The Colors of Cade: Actor Trevor Long on the layered evil in Netflix's Ozark and Season 2's darkness
The first season of Bill Dubuque's and Mark Williams's crime drama, 'Ozark' proved to be a hit with critics, as well as audiences. The web series streams on Netflix and stars Jason Bateman as financial planner Marty Byrde, who suddenly has to relocate his family from the Chicago suburb of Naperville to a summer resort community in the Missouri Ozarks after a money laundering scheme goes horribly wrong. While he works to repay his debts to a ruthless Mexican drug lord, Marty finds himself in the crosshairs of a local one in Jacob Snell (Peter Mullan).
As he desperately attempts to repay his benefactors so they don't kill his whole family, Marty finds himself besieged by other troubles as well. For one, 19-year-old Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) seems hellbent in siphoning away some of the cartel's money for her own family. However, as it turns out, Ruth is being controlled by her mysterious and terrifying father, Cade (Trevor Long).
While Cade features only momentarily in season 1, his appearances inspire dread in the otherwise steadfast Ruth, begging the question, 'How bad does he have to be to frighten one of the strongest characters on the show?' It's also unclear why Cade is in prison or when he'll be released — though there are hints to suggest it may be soon — but who better to answer those questions than Long himself?
Meaww caught up with the actor and picked his brain about the upcoming second season of 'Ozark,' which is set to premiere on Netflix on August 27, as well as other projects he currently has in the works.
'Ozark' has been described as Breaking Bad-like. Would you agree with this comparison?
Well on a very small level, yes, it is. The only comparison I see is having is a family man who gets involved with very bad things in order to get his family out of danger. But Marty Byrde starts out doing bad things from the get-go and wants to end them, whereas Walter starts out as a school teacher who ends up getting involved with bad things and over time he gets more and more into it and wants to continue. In the end, I feel they are very different shows – pace, mood, acting… all of it. But hey, not bad company to be in that category of comparison.
Were you immediately sold on the project when it was pitched?
I was immediately attracted to it before even reading a script for two reasons. One, Chris Mundy was and is the showrunner, and I had worked with him years ago for a show on AMC called 'Low Winter Sun'. He’s simply fantastic. Secondly, I have always had a dream to be on a Netflix show. Somehow, I just knew I would find a home there. Well, there are many reasons really – like great writing, incredible talent, and did I mention great writing?
Are there any interesting insights you can reveal about Cade?
I can say that Cade really surprised me in season two. His many layers and colors really jumped out in the writing. He is a fully fleshed out human being with many flaws, desires, needs, pain, etc... he has been a great joy to inhabit.
Give us a sneak peek behind the scenes of Ozark...
I grew very close to Julia Garner and Charlie Tahan. We did everything together off and on set. Off set, we were really like Langmores. Very dysfunctional, hilarious, but of course, much nicer! It became my second family.
In what direction is Cade heading in season 2?
I can say Cade is very determined to control his daughter Ruth, especially in any and all dealings with Marty Byrde. He clearly has a mission to maintain her loyalty and take care of Marty Byrde and obtain his wealth, no matter what. I think we will definitely see some more color with Cade. He can be quite surprising and yes, even loving toward Ruth. Should be fun to see.
Any big surprises in store for audiences?
I’m hearing that this season is even darker than season one. So that might raise some eyebrows.
Tell us a little bit more about your upcoming horror film, 'Seeds.' What was it like working under your brother?
'Seeds' is said to be a disturbing film by those who see it. So, I think that’s pretty good, because it goes with what we were aiming for. It definitely confronts how we all have strong inner desires and temptations, and how they might push us into territory that moves beyond our moral compass. I enjoyed working with my brother a lot.
Of course, I had doubts about it, because it can always go wrong and possibly hurt the relationship, but thankfully it was quite the opposite. That was very rewarding. We both grew a lot together. There will always be some level of creative differences, but they were never actually a problem – more like an exciting exploration where dialogue would develop between us and creative insights would move us through it. He’s the older brother and director, so in the end, I deferred to him, but never without dialogue and in-depth discussions.
You have a background in the theater. How would you say that helped prepare you?
Theater is king. I feel if one has put themselves out there on the stage over and over, they can face anything as an actor. The stage can be terrifying. There is no going back. No second take. I find most really solid actors came from the stage. It just puts the mystery of acting fully in their bodies, almost like it’s implanted in the cellular memory of your body. Theater gave me the training and the ability to execute a truthful performance.
What would you say were the major differences from working on a play and a TV series or a movie?
First, let me say that acting is acting. Whether it’s in front of a camera or in front of hundreds of people, it’s got to be real and truthful. That said, I love acting on TV. It’s fast and you don’t have time to overthink. The lack of rehearsals has its drawbacks, but the positive for me far outweighs them. I also love the intimacy about it. The nakedness that you feel. That camera is right up in your face and there is no hiding. No funny voices or props to grab on to. It’s all in the eyes and energy of that person you are living. I also love the relaxed feeling I have on set and even while performing. It feels more like play to me, less forced and pushed. But hey, that’s only my experience.
Is there any role in your career that you’ve played so far that you're particularly proud of?
I’m proud of a couple of roles. I’m actually really proud of what happened with Cade in 'Ozark', but I haven’t seen the new season yet, so that might change. The hardest thing about playing Cade is that he is vastly different than I am on so many levels, yet we both share a lot of charm.
One of my proudest moments, however, was a role I did in theater (my first big part in NYC) in a play called 'In Arabia We’d All Be Kings'. It was produced by Labyrinth Theater Company, of which I was a member of, and directed by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. I tried my usual acting tricks and relied on charm, but Phil crushed them immediately. He got me to drop all that shit and really live this guy.
The character was a heroin addict and I thought I could just show it and act it. Really, I was just scared. Phil would scream, “No, stop playing at it. Stop pretending you are someone else. This is YOU wanting to get high. This is YOU desperate on a rainy Tuesday night in a bar at 3am with no money. This is YOU whose acting career showed promise but fell apart by heavy partying and drugs. This is YOU who will go wherever it is you go at the end of the night and kill yourself if you don’t get the one thing you want and need – to get high!” It floored me, and I learned how to really be an actor from that experience with Phil.
How do prepare yourself for these wide-ranging roles?
I rely fully on the author’s words...from there the imagination is ignited. When preparing for a role, it is often times a slow process and it puts me in a meditative state in a way. The consciousness changes and mixes with this other person. This may sound ethereal or hokey, but it's rather simple and direct. Once that person is in me and me in him, it’s very easy to slip in and out. In fact, I find it absolutely necessary. Then it’s play time. I must be having fun like I did as a child or I know it’s no good. Some characters, however, require more staying in it, but even then, it must be fun and effortless.
Any upcoming projects that you would like to tell us about?
Our film 'Seeds' is hitting the film festival circuit right now. It is having its international premiere at London’s FrightFest. Keep an eye out for it. Other than that, I’m free as a bird.