Ozark: Tom Pelphrey Explains Importance of Accurate Mental Health Portrayals

The third season of Ozark has arrived, allowing those stuck indoors to escape into the panic attack-inducing world of Jason Bateman and Laura Linney's Marty and Wendy Byrde. This time around, the series introduces Tom Pelphrey's Ben Davis into the mix, a character that instantly adds a whole new level of depth and complexity to the show. Before long, it's revealed Davis suffers from pretty severe mental illness, a plot thread that certainly doesn't aid the Bydres in their ever-shady world of trying to escape the likes of the cartel and Kansas City mobs. Before we go too much further, there are minor Ozark spoilers up ahead. Proceed with caution if you've yet to see the series!

Shortly after Davis' arrival to the Ozarks, it's revealed he suffers from a pretty severe form of bipolar disorder. Because of a relationship he strikes up with Julia Garner's Ruth Langmore, Davis decides to ditch his medication because it...ahem, causes certain performance issues. Naturally, this move sets the character on a dark path throughout the remainder of the season. When we spoke to Pelphrey about the release of Ozark Season Three, the actor made sure to share how important it was to accurately understand this specific mental illness while getting ready for the role

"I mean, so yes, to understand bipolar disorder, obviously, I felt that was pretty important," Pelphrey tells us. "I found a really great book. I tried reading a few books, but I found one in particular that I found very useful. It was called An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison."

As Pelphrey says, An Unquiet Mind is essentially a memoir from Jamison that talks about a woman struggling with bipolar disorder. In Jamison's case, she had already been a practicing psychologist, so her diagnosis added some complexities to the case.

"The book was extremely helpful because you're simultaneously getting a very vulnerable, honest memoir, almost like reading someone's journal about their journey with bipolar," adds Pelphrey. "At the same time, the woman writing it is also a mental health professional so she's also giving you the facts and then objective view of what is happening."


Translating that to Ozark, Pelphrey points out the situation his character finds himself in during the show isn't necessarily the best environment to find one's self in. "Obviously with Ben in Ozark, he is in an insanely difficult, crazy, stressful, ridiculously high-stakes environment, which is something that plays into his response to the situation," the actor concludes. "It's not just that Ben has bipolar, it's that he's literally surrounded by insanity."

All three seasons of Ozark are now streaming on Netflix.

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