Fresh off a Tony-nom­i­nated Broad­way run in The Lit­tle Foxes, for­mi­da­ble tal­ent (and for­mer North­west­ern un­der­grad) LAURA LIN­NEY makes a thrilling re­turn to TV in the new Net­flix drama Ozark.

Michigan Avenue - - CONTENTS - by J.P. AN­DER­SON pho­tog­ra­phy by JIM WRIGHT

Fresh off a Tony-nom­i­nated Broad­way run in The Lit­tle Foxes, for­mi­da­ble tal­ent (and for­mer North­west­ern un­der­grad) Laura Lin­ney makes a thrilling re­turn to TV in the new

Net­flix drama Ozark.

With four Em­mys, four Tony nods, and three Academy Award nom­i­na­tions for projects rang­ing from Tales of the City to The Big C and John Adams, Laura Lin­ney is one of the most ac­claimed ac­tresses of her gen­er­a­tion. The New York na­tive and Juil­liard grad still pushes her­self like few oth­ers in the business—as in her just-wrapped turn in Lil­lian Hell­man’s stage clas­sic The Lit­tle Foxes, where she and costar Cyn­thia Nixon drew rap­tur­ous re­views for swap­ping lead­ing roles each night. Now it’s back to TV for drama of a dif­fer­ent sort: the just-re­leased Net­flix orig­i­nal se­ries Ozark, where the 53-year-old costars with se­ries cre­ator Ja­son Bate­man as a hus­band and wife on the run from a drug car­tel. As Lin­ney—who has con­sid­ered Chicago a sec­ond home since mar­ry­ing Hins­dale na­tive Marc Schauer in 2009—pre­pared for the se­ries pre­miere, she chat­ted with Michi­gan Av­enue about the fun of work­ing with Bate­man, her proud­est ca­reer mo­ment, and what thrills her about the Windy City. You’re in the home stretch of The Lit­tle Foxes. How does it feel to be do­ing your last few shows? I’m a lit­tle in de­nial about it—if I think about it too much, I get very, very sad. It’s been just a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s been hard, and it’s been chal­leng­ing, and it’s been de­mand­ing and fright­en­ing, but it’s one of those full-on ex­pe­ri­ences that you don’t get very of­ten. So I’m go­ing to miss it ter­ri­bly; I’m go­ing to miss ev­ery­one in­volved. And next up is Ozark—a very dif­fer­ent kind of role. What drew you to it? It was all about Ja­son Bate­man. I’ve known him over the years, but as an ac­quain­tance. I’ve al­ways liked him. I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by his tal­ent and how he lives his life, and just sort of all things Bate­man. [laughs] So when he asked me to do this, I wasn’t look­ing to do tele­vi­sion, but I wanted to work with him. And be­cause this is re­ally so much his project, and he’s so ded­i­cated to it and so in­vested in it, I thought that would be a good way to spend my time. It’s not the most ob­vi­ous on­screen pair­ing—you’re known for your dra­matic ex­per­tise and he’s a com­edy pro. What was it like to join forces? It was no sur­prise to me that he’s such a great dra­matic ac­tor, which he re­ally is. If you are that grounded of a comic—if your com­edy comes so much from sit­u­a­tion, and its sort of in­te­rior tim­ing—there’s a lot there. We had a great time. I find that most comics are more se­ri­ous, and most se­ri­ous ac­tors are more comic. There’s a sort of un­der­tow of the other that we have—the op­po­site un­der­tow. What ex­cites you about the project? It has its own sort of tone. There’s been a lot of com­par­i­son to Break­ing Bad, which is such a fan­tas­tic show, but it re­ally does have its own tone. It’s mys­te­ri­ous and it’s dark, and it’s murky. I hope peo­ple like it as much as I do. Net­flix also just an­nounced the devel­op­ment of a re­vival of Tales of the City. That was such a big break for you early on, and so many peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about it. How do you feel about reen­ter­ing that world? It’s go­ing to be won­der­ful, and I’m very very cu­ri­ous to see what they all come up with. And you know it’s not of­fi­cial of­fi­cial; we’ll see if it makes it to the next phase. I hope so. I told a friend yes­ter­day that I was in­ter­view­ing you, and he said, “She will al­ways be Mary Ann to me.” Oh, I just love it when peo­ple say that. How does it feel know­ing that role has had such an im­pact on peo­ple? Tales is, with its enor­mous heart and its hu­mor and its sort of mag­i­cal qual­ity, a po­lit­i­cally im­por­tant piece of en­ter­tain­ment. It was nec­es­sary at the time; it’s still nec­es­sary, I feel. It’s one of those pieces of en­ter­tain­ment that helped our cul­ture, and means a lot to a lot of peo­ple. I’m al­ways so proud when any­body men­tions it. My son’s mid­dle name is Ar­mis­tead for a rea­son! You’ve made in­cred­i­bly smart choices in your ca­reer. What do you look for in a project? Well, thank you. I try. There are al­ways things that don’t work. The things that

