By Madison Erceg
“I can’t believe I get paid to do this. What a gift,” said Kevin L. Johnson, born and raised in Charlotte, as he reflected upon his time shooting a Netflix Original Series set to premier July 21.
Filmed on the shores of Lake Allatoona in Georgia, “Ozark” stars Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Michael Mosley.
Kevin began his acting journey unexpectedly at Clemson University. An English major with no plans of pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, he decided one day to try something new.
“I was a little late to the game, but I wanted to get out of my shell,” Kevin said. “I can be a bit on the shyer side.”
Choking back nerves, Kevin stepped onto the stage to audition for the season’s first musical and felt at home, which is particularly impressive considering Kevin does not consider himself much of a singer.
He landed a role, albeit one that didn’t sing, and soon Kevin’s curriculum expanded to include acting classes.
Upon graduation, Kevin considered following his theater classmates to Chicago. Kevin decided to return home to Charlotte, where whispers of its burgeoning film scene had piqued his curiosity.
In another leap of faith, Kevin returned, invested in a set of headshots and set his sights on acquiring theatrical representation. Enter the Artists Resource Agency and RCM Talent & Management.
Rusty Wiggs, founder of Artists Resource Agency, recalls meeting Kevin after his return to the Queen City.
“When I first met Kevin … I was immediately drawn to his subtle, unassuming comedic timing,” Wiggs said. “Reminded me of Michael Cera yet with his own genuine timing. From there, I gave him a couple tips and pointers about the business – and he was off and running.”
Set in the Ozark mountains of Missouri, “Ozark” chronicles the life of Marty Byrd, a financial advisor played by Bateman, who moves his family from Chicago to a tucked away resort on Lake Ozark in hopes of escaping conflict with a drug cartel. It’s not long before trouble comes knocking.
Kevin plays Sam Dermody, a real estate agent. Although not able to divulge much else about his character, Kevin shared that many of his scenes take place with Linney, the actress playing Bateman’s wife.
“She’s incredible,” Kevin said, “one of those really giving actors.”
The two developed a great working relationship, chatting between takes and getting to know one another. Kevin recently went to see Linney on Broadway in the show “Little Foxes” and had the opportunity to catch up with her after the performance.
He also enjoyed working with Bateman, who directs several episodes.
“He really let me let loose on set,” Kevin said. “He’s an actor’s director – he knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera.”
Bateman encouraged Kevin on several occasions to explore the scenes using improv, allowing Kevin to add his perspective.
“I learned a lot about character arc, but also staying consistent to who the character is,” Kevin said.
His first major role on a television series now underway, Kevin also is looking forward to the Sept. 29 premier of “American Made,” the latest Tom Cruise crime-thriller. In the film, Kevin’s character, Agent Wainwright, shares the screen with pilot Barry Seal, played by Cruise, as Barry navigates working with the CIA and operating as a drug runner during the 1980s “War on Drugs.”
“It’s a hard road, but like Mark Ruffalo said, you might have to audition 600 times before booking the right role,” Kevin said. “If you’re passionate about it, and you want it … go after it.”