Celebrity Interview: Madison Thompson Shines on Netflix’s hit Series Ozark

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  1. Tell us a little bit about your character ‘Erin’ and the hit series “Ozark”

Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning show Ozark is about Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a financial advisor who relocates to the Ozarks with his family to pay off a substantial debt to a Mexican drug lord. After 2 seasons of family drama, laundering money and murder, the Byrd family is back at it again in season 3. Six months after season 2 ended, they now have their casino up and running, but Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney) are fighting for control of the family’s destiny.

The writers have introduced some new faces this season, including my character Erin Pierce, who is the daughter of the lawyer for the drug cartel. Erin is dragged from Chicago to the Ozarks for the summer by her mother Helen Pierce (played by the magnificent Janet McTeer). The intention is for some mother-daughter bonding, but it ends where no one expects. Erin also becomes friends with Marty and Wendy’s kids Charlotte and Jonah. The three of them manage to get into some pretty messy situations on the Lake of the Ozarks.

This season is all about complicated family dynamics, as the lines between family and business have never been more blurred for the Byrdes, Helen, and Ruth (Julia Garner). New characters mean new threats. And my character Erin is no exception. She is her mother’s daughter. Very headstrong and not afraid to take charge, she goes for what she wants, even if it is completely disastrous and the wrong choice. At the same time she is also a teenage girl, with insecurities, fears, and ambitions, all while she is trying to define herself in a new town that she knows nothing about.

  1. What was it like working with Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Janet McTeer?

Jason, Laura, and Janet are the absolutely the dream acting team. They seem like the darkest and sometimes most evil people on screen, but in real life they are incredibly kind human beings. Each one of them taught me so much while shooting this season. They were lessons I will use for the rest of my career.

It was amazing to witness someone like Jason be so involved in so many different facets of a show (directing, acting, producing). As someone who is interested in pursuing behind the camera opportunities in the future, I was inspired watching Jason do all of his jobs on such a high level. It showed me how much preparation, research, and experience it takes to get to his level. You have to understand aspect ratios, different angles, finances, tone, editing, and the coordination of all the departments that make up the show from props to sound mixing. Jason, our incredible showrunner Chris Mundy, and many others put a tremendous effort into creating the content and visual story for this show.

Laura is a powerhouse. I have looked up to her for so many years in both her tv/film and theater career. I loved getting to work with her this season and witness, first hand, the evolution of Wendy Byrde. There is a magic in the way she builds Wendy’s arc and persona –  a strong, intelligent woman with so many nuances and flaws all at the same time. Laura is so committed to her work. One of my favorite conversations with her on set was when we were talking about her approach to acting. She explained that she tackles a scene the same way an athlete approaches a game. Once she is shooting a scene, she so focused and stays in the mental headspace of the character even when we have downtime between shots. She is so empowering and hardworking.

Janet is my amazing TV mom! Wow, what an incredible woman, actress, and human being. Janet immediately took me under her wing when we began shooting this season and taught me so much. One of the biggest lessons I learned from Janet was the importance of being a giving scene partner. This goes above and beyond coming prepared with your lines memorized and character choices. Being a giving scene partner means taking off all the external pressures for the other actor in a scene when the camera is on them. Be the eyeline, give them the emotional conviction they need, don’t overpower or distract. I think that Janet plays the most terrifying character on Ozark by far, but in real life she could not be a sweeter person. Clearly, she really is good at her job.

  1. Madison ThompsonWhat was the audition process like for the role of ‘Erin’?

The audition process for Erin was fairly quick. I had taped for a couple of other roles on the show before reading for Erin and had worked with the amazing casting group (Feldstein-Paris Casting) on other projects. I knew the second I read the character that this role was meant for me. I just had this weird feeling. So, I put myself on tape for the role and sent in the submission. There was no callback, no director’s session, no testing – just a straight book off tape. About a week after I auditioned, I got a call from my agent when I was in my AP Physics class. I remember running out of the classroom without saying a word to my teacher to answer the call and sign the deal. Luckily, my teacher was a big fan of the show and was very understanding when I explained after class!

  1. How is it juggling both being a college student and your acting career?

It is a full-time job! When I am not working professionally, I am a Presidential Scholar at the University of Southern California in the BCA program, which means I am pursing a Business Degree in Cinematic Arts. This joint degree program allows me to explore the financial and producing side of the entertainment industry, which has always been a strong interest of mine. I also recently declared a Musical Theater Minor in the Thornton School of Music.

