Production designer David Bomba, who had never worked on a continuing TV series, initially had reservations before joining “Ozark” in its third season. Now, having also worked on the Netflix drama’s fourth and final installment — whose two parts debuted January 21 and April 29, respectively — he reflects on boarding the series. “I continually pinched myself for the opportunity that I had to work on this show,” he tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above). “But all in all, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked on such a great project, to bring something to it and feel like I was part of [its] success.”
In the show’s third season, viewers were introduced to a number of new big elements, including the Missouri Belle riverboat casino the Byrdes (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) started running and the sprawling compound of cartel boss Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). “My idea was that Navarro lived on a hacienda,” Bomba restates as he explains how he and his colleagues expanded said compound in the fourth season. He elaborates, “This season, we introduced some of the more personal spaces. We added a confessional into the war room — which is actually a chapel — and we built a huge set of stairs to incorporate an exterior patio that was inaccessible otherwise in previous seasons. You’ll see scenes where there’s an architrave of columns with steps that come down — that was built to access the patio.”
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Another returning element in Season 4 is the city of Chicago, where the Byrdes seek to establish a partnership between local pharmaceutical company Shaw Medical Solutions and their charitable foundation. Though the initial idea was for filming to accordingly place in Chicago, that plan was scrapped early on, Bomba reveals. Instead, Atlanta, Georgia, the series’ primary filming location, became the stand-in Chicago thanks to script changes, establishing shots and other camerawork that gave the crew some openings. But this change of plans did not deter the production designer from pursuing his idea to create a visual contrast between the onscreen versions of Chicago and the Ozarks. He expounds, “Because we film Missouri and the Ozarks in this overcast, grey, contained world and things are pressuring down on [it], whether it’s the clouds, the eight-foot ceilings or the the shorter environments that were in — when I went to Chicago, I wanted any place… to open up vertically, to have air.”
One of the completely new set pieces that Bomba highlights is the abandoned mall in which the FBI, Navarro and the Byrdes meet in the seventh episode, “Sanctified.” The production designer, who praises showrunner Chris Mundy and his fellow writers for their attention to detail, divulges that the mall was scripted to be bigger than it ended up being. “[Based on] what we’ve let ourselves learn of the Ozarks in this series, we haven’t seen anything of that scale,” he says with respect to the original concept for the mall, which was ultimately shot in a smaller abandoned mall in Atlanta. “It was a lot of fun taking it down several levels, giving it our value in colour palette,” Bomba continues, underscoring that Christmas decorations would be the only source of real color and cause for contrast.
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For his work on the show’s third season, Bomba earned not only his career-first Emmy nomination in 2020 but also Art Directors Guild and Set Decorator Society of America Awards victories. Even though “Ozark” is the first and to date only regular series in his filmography, he did serve as production designer on another Netflix title, the Emmy-winning limited series “Godless.” He has also worked on several Oscar-nominated or -winning movies, including “Mudbound” (2017) and “Walk the Line” (2005), winning the ADG Award for the latter.
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