Folks who have been watching Netflix’s “Ozark” are familiar with the Langmores, especially Ruth (Julia Garner)—a smart, sassy and sometimes well-intentioned 20-something trying to do what’s right for her family. There’s also her teenage cousins, Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) and his younger brother Three, played by Wilmingtonian Carson Holmes. The Langmores are known in their community for low, petty theft crimes, but some of the clan (including Three’s father) are equipped to get their hands even dirtier.
“There’s a lot of Three that’s not me,” Holmes tells encore ahead of the season three premiere of “Ozark” on Netflix, slated for March 27. “But the part I can relate to is there’s a very strong family relationship and bond there, whether it gets shown on camera or not. The whole Langmore family cares for each other quite a bit. They all love each other and show it in very bizarre ways.”
The Langmores are saints compared to some characters on “Ozark,” who are often morally conflicted if not completely bankrupt. Season three will see more of Three and his (shrinking) family. “Definitely more than there has been in the past,” Holmes teases. “I’m very excited for that, and there’s a lot more character arcs with Wyatt, Three and Ruth. . . . I’m just lucky I’ve made it to season three, all things considered; they’re killing off people left and right!”
To say “Ozark” is dark is a mild description when explaining both its storylines and aesthetics. A shadowy darkness practically drapes every scene. There is a sense of dread and suspense building up and bookending every episode.
Season one begins with our main protagonist Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman). He’s a financial planner who abruptly uproots his family from Chicago to run a summer resort community in the Ozarks, to avoid being murdered and laundering money for a Mexican drug lord. (And that’s the super abridged version.) There’s a whole other world of problems awaiting him, his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), and their two kids.
Holmes was 13 when he landed the role of Three, and over the course of filming the first season, he missed 165 days of school. Now 17, he’s starting online courses at CFCC, and doesn’t have to make the 8-hour drive to Atlanta, Georgia (where most of “Ozark” is filmed) as often. (Small teams go out to the actual Ozarks for B-roll shots of lakes and scenery.) Season three is all about where season two left off: the opening of a casino boat to continue laundering drug money.
“They actually had to go down to either Savannah or Charleston because that’s where they could get one of those big casino boats to film on, [which] they can’t do in Atlanta,” Holmes tells.
Holmes is likely familiar to Wilmington audiences; encore featured him as a cover model in 2014 for his lead role as Ralphie in the stage version of “A Christmas Story.” His sister, Piper, shared the cover only a couple of weeks ago with her fellow “The Sound of Music” cast members. She played Marta. Love for performance and the arts, in some form of fashion, runs in the family.
“Sadly, [my mother] doesn’t have a musical bone in her body,” Holmes quips. “But she tries to sing along. My father used to be a classical violinist, so he’s actually done a lot of the violin for most of the shows at Thalian Hall. They just did ‘Guys and Dolls’ [which was staged at Kenan Auditorium] and ‘The Sound of Music.’”
Holmes has been featured in several productions from local theatre companies, Thalian Association and Opera House Theater Company. At one point, he remembers a busy schedule packed with five different shows. Once they wrapped and there was a lull, the actor missed the camaraderie. “You get used to seeing all your friends all the time, and it’s super happy and exciting,” he adds. “Then there was none of that.”
It was around that time Holmes’ parents found Actors Arsenal in Wilmington. The acting studio is headed by Ron Fallica and Allie McCulloch. Holmes took their TV/movie classes for a few months. “Ron and Allie are the nicest people in the world,” he praises. “I would not have been able to do anything without them. They’re so amazing. They were like, ‘We think it’s time for you to get an agent.’”
Shortly after, Holmes landed a one-line role in Cinemax’s “The Darkest Minds” as a smart-mouthed bully. Then came “Ozark.” Holmes remembers how the audition required him to learn a three-page monologue. While the scene was never used, it left an impression on the then 13-year-old.
“It was brilliantly written,” he says, “but it had a bunch of swear words in it, and this was still when I went to St. Mark’s [Catholic School], and it was the week of finals when I got the script. I had a day to prepare. So I had to bring it to school to practice, and I had to, you know, black out all the swear words.”
Holmes says doing “Ozark” has been the experience of a lifetime, learning about acting through a new lens and medium. He wants to explore other sides of the business as well, especially working with Jason Bateman (“The Outsider,” “Arrested Development”), who has directed many “Ozark” episodes.
“Just to get in his mind and see what he’s seeing, and then seeing it all stitched together,” Holmes says. “It’s amazing to see these people off camera after filming. They’re like, ‘I’m gonna kill you!’ And then their like, ‘Oh my gosh, this matcha tea is amazing!’”
It’s hard for the conversation not to turn to Wilmington’s film industry during our interview. The mass exodus of productions due to the North Carolina legislature terminating its 25% rebate incentive in 2014 came after its switch to a grant program that now caps at $31 million. With the rebate program, North Carolina claimed $254 million in revenue in 2013; in 2019 it received $167 million. In 2019 Georgia claimed $1.81 billion from the film industry, as many movies and shows have turned to Atlanta, the new filming hub in the South. Still, Holmes sees hope coming to Wilmington, especially with two pilots, “The Lost Boys” (another Netflix series) and “The Country,” being filmed here (both are currently on hiatus due to the COVID-19 shutdown).
“I filmed [Alan Ball’s] ‘Uncle Frank’ here last year,” he notes, “and that just premiered at Sundance with Paul Bettany. . . . I feel like, hopefully, eventually, the ramp will come back up and [North Carolina] will make the changes that the TV and entertainment business needs to live here.”