they really have a past. And Maria’s been gone for so long, you know? She’s only just now noticing that Maria came back, and like any wife… I think she senses something, that she senses some kind of past, but I don’t believe she’s let her mind go down the rabbit hole of betrayal.
A: I think she loves that Jeannie is becoming a strong woman, but is a little worried about how she’s going to be in the world, being her grandfather’s granddaughter. There are scenes where she’s banging on the piano and kind of mouthing off to her brother. She’s got a hardened edge on her that Sally’s worried about and hopes that the moral code that Eli has doesn’t pass on to her. But she doesn’t know that there’s anything that she can do about that. I think she sees Eli’s moral code passing down to Jeannie and is just hurt by it.
Q: How would you characterize Sally’s relationship with Phineas?
A: Phineas is her best friend. David [Wilson Barnes, who plays Phineas] and I realized that probably since Pete and Sally got married, Pete’s been around but he’s always been a little cagey and probably she and Phineas just got on like gangbusters. They’re more like-minded. They make each other laugh. They have a lot of fun. Sally doesn’t really have other friends, so he’s her one port in the storm. I think Phineas is the one adult that is Sally’s real partner in life, somebody who she can be intimate with in some way.
Q: How aware do you think Sally is of all the ruthless things Phineas does for his father?
A: I think she knows that they’re all doing questionable things for the family business. I mean, clearly she knows that there’s a body buried and knows that it needs to be reburied, and she’s not going to be the one to pull the top off the kettle. She probably has vague ideas of how gray everything is, but doesn’t know how pivotal Phineas is to it all.
Q: What was it like acting in a period production?
A: This was my first true period piece. It was both a delight and a — what’s the word — struggle to be in a corset. We were in corsets 24/7. Under every single outfit, we are in an authentic corset to the time. And now I understand why in all these Westerns women are fainting all over the place. I mean, you watch them and you say, “Why are they so weak?” They just don’t have enough oxygen! It’s just biology! If we wind up getting to the 1920s, it will be a thrill to get out of the sweaty corsets and into some loose clothing. We were all just leaning against the wall, sweating. It helped keep it real.
Read a Q&A with Sydney Lucas, who plays Sally’s daughter, Jeannie McCullough.
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