Money is a complicated and overwhelmingly powerful thing. No one can live without it, yet not having enough or having too much can be detrimental beyond belief. Netflix's dark, new drama Ozark premiered on July 21 and tells a haunting story of a financial advisor Marty (Jason Bateman) whose life and family is on the line after his partner is caught stealing money in a laundering scheme for a drug kingpin. In the words of Laura Linney, who plays his wife Wendy, "‘Business is business,’ makes it OK to behave very badly." Although Ozark's tale is an extreme one, in interviews with Bustle, Linney and co-star Julia Garner (who plays Ruth, a leader of local crooks) explain how impactful money and "the American Dream" has been on their lives and those around them.
The relentless drive for accumulating wealth will run peoples' lives and even drive them to kill, as portrayed in the show. But even if the average person's circumstances aren't as exaggerated as Marty, Wendy, and Ruth's, the effects of money (and its absence) are still there. "Now, success is only measured by how much money you make," Linney tells me over the phone. "The whole culture is geared towards making as much money as you possibly can. It’s very troubling to me." Ozark may portray a very sinister take on the American Dream, but it's recognizable as the American Dream, nonetheless.
As actors, both Linney and Garner can relate to the stress that comes with lack of money, given the uncertainty of show business. "Money is very stressful — to be able to provide for yourself or your family, people get very scared," Linney says. "I’ve certainly been in that situation, most actors have, it sort of comes with the territory."
Her 23-year-old co-star has been there too, and she won't deny that desiring financial security is a hard instinct to ignore. "Of course, I have the thought in my head, ‘I wanna buy a nice apartment in a city,'" Garner says. "I’m not A-List, I don’t care, I’m happy enough to say I make a living and I don’t need to have my parents pay for every little thing."
Both women have sensible and realistic ideals about money, perhaps because they've seen what money obsession can do to a person. "Money can be scary, trying to understand it, know what to do with it, respect it," Linney says. "Everyone’s relationship with money is very individual and complicated." In Ozark, Wendy and her husband allow their greed to drive their family into hiding. Ruth hones her budding ruthless nature in order to advance her own family's interests.
In unfortunate (and all too common) circumstances, money will alter who a person is, as it seems to in the case of Ozark's characters. "It will completely define every choice [a person will] make.... They’ll tie their entire personality to it," Linney adds. "There’s also something very dangerous about money in that it can take you away from your authentic self." Garner agrees with this scary reality, saying, "It either brings the best or worst out of someone. When money comes in the picture, people change. Better or worse."
Perhaps the most daunting reality of wealth is that people struggle with how to deal with it their whole life. Wendy and Marty Byrde are both professionals, both parents, and yet, they make a series of terrible decisions in order to eliminate their money troubles. "I don’t know many people who have a truly healthy relationship with money," Linney says. And Ozark shows how far some will go when millions of dollars — plus security, power, and influence — are on the table.