Laura Linney says goodbye to ‘Ozark’ and hello to the Walk of Fame

On July 25, Laura Linney will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s exactly the kind of high-profile status symbol Wendy Byrde could pull off to polish her place among Tinseltown’s most successful and respected, except the actor earned the honor precisely for playing the master manipulator in “Ozark” (and dozens of others). of other unforgettable roles). so convincingly. The recognition coincides with the end of the acclaimed Netflix series, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe and three Emmy Awards for the last season. After decades of showcasing the strength of cute characters and the tenderness of the strong, earning a star immortalizes Linney’s complexity, versatility, and feverish intelligence.

Ever since Ivan Reitman’s “Dave,” in which she played the small but pivotal role of a government aide whose relationship with the president catalyzes the need for the title character to temporarily replace him, she injects the character with a desperate and sympathetic attitude. sincerity that is palpable in just a few short minutes of screen time. Bigger roles came quickly, as a quick-thinking ex-CIA agent in “Congo” and a ruthless prosecutor who unknowingly plays into the hands of Edward Norton’s sociopathic killer in “Primal Fear.”

But the ones that best utilized Linney’s extensive skill set, and began to define her on-screen identity, were the ones where her character’s understanding of normality was either too vague or too narrow. Playing Hannah Gill, the actress who pretends to love Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank on “The Truman Show,” his disdain, and even exasperation, at this responsibility only accelerates his suspicions that the world around him is meticulously scripted, especially when it delivers repetitive advertising more convincingly than words of comfort.

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Jason Bateman, Sofia Hublitz and Laura Lnney play the Byrde family in Netflix’s “Ozark.”
Courtesy of Netflix

Working through her own character’s lack of control in “You Can Count On Me” two years later, Linney earned her first Academy Award nomination, transforming the minutiae of a single mother’s messy life into a riveting study of the ripples, large and small, that reverberate through childhood trauma. As an ensemble performer, she expanded her repertoire and brought a remarkable dimension, alternately harrowing and maddening, to such characters as lovesick Sarah in “Love Actually”; a grieving mother supporting her husband, Lady Macbeth-esque, in “Mystic River”; and an American researcher who demystifies sexual taboos in “Kinsey.” At the same time, it felt doubly fitting that she would be Frasier Crane’s latest love interest on the sitcom “Frasier,” both for possessing the same kind of ruthless erudition that Crane’s ex-lover Lilith Sternin had, and for sharing things. in common with Bebe Neuwirth, the actor who played Lilith, a well-established pedigree of stage work.

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To that end, in parallel to her film and television credits, Linney appeared on Broadway in “Hedda Gabler,” along with “The Crucible” and “Time Stands Still,” the latter of which earned her Tony nominations for Lead Actress. He seemed to carry the lived longevity of those roles, the preparation and repetition, into longer runs on television at the time as well, which may explain why he won Emmys for both HBO’s historical miniseries “John Adams” and the Showtime series “The Big C,” which she executive produced and starred in. “I love trying to figure out how to use theater, film or television,” Linney said. Variety in 2020. “Because they are slightly different, all of them. How do you adjust the flame of your performance?” In just about any medium, that flame never faded—a skill recognized by his peers with three Oscar nominations to date (in addition to “You Can Count On Me,” “Kinsey” and “The Wild Ones”), two Golden Globes (and five other nominations), and four Emmy Awards and four more nominations. That includes three of her for “Ozark,” a show that was apparently tailor-made for her.

Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams’ series about an unhappily married couple who moves their family to central Missouri for a money laundering operation built their character arc like a head of poisonous vapor. Initially viewed by the public from the same reductive point of view that Marty (Jason Bateman) perceives as his restless, womanizing wife, Wendy becomes an even more calculating mastermind than her husband: first to the road to success within an organization whose line of succession extends in concentric circles of corpses, then to self-deluded ambitions for legitimacy.

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The late Alan Rickman played love interest Linney’s editor in “Love Actually.”
©Universal/Courtesy Everett Col

Even in a career as successful as hers, Wendy Byrde feels like the apotheosis of the kind of character work she’s done in roles big and small. There’s some amazing growth the character makes by the end of the series, overshadowing Bateman’s constant renegotiations as Marty, both for better and for worse from the Byrdes’ plight. What he sees as an act of survival, she sees his risky politics as self-actualization, a display of skills Wendy was born to use, even when they come at the expense of her husband’s best efforts, their children’s trust, and even that of his brother. life. Her performance is so fierce and compelling, whether she’s manipulating a local politician, outsmarting a ruthless drug lord, or defending the drug treatment center that she says holds the key to the Byrdes’ “doing well.” , which one wonders if Wendy is capable of doing it. more time to be honest. She’s a multi-layered, even multi-acting character, and Linney disappears so completely into Wendy that if I told you the sun was shining, you’d still ask for a nearby window to check.

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Linney also stepped behind the camera and directed an episode of the final season of “Ozark,” an ambition she admitted just two years earlier that she didn’t consider herself ready to do. But it’s clear that her flame is not only in no danger of running out of fuel, she will continue to burn through one challenge after another. “My dad, who was a playwright, always told me, ‘The talent is in the choices,’” Linney said in 2020. “And I think there’s something really true about that: It’s about taking the time to really think through something. and make really specific decisions.”

TIP SHEET
WHAT: Laura Linney receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
WHEN: 11:30 a.m., July 25
WHERE: A6533 Hollywood Blvd.
WEB: walkoffame.com