One of the most original and authentic characters on television is Ozark’s Ruth Langmore, played Julia Garner. Season 2 ended with Ruth’s father dead in the road, opening up a new chapter for her character to delve into. While season 3 does not have an official release date yet, it is due to drop on Netflix before the end of the year.
In our interview, we discussed the aftermath of season 2, what it means for season 3, her first Emmy nomination, and Julia’s process for creating the one and only, Ruth Langmore.
Awards Daily: How did you come to Ozark?
Julia Garner: I had already been acting for 9 years and I only wanted to do movies. But things switched when TV started to get so good. I got the script for the first episode of Ozark. Ruth didn’t appear in the first episode, but there was a mock scene. I thought the script was amazing and felt like I had to have this part. I knew I wouldn’t even be able to watch the show unless I got the part. Like I would die if I didn’t get it. (Laughs).
So, I was obsessing over the audition, and since Ruth is from Missouri, I showed up with an accent. Which I just did on my own. I get to the audition and the other people in this New York City casting office are saying the lines with no accent at all. I thought, oh my god, I memorized all my lines in the accent and I can’t do it any other way, and I’m not going to get this job because I’m talking in this weird Missouri accent and everybody else is talking normally! (Laughs).
A week later I found out I got the job and then on the set, the other actors playing the Langmores followed my accent. So, the Langmore accent was sort of created by accident.
AD: I I’ve long felt that the accent is is a huge key to the part because that authenticity is essential to believing the characters.
JG: It’s also great in terms of the story line and showing the different class system between the Byrdes and the Langmores. If you think about it, Wyatt’s the only one who doesn’t have an accent. But of the Langmores, Wyatt’s the least like a Langmore. Ruth is a real Langmore. Even though she really doesn’t want to be. Sometimes you don’t want to be who you are. I think that’s Ruth.
AD: While playing Ruth, do you think that were it not for an accident of birth, she would have been a completely different person? She’s so incredibly smart. I feel like the sadness of what could have been runs throughout your performance.
JG: You’re absolutely right. I think she really started thinking about what could have been when Marty came into the picture. She noticed the rich people in her town and would think “I don’t wanna be like them. They’re freakin’ snooty anyway.” Marty, on the other hand, is someone who in her eyes is actually good to her because he respected her, he listened to her, he saw her for what she was. That she was very intelligent and probably almost as quick as he is. I think he has represent for Ruth.
Ruth never had a female figure. Ruth knows more how to be with men. She knows how to be around a man more than a woman. She didn’t grow up with women. She didn’t grow up with a mother. Even though she knows how to be around men, she wasn’t around good men. Marty is the first strong male adult figure in her life.
AD: Plus, her and Marty are both hustlers. Which also connects them.
JG: 100 percent. I think they have a very similar brain. They have that connection to the point where they’ll save each other’s lives. It’s a bizarre connection they have. They deal with life and death together every day.
AD: With the assumed death of Cade at the end of season 2, Ruth loses the patriarch of her family. I would think that might strengthen her relationship with Marty.
JG: Yes. I think the show is about identity. Everybody’s having their own little identity crisis. More so Ruth, this season, you’ll see it is her struggling with whether she is a Byrde or a Langmore. That’s really been her struggle for the past two seasons. In season 2 she was losing her sense of self because her dad was back in the picture. And she was living with the lie that she killed her uncle. She has to to get up every morning and live with that and go to sleep with it like nothing happened. She wants to be something that she’s not, and she’s not admitting it to herself. I can’t give too much away about season 3, but it should be interesting.
AD: Cade always recognized that Ruth was the smartest member this family. He tried to control the family by controlling her. He recognized the same things in Ruth that Marty does but he was claustrophobic for her. I’m fascinated to see what Ruth will be like this year without the Cade dynamic.
JG: I think one hand she feels like it’s kind of like she can breathe again. She’s upset that her father died but, she’s in work mode now. You know when you have a death in the family and you’re kind of on auto pilot in a way? Ruth never allows her pain to sink in. It’s all going to catch up with her later.
AD: How excited are you about your first Emmy nomination?
JG: When I was a little girl, before I even knew that I wanted to act, I’d watch the Oscars and the Emmys, and it was so glamorous. I love this art. I love acting. Everybody who’s going to be at the Emmys I respect so much. Even to be in the same room as them is such a thrill, let alone the nomination. I still can’t wrap my head around it.
AD: I let out a cheer when I heard your name called. I grew up around people like Ruth and her family. The attention to detail you bring to the role is just fabulous.
JG: That’s the key. There’s a lot of good acting, but great acting I feel like always comes down to how much detail you put in the character. I don’t even look at it like a character. I’m looking at it as if I’m meeting a new person. You’re creating a person, and people are detailed. It could be as simple as “I don’t like pistachio ice cream, but I like strawberry.” It can be anything.
Another interesting thing about detail is if you have an emotional scene and you’re thinking about something bad, you don’t think about the broad thing that’s upsetting the character, you think about something that’s very specific to them. That triggers you even more.
AD: You are with such a great group of actors, writers, and crew too.
JG: Jason Bateman and Chris Mundy, the show runner, they’re so amazing. I told Chris I never want to do a show without you. (Laughs). He’s the best show runner of all time. And Jason, I told Jason if you do a movie put me as even a featured extra and I will do it, I love you so much.
AD: I love how on the show you can see you and Jason’s characters thinking their way through things even when they are silent. You can practically see them scrambling inside their heads for the best way out of any predicament.
JG: A lot of that has to do with the writing, because they’re so good at planning out what the next scene is going to be that you’re kind of adding it up in a way that it helps to motivates you for what’s ahead. Chris and Jason are just so smart. And Laura Linney…she’s unbelievable. I’ll be in the middle of a scene with her, and she’s so brilliant…I just feel so lucky to work with people that I can learn from. The Emmy nomination is great. I’m so happy with it, but I already feel like I’ve won just by learning from these people. It’s unbelievable.