Netflix announced Tuesday that it has renewed its popular new crime drama Ozark for a second season. Star Jason Bateman spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about the surprise hit series and season 5 of Arrested Development, which just went into production last week and acts as the second part of what he sees as a three-part story arc for the Bluths — with a sixth season as its conclusion.
Ozark, which many fans have compared to award-winning drama series Breaking Bad, tells the story of Marty Byrde (Bateman) and his family, who trade the skyline of Chicago for the shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks in southern Missouri to provide cover for a money-laundering scheme he is forced into by a drug cartel.
Bateman is “so glad it all came together so well,” especially because he is involved in so many aspects of making the series.
“The acting stuff is a very, very comfortable thing for me to do, and it allows me to stay open and aware of all the other points in the process,” Bateman said. “It just gives me a great seat to observe all those things too, having such great proximity to the actors and being able to affect the pacing of a scene — I enjoy that.”
He also revealed that the initial pitch was for him to direct all 10 episodes of season 1, but they just couldn’t make that schedule work.
“We sold it to Netflix, and as we were going into budgeting and scheduling, we discovered we couldn’t create enough time for me to prep all 10 episodes, so I backed off on directing all 10 of them and did just the first two and the last two,” Bateman said. “Ultimately you have to put it all together, stick it in the oven and hope it’s cooked properly.”
Asked if he has gotten a sense of the show’s growing buzz, he said it’s always hard to tell just how popular a show is, especially on a streaming service.
“People on the street will come up and say, ‘Hey, I watched the show and I really like it.’ But those who don’t like it are obviously not stopping me on the street and saying, ‘Hey, your show sucks,’ so I’m hearing 100 percent praise from my little bubble,” Bateman said with a laugh. “But I am hearing from my friends that people are talking to them about it, a lot of people are finding it — at least in Los Angeles, but again, that’s another bubble, so I’m not sure. I’m not sure if middle America is loving and watching and embracing the show, but it seems like it’s getting a warm reception.”
Fans of the show have definitely noticed its similarities to another drama, a little show called Breaking Bad, which won 15 Emmys over the course of its five-season run. “There are worse shows to be compared to,” Bateman joked, but said Ozark is actually taking a different trajectory than Breaking Bad did.
“I’ve only seen the first season of Breaking Bad, and really, really liked it, but my understanding is that character [Bryan Cranston’s Walter White] really starts to lean into the criminal world, and we’re going to make sure that we don’t do that … [my character is] going to be constantly trying to end the show and get back to normalcy,” Bateman revealed. “It’s going to be the writers’ job to come up with legitimate reasons why he can’t end the show, and he has to stay and continue to put out fires.”
Spoiler warning: Skip down to the Arrested Development section if you haven’t watched all of season 1 of Ozark.
Bateman and the other EPs had definitely talked about what season 2 could look like before the renewal announcement — just because Del (Esai Morales) is dead doesn’t mean the cartel is gone for good, though the local enemies may look very different in season 2.
“Now that Del is gone, the assumption is that another lieutenant would come into town to oversee this larger portion of money that I’m charged to wash,” Bateman said. “The riverboat casino would be able to handle that and then some. And probably that means that Marty’s obstacles are going to take the shape of unions and perhaps some St. Louis or Kansas City mob, which is actually pretty formidable.
“Politicians and bureaucrats and land management and zoning rights and all those kinds of things that take a lot of bribery, coercion,” he continued. “It’ll probably become a little — not white collar, but probably less moonshine and a little more… I don’t know if ‘Chardonnay’ would be the right term, but the criminals might be wearing ties next year as opposed to flannels.”
— Netflix US (@netflix) August 15, 2017
Bateman also said that Marty and his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney) are going to continue to rebuild their relationship because they finally started to get back on track at the end of the first season.
“They have found a place of unification by the end of the first season, in so far as their ability to try to manage the criminal aspect of their partnership,” Bateman said. “As far as them getting things back on track romantically and domestically, I think that that will continue to grow but probably at a slower rate … maybe there are new avenues of attraction as they build that business part of their relationship. Maybe it’ll grow through a side door there. It’s probably going to get a little worse before it gets better.”
Bateman mused that perhaps instead of an “anti-hero” show, this is an “anti-family” show, because it isn’t just Wendy who knows what Marty is up to; their kids Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) know as well, which creates an interesting family dynamic.
“The kids know what the parents are doing too, so there’s a strained dynamic there as well. The parents have demolished that idyllic dynamic that kids should have for their parents as these role models that you look up to. There is much more of a peer relationship there with the four of them, and we’ll be exploring that as well,” Bateman said of season 2.
Bateman also talked about the latest season of Arrested Development, which went back into production last week, saying that season 5 is able to follow more of the format of the episodes that aired on Fox, rather than the cast being split up a lot like in season 4, and he urges fans to go back and watch season 4 (again) before season 5 premieres.
“I’ve read the first three scripts, and it all continues to be either all together or paired off in twos and threes, basically the same format as the Fox episodes, so that’s all back on,” he said.
“It is pretty much a direct pick-up from where we left off in season 4, so I would recommend before season 5 starts for people to go back through that fourth season and try to refamiliarize yourself as best you can with that, because the first two episodes of the fifth season basically stitch into the final parts of the fourth season as a sort of a continuation and it kind of zippers the two together, then starting in episode 3, really starts covering all the new ground of this fifth season,” he explained.
Bateman hopes the series gets a sixth season, because it would really bring the new chapter of Bluth family misadventures to a nice conclusion, he said.
“This fifth season is the second act. The fourth season was the first act, the fifth season is the second act, and hopefully, there would be a sixth season that would finish this three-act story that [creator] Mitch Hurwitz came up with after the Fox version of the show was done,” he said.