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Transcending genres
by Rick Bentley September 07, 2018
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Even with an entire first season behind her, Laura Linney is not 100 per cent certain how she would describe her Netflix series, Ozark. Linney plays Wendy Byrde, the mother in a suburban Chicago family forced by some bad people to move to Missouri to start a money-laundering business.

The 10-episode second season of the streaming series is now available on the digital platform.

“It starts with family, and then it goes cultural, and then it goes psychological thriller. It’s crime. Suspense. It’s sort of all braided together with the emphasis sometimes on one thing and then sometimes on another,” Linney says. “It’s also a strange look at America and the strange cultures that are in this very, very large country.

“It feels like a lot of different things.”

Season two follows Marty Bryde (Jason Bateman) and his family as they navigate life while dealing with a drug cartel. The crime syndicate sends their ruthless attorney, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), to shake things up as the Byrdes are finally getting settled. Marty and Wendy struggle to balance family interests while facing more dangers presented by their partnerships with the Snells, the cartel and their new deputy, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner).

This is the first starring role in a series for Linney since The Big C, the Showtime drama that ran from 2010 to 2013. Over the years, Linney has bounced between feature films and television productions. Her formula for taking on a role starts with what she considers a good amount of luck and then requires her to pay attention to the kind of work she’s hungry to do.

It also helps she’s been working on TV and in films since 1992, which has given her the experience to know if a role is right for her. Linney was correct in her assessment of the Netflix series, because it has enough different strong elements that she would have no problem playing the character for years.

“There is so much there,” Linney says. “She (Wendy) really doesn’t know herself. She doesn’t understand herself or really understand other people. There’s room for real growth.”

A big part of Linney’s excitement for playing Wendy Byrde is having Bateman portray her husband. One big thing Linney learned while filming the first season is she is the happiest when she’s working with people she likes. The chemistry she has found working with Bateman comes out of a sense of respect, safety, fun and freedom. Once she finds those parameters and feels safe working with her fellow actors, the performance comes much easier, even when the events are as intense and dramatic as in Ozark.

The chemistry Bateman feels with Linney is something her co-star says can’t be planned. It just happens.

“It’s really not something you can be deliberate about,” Bateman says. “If you don’t have good chemistry with someone, i.e., you don’t like them, there is another level of work and effort you kind of either have to be conscious of or you’re subconsciously aware that I really have to yell at this person in this scene, but I don’t want to do it too much because they know and I know we don’t like each other.

“So, you kind of have to semi-apologise for that. It’s like we all get along so well that we really dig in and love those dramatic moments because we know no one’s going to take offense, because you’re trying to be really believable.”

There are plenty of moments to be believable in Ozark for Linney and the cast. What Linney has observed about strong roles for women like the one she found in Ozark is they continue to be scarce despite the growing number of delivery services for television series.

Linney has been nominated for three Oscars and six Golden Globes (winning in 2009 and 2011), plus she’s taken home Emmys for her work in Wild Iris, Frasier, John Adams and The Big C. Despite all those accolades, Linney considers herself to be very lucky to land a role as good as the one in Ozark.

“I think there’s a myth that an actor has all this work that comes in and you are surrounded by scripts.

“All you have to do is decide which one you are going to do,” Linney says. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

TNS

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