NEW YORK — From joking on the “Ozark” set with Jason Bateman, to getting show notes from Stephen Sondheim, Katrina Lenk’s career has hit a sweet spot.
The actor is in the enviable position of starring in the popular Netflix show and the hit Broadway musical “Company” simultaneously. Lenk plays Clare Shaw, the head of a family-owned pharmaceutical company with some shady dealings on “Ozark,” which begins airing the last seven episodes of the series April 29.
Lenk said shooting the final season of “Ozark” took an entire year due to pandemic delays, but she was grateful to have a job when Broadway shut down. Once theater started up again, the Tony-winning actor returned to star in “Company” as Bobbie, a single woman surrounded by married friends and contemplating commitment on her 35th birthday. Before he died in 2021, Sondheim was on hand to help update the revival — changing the main character from male to female.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Lenk discusses the “Ozark” set mood, gratitude for Broadway’s return and why she loves rehearsal. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
AP: What was it like joining the cast of “Ozark” for the last season?
LENK: I had been obsessed with the show before and was a big fan so then to get to step onto the casino set, or drive past Marty and Wendy’s house was super surreal. But it was a fantastic vibe on set and very professional. Everyone knows what they’re doing and it’s very friendly and open and relaxed, and celebratory as well, because everyone knew this was the last season, so nothing was being taken for granted. It was really wonderful.
AP: How was working with “Ozark” stars Jason Bateman and Laura Linney?
LENK: They’re wonderful and warm and generous, and you feel like instantly one of the family. Jason’s cracking jokes and just keeping the feeling sort of light on set. And he’s kind of how you would imagine he would be, just great.
AP: Describe the first preview show for “Company” after theater reopened post-lockdown?
LENK: There’s still that huge sense of gratitude, and definitely not taking it for granted that we get to do this thing that we love doing. Our first preview particularly was one of those moments that I don’t think any of us will forget. The audience came in with such energy and seemed like they were super appreciative and excited to be there and share this moment with other people. And we were so happy to be there to get to share it with a live audience. And it was just this huge celebration of live theater and that sense of connection with other human beings, and that continues to happen.
AP: Stephen Sondheim came to the show opening less than two weeks before he died — how was that?
LENK: We got to hang out with him a little bit afterwards, and he was just smiling and so happy and pleased, and I think thrilled with the show and also just the response to his show. What a thing to be a part of, for us to share this with him and for him to hear all of the appreciation for his work in the audience…. And he said to us afterwards something like, “This is a kind of a once-in-a-lifetime night. This is an experience to cherish. When things are getting rough — and they’re not always going to be like this — when things are hard and you feel like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ or just kind of feel downtrodden, remember this. Cherish this.” Wise words.
AP: Did he ever give you notes on your performance?
LENK: During the process, he did come to rehearsals a couple of times and when he would give notes, he was very specific. Even a small little thing, then you would do the note and then, of course, he was right, and that just opened up all kinds of other things from just a tiny, detailed note. He was always so interested in improving whatever was there and his own work… He was involved in the slight changes that we did in the script and the modifications. He was part of the whole production… he was a collaborator in this revival, which is a really wonderful thing.
AP: What’s the biggest difference between working in theater and TV?
LENK: Something I still haven’t quite figured out how to master is the waiting that is required. When you are on set, you get there for your call and sometimes you might be there for five, six hours before you get to do the work. On stage, you get there at this time and you’re going to be in rehearsal, so managing energy during the waiting and also managing the energy during takes — like knowing when to be fully there and when to ease up so that you can be there later.
AP: When do you feel most yourself?
LENK: In rehearsal, I think. I love rehearsal. I love exploring things and trying things out and getting inspired by other people who are in the scenes with you, or even just watching someone else’s work and that sort of exploratory investigative stuff. I just I get a real kick out of it.