Attending school in Los Angeles makes it a lot easier to balance my academic and work career due to the sheer proximity of my campus to several major studios. It becomes a bit trickier when I have to travel to shoot a show like Ozark, which  films in Atlanta. Luckily, my family lives in Atlanta, so I can stay with them when I work in town.

Overall, juggling college and professional work is by no means easy. It often comes at the sacrifice of social or personal time, but I am happy to make the sacrifice because of my passion for acting and education. I learned how to manage the balance because of my experience with it in high school. My school strongly supported the Arts and I learned to work closely with my teachers and the administration on many occasions during absences to shoot various shows.

In the end, education has always been a very important part of my life and I have always thrived in the classroom setting. Being a student keeps me thinking, on my toes, and genuinely makes me a better actor. 

  1. What is your typical day like during quarantine?

If the past few weeks have taught me anything, it is that I enjoy staying busy. I weirdly love checking off my daily to-do list. Quarantine has just meant that I have had to be a little more creative and self-motivated about creating my own list of projects to pass the time.

On an (ideally productive) typical quarantine day 🙂 my to-do list would include:

  1. Chasing my dogs around the backyard to try and get some fresh air
  2. Using Zoom to attend my microeconomics and business communication classes
  3. Chipping away at my room re-decorating project! I thought that since I’m probably going to be living at home for the next few months, I might as well make it a dream room. Today I will work on organizing my childhood books that I just pulled off my bookshelf, pulling out a few to give to my younger cousins and donating the rest!
  4. Tuning into my friend Makenna’s Zoom Sculpt Yoga Class! I am missing the hot, sweaty rooms of the CorePower Yoga Studio so I am going to try putting a space heater in front of my yoga mat today to see if I can replicate the experience. Wish me luck!
  5. Finishing some black line final touch ups on paitnings for The Foundation for Hospital Art
  6. Baking a new chocolate dessert and featuring it on my little chocolate Instagram account (@choco.lot)

My typical day looks like the above or involves me sitting in bed on my computer all day as I eat girl scout cookies and pet my dog.

  1. Tell us about your involvement with the Foundation for Hospital Art and what the organization stands for:

Working in the entertainment industry can be hard at times because of the self-centered nature of the business. That is why I love to spend my free time volunteering for and sharing the message of The Foundation for Hospital Art (FFHA).

For over 30 years, FFHA has been a preeminent force in warming hospital and shelter environments with colorful paintings, murals and ceiling tiles. Right now, I am finishing final paint touch ups on 24 canvases for 4 murals that will then be shipped to healthcare facilities around the world. I have also used my voice on social media to connect with families in my community so that they can volunteer their time. Especially during this quarantine, people feel so grateful for all that the hospitals and medical personnel are doing for our citizens.

What is great about FFHA is that it gives people the ability to volunteer and make a difference from the safety of their homes. You can social distance and make a social difference! I love supporting this organization because of the wonderful message they spread about the positive effect art has on healing lives. It is something that I have experienced first-hand.

Learn more about their mission and how you can get involved: http://www.hospitalart.org

  1. What is one actor/actress that you would love to work with one day?

For many reasons, I would love to work with Reese Witherspoon. Not only have I enjoyed following her very long-lasting career, but I also have a lot in common with her style of acting and approach to the industry in general.

Just as it is to me, education is very important to Reese. I’m in college now, and I decided to follow that track in tandem with a professional acting career. I’ve read that she attended Stanford for a few years and even after leaving to pursue her professional acting career, she has continued to support the education system. She is an avid reader and huge supporter of books!

I also love the fact that Reese started her own production company and she’s passionate about telling stories about women. That’s something that inspires me and that I would love to do with my own production company, hopefully in the future.

  1. Any projects coming up that you can tell us about?

In addition to the release of Ozark season 3, I have some really exciting upcoming projects (some I can share and some I can’t yet share). What’s interesting is that they are all very different styles! I’ve often said that I love being able to push myself as an actress and create characters and content that lies at opposite sides of the spectrum. One project that will be airing soon is a guest star role on ABC’s American Housewife (a very different type of Housewife than Wendy Byrde!) In addition to American Housewife, I also have some other projects in development that I hope to be able to share more about soon. The best way to find out about them is to follow my

Social Media accounts:

Instagram: @madisonthompson
Twitter: @madisonthompson
Facebook: @madisonithompson

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Images provided by Nathan Johnson