Laura Linney gave notes to flesh out her role in Netflix drama Ozark

Laura Linney plays her first regular television role since 2013 in Ozark.
Laura Linney plays her first regular television role since 2013 in Ozark.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA

Actress Laura Linney gave the producers of Netflix drama Ozark notes on giving more depth to her housewife character

The character of Wendy Byrde in Netflix's acclaimed new crime drama Ozark could have been just another stereotypical cheating housewife on televisi8on.

But American actress Laura Linney made sure that the character she was playing would be real and entirely three-dimensional. In a telephone interview with The Straits Times from her home in New York City, she confirms reports that said she gave the producers notes on how the role should be fleshed out.

"I do that with some of my roles. You know, writers are looking at the plot and narrative and how to move the story forward, and so I would look at how I could help with that," she says.

"For me, it's always story first, never character first. I think about what I can do for my character to help move the story forward."

After the role of Wendy was rewritten to become the complex and constantly surprising person that she is now, the character is crucial in helping to move the narrative along in the show.

She is certainly an equal partner to her husband Marty (played by Jason Bateman), her mild-mannered brainiac husband who launders money for a dangerous Mexican drug cartel.

Linney, 53, says: "I just had so much fun playing Wendy. She's not disciplined and she's never really in control. I think the role has come to be one of my favourite parts, ever."

For fans of her popular mainstream works, such as romantic comedy flick Love Actually (2003), the darker role here may subvert the notion of her being Miss Goody Two Shoes.

But the actress points out that there are fans out there of her lesserknown, truly evil roles in projects such as the film The House Of Mirth (2000) as well as the play The Little Foxes, which just ended its run on Broadway last month.

She says: "It's so funny, people tell me different things. Some people are surprised to see me play evil and some people are really surprised to see me play nice. I love that everyone has a different opinion about this."

In Ozark, the Byrde couple and their two children, Charlotte and Jonah, have to suddenly relocate from Chicago to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri to start a new life, after Marty's business partner is caught stealing money from the drug lord.

Linney says she can imagine herself living in a place such as the Ozarks, despite being a Manhattan girl her entire life.

The star, who is married to a real estate agent and has a three-yearold son, says: "I am a bit of an introvert. I love my family and my friends, and I love what I do, but I also really like being alone.

"I love nature and I love lakes, so I could absolutely live in somewhere like the Ozarks."

The series is her first regular TV role since 2013, when she starred in The Big C (2010-2013), in which she had played a reserved suburban mother struggling with cancer.

Although she had not been looking to do another TV show, she says, she signed on for Ozark largely because of her co-star Bateman, who is also executive producer and directed four of the 10 episodes.

She says: "I knew him socially, a little. We have mutual friends and we've had dinner a couple of times when I was in California, where he lives.

"I've always instinctively liked him and I've always had a sense that he could offer more range than what he had been able to explore. There's real depth to Jason as a person."

She adds: "There's a kindness to him, too, and a stillness. He listens. He's wickedly funny, but he listens. And when you see a comedian who is funny but also listens, that is a tell that he has depth."

So far, the reviews for the show have been generally good, with much of the praise lapped on the cast's strong performances.

Tim Dowling wrote for The Guardian: "Ozark repeatedly overturns dramatic cliches... but it's always convincing. Linney is, as ever, magnificent."

Whether or not the show will give the star another acting accolade to go with her four Emmy wins and three Academy Award nominations, she is eager to do another season.

"I'm not part of the decisions behind this sort of thing, but I certainly hope to do more.

"I loved working with everyone on this show and there are so many great characters in one place here. We had such a fantastic first season - I really felt like I landed in a pot of honey."

•Ozark is streaming on Netflix.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Fleshing out role of a cheating wife'. Print Edition | Subscribe