Laura Linney on ‘Ozark’, Her Breakthrough Role and Learning From Everyone She Works With


“You have to be secure enough in your own work to really watch and see what someone else is doing, and see if there’s something there that inspires you.” – Laura Linney

Ozark star Laura Linney has been nominated for just about every major acting award that you can think of, and in particular her role as Wendy Byrde on the Netflix series has earned her critical acclaim. She spoke to Netflix Queue about her career, including how she overcame her concerns about on-camera acting and taking on long-term roles without knowing the direction the character or series will take.

Linney says the challenge of portraying a character with faith that the story will take the character in a compelling direction. She explains, “You have to trust that you’re going to have time for something to roll out. There was no guarantee of that. I made decisions that I didn’t know would pay off. Fortunately, they did. That’s the benefit of doing something that goes on year after year, particularly if you’re working with people whom you trust and who trust you.”

She considers her breakthrough role the off-Broadway production of Donald Margulies‘ play Sight Unseen in 1992. She recalls, “Something happened to me in the run of that show. Listening to the play every night backstage (the wonderful Deborah Hedwall and Dennis Boutsikaris were in it, and Jon De Vries), I would have a sense of where my story fit in the narrative. It just felt right. I can remember taking the bus home, feeling like, Oh my God, I’m a professional actress!

Despite feeling comfortable on the stage, Linney says that at first she was uncomfortable with on-camera work. However, her agent encouraged her to take whatever work she could get. She says, “I was just scared of it. I had a great, great agent who very slowly pushed me into doing tiny little things in movies. Really, the best decision I made was to cast my net wide and do as many different things as I could, under as many different circumstances as I could. It’s exciting and keeps me engaged and keeps me a student, which is really where I’m most comfortable.”

In fact, the Emmy Award-winning actress says that she is still learning from the people she works with. She continues, “You always learn things from whomever you’re working with. Everyone works very differently, and once you’re not afraid of that, then it’s great fun because then you can really be open to learn. Sometimes people will be thrown by how someone works. It doesn’t jibe with them; they’re afraid it’s going to get in the way of what they want to do. That’s just baloney. You have to be secure enough in your own work to really watch and see what someone else is doing, and see if there’s something there that inspires you.”

Which is why Linney appreciates being part of a high-quality show like Ozark, and she remarks, “It’s funny, a lot of people ask me, ‘Isn’t it hard? Aren’t you exhausted?’ The fact that everything is aligned correctly on the Ozark set makes it not hard. There’s nothing in the way. You have a great character to play, within an ensemble of great characters. You know that you’ve been handed something of value. You want it to be as good as it can be.”

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