Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What Julia Garner Fans Might Not Know About The Actor

Best known for her stellar performance as Ruth Langmore in Netflix's "Ozark," Julia Garner is a formidable talent with a layered, fascinating acting process, and a depth of wisdom that exceeds her young age (she is 27). Her breakout role was in 2011's "Martha Marcy May Marlene," and in the decade since, the gifted actress has racked up quite the resume. She has appeared in a number of films, including "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Grandma," "The Assistant," and others.

Garner –- whose work on "Ozark" has earned her two Emmys for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama — has also become a staple on cable and streaming television. In addition to the Netflix hit, which is going into Season 4, Garner was featured in a memorable recurring role in the spy drama "The Americans," and has appeared in a number of acclaimed miniseries including "Dirty John," "Waco," and "Maniac." Her next big role is the lead in "Inventing Anna," the highly-anticipated Shonda Rhimes miniseries about fake heiress/convicted con artist Anna Delvey. While Garner has no shocking "fake heiress" schemes in her past, she has had a fascinating life. This is her untold truth.

Garner was raised in New York City, in a family of artists

Born in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx in 1994, Garner is incredibly proud of being a New Yorker. She frequently mentions growing up in the Big Apple, particularly when discussing it as a contrast to many of her characters' upbringings. In one interview with W magazine, she referenced being from Manhattan as a contrast to her "Ozark" character Ruth, who lives in a more rural area in the Midwest and would be accustomed to things like shooting a gun and being in the wilderness — things that Garner doesn't enjoy. And like any true New Yorker, Garner doesn't have a driver's license. That said, she has also talked about hating bugs and rodents — completely surprising, given that New York's rats are known for being especially massive.

Garner's childhood was also largely impacted by her family, and the fact that her parents are creative in their own right. Her mother Tami Gingold is now a therapist, but was once a comedy star in her native Israel. Her IMDB page is rather bare-bones, but reports claim she starred on a sketch show similar to the American "Saturday Night Live." Garner's father is a visual artist and art teacher, focused specifically on painting. "I feel so lucky that I grew up in the house that I did," Garner told The Hollywood Reporter.

She was raised Jewish and her background is important to her

As previously mentioned, Garner's mother is an Israeli native. She was raised in the Jewish faith, and frequently discusses her Jewish identity in interviews. For example, in an interview with W magazine, Garner referred to herself as " some Jewish girl from the Upper West Side." To date, she has not yet played an explicitly Jewish character.

In September 2020, Garner did a sit-down with American Jewish University, which was then featured in the Jewish Journal. The session — hosted by Rabbi Sherre Hirsch and featuring Garner and "Ozark" showrunner Chris Mundy — was entitled "What Does Ozark Teach Us About Sin and Repentance?" In the conversation, Garner discussed having been to Israel and having a connection to Jewish values. "As my grandma always said, if you follow the Ten Commandments and have good values, you're a good Jew," she said. "One day when I have kids, there's only two things I ask for: that they'll be healthy and that they'll be mensches."

She suffered from severe learning disabilities growing up

Growing up, Garner suffered from learning disabilities that were so severe that doctors tested her for neurological problems. According to various interviews she has done, her issues in the classroom meant that she was a late bloomer amongst her peers. The talented actress could not read until the age of 10, which left her feeling self-conscious and lesser than her classmates. "Even after I learned how to read, it still affected my confidence to the point where I was so shy," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "Everything that I said, I felt stupid."

In addition to reading, Garner struggled with understanding social cues and facial expressions, which led to further insecurities, anxiety issues, and crippling shyness. As she told Rolling Stone, "I almost had to learn how to act even from that age, act like I knew and I could understand what everybody was talking about." This certainly helps illuminate how she became such a gifted and transformational actress.

She became an actress to deal with her shyness

Because of her learning disabilities and social struggles in school, Garner developed a severe level of shyness. To combat her introverted, nervous nature, her parents suggested acting. She discussed this in an interview with Charles Thorp for BUILD Series, posted on YouTube. "I started in this business because I was very shy, so I started taking acting classes to overcome my shyness," she said.

After an early audition for Nickelodeon — at age 15 — she was told to try independent films. "The casting director stopped me in the middle," Garner told The Hollywood Reporter. "She was like, 'Honey, you're great, but you shouldn't be here.' I've never been stopped in the middle. I was like, 'Excuse me?' The blunt advice served Garner well, as she soon scored a part in the indie hit "Martha Marcy May Marlene." She became homeschooled as soon as her career took off and, judging by more recent media appearances, seems to have shed at least some of her shyness.

