Digital Exclusive Cover: Breakout Star Madison Thompson Talks Netflix’s Ozark, Self-Love + Social Distancing
Madison Thompson has loved the theater and performing since she was young. Lucky for us instead of pursuing a medical career, she chose the arts as her way to give back. She’s not only a talented actress, but she’s also a student at the University of Southern California. We chatted with Madison about her new role in Netflix’s third season of Ozark, highlights from her amazing career, her definition of self-love, what she’s doing to brave through the weeks of social isolation as well as her charitable endeavors. Read on to learn more about how she juggles it all in her digital exclusive Glitter cover story.
GLITTER: How long have you been acting?
MADISON: I have been acting for as long as I can remember. Growing up partially in NYC, I have no memories of life without theater in it. As a kid, I was always putting on musicals in my bedroom and participating in young children’s theater. Acting represents a way for me to tell stories to a bigger audience while also incorporating my passion for the arts, which is why I was so attracted to it early on.
In middle school, however, my parents officially signed me up for on-camera acting classes because I needed an after school activity, and I dreaded going to soccer practice. I attended acting classes for the pure enjoyment of them. Never did I think I would end up having a career in it!
GLITTER: Can you tell us about that journey and what that looked like for you?
MADISON: Acting only started becoming serious for me after three or so years of weekly acting classes. I am very lucky that, around the same time I started acting, the entertainment industry exploded in Georgia. With the number of productions skyrocketing, talent was needed, and I was sucked into the industry and have never looked back!
My acting “journey” is a bit different from most because I chose to continue full-time school while also pursuing a professional career. This meant that very early on, I had to learn how to juggle both a shooting schedule and my academic work, which never seem to mesh easily. Luckily, my high school was very supportive of the arts and kindly worked with me through my absences for 7+ shows including “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World,” AMC’s “Creepshow,” and Netflix’s “Ozark” among others.
Last fall, I started as a freshman at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where I continue my work and studies. My mother had to move me into my freshman dorm by herself because I was still finishing shooting “Ozark” in Atlanta.
GLITTER: When and what was your big break?
MADISON: That’s a tough one to answer. It’s a toss-up between a) “Ozark,” or b) when I played Bush #2 in “The Jungle Book” in elementary school.
GLITTER: What can you tell us about the NETFLIX’S HIT SERIES, “OZARK.” and your character?
MADISON: Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning show “Ozark” is about Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), a financial advisor who is forced to relocate to the Ozarks with his family to pay off a substantial debt to a Mexican drug lord. Season three begins six months after season two ended and finds the Byrdes with their casino up and running, but Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney) are fighting for control of the family’s destiny. The new season is all about complicated family dynamics, as the lines between family and business have never been more blurred for the Byrdes, Ruth (Julia Garner), and others. New characters mean new threats.
My role Erin is no exception to that rule! Erin is dragged from Chicago to the Ozarks for the summer by her mother Helen Pierce (played by the magnificent Janet McTeer). The intention is mother-daughter bonding, but it ends where no one expects.
Erin is very clearly her mother’s daughter. She is very headstrong, not afraid to take charge and goes for what she wants, even if it’s completely disastrous and the wrong choice. At the same time, she is also a teenage girl with insecurities, fears, and ambitions, all the while she is trying to define herself in a new town that she knows nothing about. I felt very empowered as a woman to play a strong female character who had no qualms about sticking up for herself, but at the same time was a nuanced character with her own set of fears.
GLITTER: Do you have any similarities with your character?
MADISON: Right from the get-go, I always shared a big similarity with my character Erin. I was the new kid on the show. I was brought in quickly through a fast audition process and was provided very little details as to the future of my character for the season. I did not know what to expect. In the same way, Erin is brought to the Ozarks and is very unaware of the summer that lies ahead of her.
GLITTER: How do you generally prepare for your roles?
MADISON: Research is always the key for me when I prepare for any acting role. Before working on this show, I did a lot of research (and watching!) on the first two seasons of “Ozark.” I specifically focused on two areas: the character arc of Helen’s role and the dynamic of the kids on the show. I especially focused on Helen’s plotline and character arc in season two to contextualize the relationship and personality that Erin would have. Helen is her main female role model (if you could call her a role model? She kind of kills people for a living…) and would have shaped Erin’s confrontation style. Separately, the dynamic and content of the Byrde kids on the show can be a bit more lighthearted as compared to the murderous rampages of the Cartel.
