Jason Bateman says his life has a few parallels to his scheming character on Ozark. He talks about season two with Michele Manelis.
Playing a financial planner, Marty Bryde, what have you learned about money?
I'm almost embarrassed to say that I think I know even less about money than I did before I started. As far as the banking goes, the depth of my knowledge is really how to find the local ATM. I leave all that other stuff to the smarter people in my life.
You're the star of the show but you're also directing. What is the key to being a successful director?
Well, I'm savvy enough to know that it is smart to hire smarter people than you in whatever you do. I certainly carry that on to this project and I have crewed it and staffed it and cast it with people who are much more talented than I am. We all are contributing to make this thing as good as we can and I'm learning from all of them.
What do you like about Marty?
His mental strength, and that comes from his ability to identify order. For better or for worse, I had been exposed to a lot of adult responsibility and pressure, starting at about 10 years old. So there are good parts of that, there are bad parts of that. The good parts are that I don't think I'd be as overwhelmed as Marty would be in some of the situations he's in, but certainly, with a gun pointed at me, I would probably act similarly. Having said that, I hope that I would be a bit more responsible and realistic about some of the decisions he makes.
What happened when you were 10 years old?
I started acting and making money. I was showing up to work on time, trying to balance school, and when you are a kid you should probably just be a kid.
What did you think after your first job?
I thought, 'Well, this is easy! I am great at this!' That was the foolishness of a 10-year-old. It was some small sort of educational film for some college.
What do you think about the parallels to Breaking Bad? It's another situation where the right guy ends up doing the wrong thing?
Yeah, you know there's some criticism and some fatigue I think with the anti-hero premise and concept. For me, I've only seen the first season of Breaking Bad and of course liked it a lot, but I haven't gone all the way through that show and so I'm less fatigued with it than perhaps somebody else. I don't think that it's terrible to go into a premise or concept that is ultra-relatable, that being a "normal family" in which there are money problems and they are trying to grab their piece of the American dream and are finding themselves surrendering to their temptations to cut the corner a little bit. I certainly have looked to take the easy way plenty of times in my life and I think that that's something that people can relate to and live through vicariously because hopefully you see yourself in some manner in this family.
How do you deal with your celebrity?
I am fortunate that when I do get stopped, it's because someone recognises me as an actor from something that they like, as opposed to them stopping me because I am a celebrity. With celebrities, I feel it's almost like you see an animal that has escaped from a zoo and they're walking down the street and people say, "Look at that!" [he laughs] And it creates a really uncomfortable thing for that celebrity. I have some friends that are very, very famous and they can't leave their cage at the zoo because they are going to create a scene.
What does money mean to you?
I'll give you the short answer. I guess it's a means to provide your family, if you've got one, or a means to provide for yourself, if you don't. You have to eat, you have to have shelter. As far as it being something that can be an avenue towards some pleasure like attaining creature comforts or taking you to places that are interesting to travel to, it's fun for that. It can also be destructive if it's not appreciated. But I feel like I've been through enough ups and downs in this business that I'm very appreciative of the moments of employment and compensation.
How do you feel about where you are in your career?
I'm really, really proud that I'm this far along into my career and that Ozark is the thing that was the biggest challenge and the thing I'm most proud of and has demanded that I use everything that I've learned. I'm really, really thankful that I was given the trust and the responsibility to do that.
Are you a good liar?
I do think I'm pretty good at lying. That's my job. And I've become a little bit more cynical than I've been in the past about that, about lying, about acting. I think my personal goal is to be less and less full of shit as I get older. And trying not to lie.
• Season two of Ozark is streaming now on Netflix.