Getting on the wrong side of the wrong people is a classic mistake, but Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) went ahead and did it anyway—and dragged his family along for the ride. The Netflix series Ozark is a bit like Breaking Bad ... if Walter White had come clean about making drugs early on, and Skyler had been completely on board.
It’s dark and twisty and every success promises a failure. Byrde flees Chicago to get away from a drug cartel, only to run into a drug cartel in his new Missouri home. If that kind of thing happens, you’ve gotta assume you’re the problem.
1. Ozark’s co-creator crafted the show with his own memories.
Missouri native and show co-creator Bill Dubuque chose to set Ozark at Lake of the Ozarks because he worked there as a teenager for the Alhonna Resort and Marina. He has a deep love for the place, even if his characters despair at moving to the “Redneck Riviera."
2. Neither Jason Bateman nor Laura Linney was interested in starring in a TV series.
Laura Linney wasn’t interested in doing a TV series, but she was intrigued because of Jason Bateman’s involvement and the possibility of watching him stretch his acting range. But Bateman almost wasn’t on board because he, too, was uninterested in doing another series when the project came to him. He became a producer on Ozark and directed several episodes, because joining the show meant postponing a foray into feature film directing. The pilot episode—and the chance to do some directing—convinced him to join.
3. Ozark’s creators attempted to get Peter Mullan on board before there was even a script.
Peter Mullan is a fierce character actor—not to mention a writer and director—known for My Name is Joe and smaller, powerful roles like the fascist guard in Children of Men and the wealthy owner of Delos on Westworld. Bateman desperately wanted to cast Mullan in Ozark after seeing him in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, so he and the show's creators “aggressively pursued” Mullan before they’d even finished the script.
4. Linney pushed to make her character more than “just a wife.”
Linney was definitely drawn to the script when she read it, even though she saw her potential character as one that needed more dimensions. There was unrealized potential there because Wendy was “just a wife,” defined entirely by her relationship to Marty. So, she took her concerns to Bateman, who agreed they needed to flesh the character out, and now Wendy is a monster all her own.
5. Marty wears the same shoes every Jason Bateman character does.
If you focus on shoes whenever you're watching a show or movie, you'll probably notice that Jason Bateman wears a lot of New Balance sneakers. That's no different in Ozark, where his character is rocking the J. Crew x New Balance M1400DM, which is potentially bad product placement, as you can't buy them anywhere except for eBay (where you might have to shell out $500 or more for a pair).
6. Symbols hidden in the “O” of the Ozark title card foreshadow the episode.
Emerging from the brooding title music, the show teases what you’re about to see with icons embedded in the title’s first letter. A spilled oil drum, a gun, a man on his knees. A rat, a swimming pool ladder, a child’s playground. Designed by Fred Davis and Kellerhouse, the title cards are an ingenious tool in an era where fans are desperate to catch and solve narrative clues. This show primes that pump and offers fans something to search for.
7. Bateman feels bad about killing off characters.
Finally, a TV producer who admits to feeling what we all feel. The shocking deaths that keep us hooked to a show are also lamentable. It’s safe to say we miss some characters when they’re gone, and Bateman gets that. “Selfishly, you want everyone to stick around," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "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."
8. Linney has trouble keeping Wendy's moral compass straight.
Laura Linney's Wendy has evolved into one of the most complicated characters on the show because of her readiness and capability to take on immoral and illegal actions. It's part of the challenge of knowing where the character is during any given storyline, especially when Linney doesn't know how her story will end. "It really is a partnership between the actor and the writers and the director as well," she told Vanity Fair. "To sort of let things unfold in a way that feels right and is organic so that you don't get too far ahead of yourself or too far behind yourself."
9. Ozark’s production team learned how to launder money from the FBI.
Aside from knowing which side of the dock to approach in your boat, the writers needed to develop an understanding of how money laundering works in real life so they could create a reasonable facsimile in their fictional world. Naturally, they called the feds. “We had an FBI agent who investigates money laundering come and sit down with us for a day so we could pick her brain,” writer Chris Mundy said.