I also kept in mind the existing tone of the show in my preparation process. I knew the acting style was grounded and real with a hint of danger at every turn.
GLITTER: What is your approach to auditioning?
MADISON: Auditioning is a beast in and of itself. Even though the performance may be on a smaller scale, you have to perform an audition as if you were on a set or a stage. My biggest tip for the audition process is knowing how to move on! It sounds weird, but this industry is full of rejection. You may do 50 or 100 auditions before you land that one great role. Put your heart into each audition, give it everything you’ve got, and come prepared. But when it is done, let it leave your mind and continue with your life. Do not stress or worry about if or when they will call. Because hey, when they do, it is a lovely surprise!
GLITTER: Can you share highlights from some of your past roles?
MADISON: My friends and I always joke about the utter randomness of the roles I have worked on… If you know me well, you know that I have never once played a role that is similar to my real personality. It is funny to think about, but also the best part of my job because every role I take on is a challenge. I have been fortunate enough to play amazing characters, a few include (spoilers FYI):
- A teenage Russian spy on “NCIS: New Orleans” – They let me do all of my own stunts for this show, including shooting paintball guns at people and smashing a lamp over someone’s head. Not to mention, I did a super intense one on one scene with Scott Bakula (who is such a kind and hardworking individual). So surreal!
- Crazy green Free-gan on ABC’s “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” – This was by far the weirdest role I ever played on a show and therefore the most fun. My character would eat other people’s food if they didn’t finish it. Yes, you read that right, other people’s food scraps. I also loved working super closely with the costume department on that show in developing this crazy hippy, quirky wardrobe for that character. It is always fun to be the comedic relief… not to mention playing friends with one of my real-life friends Chloe East was a joy!
- Dead menacing ghost on AMC’s “Creepshow” – This role took a lot of inspiration – look and character-wise – from Wednesday on “The Addams Family.” They completely transformed me for this character, including dying my hair black with gray streaks. AMC also did some amazing special effects for the show, the highlight being when they made our skulls melt off.
GLITTER: How do you use your voice for change?
MADISON: Working in the entertainment industry can be hard at times because of the self-centered nature of the business. That is why I like to spend my free time volunteering for and sharing the message of the Foundation for Hospital Art.
For over 30 years, The Foundation for Hospital Art has been the preeminent force in softening hospital and shelter environments with colorful paintings, murals and ceiling tiles. Right now, I am finishing final paint touch-ups on 24 canvases for four murals that will then be shipped to healthcare facilities around the world. I have also used my voice on social media to connect with families in my community so that they can volunteer during this difficult time. What is great about FFHA is that it gives people the ability to volunteer and make a difference from the safety of their homes. You can social distance and make a social difference! I love supporting this organization because of the message they spread about the positive effect art has on healing lives. Something that I have experienced first-hand.
Learn more about their mission and how you can get involved: http://www.hospitalart.org
GLITTER: Who is your mentor?
MADISON: Am I allowed to say I am lucky enough to have many? I learn so much from watching and listening to others – but many people inspire me in different ways. Here are three mentors I have that have been teaching me a lot recently:
- My mom: One of the most incredible people in my life by far. My mom is my mentor and a great role model for how to be a strong, accomplished woman. In addition to being an amazing mom, she works full-time as a renewable energy lawyer and has multiple college and graduate degrees. She is constantly teaching me the importance of working hard, prioritizing my studies, and remembering to give back to others. Her guidance keeps me in balance, on track, and continually identifying as an empowered woman.
- Carrie St. Louis: Carrie is my wonderful voice teacher (and low key life coach). When she is not transforming voices, she is starring as Glinda on Broadway, or in “Kinky Boots,” or “Rock of Ages.” You know, no biggie. Carrie is currently teaching me so much about what it means to be an adaptable performer, how to integrate my acting experience into my singing and build stories with my voice. What I wouldn’t give to have a slice of the career she has had. Even with all her credits, she remains humble, kind, and infectiously positive – traits I try to emulate every day.
- Matt Barnes: My acting mentor for sure. Matt is an incredible actor, director, writer, and also coaches and tapes me in many of my auditions. Matt pushes me to see and explore the other side of the character, to be well prepared, and is never afraid to nudge me to dig a little deeper. I would not be the actress I am today without him.
GLITTER: Can you tell us about your college experience and how education is important to you?
