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[This story contains major spoilers for Ozark’s final season.]
Alfonso Herrera loves that Ozark’s final season didn’t go the way you thought it would.
When the first half of Ozark’s fourth-and-final season debuted in January, viewers expected Herrera’s cartel baddie, Javi Elizonndro, to be the final hurdle for the Byrde family to overcome, especially since he had just agreed to a long-term, mutually beneficial deal with the FBI. However, in the premiere of season four’s second half, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) threw a wrench into the works as she took vengeance on Javi for killing her cousin Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) and his new bride, Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery).
While Herrera knew Javi’s arc from the moment he signed on, he was quite surprised by the way Ozark director Amanda Marsalis captured his character’s assassination.
“I loved how they didn’t cut to a different frame. It was presented very straightforwardly, but it was very, very shocking. At the screening in New York, the reaction was really great, and that’s when I knew that it worked out very well,” Herrera tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Herrera recently joined another high-profile Netflix project, Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon, and the Mexican actor is currently in the final stages of prep. With Rebel Moon shaping up to be at least two movies, Herrera is thrilled to be working alongside a filmmaker he greatly respects.
“[Snyder is] a director that has revolutionized cinema. He has created important projects for the industry and the world. I mean, who hasn’t seen Zack Snyder’s films? Who hasn’t been excited to go to the movies to see a Zack Snyder film? He’s a cultural reference in many ways, so I’m very excited to share a set with him and to work with him and with his team,” Herrera says.
In a recent conversation with THR, Herrera also looks back at some of his most memorable days and scenes on Ozark.
When your character was first introduced at the beginning of season four, he reminded me a lot of Tony Dalton’s character on Better Call Saul. Of course, your characters are completely different, but they were both meant to shake up the conclusions of established crime dramas. Since you’re friends and former co-stars, have the two of you talked about these roles at all?
Tony is a very good friend of mine, and we’ve worked on different projects back home in Mexico. But no, actually, we haven’t talked about it. I haven’t seen [Better Call Saul] even though he’s a very, very good friend of mine, but I’ve heard that he does an amazing job. He’s an amazing actor, and he’s very comedic in everything that he does.
Actors typically have to defend their characters no matter what, so were you able to find any humanity in Javi?
The human side of each and every Ozark character is there because the scripts are very well-written and the direction is right on point. So all the elements are in good equilibrium in order to have a quality end result. Ozark is not just leaning on one face of the character. This ambivalence is always present, whether it’s Javi or the other characters that build this story. What I really love about Javi is that he’s a character who is very straightforward. He always tries to be honest, and it doesn’t matter what the situation is. So even though he is portrayed as a villain in a two-dimensional way, he never lies, and that is a quality that most villains in other stories do not possess.
Getting into spoilers, the premiere episode [“The Cousin of Death”] of season four’s second half shocked me. I, like many, thought that Javi would be the final test for the Byrdes to overcome, but Ruth Langmore (Garner) had other ideas. How did you first react to reading episode 408?
Well, I already knew the arc of the character, so I knew what was going to happen in episode eight. But I was really shocked by the way [director] Amanda Marsalis shot the [death] scene. I loved it. I also loved how they didn’t cut to a different frame. It was presented very straightforwardly, but it was very, very shocking. At the screening in New York, the reaction was really great, and that’s when I knew that it worked out very well.
Yeah, the scene hits hard because the killing is depicted in a wide shot. Whenever shows or movies do that, it feels more authentic because real-life violence tends to be quick and unexpected.
Exactly. That’s the amazing thing about this show. You never know what’s going to happen, so no one is safe. The last seven episodes are more or less exactly like that. It’s a train that doesn’t stop and it’s full of those moments.
What was that final day like for you?
That was, in fact, my last scene, so I had the opportunity to say goodbye to J.B. [Jason Bateman], Laura [Linney] and Julia, even though we didn’t share many scenes together. But we did have the opportunity to share lots of stories outside of the set. So it was a very nice goodbye to everyone.
The scene where he’s out to dinner with his former professor and current head of his business school seems like it sums Javi up in a nutshell. All these years later, he still holds a grudge against this man for not giving him the time of day until now. Did that scene also sum up Javi for you?
Yeah, it shows Javi and his personality in a very clear way. He does not hold back how he feels or what he thinks. And if he doesn’t like something, he’s not afraid of creating a huge catharsis for himself, affecting the other person involved. So yes, that scene shows Javi’s pure essence.
In episode 407, Javi punishes Bateman’s character, to say the least. Were the two of you able to enjoy that process at all given the circumstances?
No, I just don’t enjoy violence. The last time I got into a fight, I was 13 years old. So when I have to do that type of stuff, I am always very careful because accidents can happen. So we both took care of each other.
THR broke some exciting news recently about your casting in Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon. Have you started shooting your role yet?
I don’t know how much I am allowed to say, but I am very excited. Right now, I am in the process of doing everything that an actor requires in order to start their first day of shooting, such as makeup tests, costume fittings and all of that. So we are in the process of that, and I am very excited to be a part of this amazing saga. Yeah, I can’t wait for my first day.
What’s your impression of Snyder so far?
Well, he’s a director that has revolutionized cinema. He has created important projects for the industry and the world. I mean, who hasn’t seen Zack Snyder’s films? Who hasn’t been excited to go to the movies to see a Zack Snyder film? He’s a cultural reference in many ways, so I’m very excited to share a set with him and to work with him and with his team.
His collaborators hold him in the highest regard, so you’re in good hands.
What I sense so far is that everybody likes to have a good time. That is what Zack enjoys the most, and he is very clear about it. So he really wants people to enjoy the process. That is his main goal, and the first time I had a conversation with him, he shared this thought. Even his energy has this sensibility, too.
Years from now, when you reminisce about Ozark, what day on set will you likely recall first?
(Laughs.) On my first day, I was in the van on the way to work, saying, “Alfonso, don’t fuck it up. Don’t fuck it up.” Because it’s a great show and story. So I would point that one out, specifically, but I would also say the last one, which was the goodbye to everyone. They really formed a family, and I feel very lucky to say that I was part of that family. They made me feel welcomed.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Ozark is produced by MRC, which is a stakeholder in P-MRC, the co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter’s parent company.
Ozark’s final season is now available on Netflix.
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