‘Ozark’ Star Jason Bateman Explains Why Marty Byrde Is Such a Serious Character

by Emily Morgan

From Bryan Cranston to Steve Carell, these actors may have started their careers as “funny guys” before getting serious roles. For instance, Jason Bateman has undergone an acting evolution that saw him go from playing comedic characters to more serious ones.

Bateman’s evolution as an actor culminated in his recent role as Marty Byrde in the hit Netflix series “Ozark.” Now, he’s opening up as to why the character is so solemn. 

When actors embody a character, they try their best to learn the ins and outs of a character. They might incorporate various methods to understand their personality and quirks and compare it to their own. The character may be so far-fetched from the actor’s personality that they have to make it so that it isn’t instilled in the character.

However, it’s nearly inevitable to suppress your own nature when acting. In fact, Bateman admitted to struggling with this when acting as Marty in “Ozark.” 

As Bateman describes in a recent panel, he reflected on his experience. As fans know, the character is a financial advisor turned cartel money launderer who must uproot his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks to pay back a debt to one of the most dangerous Mexican cartels in the world. 

During the panel, moderator Jimmy Kimmel asked Julia Garner (Ruth Langmore) about the show’s dialogue. During the forum, we saw Bateman throw in a couple of funny ribs— something quite contradictory to his character. After, Kimmel brings up that Bateman has much more humor in real life than in his onscreen role. 

Jason Bateman describes his ‘comedy baggage’ in ‘Ozark’ panel

Jason, do you wanna say you were not funny at all, not even once during the whole run of the show, which is weird,” poses the late-night host. He also asks why showrunner Chris Murphy decided to make Marty so serious on the show. 

As Bateman admitted, Murphy had planned some funny moments for Marty in the first and second season, but he “was so self-conscious about my [his] comedy baggage.”

According to Bateman, he wanted to do something different with this character than his previous, more quick-witted and chuckle-inducing roles. As a result, Bateman made sure he stripped anything funny from Marty’s dialogue. 

He also added that Murphy supported the changes that Bateman, who also directed the Emmy-winning series, suggested. The more confident he grew about making the character serious, the more he thought viewers would understand the show’s premise. “People are dying,” he said. “This is the drama. It is not a comedy.” 

As we see in the 3rd season, the drama got much darker. So, it makes perfect sense not to make Marty a funny character given the nature of the events surrounding the character and his family.