MADISON: When I am not working professionally, I am so fortunate to be a Presidential Scholar at the University of Southern California. I know right!?! I am currently enrolled in the BCA program (Business Degree in Cinematic Arts). This joint degree program allows me to explore the financial and producing side of the entertainment industry, which has always been a strong interest of mine. I also recently declared a Musical Theater Minor in the Thornton School of Music.
Juggling school and professional work is by no means easy. It often comes at the sacrifice of social or personal time. I am happy, however, to make the sacrifice because of my passion for acting and learning. Education has always been an important part of my life and I thrive in the classroom setting (or online classroom these days!). I enjoy learning more about the way our industry works, the ins and outs, the cameras, the finances, etc. It is so fascinating to me. Being a full-time student keeps me thinking, on my toes, and overall makes me a better actor. It equips me with more life experience and understanding to bring to each role I tackle.
GLITTER: Glitter has a Celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign, and we want to know, what’s self-love mean to you?
MADISON: To me, self-love means body positivity. It means embracing ALL of you for you. This means treating your body like the wonderful temple it is and being proud of it. Everyone struggles with loving every inch of themselves. It takes time and practice. For me, it means dressing up when there is no occasion. Celebrating myself in this way always transforms my mood and makes me more positive and driven for the day.
GLITTER: What would be a dream role for you?
MADISON: It would definitely be to play Glinda in “Wicked” on Broadway. Glinda represents a character that gets to be the comedic relief of the show, spreads positivity, descends in a bubble (BUCKETLIST!), and has a huge character arc. It is a challenging role, but would be so rewarding because of the audience feedback and the story you can tell as an actress.
GLITTER: What’s on your playlist right now?
MADISON: Frank Sinatra, Michael Bublé, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, Harry Connick Jr., Bobby Darin, and Etta James.
GLITTER: Social Isolation has become the new normal for now. What are your favorite things to do right now throughout the day?
MADISON: Bake, sing, clean, play with my animals… and basically, pretend to be a Disney princess all day.
GLITTER: Favorite ways to center yourself and relax?
MADISON: I have been obsessed with the Derma-roller and jade-roller recently! The Derma-roller is equivalent to an at-home microdermabrasion. It is a little tool with 5 mm needles on it that you roll on over your face that helps exfoliate. I will do a whole little facial routine before I go to bed to center myself and relax. I also like to use my Jade-roller that one of my favorite makeup artists @tommymakeup_ used on me (shout out to him for making me addicted to it). It feels so cool and smooth on your skin and is the best face massage ever.
GLITTER: Favorite foods to snack on?
MADISON: Anything chocolate. I have a crippling chocolate addiction to the point that I have made an Instagram account where I post all the chocolate that I eat. It is called @choco.lot if you want to experience the depth of my love for chocolate.
GLITTER: What are your top 5 binge-worthy shows?
- Ozark (DUH!)
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- The Carrie Diaries
- Now that I think about it. I think I am going to go re-binge all those shows right now…
GLITTER: Coffee or Tea?
MADISON: Passion Fruit Iced Tea – No sweetener with light ice from Starbucks. It is the only thing that I have ever ordered from Starbucks and probably the only thing I will ever order.
GLITTER: Favorite fashion indulgence?
MADISON: Peter Pan collars
GLITTER: Name your top 5 beauty products.
- Better than Sex Mascara – the real secret to my full lashes
- Nars Creamy Concealer – goodbye dark under-eye circles
- Bobbi Brown Bronzer – so I look alive and not like Casper the Ghost
- Kink & Kisses Marc Jacob Blush – The perfect pink cheek
- Trish McEvoy Even Skin Water Foundation – Incredibly effortless, natural, and light coverage
- But I LOVE experimenting with new products and am constantly changing my routine…
GLITTER: Any projects you can tell us about that you’re working on next?
MADISON: In addition to the release of “Ozark” season three, I have some amazing, but completely different style projects coming your way! I love being able to push myself as an actress and work on characters and content that lie at opposite sides of the spectrum. One upcoming project is on ABC’s “American Housewife” (a very different type of Housewife than the Wendy Byrde we know and love!) In addition to “American Housewife,” I also have some other projects in development that I hope to be able to share more about soon. The best way to find out about them is to follow my Social Media accounts.
GLITTER: Any special talents outside of acting?
MADISON: I can sing with my mouth closed!
Photo Credit: Hudson Taylor (@thehudsontaylor)
Styling: Philippe Uter (@philippeuter)
Makeup: Melissa Hernandez (@melissa.hernandez)
Hair: Alex Thao (@alexthaohair)