She wasn't born with her trademark curls

Garner's uber-blonde, tight curls are her trademark — so much so that she is virtually unrecognizable without her signature locks. For the upcoming "Inventing Anna," the actress had to dye her hair red and wear it straight. Even in the scenes where it is blonde but straight, Garner looks like a different person. You can check out photos from the set here.

Despite the fact that she is now a curly-haired role model for so many girls and women, Garner's curls didn't actually arrive until she was nearing puberty. She made the admission in an interview with Vulture, where Garner endorsed an Aveda-brand curl enhancer as one of her favorite things. "My hair got really curly all of a sudden around when I was, I don't know, 11 years old. I didn't really know what to do with it," she said. Luckily, she has since figured out how to manage those glorious ringlets.

She doesn't see herself as having the typical Hollywood look

Speaking with Vulture, Garner discussed the archetypes for actresses coming up in the business. "There are always parts for young girl love interests, or cheerleaders, or mean girls, or the shy girl in the corner reading a book at a party who doesn't know how pretty she is, but she's really a beauty. You know what I mean? That's unrealistic," she said. At the same time, she doesn't see herself as fitting into this typical Hollywood mold for young starlets, and a lot of it has to do with how she looks. She continued, "Not that I'm ugly, but I'm not Hollywood-standard beautiful or that simple beauty. I was kind of weird looking, different looking. Especially at 16, I had weird curly hair and I had a gap tooth."

In a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she once again called herself "weird-looking." It might not be the healthiest way to view oneself, but it is clear Garner has a distinct concept of what she looks like and how that lends itself to a role. And it seems that she enjoys her "weirdness," using it as a strength rather than picking herself apart trait by trait.

She likes to play 'odd,' dark characters

Garner told The Cut that she would love to do a romantic comedy or an action-adventure superhero flick. While she does draw the line at playing the lead in a teen movie, she is leaving things somewhat open. "I can't do that. I don't look like a proper teen actress, I feel like," she said. "But maybe I could be like the weirdo in the teen movie." Luckily for Garner, her unconventional look has allowed her to be cast in a variety of offbeat "weirdo" roles — which she very much enjoys.

Her characters have included a cult member (in "Martha Marcy May Marlene"), a Mormon fundamentalist (in "Electrick Children"), and a cannibal who — spoiler alert – eats her own father (in "We Are What We Are"). "There's always something kind of wrong with my characters," she said in the same interview with The Cut. "Whenever I read a script I'm like, 'Oh, I want to be that girl. The odd one out.'"

She stayed in her Missouri accent for a month before starting Ozark

In "Ozark," Garner's Ruth is known for her tough-as-nails attitude, sharp tongue, and thick Missouri accent — though the accent almost didn't happen. Garner had just come off another film ("Tomato Red: Blood Money") where she used the accent, and so she decided to try to impress the "Ozark" casting director by drawing upon it in her audition. But when she realized she was the only actress who spoke in a specific dialect, she quickly second-guessed herself — and was even convinced she tanked the audition because of it. She told The Hollywood Reporter, "I was like, oh my God, I'm going to be that actor that is super annoying, so actory." As it turns out, the accent was a hit in the casting room and she got the part.

Once she was hired, Garner decided that in order to perfect Ruth's accent, she needed to stay in it for a long stretch of time. She admitted to W magazine that she used Ruth's voice for a full month before shooting. "I would go to restaurants and I would speak in the accent," she said. "When you speak in the accent, the part also gets in you because you're not talking in your regular tone." Nowadays, she can access the accent at will, telling Vulture she can "tap right into it."

She focuses on the small details to find the character's essence

To get the intense "I don't give an F" vibe she wants for Ruth on "Ozark," Garner listens to '90s hip-hop music to pump her up for a scene. Garner also uses journaling as an acting tool, creating diaries for her characters to express themselves. "I don't write a journal personally, but I have an acting journal where I write as the characters that I'm playing," she told W magazine. "I would be writing, 'I don't know how I'm feeling about Marty,' or how I'd be feeling, what's my objective — how you would write personally in your journal, but as the character."

It isn't just the attitude she works on for her characters, but also smaller things like the way they walk and what they wear. For example, when Ruth tries to fit in with the country club feel of her bosses, Garner made sure she wore press-on nails. "She's trying to be something she's not ... and in the middle of the season, she takes off the nails," Garner told The Hollywood Reporter. 

Garner also discussed her love for the minutiae in a 2020 Gold Derby interview. "So much of acting for me is detail," she said, before discussing how big boots helped her develop Ruth's iconic walk. "I don't walk like that, just letting you know ... I was stomping around and I remember making a joke out of it and I was like, 'Oh, I actually like that for the character.'"

