10 Facts About Netflix's Ozark
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.
Here are 10 facts about the latest show about a troubled middle-class white dude, which earned Jason Bateman a pair of Emmy nominations—one for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and one for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (for the episode titled "The Toll")—just ahead of its second season premiere.
1. SYMBOLS HIDDEN IN THE “O” OF THE 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.
2. THE SHOW’S CO-CREATOR CRAFTED THE SHOW WITH HIS OWN MEMORIES.
Missouri native and show co-creator Bill Dubuque chose to set it 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."
3. THE PRODUCTION 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.
4. JULIA GARNER NEEDED A HAND DOUBLE.
Julia Garner plays incipient criminal genius Ruth Langmore 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,” she told W Magazine. “It was so embarrassing, and I couldn’t even lift it."
5. JASON 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."
6. NEITHER LEAD WAS INTERESTED IN STARRING IN A TELEVISION SERIES.
Laura Linney wasn’t interested in doing a series, but she was intrigued because of 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 four episodes (originally he was set to direct all of them until a scheduling conflict popped up) 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.
7. THEY 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.
8. THERE’S STILL MONEY IN THE BANANA STAND.
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!).
9. LAURA 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.
10. THE OWNER OF THE REAL-LIFE RESORT HOPES PEOPLE REALIZE THE SHOW 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.