Sydney Lucas, who plays Jeannie McCullough on The Son, talks about Jeannie’s reaction to her family’s dynamics, what she thinks of older Jeannie and being torn between her father and the rest of her family.
Q: Jeannie struggles the most out of her siblings with Pete returning home. Why is that?
A: Jeannie is frankly more intuitive than her brothers. With them, what you see is what you get. Charles is fun-loving and usually acts before he thinks, and Jonas is so caught up in his studies and intellectual pursuits that he’s really oblivious to the things going on with his family. Plus, Jeannie has the closest relationship with Eli, and, being around him, she can’t help but absorb the feeling that dynamics are at play and picks up on the vibrational dissonance among Pete, Sally, Eli and Phineas when Pete returns to the family.
Q: Jeannie runs into Maria, who seems to justify Jeannie’s fears that her family may not be as good as she thought. How does this interaction change her perspective moving forward?
A: Jeannie knows that something is amiss between her family and Maria. When she confronts Maria in town, Jeannie learns information that rocks her to the core — that her family has been lying about the García tragedy. Maria makes her realize that she needs to listen to her gut. She’s always felt that Maria is a good person, but she is trying to find solid ground because the tunes coming from Eli and Pete don’t match up, and she’s trying to reconcile the differences. Moving forward, she’s suspicious of everyone and the stories coming out of their mouths.
Q: When Pete is finally honest with Jeannie about his plans to run away, he agrees to take her with him. Why does Jeannie want to run away with her father and leave her family behind?
A: When Pete tells Jeannie that he has plans to run away with Maria, she begs him to take her with him. Pete initially tells her no because it would be a very hard life, but Jeannie insists that she cannot stay with a family of liars. She feels like everything is crumbling around her, and her instincts tell her to run. It’s like she’s in a fight or flight scenario, and she can’t see any good reasons to stay.
Q: Jeannie ultimately decides not to go with her father, and instead reveals to Eli what Pete’s plans are. Why does she betray him?
A: Jeannie, in the end, decides not to run away with Pete and Maria because Eli discloses to her, while on an outing, that she will be in charge of the McCullough empire. This is the first time that Eli has ever said anything like this to her, plus she assumed that the empire would be entrusted to one of her brothers as it was typical to hand down family estates to the men in the family. It is at this moment that Jeannie realizes that she has a lot to lose if she runs away. She has also come to understand more about her mother’s situation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, and the guilt of leaving her has been weighing on her heart, too.
Anyway, her revealing Pete’s plans to Eli is not really about betraying Pete, but about preserving a legacy. Pete now threatens her livelihood if he helps Maria win the court case against the McCullough estate. In this new situation, no matter what, she was going to be betraying someone whether she decided to go with Pete or stay. It’s really complicated because she was heartbroken when Pete left the first time, and now, if he leaves again, she and her family may be left with nothing because of his actions. Perhaps in hopes that she can preserve her family from being separated again, she naively tells Eli about Pete’s plans. She doesn’t realize that this action may prove to be one that she deeply regrets.
Q: We get to see Jeannie in her old age, still living at the McCullough ranch now alone with the staff. What do you make of who she’s become?
A: First of all, I want to say how much I love Lois Smith as older Jeannie. I think she is amazing, and I learned a lot from her when the cast sat down for table reads.
I feel Jeanne Anne has grown up exactly as you would expect, having been highly influenced by Eli. She’s one tough cookie who is not gonna take crap from anyone and that’s exactly as it should be. I think we see how the times have changed. In the early 1900s, family and honor are of utmost importance and, with Eli’s Comanche upbringing, that goes double. But with older Jeanne Anne, we see that her family has distanced themselves from her. She only has staff as “family” and she is suspicious that everyone is coming for what’s hers, and, as she learned from Eli, she plays the game of protecting what’s hers very well. It’s nice to see that she grew into such a strong business woman, but she doesn’t have family around to enjoy and celebrate it with like Eli did, so in that respect it’s sad. Did she do this to herself, or is she just unique and unrelatable for this new time period (1980s) because she is a woman in a position of power?
It’s a question I’m still asking myself. I mean, Jeannie never conformed to what society expected of her when she was young, and this holds true for future Jeannie. Even women in older Jeannie’s time, especially in Texas, were typically subservient to the men in the family. Maybe she was ahead of her time, and this caused relationship problems for her. I do wonder if she would be appreciated in 2019 with all the strong women we have rising to power these days. I hope so!
Q: What are you excited most for people to see this season?
A: This season is full of exciting developments that I’m thrilled for everyone to see. First of all, the scripts were amazing and everyone’s story lines got deeper. The cast and company got really close, and I feel that viewers will see how everyone has settled into making a great piece of work about the history of Texas and the USA. It’s an incredible ensemble effort. Jeannie is more than just comic relief in Season 2. She is lucky to explore some very emotional moments that I hope everyone will enjoy. So many members of the cast have had really intense scenes this season, and I was glad that Jeannie was able to get some as well. I’m excited for the entire season. The stakes are so much higher and the show gets better with each episode. The finale is going to be a total surprise!
Q: What’s your favorite memory from filming this show?
A: Oh gosh…I have so many! I appreciated the charming hair and makeup folks each day and our incredible crew. They took such good care of us!
Filming the family scenes around the dining table was always entertaining because the cast got along so well. We made each other laugh a lot which was really fun, but hard for getting good takes. I probably shouldn’t have said that haha.
Filming with James Parks (Niles) was great. His process was very interesting to study and watch. He’s a master! And then there was this one scene where I laughed so hard shooting when my mom, played by Jess Weixler, is in the shed with the piano teacher, played by David Sullivan. She and David are incredibly funny people in real life, so it was very hard looking in at them and imagining them doing something unmentionable where I then had to burst into tears. It’s never good to get the giggles right before a crying scene.
I’ll always remember the baby calf scene. I love animals, so I couldn’t get enough of that little cutie.
Had a great scene with a bully which led to a punishment scene with some funny songs. You can definitely tell that Kevin Murphy loves music. Well of course he does — he did write a musical [Reefer Madness]! And then I had a great scene with a predator. That’s what I got by asking one of the writers, Julia Ruchman, for my first on-screen kissing scene. LOL!
But my favorite scenes were the emotional ones with Pete, played by Henry Garrett, and Sally, played by Jess Weixler. I used Paola [Nuñez] and her emotional Maria scenes from Season 1 as inspiration.
And then there’s Pierce [Brosnan] — one thing that everyone needs to know is what a gentleman he is. I’ll never forget how he would wait for all the ladies to enter the room before he entered, every time we filmed something. He was always so sweet! He’s super loving and a role model. And, he doesn’t like chairs in lines where he’s in the front with his back to people. He likes chairs in circles where everyone can see and acknowledge everyone else. So zen and cool!
Over the two years we filmed The Son, we worked with more than a dozen fantastic directors who brought their special talents and energies to the experience, but my favorite times were moments I spent with Kevin Dowling, our Executive Director, who oversaw both seasons of filming. He was always so supportive and treated my presence and contributions to the production in the same way as he did those of the adults. I appreciated that very much, and I hope that we can work together again.
Read a Q&A with Elizabeth Frances, who plays Prairie Flower.
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