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For season two of Netflix’s money-laundering drama, Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) and their two kids bet big on a waterfront casino to get them out of hot water. The tense second season resulted in nine Emmy nominations, including one for drama series, putting showrunner Chris Mundy and his team on a creative high as they film season three in the humid Georgia summer.
Mundy spoke to THR from the set of Ozark, sharing details from the writers room as well as his favorite second-season moment.
When Marty is forced to kill in order to save Wendy’s life, he crosses a line that sends him into a dark depression. Is this the final red line for Marty, and are all bets off?
I don’t think all bets are off because this wasn’t premeditated, it was self-defense — as Wendy reiterates afterward. Marty has a panic attack and breakdown, and that’s when Wendy really picked up the slack to keep the family going. Marty is on a slippery slope, but he’s not all the way down yet.
Wendy certainly takes control during Marty’s breakdown, but she seemed to be on this trajectory from the beginning of the season. Do you think that it was inevitable that Wendy was going to assert herself more?
I think she was definitely on that path; Wendy found the combination of her North Carolina youth and her Chicago politics fused into a very useful combination in the Ozarks. Every time she’s been put to the test, she’s come through, and I would consider season two Wendy’s ascension.
This past season, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) is pulled between her biological father and her surrogate father, Marty Byrde. Where do we find her allegiance to Marty and the Byrde family entering season three?
Ruth is more and more self-confident, but she’s grateful to Marty for being the first person to believe in her and give her responsibilities. Going into season three, we see her very much wanting to be a member of the Byrde family. However, as she gets deeper and deeper into the enterprise, she starts to wonder if being a Byrde is the best thing to be.
What was your favorite line of dialogue in season two?
I love the cruel statement from Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) when she’s talking to Wendy about the pastor’s newborn son. She says, “I delivered that child,” and you get the visual of her killing the mother and cutting the baby out of her.
Is there a particular exchange between characters that stands out from the season?
With season two, we really explored the relationship between Jacob (Peter Mullan) and Darlene Snell. Specifically, we reference the first time that they meet via flashback. You get a sense that Darlene always had a power over Jacob and she’s always had this attractive, wild quality, which also makes her dangerous and unpredictable. There’s the line that Jacob tells Marty, “What do you do, Marty, when the bride that took your breath away becomes the wife that makes you hold your breath in terror?” It’s in this moment that Jacob realizes she’s become too much of a liability.
What is one thing that you wish you’d known when you started season two?
For Wendy Byrde, the Ozarks feel more like home than Chicago ever did. As we delved into that, we saw a person from a small town who doesn’t mind fighting in the dirt. It’s something we understood better and better throughout season two as we explored her evolution.
What was your best day on set?
We did a scene in episode four where Marc Menchaca’s Russ Langmore comes back in ghost form to speak to his son (Charlie Tahan). The two of them sit there and play the song; it beautifully bridged the two seasons together. And for those of us on set, it was great being back with Marc, who we all love.
And what was the toughest day on set this season?
Shooting in Atlanta in the winter is very cold, much colder than you’d think. Compound that with the fact that we’re filming right on top of the water, and it’s tough most days. In terms of emotionally tough, filming the death of Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner) was difficult on everyone. Laura Linney threw a wake for him at her house in Atlanta — he was a treasure.
Jason Bateman not only stars and produces but also directs the first episodes of each season. What are the challenges of pulling double duty?
I can’t think of any challenges, it’s actually a great way to start each season. Jason runs such a calm set, and his relationship with the cast and crew makes it feel like going back to school. In season one, Jason directed the final two episodes, and that required us to build in a shutdown period so he could prep the scripts as the director. In that instance, it did add challenges in the form of time, money and effort.
What other show is a hot topic in your writers room?
Despite The Sopranos‘ airing about 20 years ago, that comes up more than you’d imagine. The second season of Fleabag is definitely in the conversation, and of course Atlanta — love that series.
Which member of your cast do you think would excel behind the podium at a Democratic debate?
I’ve got to say that Jason would channel Marty Byrde. Every time Marty finds himself in peril, he has such verbal dexterity that he comes out on top. I would take Jason in a debate against a lot of people.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The Netflix drama about suburbanites gone dark — a spiritual sibling of Breaking Bad — heads into its second Emmys with its first series nomination. Ozark (which is produced by MRC, which shares a parent company with The Hollywood Reporter) also faces off against seven series that all seemed to go over better with critics. (Season two’s average of 59 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic makes it the lowest performer in the category by far.) But Emmy voters are not critics, and they like new blood. Add a dash of star power in nominated leads Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, and you’ve got a contender in at least a few of its nine races. — Michael O’Connell
What’s News: How to Create Missouri in Georgia
A major, albeit silent, supporting character in the series is the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri (writer Bill Dubuque worked at the resort destination as a teen). But the Netflix series is shot in Georgia, so the team behind the show has had to get creative when filming the series’ signature body of water. Most of the lake shots have been filmed at Lake Allatoona (pictured) in Canton, Georgia. The show’s Blue Cat Lodge is the former Little River Grill restaurant (it was recently bought and changed into J.D.’s on the Lake), and the main dock seen on the series is found at the Little River Marina. A stream at Jones Bridge Park in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, is where FBI agent Roy Petty and Russ Langmore first bond while fly-fishing. — Rebecca Ford
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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