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The Ozark Scene Julia Garner Was Too Scared To Shoot

Netflix's original hit series Ozark is headlined by two of the best actors in the business in Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman and three-time Oscar nominee Laura Linney. If you ask fans who's giving the best performance on the series, however, don't be surprised if they answer with Julia Garner's name. As rough-and-tumble Ozark native Ruth Langmore, Garner is so convincing in the role that it's easy to forget that she grew up in Manhattan, not Missouri. Her commitment to the part even won her an Emmy in 2019, in a surprise upset against four Game of Thrones actresses and Fiona Shaw from Killing Eve.

Part of what makes her performance so exemplary is how unafraid the actress is to embrace the messier side of Ruth's character. Whether it's cursing out murderous criminals or ruthlessly executing crimes of her own, Garner goes all-in when she slips into character. Even though she makes it seem easy, the role is anything but, and it's not just the Missouri accent and the tense body language that Garner had to master for the part. The actress has spoken about stepping out of her comfort zone to play Ruth, which included a scene so scary that Garner wasn't even able to complete it.

Julia Garner's fear of rats got the better of her while filming Ozark

It can be incredibly frightening to be confronted with one of your phobias, even if it's something that most people don't find that scary. That's the situation in which Garner found herself one day on set, when the scene called for her to hold a mouse by its tail. As Garner explained to W Magazine, just the thought of touching the little critter sent her into a panic. "I hate rodents," she said. "I cannot stand rodents. I couldn't even watch Ratatouille."

So, when it came time to film the scene, Garner found that there was one thing that Ruth could do that she could not. "The whole crew was laughing at me. It was so embarrassing, and I couldn't even lift it. It was just moving, it was so gross. So they ended up having a hand double. I couldn't do it — I couldn't even use the toy one."

Even though her rat phobia was too much for Garner to overcome, there were other Ruth scenes that pushed the actress out of her comfort zone that she was able to nail.

Julia Garner learned to shoot a gun to play Ruth

Handling rats isn't the only thing about Ruth with which Garner didn't have any experience. Anyone who watches the show knows that the Byrde clan and their associates are no strangers to bloodshed. While Ruth tends to defend herself with her intense attitude and propensity for hurling tongue-twisting insults, she's not afraid to resort to violence to get her way. That includes using a gun, something Garner had never done before taking on the role.

Unlike the rat tail, Garner grabbed the weapon with the intention of going for it, but her inexperience showed during the first take. The actress revealed the struggle to get the shot just right in an interview with The Cut, saying, "There was one part where I was shooting the gun to the ground and I screamed because it's so loud and it shakes and it's so heavy. My wrist was hurting by the end. I'm just so weak."

Weak, or not, the fact that Garner is able to throw herself into such intense scenes that are out of her comfort zone is a testament to her skills as an actress. She proved it again in another difficult-to-film scene that Garner not only conquered, but turned into a defining moment for her character.

The disturbing scene that Julia Garner thinks is important to understanding Ruth

While it doesn't involve live rodents or guns, the scene in the season 1 episode "Tonight We Improvise" in which Ruth auditions for a sleazy strip club owner is harrowing in its own right. After Marty tasks her with infiltrating the club, Ruth ends up in the manager's office on a nightmare job interview that involves pretending to seduce the man to secure the job. Considering the circumstances, it was no doubt an uncomfortable scene to shoot, but Garner saw it as an opportunity to dive deep into Ruth's psyche.

"That scene was crazy to do. It is really important because that shows who Ruth is," the actress told W Magazine during an interview. "At first, she's kind of giving him goo-goo eyes, flirting, teasing him. Then, he's like, 'Turn around, let me see the back,' and she turns around, and she really is mask-on, mask-off."

According to Garner, it was important for audiences to see how easily Ruth is able to put on a fake demeanor in order to get what she wants. "You really don't know what she's going to do next, and you don't trust her."