have turned out re­ally well, you have such lit­tle con­trol over it that some of it is sniff­ing out just to see if the right el­e­ments are in­volved. Is there po­ten­tial for some­thing good hap­pen­ing? Some­times there’s no rea­son for it to be good, and it just turns out [that way]. A lot of it is script. What’s the po­ten­tial of the story? Is it actable? Be­cause a lot of things are not actable. I’ve said this a lot—you get the scripts and they’re not writ­ten to be acted, they’re not writ­ten to be turned into a piece of en­ter­tain­ment or a piece of art. They’re meant to be green­lit. They’re not writ­ten think­ing about the ac­tual per­for­mance as­pect or the pro­duc­tion side of it. So I re­ally look to see what’s there, and I can al­ways tell when I’m read­ing a script if my ac­tor brain is turned on, if I start work­ing on a project be­fore I fin­ish read­ing the script—if I can’t help my­self, then I know I have to pay at­ten­tion to it. And then of course the peo­ple in­volved, be­cause even if you have a great script and then you have peo­ple who you don’t see eye to eye [with] or you’re just not go­ing to get along, that’s just not fun any­more at my age! You’re one of the few ac­tors who have moved very flu­idly be­tween tele­vi­sion, film, and stage. Which is your great­est pas­sion? It used to al­ways be stage, be­cause I grew up in the the­ater and I stud­ied the the­ater, and film and tele­vi­sion were the big sur­prise for me. But the more I do film and tele­vi­sion, the more I en­joy it, be­cause they are very sep­a­rate—your prepa­ra­tion is dif­fer­ent and the ex­e­cu­tion is dif­fer­ent. If I was forced to choose— and I’m very glad I don’t have to—it would be stage, just be­cause I’ve been do­ing it the long­est, and it’s ul­ti­mately where I’m the most com­fort­able. What’s been the proud­est mo­ment of your ca­reer so far? Get­ting into Juil­liard. More than any­thing, that was the most im­por­tant thing, as op­posed to any job. I could point to five or six jobs that were im­por­tant and I grew and I was rec­og­nized for the work and all of that. But re­ally, at the end of the day, the most im­por­tant thing that has hap­pened to me was get­ting into Juil­liard. You’ve main­tained a close con­nec­tion to Juil­liard. I gave a com­mence­ment speech a few years ago, and then I was asked to join the board of the school. So I’m a trus­tee there, and I try to stick my head in the drama depart­ment as much as I can when­ever I have the time. I love be­ing in­volved there. I love the fac­ulty. I love the stu­dents. It’s a place where my con­cen­tra­tion sort of works on a dif­fer­ent level. And it’s an ex­cel­lent re­minder for me about the core of our work and why we do it. Let’s talk about your con­nec­tion to Chicago. I went to North­west­ern for my fresh­man year, and I liked the school a lot, but it ul­ti­mately wasn’t the place for me. And I didn’t re­ally get into Chicago, into the city, a whole lot. So I didn’t re­ally get to know it. And then I met my hus­band, who grew up in Hins­dale, and his fam­ily. His sis­ter now lives in Oak Park, and his par­ents are right in the city next to the lake. Now I go there quite of­ten. I’m ac­tu­ally headed there next week. And I love it. It’s just a great city. So I love that I have a sort of sec­ond home in an­other city. Hav­ing grown up in New York and be­ing so New York-cen­tric, to now have a solid con­nec­tion to an­other Amer­i­can city the way that I do to Chicago is just fun. I love the ar­chi­tec­ture, I love Mil­len­nium Park—i love the size of Chicago. Ev­ery­thing’s big: The weather is big, the build­ings, the streets, the lake. It’s just big, and it’s bold, and it’s solid. Those build­ings—the huge build­ings that take up blocks of space—it sort of rep­re­sents an abun­dance of this Amer­i­can en­ergy that I re­ally love, while at the same time feel­ing in­ti­mate. And be­cause of the lake, and the lake ef­fect, there’s al­ways a sense of cir­cu­la­tion go­ing on there. Whether it’s the wind or just the move­ment of wa­ter back and forth, it’s con­stantly per­co­lat­ing. Are there any par­tic­u­lar places that you and your fam­ily love to go? Al’s Beef and John­nie’s in Oak Park. Both clas­sics. That’s the first [thing] that is at­tended to when­ever we get into Chicago. My hus­band in­sists on that be­ing the first meal. Are you an Ital­ian beef per­son or more of a hot dog per­son? I’m a full-on op­por­tu­nity per­son. I will do it all. But it’s re­ally good. And the piz­zas are amaz­ing. Be­ing a New Yorker, New York pizza is New York pizza.

