Film & TV

Meet Madison Thompson, the New Rebellious Teen from 'Ozark'

The 19-year-old actress opens up about balancing her career with her education and learning from her co-stars.
Reading time 15 minutes

Photography by Hudson Taylor

Styling by Philippe Uter

Perhaps you haven’t yet heard of Madison Thompson. I can assure you, that won’t be the case for much longer. The bright and bubbly rising star is making a name for herself, most recently landing the role of Erin Pierce on the third season of Netflix’s hit crime drama, Ozark. The 19-year-old Atlanta native is also balancing being a full-time college student at USC, where she’s a Presidential Scholar and is working towards a business degree in cinematic arts. 

Ozark, which is currently #2 on Netflix, tells the story of a family who is forced to relocate from Chicago to the Ozarks due to the father (Jason Bateman)'s involvement in money laundering scheme. The show has been nominated for 14 Primetime Emmys, with Bateman and Julia Garner each taking home a statuette.

 

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Don’t get me wrong, Thompson is no stranger to the screen. She’s previously been a guest star on NCIS: New Orleans and Henry Danger, and had a recurring role on Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (just to name a few). Her start, however, was in musical theatre, which she got involved with at age 10, and continued throughout high school. 

In honor of Ozark’s season three release, Thompson spoke with L’Officiel USA about being on the show, her chocolate addiction, and what she’s been up to during quarantine.

Where are you right now?

I am actually back at home with my family in Atlanta, Georgia. Normally, I live in Los Angeles, but as soon as all of this went down, my parents were like 'you are coming home'. 

 

What have you been up to during quarantine?

I am a person that is always moving. I'm always busy. I over-schedule my life, so having all this free time has been a little weird for me. I've been lucky that the show has come out and I’ve been doing press and getting to talk about the characters and stuff, that’s definitely kept me occupied. I've been doing a lot of baking. I live in a dorm and I haven't had a kitchen for the past couple of months, so I've been making up for lost time baking brownies and cookies and cake to the point where my parents are like, please stop. 

I've been volunteering with this group called the Foundation for Hospital Art. Obviously, right now our healthcare facilities are at maximum capacity and some are underfunded when it comes to artwork and the beautification of the facilities. They work to donate these big art pieces to brighten up hospital rooms or homeless shelters or soup kitchens to inspire hope and healing. It's a great way to volunteer during the pandemic from the safety of your home. I've been working with them a lot, which has kept me busy.

 

You're new to Ozark this season. What was your experience like being on the show?

It was the best experience ever. It was kind of like going to summer camp. We shoot the majority of Ozark on location. It was Atlanta during the summer, it was beautiful. We were on the lake, and a lot of our scenes are on the docks and in the water. We would spend our days shooting with this incredible cast and crew that, coming into a show season three, it's like a well-oiled machine. They work flawlessly, there's no drama on set, everyone is friends with everyone and there to have a good time and work hard. We would shoot these long days, but during our lunch break, we'd go jump in the lake or put our feet in. That's the wonder of getting to shoot on location and in such great weather. 

As for the actors and actresses, it's such an incredible cast and I'm so humbled and fortunate to be able to work with such incredible people. The lady who plays my mom, Janet McTeer, is obviously a very well known actress, both in TV, film, and theatre. I’d actually followed her career for many years and I had been a fan of Ozark before I joined the show. It was so cool to get to work with her because she has such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to not only breaking down characters but also the elements of shooting the scene; the blocking, where the camera's going to go, the lighting. It was amazing to see her be a part of that process. I learned so much from her, not only about being an actress but also about being a woman in the industry.

 

What was your favorite part about making the show?

Definitely the people. The cast and crew are made up of...okay, we look like the most terrible human beings on the show, we do horrible things, we're very evil, demented, twisted human beings. But in real life, the people on this show are incredible and they're so kind and so hardworking. The writers, the directors, the producers, everyone that's involved is so invested in the life and spirit of this show. It's infectious. Jason [Bateman] and Chris Mundy do a great job of setting the tone for the camaraderie of the individuals on set, everyone is so positive. I definitely think that the people were the best part. But a very close second and third are the dogs and the chocolate chip cookies.

 

What was it like to work with Jason Bateman as a director? 

Jason is so cool. My first day on set, he was my director, which was a surreal moment; I was thrown right into the belly of the beast that is Ozark. It's so cool to work with someone who wears so many hats on our show. He's the director, he is one of the stars of our show, and he's a producer, so he has a really full circle understanding of what Ozark is from the style to the editing. Every director has their own style. I think I would describe Jason's style similar to his acting—it's very specific. He knows exactly what he wants. He comes in and he's planned everything out. As an actor, he really equips you well with knowing what you're going to get into in the scene. Before we shoot anything, he walks us through what the intentions of the character are, what's been happening before this, what is the significance of this scene for the characters and in respect to the greater part of the episode. He makes our jobs a lot easier. As someone who would eventually love to get into the producing and directing side of the industry, getting to watch him in action was super inspiring.

That's the best part about being an actress, you can work in all these different areas; you can go from making people cry and making them hate your guts to making them roll over laughing the next day. 