10. Ozark features a few subtle nods to Arrested Development.
Since it covered so much ground and made so many references of its own, it’s probably impossible for Bateman to be involved in anything without noticing some Arrested Development nods. For Ozark, that includes Marty stuffing palates of cash into the walls of the resort (sans banana stand) and waxing intellectual about maritime law (all aboard the Queen Mary!).
11. Julia Garner needed a hand double for one scene.
Julia Garner, who won an Emmy in 2019 for playing incipient criminal genius Ruth Langmore, imbues her character with grit and tenacity—but she had to call for backup during a scene involving a mouse because she hates rodents. She was supposed to pick up a mouse and drop it into some water, but she was on the verge of a panic attack, so they got a hand double to do it. “The whole crew was laughing at me,” Garner told W Magazine. “It was so embarrassing, and I couldn’t even lift it."
12. Linney sees Wendy Byrde as a prism.
Wendy's elusive morality stems from what Linney views as the character's ability to take in new information and conceive of many different courses of action. "I think she is sort of a prism," Linney told NPR. "You can shine something through her, and it goes in a million different directions and it just depends upon, you know, where she is at the moment. I don't think she wants to be a bad person. She wants to be better than she is, but her nature is a little more dubious than she ever knew about herself."
13. Bateman thinks Wendy is better equipped to handle all the bad stuff.
Maybe that's why Bateman sees his character's spouse as the more capable figure in their illegal schemes. While he called Wendy a "ninja" who has got what it takes to keep going, he also told Deadline that, at the end of season 2, Marty has "reached his limit [of] his ability to cope with things."
14. The characters on Ozark love Canadian football.
They don't call it that on the show, but the clips used in the background for several scenes are from the Canadian Football League. The show has used the same play from a Toronto Argos/Montreal Alouettes game multiple times, which really makes you wonder what cable package the Byrdes have.
15. A Dance Moms star auditioned to play Charlotte on Ozark.
Chloe Lukasiak is best known as one of the original cast members for the reality show Dance Moms, where the children danced and the moms fought, but she also auditioned for the role of the Byrdes' daughter, Charlotte. The role went to Sofia Hublitz.
16. The success of Ozark led to the opening of a real-life bar in Missouri.
Just as Atlanta caused a fictional chicken wing order to become real, Ozark has bled into the tourist scene in Missouri. If you're visiting Lake Ozark, Missouri, you can hit up Marty Byrde's Bar and Grill for Del's Nachos, Ruth's Smoked Wings, or Wendy's Philly Steak Sandwich.
17. A real-life robber hid out in the Ozarks.
It's either a coincidence or an improbable story the producers have never talked about in interviews, but Eddie Maher—a security truck driver who stole $1.6 million from his own truck—fled to the United States and hid for nearly two decades. At first he and his family settled in Colorado, but they made their way to Ozark, Missouri, which is where his son's wife turned him into authorities. The fake name Maher lived under for years? Stephen King.
18. It's filmed in Atlanta.
Even though the show takes place in the Ozarks and was inspired by the Alhonna Resort, much of the show is filmed near and around Atlanta, Georgia, where a large production industry has bloomed over the last decade. Specifically, Ozark shoots in Eagle Rock Studios for its interior scenes, at Chateau Elan for Del's sprawling estate, and, when they need to hit the water, Lake Altoona, which is about an hour outside of Atlanta.
19. The owner of the real-life resort hopes people realize Ozark is a piece of fiction.
Is a popular show set in your neck of the lake good for tourism? Shirley Gross-Russel hopes so. Her family owns the resort where Ozark is set (the same one where Dubuque worked at as a teen), and although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to be associated with a story about drug-running, money laundering, and death, Gross-Russel is banking on people knowing that a TV show is just a TV show. Hopefully guests won’t go ripping the walls apart looking for hidden cash.
20. Experts have deemed Ozark's money laundering schemes "both plausible and very creative."
Jumio, a tech-based company that uses AI to detect fraudsters, took a deep dive into some of the schemes that Marty and Wendy came up with in the first two seasons of Ozark, and were pretty impressed. In 2020, they created a report on how well their skills would hold up in real life and concluded that "the money laundering scenarios in Ozark are both plausible and very creative."
A version of this story ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2022.