Julia Garner on ‘Ozark’ and her character’s fate


Warning: Major spoilers ahead for the final season of ozark

Julia Garner apologizes for speaking in the third person, but she swears it’s the only way she can tell how she learned of the fate of her character Ruth Langmore in Netflix’s final season. ozark. Ahead of each season of the drama, which examines how Jason Bateman’s mild-mannered financial adviser Marty Byrde began laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel, Garner ponders refocusing. “I know it sounds crazy, but [while meditating] I’m trying to step back completely and become Ruth,” she told TIME. “I’m half asleep, half awake [while doing this] so it’s this subconscious type thing and I ask myself, like Ruth, questions.

One of the questions Garner asked Ruth as she prepared for the show’s fourth and final season was what she was afraid of. “She told me she was scared to death,” Garner says. “Which was very weird because Ruth is never afraid to die. Ruth thinks she can handle anything. Less than a minute after completing this unsettling meditation session, Garner received a phone call from ozark producer Chris Mundy asking if they could talk about the final season. “I said, Will I die? He is like, How did you know? Honestly, I told her, I didn’t know, but Ruth knew she wasn’t going to be an old lady.”

The second half of season 4, which is now streaming, begins with Ruth on a mission to assassinate Javi (Alfonso Herrera), the leader of the unhinged Mexican drug cartel who killed his cousin Wyatt (Charlie Tahan). It ends with Javi’s mother, Camila (Veronica Falcón), shooting Ruth for killing her son. It’s a bittersweet ending for a beloved character who went from petty criminal to Marty’s money laundering protege to legitimate businesswoman.

Making the series a transformative experience for Garner, who also stars in the hit Netflix series Invent Anna. “ozark is not just a page of my book, it is chapters of it,” she said. “It’s not just a job. It’s a part of me.

Before the final season began airing, Garner spoke to TIME about filming his finale. ozark scene, becoming con artist Anna Delvey, and why she thinks the Byrdes will never win.

You filming finished ozark in January. How do you feel now that fans will finally learn of Ruth’s fate?

It’s really bittersweet. From an artistic point of view, I want to end on a positive note because it’s probably the smartest decision. You never want to be the last person to leave the party. Personally, and selfishly, I could shoot this show until I’m 70. I know every actor who promotes his project always says, It was like a family. But it was Actually like a family. [Laughs] Jason [Bateman]Laura [Linney], and everyone on the show is so talented and respects each other artistically and personally. It was a dream. It was such a personal experience. It makes it harder in some ways to be on other sets because I have this kind of ozark somehow standard.

What was the hardest part of saying goodbye to Ruth?

I almost feel like a part of me somehow died. Ruth gave me so much, not only as an actress but also as a person. She gave me a sense of confidence that I didn’t have before. She gave me this. It’s weird because in the middle of filming I have more in common with my character than with myself. I will ask myself, Why do I feel like this? and I’ll think about it and leave, Oh, because my character feels that way. Does that make any sense?

How is that barrier between your true self and the version of you people see on screen less defined when you’re filming?

Yeah, that’s weird. Emotions are contagious. When [Ruth’s cousin] wyatt is dead [in the season 4 part 1 finale], I think part of Ruth is dead. She was physically alive, but her soul is dead. Not to be really depressing, but that was my mindset for a year [while preparing and filming the final season]. It was very depressing to feel like that, but that’s why they’re so amazing on set. Because everyone was so lighthearted and wonderful, it was easier to wake up the next morning knowing you’re surrounded by people who love you.

Can you talk about the filming of the final scene of Ruth?

I felt like I was dying. My death was also the last scene of Ozark. I think the last shot we made was me on the ground. I really think Ruth died when Wyatt died. I think his body was right here. She wasn’t going to voluntarily leave life, but I think she was so dead inside that if given the opportunity to die, she wouldn’t say no. In the end, it is not she who goes towards death, it is death which comes towards her. At the end of the season, she didn’t care about living. She did what she had to do, she killed Javi, and after that mission she was like a ghost.

Ruth loses her life, but the Byrdes seem to have it all. They’ve found a way to go straight while staying bad. Do you think the Byrdes won?

I don’t consider this a victory for the Byrdes, even though they think they are winning. I think they are lying to themselves. They might have won the battle, but they didn’t win the war. When you get your hands dirty, they can never be clean. People aren’t supposed to do things the way they did, you know? I think of the simplicity of an animal: they love, they fight, they make love, they hate. People are like that, but the only difference is that people have money and that makes people less simple, because money is never simple.

On paper, your Invent Anna personage, hustler Anna Delveyand Ruth couldn’t be more different, but do you think these characters have anything in common?

They are both ruthless women. People are very attracted to people, especially women, who have a ruthless attitude towards them. It’s a feeling of confidence, and there’s nothing more appealing than having full ownership of yourself.

Do you think Anna and Ruth would be friends?

I think at first they were judging each other, like, hardcore. Anna is the daughter of such a daughter, but Ruth is not. I think Ruth still yearns to have that female validation and kind of secretly wants to be part of the girls’ club, but she only knows how to talk to men. She’s like a bossy girl on the playground who rules all the boys basically. But then they’d realize they could team up, like, Oh, you like to surprise people? I also like to surprise people. Let’s surprise people together! [Laughs]

Many have wondered if Anna ever felt remorse for what she had done. After spending some time with her in preparation for Invent AnnaWhat do you think?

I see this whole story as if it was a trauma for everyone. I think it’s a trauma for Rachel [Williams]Anna’s lawyer [Todd Spodek], [journalist] Jessica Presser. I also think it’s a trauma for Anna Delvey. So for me, [the question of], Do you have any sympathy for her? It’s black and white. Trauma is trauma, and every person in the world has trauma. It may not seem like a trauma to us, but we are not in that person’s shoes. I play people, I don’t play caricatures, and as soon as you play a caricature, it’s going to be a note and a dimension. I mean Ruth killed her uncles in season 1 [of Ozark] and people forget about it because it was an ongoing series. There was more time for people to forgive this character. You could have said that Ruth was a sociopath, but nobody says that. People don’t have to like the characters I play. I just want them to be open to understanding that person.

Anna saw and shared his opinion on Invent Anna since its inception in February. Did she contact you to talk about the show?

No, I haven’t heard of her personally. I remember when I first met her, she asked me how I was going to play her. I said to him, ‘My job is not to make people love you or hate you.’ At that time, she had no voice at all. I told him, “My job is to get people to understand why you did what you did.” Whether good or bad. I’m not saying what you did and how you did it is a good thing, but I want people to be prepared to wonder how you got to this place and why. It’s going to humanize you because right now people don’t see you as a human and you are. I want to remind people of that. I think that meant a lot to her.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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