But Chicago pizza is carv­ing out a big place in my heart at the mo­ment, I must say. Ob­vi­ously Chicago’s the­ater scene is very ro­bust as well. Can you imag­ine your­self tak­ing the stage here? Oh, sure. Some of the best the­ater in the coun­try is in Chicago, with the Good­man and Step­pen­wolf, and all the young com­pa­nies like the Hyp­ocrites. There’s a lot of ex­cit­ing work hap­pen­ing there, and the play­wrights that are there. So ab­so­lutely. You have a 3-year-old, Ben­nett. What’s the most sur­pris­ing thing you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced with moth­er­hood? I think it was just how ready for it I was. You know, I had a child very late in life. It was some­thing I didn’t think was go­ing to hap­pen and then when it did, there’s an ex­treme sense of grat­i­tude that comes with that—when it al­most passes you by and then doesn’t. So I have loved ev­ery sec­ond of it and con­tinue to, and I’m con­stantly amazed and de­lighted and chal­lenged by all of it—even in the mo­ments that peo­ple com­plain about. When Ben­nett was an in­fant and I was up with him at 4:30 in the morn­ing and sleep-de­prived and all of that, I can re­mem­ber sit­ting with him and just hav­ing this over­whelm­ing sense of, I’ve wanted to be right here for 20 years, and all of a sud­den here I am. The ben­e­fit of be­ing an older par­ent is ev­ery­one sort of says, ‘Oh, your life is go­ing to change,’ and I was very ready for my life to change. And they’re just fun—or at least I find be­ing around my child a lot of fun. And it’s chal­leng­ing. You have the mo­ments where you think, ‘How do I deal with this? How in the world do I deal with a tod­dler who doesn’t want to do what I want him to do?’ You know, how do you help a hu­man be­ing nav­i­gate through the mine­field of emo­tions when they’re first re­ally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing them, with­out be­ing too over­bear­ing? What’s the bal­ance? What’s the right level of in­volve­ment as far as help­ing some­one dis­cover all that and then learn­ing how to nav­i­gate them­selves through it? [It’s] big, im­por­tant stuff, but I’m hav­ing a great time. With all the ac­claim you’ve re­ceived over the years, what do you feel is left for you? What are your goals? My think­ing is not as spe­cific as that. I wish it was. It would make a lot of peo­ple very happy if I could point to things and say, ‘I want to do that!’ I just want to be bet­ter at what I do, and I want to keep learn­ing. And I want to be stretched and do things that scare me a lit­tle bit, and ex­pe­ri­ence the work that all these won­der­ful play­wrights over the decades and cen­turies have done. You just want to con­trib­ute. The arts are im­por­tant, and it’s wor­thy of our time to cham­pion [them]. I just feel like there’s so much more to dis­cover. Are there any tal­ents out there that you re­ally ad­mire and could see col­lab­o­rat­ing with? There are tons and tons. I hope at one point I get to work with Mag­gie Smith in some sort of ca­pac­ity. Or Judi Dench. If you weren’t an ac­tor, what do you think you’d be do­ing? God only knows. I have no idea. I hope I’d be okay [laughs], but I re­ally don’t know if I would be. I am just so grate­ful I am right where I should be. And I know a lot of peo­ple never get to that place, so I cer­tainly don’t take that for granted, ever. .


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