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The Son Q&A – Jess Weixler (Sally McCullough)

Jess Weixler, who plays Sally McCullough on The Son, talks about Pete coming home, the anxiety provoked by Maria’s return and why she’s done pretending with Eli.

Q: In Episode 1, Pete returns home. Is this what Sally wanted?

A: Absolutely not. Definitively no. I think she’s devastated for the kids. After we’re four months in of him being gone, we’re starting to maybe process that he’s gone  and, now that he’s back, I don’t think she can see what’s going to be good or bad for the kids yet. And Sally is mostly just upset that she has to deal with him again. She knows for sure that he’s not in love with her.

Q: Jeannie seems to be struggling the most with his return, why do you think that is?

A: Jeannie is clearly the cleverest of the bunch. She’s the most perceptive of my children. Jonas is book smart, Charles is trying too hard to be the man of the house now. And Jeannie is perceptive and clever, and I think I, as her mother, know it’s very hard to hide anything from her. I try to cover it when Pete first walks in by giving him a peck, which is very strained and painful. But, I think as much as I try to cover when I’m in front of the kids that things are okay, I also know that Jeannie’s picking up on things.

Q: In town, Sally runs into Maria. Why is Sally so uncomfortable when it’s Maria who ran off with her husband?

A: I think Sally is more in shock than Maria. It’s a combination of Sally being in shock and Sally knowing that my family just murdered her entire family. So, Maria’s come into town, not necessarily prepared to see Sally first, and has come back to take them all on. And Sally is wondering what is she doing here. Has she come for revenge? That would be the most obvious thought. She’s come for revenge maybe and to be with Pete. Maybe both. Maybe either/or. So I think, having run into her in town, she’s in shock and she’s afraid of what Maria is here to do because Maria being in town is going to mess up her life, no matter what. She’s going to mess it up by seeking revenge or by tempting her husband to leave again, which would only mess up the kids even more. So I think she’s filled with fear.

Q: Sally’s encounter with Matthew Wentworth, Jonas’s music teacher, is the most open we’ve seen her with anyone, let alone someone outside of the McCullough family. Is this a sign that something is changing in Sally?

A: Definitely. I think, even at the beginning of this season, Sally makes it very obvious that she’s not going to tiptoe around Eli anymore. She puts up a front in society because she knows she has to, but she’s not going to put up a front that things are okay in front of the family anymore. And so there’s a freedom there that she knows she has to find solace elsewhere. She has to find somebody who she can talk to about it, who doesn’t have another agenda.

She can only talk to Phineas. Phineas is her best friend, but she doesn’t trust Phineas anymore. She knows Phineas was involved. Phineas is also trying to lie to her face. So she can’t really trust any of her family members and so she reaches for the first lifeline that’s out there and that is this guy who comes to the house to teach her child piano. And he also happens to be very cool and to be thinking and doing things that she hasn’t been able to think or do in a long time, like talk about music or nice things that don’t have to do with war. He seems funky and interesting and like an artist. She says at one point to him that you’re not like these other men I know who just want to shoot anything that moves. She says later that there are pieces of her that have been broken or missing for a long time, and now she’s trying to get them back. She’s trying to remember what it is to be a woman, just for herself, and to have some relief.

Q: Why does Sally tell Eli that she ran into Maria?

A: I think she sits with it, lets it marinate for a minute and knows the only way to stop Maria from ruining their lives is to get Eli involved. And I don’t think she’s saying go kill her because she’s not that kind of woman. But I think she’s saying get rid of her, send her off somewhere, because either she’s going to try to seek revenge and take our family down or she’s going to steal Pete back. And now that Pete’s come back to the kids, it’s not okay with Sally that he leaves again. That’s just jerking the kids around.

Q: Why doesn’t she tell Pete?

A: I guess just in case he doesn’t know? She doesn’t want to be the one to inform him that the love of his life is back. If there’s a chance she didn’t come back for him, let’s let him be the fool that he often is and just be oblivious, so that he won’t leave the kids again.

She knows he loves the kids, and I think also Sally feels sorry for Pete. She sort of says to Eli that Pete is the way he is because of the father that Eli was. Sally’s disgusted by him but doesn’t hate him and wants him to stay and be a father now that he’s back.

Q: What are you excited most for people to see this season?

A: I’m excited to have people see how our family behaves in the aftermath, how people carry on with their lives after the unspeakable happens. Because they do. Some people do something unspeakable, like murder their neighbors, and then have to carry on day to day. I’m excited to have people see how each of our characters, who are all so different, react to that. And I personally am happy to have people see Sally regain some sense of self.

Q: What’s your favorite memory from filming this show?

A: It’s not necessarily a memory while shooting, but the girls would have girls’ night slumber parties. And it would be me and Liz [Elizabeth Frances], we shared a house, and Paola [Nunez] would come over and Sydney [Lucas] would come over and sometimes DWB [David Wilson Barnes] could also come to girls’ night and Julia Ruchman, our producer. And we would be up all night, eating chips and watching stupid movies and it was just a real family.

Sydney and I and a lot of other people in the group all realized that our favorite movie was Elf, and we were all together during Christmastime, so we all went Christmas tree shopping, bought a Christmas tree, watched Elf, and Sydney gave us a huge cut-out of Will Ferrell for our house that lived there for the rest of the season with me and Elizabeth.

I felt like I was Sydney’s age again, like I was 14, having a slumber party all night, and it was really great. I really love those people.

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