Laura Linney is not 100 percent certain how she would describe her Netflix series, “Ozark.” Linney plays Wendy Byrde, the mother in a suburban Chicago family forced by some bad people to move to Missouri to start a money-laundering business. The 10-episode second season of the streaming series began Friday.
“It starts with family, and then it goes cultural, and then it goes psychological thriller,” Linney said. “It’s crime. Suspense. It’s sort of all braided together with the emphasis sometimes on one thing and then sometimes on another. It’s also a strange look at America and the strange cultures that are in this very, very large country.
“It feels like a lot of different things.”
Season 2 follows Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his family as they navigate life while dealing with a drug cartel. The crime syndicate sends its ruthless attorney, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), to shake things up as the Byrdes are finally getting settled. Marty and Wendy struggle to balance family interests while facing more dangers presented by their partnerships with the Snells, the cartel and their new deputy, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner).
This is the first starring role in a series for Linney since “The Big C,” the 2010-13 Showtime drama. Her formula for taking on a role starts with what she considers a good amount of luck and then requires her to pay attention to the kind of work she’s hungry to do.
It also helps she’s been working on TV and in films since 1992, which has given her the experience to know if a role is right for her. Linney said the Netflix series has enough different strong elements that she would have no problem playing the character for years.
A big part of her excitement for the role is having Bateman portray her husband. She said she is the happiest when she’s working with people she likes. The chemistry she has found with Bateman comes out of a sense of respect, safety, fun and freedom, she said.
The chemistry Bateman feels with Linney is something her co-star said can’t be planned. It just happens.
He said, “If you don’t have good chemistry with someone, i.e., you don’t like them, there is another level of work and effort you kind of either have to be conscious of or you’re subconsciously aware that I really have to yell at this person in this scene, but I don’t want to do it too much because they know and I know we don’t like each other.
“So, you kind of have to semi-apologize for that. It’s like we all get along so well that we really dig in and love those dramatic moments because we know no one’s going to take offense, because you’re trying to be really believable.”
There are plenty of moments to be believable in “Ozark” for Linney and the cast. What she has observed about strong roles for women is they continue to be scarce.
She has been nominated for three Oscars and six Golden Globes (winning in 2009 and 2011), plus she’s taken home Emmys for her work in “Wild Iris,” “Frasier,” “John Adams” and “The Big C.” Despite all those accolades, Linney considers herself to be very lucky to land a role as good as the one in “Ozark.”
“I think there’s a myth that an actor has all this work that comes in and you are surrounded by scripts. All you have to do is decide which one you are going to do,” she said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”