Laura Linney's 'Ozark' Matriarch Is Far From Perfect

by Taylor Ferber
Netflix/Jackson Davis

In a lot of TV shows centered around fictional families, the warm and fuzzy, "one-big-happy" feelings tend to ultimately defeat any interpersonal conflicts. This isn't necessarily the case for the bleak new Netflix drama Ozark, out July 21. When financial advisor Marty (Jason Bateman) is caught up in a money laundering scheme, a gun-to-his-head plea causes him to relocate to the Ozarks where he promises to wash millions for his boss. And he has to, because his life, his wife Wendy's (Laura Linney), and those of his children are at stake. And though Marty is the head of this scheme, his wife isn't a model parent either.

In a phone interview with Bustle, Linney, who's a mom in real life, laughs at the thought of relating to Wendy in any way. "She’s not the parent I would want to be," the actor tells me. "There’s a lot going on with her — she’s someone who is privileged and smart and capable, but she really doesn't understand herself and is not in control of herself." However, there is something significant in Ozark showcasing Wendy as a type of parent.

The show is an eyeopener, spotlighting parents whose antics go far beyond uprooting their home and risking their kids' lives — there's infidelity, emotional distance, and extreme selfishness. Role models, Marty and Wendy definitely are not.

Netflix/Jackson Davis

"I’m a complicated person, there’s no question, I don’t think I’m as complicated or undisciplined as [Wendy] is," Linney continues. "She’s a whole festival of emotion. I can certainly be that way, but I don’t highly identify myself with her at all."

As Linney sees it, parents like Wendy really are out there in the world. "It’s seen as such shame, but there are a lot of parents like that," says the actor. "There are some wonderful parents and then a lot who are distracted — don’t understand themselves or their children."

Not only is Wendy distant from her kids, but also a universe away (emotionally) from her husband. Wendy and Marty's odd relationship is yet another unfortunate reality that Linney has observed in real life. "People start to function and not live," Linney says. Wendy and Marty go through the motions of being married without any real emotional investment, allowing their distance to actually bring them together. "They co-habitate but they’re not living with each other," Linney explains. "They turn into a function, which then bonds people."

Netflix/Jackson Davis

The Byrde family may be a unit, but they're essentially strangers. "I love that it’s a family of four who really don’t know each other. I find that all very interesting to play," Linney says.

They say blood is thicker than water, and the fierce loyalty of the Byrde family on Ozark certainly supports that old adage.