Alexa Fogel interview: ‘Ozark’ casting director
Even in its fourth and final season — whose two parts debuted January 21 and April 29, respectively — Netflix’s “Ozark” saw numerous additions to its already sprawling cast. “Each season of ‘Ozark’ is almost like starting over because you kill so many people that you have these huge new characters that are going to carry big arcs,” casting director Alexa Fogel tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview (watch above).
Indeed, after the third season saw Janet McTeer‘s Helen Pierce and Tom Pelphrey‘s Ben Davis, among other characters, bite the dust, the fourth introduces a slew of new faces. Those include Alfonso Herrera as Javier “Javi” Elizonndro and Veronica Falcón as Herrera’s onscreen mother, Camila Elizonndro, who thereby play the nephew and sister, respectively, of cartel boss Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). “There are so many outrageous things that take place [on the show], but the style has to be completely naturalistic,” Fogel reveals as she discusses one of the most important requirements for being cast on the show. She expounds that Herrera, who brought a particular “charm and menace” and “just the right level of accent” to his character, satisfied said requirement. The casting director also divulges that he was cast before Falcón, who is coincidentally his former “Queen of the South” co-star and was the perfect fit for the other half of the mother-son duo, per Fogel.
When asked to elaborate on casting Tony-winning Broadway star Katrina Lenk in the role of Clare Shaw, the CEO of Chicago-based pharmaceutical company Shaw Medical Solutions, Fogel notes that there is a deep bench of New York Theater actors in the show’s cast in general. “It could be surprising to an audience because she hasn’t really played on a big stage like this and this kind of character,” she says with respect to the casting Shaw. “I think that that’s part of what we do well on the show: we show you a different side of actors you may have seen in other things. And I think that’s because we all believe that good actors have range and can use a lot of different muscles.”
Another addition to the fourth season is Richard Thomas, who is best known for his Emmy-winning role on “The Waltons.” Just years after playing Laura Linney‘s onstage husband in the 2017 Broadway revival of Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play “The Little Foxes,” he reunites with his co-star on the Netflix drama, this time playing her estranged onscreen father, Nathan Davis. “I thought it would be great to bring somebody in where there was already a relationship between the actors,” Fogel explains in regard to Thomas joining the cast. “It just made sense for the two of them to do this together.”
In our chat, Fogel also reflects on her working relationship with showrunner Chris Mundy and executive producer, director and star Jason Bateman. “I would say that in my extremely lengthy career, it’s probably the simplest collaboration I’ve ever had — and in the best possible way, in that it was only really the three of us having conversations, making decisions and then getting everybody approved that we wanted,” the casting director shares. She highlights the experience of understanding that the fewer people are involved in the decision-making process, “the better the decisions can be and the easier [they are] to get across.”
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Throughout her illustrious career, Fogel has earned a total of 13 Emmy nominations, including two for “Ozark” (2019-20), and three victories for “NYPD Blue” (1994-95) and “True Detective” (2014). Other series currently airing on which she served as casting director are FX’s Emmy-winning dramedy “Atlanta” and HBO’s new miniseries “We Own This City,” on which she re-teamed with numerous long-time collaborators, including creators George Pelecanos and David Simon.