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Ozark's cast and crew are heading back to work soon, with the popular Netflix series gearing up to begin filming on its final season. Set to take place across 14 episodes that will premiere in two parts, Ozark's fourth season will feature a few changes from the norm thanks to the ongoing pandemic. For instance, star and EP Jason Bateman has decided to step back from directing any episodes for the first time. At least for now.
Jason Bateman had planned to direct the first two episodes, which he has traditionally done during Ozark’s first three seasons. Due to restrictions related to filming in a post-COVID world, Bateman made the choice to step away from his important behind-the-scenes role. The actor/director/producer explained his understandable decision to IndieWire, saying:
As normal, I was going to do the first two episodes, but as we were looking through the protocols, the guidelines, all the complications with COVID, [and] the producer side of me made me think it’s just not responsible to have one of the actors direct the first two, given that we’re still going to be getting our perimeter safe. Because if one of the actors gets sick, we all have to go home for weeks. If one of the crew members gets sick — while I’m making sure their salary is protected while they’re in quarantine — we can hire a replacement. So it just didn’t seem smart for me to [direct] the first two [episodes].
As it stands, Ozark will begin filming its final season on November 9, a date that is still a ways into the future. It's possible that Jason Bateman’s realization will help to secure both his status in front of the camera as well as the show's ongoing status in the case of someone being positively diagnosed with COVID. The Netflix thriller is certainly one of many shows trying to navigate the reality of filming safely.
It does not sound as though “latex mannequins” will be par for the course when Ozark returns, though there may very well be some fake corpses being utilized. That being said, the industry is continuing to figure out how to move forward. Blue Bloods has considered utilizing a robot to zap COVID-19, while others have used masks and pod production techniques, among other methods. For Jason Bateman, the only way to move forward with Ozark was to personally take a step back to limit his role.
In the end, the actor decided to stick to just acting for Ozark’s final season. At least, for now. Season 4 has not even begun filming Wendy and Marty’s “reckoning” yet, so Ozark is obviously far from shooting its final episodes. Jason Bateman offered more insight about his choice to focus on acting in the series’ closing installments, saying:
As an actor, you just sit in your trailer until they’re ready for you, then you come on out, say your words, and go back to your trailer[.] As a director, you’re out there all the time: in pre-production, on location scouts, in production meetings, there are so many more opportunities to get infected. And, obviously, Atlanta is just raging with the virus right now.
To sum up some of what Jason Bateman is articulating, an actor is a lot more isolated on the set than a director and has less of a chance of being exposed than someone who is constantly out and about and in contact with everyone else. Therefore, Bateman could not run the risk of pulling double duty and exposing one of his Ozark co-stars or crew members coming down with COVID, nor forcing production to only film scenes that didn't feature his character Marty.
It is to his considerable credit that Jason Bateman is passing on those duties for a thoughtful and selfless reason. Now that directing off of his plate for Ozark’s final season, he can focus on how to bring to life Marty handling the fallout of last season’s shocking ending. If Ozark can begin filming by November 9, I can only hope that Season 4 will arrive during 2021.
That is just wishful thinking, though. For now, check out Ozark’s first three seasons streaming now on Netflix, where you can find many more 2020 arrivals coming soon. Season 4A does not have a release date announced yet, so stay tuned. While you wait for the first half of Season 4 to arrive, anticipate this fall’s premieres.