“I never want to feel like I’m going on set and I’m discovering things on that day. I can’t do that. I want to be prepared for anything to happen, because things might change.” – Julia Garner
Emmy Award-winning actress Julia Garner has received significant praise for her role as Ruth Langmore on the Netflix series Ozark. It’s been a breakthrough role for Garner, though she had success in both film (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) and television (The Americans). Speaking with Netflix Queue, Garner reveals why preparation is so important to her role on Ozark, learning the difference between being repetitive and consistent, and how she uses body language in her portrayal of Ruth.
Garner remarks that she is only comfortable if she comes to set completely prepared, particularly because she does not know what to expect from her main co-stars, Laura Linney and Jason Bateman. Garner says, “I never want to feel like I’m going on set and I’m discovering things on that day. I can’t do that. I want to be prepared for anything to happen, because things might change. I don’t know what Laura or Jason is going to do.”
Garner has portrayed Ruth over four seasons of Ozark, and playing a character over that period of time has taught her the difference between being repetitive and being consistent. She explains, “There’s a difference between being repetitive and consistent. You want to make a person consistent with what you did in Season 1, but you don’t want the audience to get bored. You want them to grow every season, and you want the audience to learn something new about the character. I have to say this season was really hard in the sense that I was afraid that maybe there was going to be too much change because she had a love interest. I was like, Oh my God, I don’t want it to be that all of a sudden Ruth is vulnerable. I had to really plan out how I was going to do it in a way that makes sense for it to happen to Ruth.”
To delve into characters, Garner explains a game that she plays while observing others. She reveals, “One of my favorite things to do is just to sit on a park bench and see how everybody’s walking and what their energy is like. My mom and I have this game we play called ‘What’s their problem?’ It’s so dark, but you make up problems and scenarios for the people that are walking past you.”
The observation of body language is important to how Garner portrays characters, and she gives an example of body language that she uses when she portrays Ruth. She reveals, “When I was preparing for the role, I liked the idea of her having that angry little walk. The angrier she gets, the more she gets like a little bully on the playground. I just loved that.”