In Netflix’s upcoming drama Ozark, Jason Bateman takes a dark turn as a Marty Byrde, a man trying to live a normal life with his dysfunctional family — while working as the top money launderer for the second-largest drug cartel in Mexico. After his partner is caught embezzling money, he is guilty by association and somehow convinces his vicious handler to spare his life and let him relocate his family and bring his money-laundering ways from the suburbs of Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks.
In the new trailer for Ozark we get a deeper, intense look at the series that looks to be a must-binge series for Netflix. It features Golden Globe winner Bateman — who also directed four episodes and serves as exec producer of the series — getting into some serious Breaking Bad-grade danger and Sopranos-like familial drama due to his nefarious ways, which fractures his already shaky relationship with his wife (Oscar nominee Laura Linney) and family. The 10-episode series is set to debut July 21 on the streaming giant.
We recently spoke with Bateman about his new series, which will certainly make for prime water-cooler conversation, and also talked about his other highly anticipated Netflix project: Arrested Development.
How long has Ozark been in the works and were you involved from the very beginning?
I first read it about two years ago and it took us a few months to get it up and running. It took nine months to shoot and four months of post production. My agent said he read two of the best scripts and insisted that I look at it. I didn’t know if I wanted to do a series because it would take away from me directing features, but I was taken by the project and agreed to do it and serve as executive producer and direct four episodes. It was like directing a 600-page movie. I’m really proud of what the writing staff did with the series. The way they wrap everything up in the last couple episodes is so elegant. They check all the boxes of what you want as a viewer, but show a lot of tasteful restraint.
The name of the show immediately gives you the impression this will be a show about mountain people, but in this case it’s definitely not. Was that done intentionally?
The title is great because it does what it’s supposed to do. It gives you a little flavor of what’s to come, but leaves you with a bunch of questions of what it can be.
What was it about the show that appealed to you?
As a director, I was really attracted to the tone and the flavor of the concept. I knew that it would lend itself to a lot of the things I like to do and am interested in learning about as a director like dealing with multiple multiple departments. There are very specific musical, visual, editorial, lighting components — there’s a very specific mood and weight that you want to establish, but you have to be subtle with it because you can drown in it. In comedy, that kind of tone and palette isn’t necessary, but not much time is spent on that kind of thing unless you’re doing a Wes Anderson film. As an actor, I’m always drawn to characters that are drawn to the audience as possible. That’s why I’m always looking to take on the everyman because I like that responsibility of being the proxy for the audience. He’s also a guy who’s toying with his idea of what the American dream is — is he willing to cut corners to get there quicker? What is he willing to do to provide for his family and does he have the smarts and backbone to follow through to with the questionable decisions he is making? It’s something Americans are thinking about or are doing. We live in this “every man for himself” society and there’s always this carrot dangling in front of every citizen that tests how far we will reach to get something we want.
Why do you think now is a good time for this type of show?
When Bill Dubuque wrote it, it was pre-Donald Trump. It was kind of fortunate that there is an atmosphere out there where the big-city folk are trying to understand what the middle of country is all about and what is important to them. There’s a chance to be a bit of an awakening of how the middle of the country shouldn’t be underestimated. Marty decides to “big city” this small town and he makes a terrible miscalculation with that and it ends being more challenging than he thought. Seeing him try to get his agenda through is part of the fun.
Just from the trailer and even more in the first episode, we immediately sense a toxic, yet oddly delightful dynamic between Marty and his family.
If you stick with it, you are rewarded for tracking that element. There’s a great challenge put on that traditional family dynamic within the 10 episodes. It doesn’t become the main thrust, but it becomes a parallel story to watch.
It is very dark content, do you consciously make the effort to balance out the dark with lighter fare when it comes to your projects?
I wish that I could make my decisions with that kind of specificity. The truth is, to a certain extent, you take what you can get. There’s probably half a dozen actors in this industry who get to choose what they want to do and when they want to do it. The rest of us basically take what we can get and shape it into something we can succeed at. This was something I was extremely attracted to and I didn’t want to change it at all. What I like being an actor is that proxy work — Ozark had that in a world I love. I’m a huge Fincher fan and this has a dangerous thread that pulls through this whole story without taking you far away from what we all have a close relationship to which is basic normalcy. As a filmmaker and an actor, I’m attracted to riding that medium and every once in a while, taking a hard slip off of one side or the other whether it be dramatic or comedic.
Speaking of lighter content — the fifth season of Arrested Development was recently announced. What can we expect from this new season?
We start shooting first week of August. I haven’t seen any scripts yet, but it’s my understanding that this season is basically the second act of a three-act story that started with the first load of Netflix episodes. It was a story that Mitchell Hurwitz hatched after the Fox episodes. There’s no plan yet to do a third act, but if this season is embraced that is definitely a possibility. One of the major stories is the death of Liza Minnelli’s character and who did it. It’s not a murder mystery per se, but that’s one of the central threads.