Interview: Sharon Blackwood of ‘Ozark’ calls her character Eugenia a ‘dream role’
Sharon Blackwood who plays Ozark‘s Eugenia Dermody on Netflix explains her character’s motivation and more in our exclusive interview.
As you would imagine, Sharon is quite lovely, warm and friendly, quite different from the character Eugenia that she portrays on Ozark. She is acting after all! Eugenia made quite a splash on screen and Sharon was ecstatic about the opportunity to portray her.
“It was kind of a dream role. I was so excited to get it. And getting to work with Laura Linney and Jason [Bateman] was an actor’s dream.” – Sharon on being cast as Eugenia Dermody in Ozark
Acting was not her first love
I asked Sharon how and when she began acting. It turns out there was a little twist that I was not expecting.
While Sharon has many wonderful acting projects to her credit, she actually began her career in music, specifically, opera and oratorio after receiving a Master’s Degree of Music in Vocal Performance. Sharon taught vocal performance for a period where her studio partner taught acting. It was at that time that she decided to study acting and has been in love with the craft ever since.
[Spoiler Alert: Plot points from the entire first season of Ozark are discussed in the interview.]
Opposite ends of the spectrum
You will find that Sharon’s acting range is quite impressive, especially when you compare two of her most recent roles. Ozark‘s Eugenia Dermody is a handful, to say the least, which is in stark contrast to her role in the movie Loving.
Sharon played Lola Loving in the feature film written and directed by Jeff Nichols, which stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as the interracial couple banished from Virginia for simply getting married. Lola is the mother of Richard Loving, the white man who was punished for marrying the love of his life because of the color of her skin.
On one hand, you have Eugenia Dermody who is overbearing, demanding, and self-absorbed. On the other hand, you have Lola Loving who is strong but selfless, a woman who quietly works to be of service to her family and others.
In fact, you might not even recognize Sharon in the role of Lola after seeing her play Eugenia.
Eugenia has her makeup on and looks like she has a weekly appointment at the salon to have her hair arranged just so. Eugenia is quick to criticize and speaks condescendingly to her grown son.
Compare that with a very nuanced and subdued portrayal of Lola. Lola’s hair is pulled back and covered with a kerchief. Lola is nurturing and, well, as her name suggests, loving. Lola does not seek the spotlight but seeks to take care of others.
These two roles in particular provide great examples of how skilled Sharon is at her craft.
I was curious what Sharon might have to share about Eugenia’s backstory. Has Eugenia always been so overbearing? Are there other layers to her personality that we do not see? Is she really as cold as she sometimes sounds?
Sharon revealed that she put together a backstory for Eugenia that explains much of her personality. In her mind, Eugenia is carrying a lot of resentment. She was hurt and disappointed that when her husband died he left money to her but left the actual realty business to their son Sam. She had spent years running the business with her husband but now she reports to her son.
“[Eugenia] was bitter that she didn’t get left the business. I think she wanted [Sam] to work for her.” – Sharon Blackwood on Eugenia’s motivations
Sharon explains that Mr. Dermody probably felt that he was taking care of his wife by leaving her the money, but she actually feels insulted that he did not think she could handle running the business. She is now working for her son when she would like to have been entrusted with the business herself.
What about Wendy?
Sharon made a good point that while Eugenia may not be as smart as she thinks she is (especially about decorating!), she was not wrong about Wendy. Granted, some of her disdain for Wendy could be attributed to jealousy and feeling territorial. But she did not trust Wendy.
Eugenia did not really know why she did not trust Wendy, but she was right about there being a reason to question her motives. And, of course, we viewers know full well that Wendy, while probably being a pretty decent friend to Sam, is also being duplicitous and following an agenda of her own.
“Every small town has a Eugenia. I think she was street smart in a small town kind of way. I don’t think she was necessarily well-educated, but I think [the Dermodys] were probably prominent people in that area.” – Sharon Blackwood on Eugenia’s background
Of course, in her final moments, street and smart are not the words we would use in the same sentence to describe Eugenia. She childishly covers her ears during an argument with Sam and walks backwards into the street falling prey to a passing garbage truck. Sharon describes Eugenia as “totally out of control at that point”.
And as shocking and tragic as that moment is, Sharon confesses that she cannot help but laugh when she sees it on screen. There is certainly a lot of irony in the manner of Eugenia’s death. And we agreed that neither of us has come across anyone who saw that scene coming. It was completely unexpected.
Sharon had such wonderful things to say about her scene partner, director, and executive producer Jason Bateman.
She marveled at how expertly he portrayed Marty charming Eugenia in order to convince her to invest a large sum of money with him. We laughed as she recalled how Eugenia fell for his charms “hook, line, and sinker” when he commented nicely about her zombie mermaid painting. Smooth move, Marty!
Speaking of that painting, I asked Sharon if it was created specifically for the show or purchased for the show, but she was not sure. I told her I would love for it to pop up again in the show, like a little piece of Eugenia is still hovering over Sam.
Sharon commented specifically about how very skilled Jason Bateman is at being a director. She particularly appreciates the trust he places in the actors and believes that being an actor himself only serves to enhance his work from the director’s chair.
“[Jason] was very personable and lovely, LOVELY to work with and a fabulous director. I consider Jason to be an excellent director because he knows what makes it work.” – Sharon Blackwood on Jason Bateman as a director
She also had nothing but high remarks for her on-screen son, Kevin L. Johnson, who plays Sam Dermody. Sharon is thrilled about Ozark being renewed for season 2 and hopes to see more of Sam’s story unfold.
While Bateman is well-known for his comedic roles and wonderful dry wit, Sharon explained that he is “all business when it’s time to be all business” on the Ozark set. I felt like there must be something funny she could share. It turns out there was, but it was something she did rather than anything to do with Jason.
Sharon recalls the scene where Eugenia complains about the cookies at the open house and asks Wendy if she baked them. Eugenia keeps the cookie in her hand for awhile but ends up throwing the cookie out into the yard. Well, there was one take where the cookie landed elsewhere – it hit the cinematographer in the head instead! I must tell you that Sharon’s laugh was infectious as she told this tale!
Sharon has a couple of films that will probably come out in 2018. One is a book adaption titled Dirt Road to Lafayette. The other is the movie Fam-i-ly where she plays opposite Brian Tyree Henry known for his portrayal of Paper Boi in the hit series Atlanta.
Sharon enjoys volunteer work when not working on a project in front of the camera. She actively serves as a volunteer with her church as well as with the League of Women Voters.
It was absolutely delightful being able to chat with Sharon Blackwood. Her portrayal of Eugenia on Ozark was magnificent and I look forward to seeing more of Sharon’s work on future projects.
As Sharon declared during our interview “Every small town has a Eugenia”, and I believe Sharon was the perfect choice for the one in Ozark!