She likes to observe others' body language in public

Garner is a master of creating fully fleshed-out characters and, as we have established, she thinks about a character's non-verbal communication and physicality when preparing for a role. Perhaps one reason why she is so good at inhabiting characters is because she is a keen observer of other human beings. "One of my favorite things to do is just to sit on a park bench and see how everybody's walking and what their energy is like," she told The Daily Actor.

In fact, Garner is such a fan of watching others that she makes it a family affair. "My mom and I have this game we play called 'What's their problem?' It's so dark, but you make up problems and scenarios for the people that are walking past you," she said in the same interview. She views people-watching as a key element of her acting process, which makes a lot of sense for someone who grew up introverted and shy.

She loves classic movies and appreciates Old Hollywood

Garner was raised in a creative family where they respect art, and her parents exposed her to classic films at an early age. She loves old movies, grew up idolizing Bette Davis, and — judging by her wardrobe choices — clearly appreciates an old Hollywood aesthetic. "I used to watch Turner Classic Movies all the time," she explained to The Cut. "I was obsessed with 'What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?' when I was 9 years old — which, normally, a 9-year-old kid should not be watching that movie, but I did. And 'Rosemary's Baby,' I watched that when I was like 10." Other favorite movies include "Annie Hall" and "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg," which was released more than 65 years before Garner's birth.

In addition to Bette Davis, she has mentioned other actors who have influenced her – Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, and Meryl Streep are some of her idols. Still, no one compares to Davis in Garner's eyes. She explained her love of Davis to Filmmaker magazine, clarifying that Davis was her ultimate because "the first thing I noticed is that I forgot she was acting," adding, "She just lights up the screen." Many of us would say that about Julia Garner herself.

She relaxes by watching reality television

Before you write Garner off as some sort of film snob, know that she does more than just watch Turner Classics and other high-brow fare. She is also a giant fan of reality television, and of Bravo in particular. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times (for which "Ozark" co-stars Laura Linney and Jason Bateman were also present), Garner admitted to binge-watching "Vanderpump Rules" in her spare time because it helps her to relax. Linney, for what it's worth, admitted to her own reality TV addiction ("RuPaul's Drag Race"). No word on what Bateman binge-watches, but we hope it's "90 Day Fiancé" or "Love After Lock-Up."

Given Garner's Bravo addiction, it makes absolute sense that she just about lost her mind when she appeared on the network's talk show, "Watch What Happens Live," while promoting "Dirty John" back in 2018. As luck would have it, the actress was booked alongside then-"Vanderpump" cast member Stassi Schroeder. She acknowledged being starstruck by Schroeder (even though she is, you know, way more famous than the reality star).

She is a hilarious impressionist

Though Ruth Langmore is notorious for throwing out a zinger on "Ozark," Garner is mostly known for her intense dramatic chops and not for her comedy. So, color us surprised when Garner went on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and performed a number of amazing impressions. First, she impersonated her mother's thick Israeli accent while retelling a story about a sketch her mom used to pull on telemarketers when Garner was growing up. Then she hilariously launched into a couple of celebrity impressions — a spot-on Britney Spears and an equally excellent Gwen Stefani. Consider this our official call for someone to start a petition to cast Garner as a pop star in her next movie (and we don't even care if it's a cannibal pop star or something weird like that).

By the way, even though this was the first time Fallon had ever interviewed Garner, she was actually at a "Tonight Show" taping once before — when she went to watch her future husband and his band perform. Speaking of which...

She got married at New York City Hall, just like her parents

Garner met her now-husband, musician Mark Foster, outside the Eccles Theatre at the Sundance Film Festival circa 2013, and after many years of friendship, the two started dating in 2017. Ten months later, Foster — lead singer of the band Foster the People — proposed, though he already had the ring for months by then. "I knew that I was going to marry Mark, I just didn't know he was going to propose that day," she recalled. The actual proposal happened while the couple was on an road trip to Yellowstone, and Foster read Garner a poem along the water before asking for her hand. In a Vogue interview specifically about her nuptials, Garner called the proposal "surreal and beautiful."

Equally beautiful was the way that the pair's nuptials honored Garner's parents. The couple got married in December 2019, and they chose to do it at City Hall in her hometown of New York — exactly as her parents did 40 years prior. They had an intimate ceremony with only a very small circle, followed by a dinner and reception with a somewhat larger group the following evening. "I wanted a Carrie Bradshaw moment," she told Vogue, referencing the ultimate fictional NYC girl (who also got married at a courthouse in the city).