When Laura Linney agreed to star in Netflix’s hit crime drama Ozark, the three-times Oscar-nominated stage and screen star had only the vaguest sense of where the character of Wendy Byrde might go.
*This article contains spoilers for Ozark season three*
Wendy has since undergone a massive trajectory in the first three seasons, from suburban Chicago housewife to ruthless riverboat casino owner in the employ of a Mexican drug boss.
“You have to trust that you’re going to have time for something to roll out,” Linney told Netflix Queue. In July she received her second consecutive Emmy nomination for Ozark.
“There was no guarantee of that. I made decisions that I didn’t know would pay off. Fortunately, they did. That’s the benefit of doing something that goes on year after year, particularly if you’re working with people whom you trust and who trust you.”
Ozark executive producer and co-star Jason Bateman said: “The thing I was focused on by trying to land Laura was what she would represent internally and externally about the show. She is unapologetically real and serious… She is just so restrained and so classy with the way in which she goes about doing what she does. I knew that authenticity was going to be important for what this family is going through. She has to be this real person, she can’t be somebody doing a lot of melodrama.”
Season three sees Wendy even more at the heart of the series than ever, as her political acumen and sheer ruthlessness prove that she has what it takes to survive, which involves a plot to murder her bipolar suffering brother, Ben. Purely for reasons of pragmatism.
“Laura’s capable of anything. This truly is an ensemble show, and this season you saw that benefit the show with Laura carrying even more water,” said Bateman. “It’s just a fantastic season because of her ability to take that character further and further, with seemingly no effort.”
The act leaves her shattered, and Linney, her body racked with anguish, disappears into Wendy’s grief. She delivers a performance so raw, so affecting, that it’s simply astonishing to behold.
“It’s funny, a lot of people ask me, ‘Isn’t it hard? Aren’t you exhausted?’” she said. “The fact that everything is aligned correctly on the Ozark set makes it not hard. There’s nothing in the way. You have a great character to play, within an ensemble of great characters. You know that you’ve been handed something of value. You want it to be as good as it can be.”