Jordana Spiro Talks Pressure-Filled ‘Ozark’ Season 2 and Directorial Debut (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Wonderwall
Rachel Garrison's in a bit of a jam, but that's where the fun is for Ozark star Jordana Spiro.
The 40-year-old actress reprises her role as the Blue Cat Lodge owner -- and Marty Byrd's (Jason Bateman) reluctant business partner -- in season two of the Netflix drama, where things will only get more complicated. Fans last saw Rachel skipping town in season one, with a bunch of the money Marty had laundered for the Mexican cartel. This will surely prove to be one heck of an obstacle for the character to overcome.
"She's on a yacht in St. Tropez," Spiro teases while speaking with ET about where we'll find her character when the show resumes "No, that's what I want!" she laughs. "Let's just say she's been trying to enjoy that money. Things get pretty difficult for her."
Season one of Ozark focused on the Byrd family getting caught between the cartel, local criminals and do-gooders -- or at least that's how it seemed until Rachel made her big move. According to Spiro, season two is about pressure on all sides.
"Season two, [the Byrds] realize that it's not going to cut it, and so they've got to go bigger, and they've got to go political. The walls are closing in on them, on Marty and on the family, and it just becomes like, this deadly speed chess game. They have to strategize with an incredible amount of speed and pressure," she explains.
The stakes may be raised for the characters, but that doesn't necessarily mean the same is happening for the actors on set. In fact, Spiro says she and the cast couldn't be having more of a blast. "It's so fun to be part of a show that you're also a fan of," she shares. "Jason and our showrunner, Chris Mundy, does a really beautiful job of making it feel like a family environment... but not like the Byrd family. Like a normal family," Spiro cracks. "Even though the crew jokes around and calls the show Oze-dark, it is actually a really fun and silly place to be."
It's that environment that has Spiro hoping the Netflix series will be renewed for a third season, so she can follow Bateman into the director's chair. "I would absolutely love to. It's so exciting what they do with the show, and how they have envisioned it. For me, it would be such an honor to be able to work on that side of the show as well," says Spiro, who made her directorial debut with her film, Night Comes On, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
The feature was a "nerve-wracking, but joyful" 10 years in the making for Spiro. The rough idea for the movie was part of her application to Columbia Film School, where she earned an MFA in 2015 while acting on My Boys and The Mob Doctor.
Night Comes On tells the story of a young black queer woman, Angel (Dominique Fishback), who is forced to face her traumatic past when she's released from juvenile detention just before her 18th birthday. The experiences Angel and her little sister, Abby (Tatum Marilyn Hall), face in the Foster System is admittedly different from the way Spiro grew up with her family in New York City, but that didn't stop her from finding the story's value.
Spiro co-wrote the script with Angelica Nwandu, and tells ET that it was important to her to bring these marginalized stories to the foreground. "I volunteered for many years in the Foster System, and I got to see firsthand how broken the system is, how difficult it is, for these young people to age out of the system, and how very tied their hands are when they're trying to move forward in their life. [I saw] how stigmatized they are [and] just how enormous the challenge is for them," Spiro says. "I wanted to bring some attention to that, and I also wanted to point out the universality of this story, that at the end of the day, it's really about a person who is trying to find their place in the world, which is something that we can all identify with."
The theme of sisterhood is also present throughout the film, portrayed perfectly by Fishback and Hall, the latter of whom won the role after around 1,000 other little girls auditioned for the part. "We needed a kid who could have this agility to switch between this kind of awesome swagger and charisma and sarcasm to really open and emotional vulnerability, and she could do that. She's a force in a child's body," Spiro praises Hall, noting that Fishback pretty much had the role after Spiro saw her perform in a one-woman show and was "blown away by her talent."
"For me, when I was making the film, I have three sisters myself, and it felt very much like I was pulling from my own relationship," Spiro reveals. "I think that at the end of the day, we all need somebody who believes in us unconditionally, and often times, that is a sibling. So it was exciting to me to be able to express that power that comes with human connection, with unconditional love."
The actress couldn't be more proud of the final product, which has been positively received by critics, winning the Sundance Next Innovator Prize. "It was my first time directing a feature... and I just wanted to give all of my focus and attention to directing and making sure that I was solid there," Spiro says. "I felt very fortunate in that I had such a wonderful team around me, that were so supportive and really wanted to see the film come out in its best light and I think together, we all did that."
"I feel like I made the movie I wanted to make, which, when there are a thousand compromises along the way, it's a really deeply satisfying feeling, to know that what you ended up with is actually what you wanted to say," she adds.
Ozark is now streaming on Netflix. Night Comes On is available now On Demand. The DVD releases on Sept. 4