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, actor/executive producer/director Jason Bateman talked about how proud he is of the way Ozark turned out, why he’d like to further explore this interesting family dynamic, how he came to be wearing so many different hats on this series, and how he views this somewhat questionable character. He also talked about whether there’s been an official conversation about a Zootopia sequel, and the structure for Season 5 of Arrested Development, which is set to shoot in August.
Collider: Having finished this season, I was both satisfied and intrigued to see where another season could go. There’s some resolution to things with this family, but there’s also definitely a feeling of, where do they go next?
JASON BATEMAN: I’m glad you liked it. I’m really, really proud of the way it turned out, and I’m really, really happy with the way the writers wrapped things up in a really restrained way and didn’t leave any obnoxious cliffhangers or bait into Season 2. They just ended it. And if people like it enough, maybe we’ll put together a sequel and treat it like a second movie.
Is this something where you are game to further explore where this guy could go and where that might take his family next?
BATEMAN: Yeah. It’s an interesting thing, or at least it’s interesting to me, to explore how much a family can take on and justify and get comfortable with, in the pursuit of security, prosperity, and a next step in the American dream pursued. How much is too far? The intelligent mind can justify a lot of questionable things. They are four bright people. Now that the kids are aware of what’s going on, let’s see what they can support, too. The danger is that it just starts to decay the typical family dynamic. When you know your mom and dad are doing things that are not idyllic, as far as your desire to defer to a parental ideal, you start to see your parents as peers, perhaps, and that’s not the healthiest thing at that early an age. We’ll see how all of that unravels, if we go back for another [season].
You act in this, but you’re also an executive producer on it and you directed four episodes. When this came your way, were they always open to you wearing more hats?
BATEMAN: I had just finished directing my second film and really wanted to do a third, and I wanted that to be something that would be larger and challenging in scope, scale and responsibility. That’s what we were looking for. And when this came my way, it was just for acting and I said, “ I really think the script is incredible, but see if they’re open to me not only executive producing the whole show but directing every episode.” The challenge, to me, was in the form of directing a 600-page movie. That got me really excited. And so, I had a long discussion with them and talked them into it. Unfortunately, as we got into scheduling and budgeting, and all that stuff, we couldn’t create enough time in pre-production for me to direct all 10 of them, so I just ended up directing the first two and the last two. But that executive producer position gave me an equivalent oversight position to directing film. You’re hiring those other directors, you’re looking over their cuts, and you’re maintaining a certain tone, aesthetic and feel throughout all of the episodes, so that it feels like one film.
This 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?
BATEMAN: He’s kind of in the middle there. He’s certainly not without blame. He knew what he was getting into, as you see in the flashback in Episode 8. He is responsible for cutting a corner. He and Wendy decide, “Well, maybe we can get away with this. It’s not the worst thing in the world, perhaps.” It’s obviously a lot of hubris and arrogance, but I do think that he’s a little reluctant. He’s doubtful that it can all be perfect, but he’s relying on his intelligence to weather any wrinkle in the plan. It just gets to be too much, in the first episode, when it’s revealed that Bruce was skimming. Then, he’s really gotta dance.
My favorite film of last year was Zootopia, and since it seems like there’s still so much to explore in that world, it seems like a sequel would be a no-brainer. Have you heard anything about the possibility of a sequel?
BATEMAN: I haven’t. I’ve seen a couple of things online about people talking about it and chatting about putting it together, but I don’t know how real it is. I certainly haven’t been approached in any official way. I don’t think the financial performance of it, or even the critical performance of it, would make that a fait accompli since they’re so good at what they do over there. It’s no accident that the majority of their films are really well received, critically and commercially. We’ll see. I certainly would love to have another wack at doing some voice work ‘cause I don’t know what the hell I’m doing there.