Laura Linney on ‘Ozark’ and What She Looks for in a Project

     July 24, 2017

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The Netflix drama series Ozark is about Chicago financial advisor Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman, who also executive produced the series and directed four episodes), who has been quietly laundering money with his business partner Bruce (Josh Randall) for a drug kingpin (Esai Morales) working for a cartel. After discovering that $8 million of the money is missing, Marty finds himself having to move his family to The Ozarks, where he must find new ways to get the money laundered, in order to save the lives of his wife (Laura Linney) and children (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner), all while avoiding the FBI.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Laura Linney talked about what attracted her to Ozark, the potential she saw in the character of Wendy, what she found most exhilarating about the shoot, whether she sees Wendy as an active participant in all of the criminal activity, why it took something so drastic to bring this family together, what Jason Bateman was like as a director, her hope to return for a possible Season 2, and what she looks for in a project.

ozark-posterCollider: How did Ozark come about for you, and what was it that made you decide to sign on? Could you see all of the potential in this character?

LAURA LINNEY: Yeah. When I got the script and read the script, you could see the potential not only for the character of Wendy, but for the narrative, as well. It just had tremendous potential. That was obvious, right off the bat. I wasn’t looking to do a series, but I’ve always really, really admired Jason [Bateman]. I’d met him a few times, socially, and I’d always really liked him. I’d always suspected and inherently known that he had a much larger range than he’s been able to explore, so I was just very excited for him, that he was going to let himself venture into another genre. I’m at the point in my life where I basically make decisions based on the people, and people that I want to spend my time with. I thought about it for awhile and I talked to my husband about it, and then I just thought, “Why not?” It was a very good decision to make. The whole company was wonderful and the production was wonderful. I really feel like I fell into a pot of honey. It was really fun.

Were there specific things that you got to do in this woman’s shoes that you hadn’t done before, that you found particularly exciting or scary?

LINNEY: I think it was all the stuff on the water, driving boats, and the real outdoor life that these people now have, after living in a place like Chicago where half of the year, you’re forced to hide. The fact that they’re outside all the time, and they’re on water as opposed to being on land, it’s liberating in ways, but also frightening to them. I’m a New York City kid, so I haven’t spent a lot of time on large bodies of water. I found it really exhilarating.

Marty is an interesting guy who initially was guilty by association, but in convincing the drug cartel to spare his life, he becomes a top money launderer. Do you see him as a criminal, or is he just a guy in a really bad situation that seems to just keep getting worse?

LINNEY: Well, his choices are criminal in nature, so if you do something that’s criminal, you’re a criminal. But I think he’s self-justified it, as a lot of people do. Because he’s so removed from the actual hands-on dealing of the drugs, as far as he’s concerned, he’s just crunching some numbers for a client. The numbers just happened to be crunched for a drug control. So, is he involved in that or is he not? I think that’s where people get into a lot of trouble. There is something about big business that deals with a lot of money, that gives you permission to make very shady ethical decisions and to behave very badly. Business is business. For some reason, it allows you to behave very, very badly. It’s justified because it’s under the umbrella of, “I’m just making a living.”

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Television