'Ozark' Star Jason Bateman on the "Terrible" Feeling of Killing Off a Character
The actor, who not only plays a financial adviser in hot water with the mob but also directed and produced the Netflix drama, reveals that season two will feature higher stakes for his and Laura Linney's characters.
Jason Bateman was determined to direct all 10 episodes of Netflix's new series Ozark, but with the heavy lifting of playing leading man Marty Byrde (a financial adviser who finds himself in trouble with a Mexican drug lord and at times caught among drugs, death and dadhood), there just wasn't enough time in production for the juggling act. "It pained me not to do all of them because that was the challenge I was looking for," says Bateman, 48 and himself a dad of two, who ended up helming four episodes and also executive produced the series. With the show already renewed for a second season, Bateman reflects on his time in the director's chair and hints at what's next for Marty.
As a director, what did you find that you're best and worst at?
That's a real stumper. Obviously both of those questions should be answered by someone else, but I would hope that I would be best at having every department contributing to shaping the audience's experience at the right ratio. That's what has been the draw for me. I might be the worst at directing an actor. I just have so much respect for the actors' right to play the character the way they want to play it. I have a very, very light touch when directing an actor. I'm assuming they're doing the best job they can. I'm assuming that they're playing the part the way they want to play it.
What does a Jason Bateman note look like?
I'll very rarely criticize something or someone because there really is no wrong way to do anything. What they might be doing might feel right and look right at the time, but I know what I'm going to be doing downstream. It's always about taking what they're doing and trying to encourage them to do it a slightly adjusted version so that it fits in with the whole.
Several characters were killed off in season one. Did you ever second-guess a character's death?
All of them. Selfishly, you want everyone to stick around. We had a really great group of actors. It's terrible when these people have to go, but that's the trade-off of doing these kinds of shows. You have to be willing to make big moves because that's where everything is at nowadays. You can't have an assumption that the audience is going to let you hang around for eight, nine years — you've got to leave it all on the table every episode, every year.
What are your hopes for Marty in season two?
Marty and Wendy [played by Laura Linney] now have $50 million they have to deal with, which escalates the stakes and jeopardy. There's this business relationship with [local crime family] the Snells to help facilitate that larger washing of money and the possibility of having that go through a casino. And the relationship domestically between Marty and Wendy is still really fractured, and we'll see if this business partnership they're forced into is going to help that relationship or push it further apart. It will do a little bit of both. What's fun about playing Marty and most parts that I'm attracted to is that he is us. He's somebody that's kind of familiar to you, hopefully. So that when he's in a challenging situation, he's a bit of a proxy for the audience.
This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.