This is a pretty major moment for you. What are you getting into next? What's the vibe in the industry right now?

Unfortunately, the industry is kind of screeched to a halt right now. With the rules that we have about gatherings being less than ten people and the importance of social distancing, it's practically impossible for a production to be working. There are so many different people and moving parts that go into it, you have to have crews of 50 or more people on a show working very closely in small quarters. That's just not possible right now, so all of the projects that I have been working on have been put on pause to wait this out. I worked on a project recently called American Housewife on ABC. That should be coming out in the next couple of weeks. It's a sitcom, completely opposite of Ozark. That's the best part about being an actress, you can work in all these different areas; you can go from making people cry and making them hate your guts to making them roll over laughing the next day. 

 

If you could work with anyone, either a producer or an actor or a director, who would it be?

I think I would want to work with Reese Witherspoon, and there's a lot of reasons behind that. Not only have I followed her very long-lasting career, but I also find a lot of similarities between her style of acting and approach to the industry in general. Similar to me, education was very important to her. I'm in college now, I decided to do that track in addition to acting. She ended up pursuing acting more in the long run, but she did go to college for a little bit and has continued supporting the education system and has done a bunch of great things about promoting books. I also love the fact that she started her own production company and she's passionate about telling stories about women. That's something that I not only am inspired by but would love to do with my own productions, hopefully in the future. 

 

As a full-time USC student, can you talk a little bit about balancing school with work?

I'm in the BCA program, which is a business degree in cinematic arts, a joint degree program between the Marshall Business School and the School of Cinematic Arts, which allows me to explore the area of entertainment business and finance and producing. I also recently declared a musical theatre minor in the Thornton School of Music. I love the entertainment industry and you can't pull me away from it, but I am using my studies to explore more the finance side of the industry—what it takes to put teams together and to create these productions. As an actor, your brand is your business; I've learned so much about the marketability of that and all the finances and stuff that go into it. I'm learning so much that is not only helping my career but hopefully, in the long run, will help me expand into different areas that I want to pursue.

 

So what are you currently watching, either shows or a movie or like what are you bingeing right now?

I'm in the process of re-bingeing. I, of course, have watched Ozark season three. I'm not gonna lie, I have been watching a little bit of Tiger King. It's kind of our Netflix competition, but we're all part of the Netflix family, so I wanted to support it. It's a fascinating show. I'm also re-watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I love Tina Fey. She's another person I'd love to work with. I am a big Broadway fan and she has incorporated a lot of the big faces on Broadway into her show. She has Mean Girls that's on Broadway right now as well, and that kind of launched her into that community. As much as I love working on a drama, I definitely enjoy watching comedies. The Office, Glee, those are definitely more my style of show. I've been trying to find some positivity in these times by watching something a little bit more lighthearted.

Are you on Tik-Tok? 

I was actually having a conversation with one of my really good friends like five minutes ago and he was like, 'You have to make a Tik-Tok. You have the time.' I have an econ midterm tomorrow, so I've decided that after my midterm is over, I will create a Tik-Tok. I haven't been on the app yet because I know that I'm gonna love it a little bit too much and spend all of my time making videos on it. I need to get through my midterms and then I can sell my soul to Tik-Tok.

 

Do you have any bizarre talents?

I do. I can sing with my mouth closed, which sounds so weird, because it is. It's not like ventriloquism, but it sort of is. I can demonstrate it for you, but it's more impressive when you can see it in person. I don't know how I discovered that talent, but it's been in my back pocket whenever I need a party trick.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

I have recently really gotten into yoga. I was never really on the exercise grind. I wish I was. This fall, I realized that I needed a way to get that energy out and to keep myself active. Yoga has been the perfect intersection of stretching and flexibility and keeping your body strong. It also does a lot of great things for centering your mind and your intentions and giving yourself a way to think through everything, but also detox at the same time. It's been hard during quarantine because can't go to a yoga studio, so I've done my own setup. We have a little makeshift gym in my house with some mirrors and I've pulled out the space heater to put in front of my face so it's really hot, as if it's a hot yoga studio. I'll play a yoga video on my computer and follow along. That's been my recent hobby when I'm not doing concerts of singing with my mouth closed.

 

What are some of your favourite Instagram accounts?

For fashion, I follow Caroline Daur (@carodaur). She has some really cool, effortless fashion style that I've been loving. I follow @retrieverstagram, which is an Instagram for golden retrievers. Who doesn't need a little golden retriever puppy on your Instagram feed in times like these? I follow a lot of cooking and baking accounts. I have a crippling chocolate addiction so I watch a lot of chocolate videos where they bake these amazing cakes and do these cool artistic designs with chocolate. I follow all of the makeup artists that I've had the pleasure of working with. One of my favorites is @tommymakeup_. He does incredible winged eyeliner that I'm always trying to copy and I fail. Another amazing person I follow is my stylist @philippeuter. He is the most incredibly talented person when it comes to fashion and does such a great job of styling amazing chic looks. I don't think my closet looks like his, but I wish it did.

Credits

Makeup Melissa Hernandez

Hair Alex Thao

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