The Ozark Scene That Made Wendy's Character Click For Laura Linney

Over the last half-decade, Laura Linney's character, Wendy Byrde, has undergone quite a journey on Netflix's "Ozark." When the show first launched in 2017, it was anchored more to the perspective of Wendy's husband, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), as he cast off his civilian life as a mild-mannered financial advisor and uprooted his family from Chicago to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel in Missouri. Comparisons between "Ozark" and "Breaking Bad" abounded, which initially seemed to leave Linney in the unenviable position of playing second fiddle to Marty as the mere "wife" in a show that was framed more from a male, "Walter White Collar" perspective.  

Over the course of four seasons, however, Wendy has evolved into a true co-lead on "Ozark," and the force of her presence and personality even outshines (or out-darks) that of Marty much of the time. With the release of "Ozark" Season 4: Part 2 over the weekend, the show's final season is now streaming in its entirety, leaving viewers to look back on Wendy's full character arc over 44 episodes.

In an interview with GQ in January of 2022 after the first half of "Ozark" season 4 hit, Linney discussed the first breakthrough she had with Wendy as a character. She said:

"Chris Mundy [Ozark's showrunner] and I talked early on. When you're playing the wife of the main character of the show, it can be wonderful or there can be not a whole lot to play. I didn't care how big my part was, I just wanted to have something that I could really play that would help move the narrative of the story forward. Chris and I talked a lot about identity. I think at the time, I was questioning that—who are we as Americans? Who are we? As an American citizen, who am I? Who did I think I was? Who did I want to be?"

Wendy's big possum-twirling scene

Linney continued:

"I started thinking about that family [the Byrdes] and how they really don't know each other very well. They functioned well enough to have a solid middle-class life, but they didn't know each other well and they didn't know themselves well. In the course of the show, they all get to really learn about themselves and learn about each other in a very different light."

As Linney was playing Wendy and getting to know her, a crucial moment for her to crack the character and understand her background and mentality came during a scene in "Dripping Sleep," the third episode of "Ozark" season 1.

The scene sees Wendy drive up to a trailer, where Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan) is sitting on the roof. Wendy hauls a dead possum out of the car — which the Langmores had left on her lawn — and proceeds to twirl it with all her might up onto the roof, warning Wyatt and his brother Three (Carson Holmes), "Either of you, you f*** with my daughter, you come near my house again, it'll be you the vultures are picking at." 

Linney pointed to that scene as a turning point for her and said:

"When we shot the episode where [Wendy] twirls the possum and it goes on top of the roof — I had a moment when I got that script where I thought, 'How does she know how to do that? How would a woman from Chicago know how to fling a possum by the tail and not be afraid of it? And how is it that she knows how to talk to all these people in the Ozarks in a way that is blunt and cuts right through and she's not scared of them? What is that?' She's a foreigner, but I could smell something familiar there. Chris and I talked, and I said, 'She's not from Chicago. She's from a variation of the Ozarks, and now part of the reason that she has resisted going there is because she's right back where she started.' She fought so hard to get out of that environment. And then the whole character ... the kaleidoscope shifted and I could just see it all."

Viewers can now "see it all," too, as all four seasons of Wendy's arc and the complete "Ozark" series are available to stream on Netflix.