‘Ozark’s Jason Bateman shares his thoughts on acting and directing.
Jason Bateman has transcended from minor roles to leading major feature films. Now the actor is in the business of directing with the third season of his hit Netflix series ‘Ozark’, which is now filming in Georgia.
The actor currently stars on the Netflix series ‘Ozark’ and plays a disgraced accountant who is over his head with a criminal enterprise. In an interview with Gold Derby, Bateman discussed working on the show as a lead actor and a director of several episodes and working with his co-stars as an actor and director.
Bateman explains how actors need to be careful with changing their characters too much over the course of a show because the character can never be smart enough to lead to a resolution.
He explains, “The challenge with making characters smart is that things come to an end. It’s a trap in comedies. It’s also a trap in dramas. In comedies, if you get a character that gets smart, they stop making fools of themselves and pulling their pants down and losing their dignity and making dumb decisions. The same thing goes for dramas. As soon as you get smart, you call the police and the movie’s over.”
Bateman has a long history with comedic timing and comedic roles. He often plays the straight man, which can be seen in ‘Arrested Development,’ ‘Horrible Bosses,’ and ‘Game Night.’ When asked why he chooses these roles, he says, “I’m always attracted to playing a normal person that is in the middle of something that is pretty abnormal and try to become that perspective for the audience, that proxy for the audience so that what you’re witnessing is as relatable as possible.”
Bateman has directed TV and film since the late 1980s when he was only twenty years old. When asked about how acting impacts his directing he says, “For me as an actor, my personal taste of acting is to not really see a lot of acting and to have it be as naturalistic as possible, which sort of equates to being as small as possible. I try to pull that into directing as well. I try not to be too showy and try not to have too much coverage and try not to distract from the audience as much as possible.”
Bateman added, “In fact, I love things called oners where there is no coverage at all. You’re just creating a perspective for the audience that tries to shape it a little bit but gives the audience a chance to look at different things if they want to as opposed to tapping them on the shoulder every time and telling them, ‘Oh, now you’re looking this way, now you’re looking that way.’ I take the same aesthetic choice with both the acting and the directing in that I try to not bump the audience into them watching any acting or watching any directing.“
With ‘Ozark’, Bateman says he creates an environment to allow his co-stars to share their thoughts, ideas, and insight into their character during production.
“I have a very, very light touch as a director when it comes to working with actors. I just know the way that I like to work as an actor where if you do your homework, you’ve thought about the scene and you’ve tried to distill down all your ideas to the best idea. That way you’re playing that scene has to do with how you’re gonna play the scene that follows, which might not shoot for a few weeks. There’s a plan that the director might not be aware of. I’m always assuming that the actor knows what they’re doing and is doing the best possible job that they can.”
Bateman added, “I watch what it is I think they’re planning on doing and how that’s going to affect everything and encourage them to continue going down that path and maybe, ‘Would this idea help you get what you’re trying to do done better?’ That’s the only kind of conversation that I have with Laura or Julia or anybody. With Laura, there’s brevity of conversation. We finish each other’s sentences. I can come in after a take and say, ‘That was great. What about if…’ and she might not even let me get [to]it. She’ll go, ‘I know what you’re gonna say.’”