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Actor Kevin L. Johnson Reflects on His Four Seasons of the Hit Series "Ozark"


Photos credit: Josh Stringer; Hair/MU: Kim Harle

Read our interview with Kevin L. Johnson and find out what his favorite line is for his character, Sam Dermody he portrays on Ozark and read what kind of character he would be interested in playing in the future.




What made you decide to pursue acting as a career?

I got into acting in college. It really started out by wanting to try something new to get out of my shell and I just fell in love with it.

Describe your first acting role.

My first acting role was Comical Guard in “Burial at Thebes” when I was in college. It was a musical based on the Greek mythology “Antigone.” We had to have a monologue prepared for the audition and of course, I chose one of the hardest Shakespearian monologues. "Now is the winter of our discontent..." LOL. The whole rehearsal process was all new to me. I learned what downstage and upstage meant. We did fun exercises. We would embody the animal that we thought our character would be. So, that was interesting. Opening night was definitely nerve-racking for me. I wouldn’t say it was smooth sailing after opening night, but it was definitely a load off my shoulder. I really enjoyed that first experience. It was great getting to meet new people in the performing arts department and make new friends that I still have to this day.

You describe yourself as an introvert. Has acting helped you become more outgoing? Or are you only outgoing when on set?

I still consider myself more of an introvert. However, acting has definitely helped me to be comfortable in my own skin. As far as being on set, I wouldn’t say I am outgoing. I don’t avoid talking to people. I’m just really low-key you know.

How did you find out you landed the role of Sam Dermody on Ozark?

Well, first I thought they were gonna go with somebody older. So, I was just like “Welp. Not my first rodeo.” I was on my way to Charlotte, North Carolina for a callback for a short film and my agent called me and said “Hey. They want to book you for ‘Ozark.’” So yeah, you never know in this business what’s going to happen. Always be open to surprises.

Is Sam a person you could see yourself being friends within real life?

Absolutely! I can totally see myself being friends with Sam. Yeah, he is a bit naïve but he’s also really loyal. I know that I could trust him to have my back if I need him.

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are veteran actors. What acting methods did you pick up from both of them?

Oh man, it was great getting to work with Jason and Laura. I’m not really sure what particular acting methods I picked up from them though. They were definitely in the category of less is more which is what I’ve always been taught. The camera sees everything. You don’t have to do too much for the camera to pick it up. You never want to gild the lily as they say.

What is your favorite line from the show as your character Sam?

There have definitely been some memorable lines. But I’m gonna have to go with “I’m never gonna be able to take out the garbage without thinking about her.” Lol. It was a line I said in episode nine-season one where I tell Wendy that my mom just got ran over by a garbage truck.

Your next project is Netflix's "Florida Man," You play the character Eric, and the production is executive produced by Bateman. Florida Man is often in the news for doing something off the wall. Growing up in South Carolina, were there any similar stories to Florida Man? Hahaha…wow that’s a good question! I wish I had a funny story, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

What kind of characters would you like to play in the future? What variety of roles attract you?

I would definitely like to play a character more on the darker side. Someone who you think is a good guy but then he turns out to be a bad guy. I’m attracted to all kinds of roles. Dramatic and comedic. I really enjoy playing the everyman. It’s really fun to find the uniqueness in the mundane. I’m a huge fan of the show “The Office.” It would be really cool to get to do a comedy like that someday. I think I could play that dry sense of humor really well if given the opportunity.

Do you see yourself venturing into producing, directing, or writing? If so, what type of stories would you like to tell?

I never like to say never but producing, directing and writing are extremely hard. It takes a lot of time and patience to do any one of those three. However, if I ever decided to venture into one of those three then I think it would be cool to make a TV show or movie about putt putt golf. My dad is a professional putter and I think people might find that interesting. Danny McBride from the south. For some reason, I could totally see him being interested in something like that. Who knows, right? :-)

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Writer's information:

Yolanda Baruch is a freelance writer who has written for Blavity, The Grio, Madamenoire, and Mic.com. She covers films, television, culture, wellness, entrepreneurship and news. Stay connected on Instagram @Yobwrite.