Jason Bateman Career Arc: How He Went From Goofball To Gangster


Jason Bateman has had an incredibly successful career. His typical role has evolved a lot though, over the last 40 years. It’s rather interesting, for instance, how the actor – best known for comedic roles – ended up playing the manipulative money launderer, Marty Byrde on Ozark.

Bateman started acting at just twelve years old on the television show, Little House On The Prairie. He then moved on to small film and television roles here and there (mostly in comedies and sitcoms) until he landed a leading role on the late 1980s sitcom, Valerie [later renamed The Hogan Family]. This role on Valerie as David Hogan – a girl-crazy teen – truly cemented Bateman as a comedic actor.

Although, Bateman’s breakthrough role – the one that made him ‘famous’ – came almost a decade after Valerie ended. It came in the form of the character Michael Bluth from the sitcom, Arrested Development. Bateman excelled as Bluth; so much so that he won a Golden Globe for his performance.

However, the Bluth character – a dry, uptight and critical (but somehow lovable) guy – kind of allowed Bateman to get typecast over the years. In all honesty, Bateman’s respective characters in Arrested Development, Extract, The Break-Up, Couples Retreat, Horrible Bosses, The Change-Up, Identity Thief, Office Christmas Party and Game Night are very similar, if not the exact same character, just with different names and backgrounds.

Bateman in one of his first roles as David Hogan from Valerie. Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television Distribution

That’s not to say that all of those films aren’t enjoyable; they are. And Bateman is enjoyable in all of them too, as he plays that type of deadpan but anal character to perfection. But Bateman can play other characters exceptionally well too.

Just look at his character Pepper Brooks in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story or Mark Loring in Juno; while both of those films are comedies, both Pepper and Mark are very different to the usual characters Bateman plays – and Bateman is still excellent.

Despite doing some roles – like Pepper and Mark – that showed his range, Bateman was very aware that he was being typecast in comedies. This is why the actor took the role of Marty Byrde in Ozark. To prove that he has other abilities as an actor; and, oh boy, did he succeed.

Bateman, while a terrific actor with serious range, has gotten typecast over the years. Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Bateman has been nominated for Oustanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the Emmy Awards three times for playing Marty and has received universal critical acclaim.

Although surprisingly, while Bateman has starred in his fair share of comedies – and is best known as a comedic actor – Ozark wasn’t his first foray into drama. Bateman did an excellent job in both State of Play and The Gift – films where Bateman got to play darker, more serious roles.

However, as he wasn’t in a lead role in either film, Bateman never got the accolades he deserved. Thankfully, he’s getting them now because of Ozark; although, we’re truly bummed that Ozark is over and we won’t see Bateman as Marty again.

Only time will tell whether Bateman falls back into his classic typecast role or whether he’ll continue to act in more dramas. Either way, we’re sure he’ll nail it and can’t wait to see what’s next.

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