Ozark Changed Jason Bateman's Perspective On His Role In The Filmmaking Process

As much as "Ozark" depends on all-star showings from Laura Linney and Julia Garner, it could never work without Jason Bateman's performance. The desperation and coldness that he imbues in Marty Byrde are staples of the dark sense of humor that makes the show so compelling to watch. And as the Emmy-winning director of nine out of 44 "Ozark" episodes, Bateman's contribution to the show went well beyond acting.

Bateman began working as a child actor in 1980, playing the adopted son of the Ingalls family for 20 episodes in the late seasons of "Little House on the Prairie." As his TV career evolved, he tested out directing with one-episode jobs on sitcoms like "Valerie," "Family Matters," and "Arrested Development" in the '90s and 2000s, some of which he starred in and others where he was only in the crew.

His turn in the "Ozark" director's chair began with the first two episodes, demanding that he set the tone for the entire show moving forward. It was up to him to establish the plot and characters, scout shooting locations, and invent the blue-gray color palette that would define the show's look.

For reasons related to COVID and the possibility of swapping out crew members as needed, Bateman directed only the finale episode of Season 4 (with Laura Linney making her directorial debut on another), but the work he was able to contribute to each season was a showcase of his talents. Looking forward, Bateman has indicated he may be inclined to prefer the director's chair over an acting role. And with how central Bateman is to the performances in "Ozark" (and really most projects he has starred in), it's normal to feel lukewarm about the idea of him stepping fully behind the camera.

Control freak

Earlier this year, /Film reported on Bateman's exit from Apple TV's Chris Evans and Scarlet Johansson co-led space comedy "Project Artemis." Lucky for us, that was not the only pot he had boiling. Recently adding two episodes of HBO's "The Outsider," Bateman has a growing resume of directing credits to leverage that includes two feature-length comedies in the past decade — 2013's "Bad Words" and 2015's "The Family Fang."

Next, he's signed on to direct "Here Comes the Flood," which is described as a "love-story heist," for Netflix that is penned by Simon Kinberg — a writer-producer with a low batting average. While Bateman's upcoming film is not a sure home run, he's not likely to quit soon. In a May 2022 interview with Variety, Bateman described what draws him to directing:

"I still love acting, but I think I may love directing even more. A lot of that has to do with everything that I've been able to absorb as an actor over 40-some years. You watch what everybody is doing on the set to create what the audience is enjoying, and the actor is just a part of that, but a director gets to play with every department including the acting side. I'm just enjoying a more 360-degree view. Acting is still enjoyable, but I'm a bit of a hedonist and right now directing is where I'm getting the most pleasure."

For Bateman, it's clearly about creative control, so it's no surprise that he added, "nothing is more exciting than directing and acting." He may not have planned to act in "Project Artemis," but the same may not apply to his other upcoming films. With the amount of control it gives him, we can probably all feel better knowing, even as he matures as a director, Bateman's acting days are far from over.