Popular Girl: Madison Thompson
May 7, 2020
School is hard enough without being an actress, but Popular Girl Madison Thompson is not only killing it at USC, but as Erin Pierce in the latest season of Ozark on Netflix. Season three introduces Thompson as a bit of a rebel in this hit crime series where she plays the daughter of Helen Pierce who we get to see so much more of this season.
Think she looks familiar? You’re probably right. Madison has been on the shows Henry Danger, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, and Creepshow – just to name a few. Between all of those virtual classes and real life isolation, we’re so glad we got to talk to Madison about this season of Ozark, a walk through her day, and what it’s been like juggling school with her shooting schedule! Keep reading to find out everything we know about Madison Thompson!
1. Tell us about Ozark and your character Erin Pierce!
Gladly! “Ozark” is a Netflix show that follows a financial advisor, Marty Bryde, played by Jason Bateman and his wife, Wendy Brdye, played by Laura Liney. Marty drags his family, including his two kids, from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, where he must launder money to appease a drug boss.
In the second season they introduced a new character named Helen Peirce, played by Janet McTeer, who is the attorney for the drug cartel. Helen is brilliant, tactical, cold as ice, does not play games, and absolutely terrifying if you ask me. My character Erin Pierce is Helen Pierce’s headstrong teenage daughter.
Season 3 opens six months later; the casino is up and running but Marty and Wendy are fighting for control of the family’s destiny. This plot explores the complications of family dynamics; the lines between family and business have never been more blurred. Erin and Helen are no exception.
Why watch Ozark? 1. It is amazing, 2. The acting is top notch, 3. All your friends have already told you to watch it, 4. Coronavirus means you are practicing social distancing and are quarantined at home so you have plenty of time to binge season 1 & 2, 5. Season 3 dropped Friday March 27th! And I can keep going with more reasons…
2. How are you and your character similar? Different?
From my first day on set, I shared one main similarity with my character Erin: I was the new kid. This season, Erin comes to the Ozarks for the first time. She comes to the town with her mom not knowing anyone or what to expect other than some mother-daughter bonding for the summer. Similar to Erin, I joined the cast of “Ozark” for season three not really knowing what to expect! I was cast onto the show very quickly and was provided very little details as to the future of my character for the season.
As for differences, I would say that Erin is probably a little more stubborn than I am. But my mom would likely say otherwise…
3. How has the show affected your life?
“Ozark” has affected my life in more ways than one! I was lucky enough to work with Jason Bateman, who is not only one of the leads on our show but also serves as a Director and Producer. Getting to work so closely with Jason and witness him wear so many hats definitely solidified my interest in pursuing producing/directing/writing opportunities (in addition to acting) in the future. Any of those positions would make me so creatively fulfilled. In addition to working with Jason, I was also incredibly fortunate to work with a handful of incredibly talented women on the show who were very inspiring and served as great mentors.
4. You moved from Atlanta to LA for school and back to Atlanta for shooting! Was it at all weird shooting around the areas you grew up in?
Traveling cross country to work and starting college at the same time was a total whirlwind. However, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world! A lot of people actually don’t realize that we shoot the show in Atlanta and not on the actual Lake of the Ozarks. We spend most of our time doing on-location shoots around Lake Lanier and other lake/swampy areas of Georgia.
To be honest, shooting on location for this show is almost like a vacation! We worked a lot during the summer and spent it on or next to the lake. In the hot July and August months, crew members would hop in the lake during lunch break or stick their feet in off the docks. Many of the shooting locations weren’t exactly super close to where I grew up in Georgia. So, I would drive about 45 minutes from my house to set every day. Nevertheless, it was really nice that I was able to stay at home when I was filming and collapse in my own bed after a long day of shooting.
5. What is an average day for you like? (Quarantined or otherwise)
My quarantined days have unfortunately not been even seemingly reflective of what a day in the life looks like for me. When I am not practicing social distancing at home with my family in Georgia, my average day is pretty busy. If I am not shooting a project that day, I will usually be up by 9 or 10 and start by cleaning my dorm room (yes, I am still a college student, so I do also live in a dorm!). After my room is organized and bed made, I am ready to start the day. I like to make myself breakfast in the room which usually consist of instant-make oatmeal and fruit on the side. Then, most of my day is spent in class from around 12-4. You can probably find me taking notes in my Intro to Television Class (quite fitting) or my Microeconomics course.
When class is done for the day I will meet up with a friend or two and head over to a Sculpt class at CorePower Yoga on campus. After getting my yogi on, I know I will be craving avocado toast from Greenleaf in the USC Village so I will pick that up on the way back to my dorm. By now it is 7:00 P.M. and I need to shower and read a script. If it’s a busy night, which it usually is, I will Uber over to the nearby self-tape studio and do an audition or two. On the drive back to campus, I will knock out my phone calls for the day! Ubering is almost my favorite part of the day because it is when I am able to get so much work done or can take a deep breath, relax, play some music, and enjoy the L.A. traffic.
Who am I calling? My parents most likely! Do a little check in on them and see how my dogs are doing at home. I will also catch up with someone on my team like my agent or manager about different ongoing projects or ideas in the works. Once I return back to campus, I’m headed off to the library to finish my homework or get ahead on a paper I need to write.
As for Madison’s-Daily-Quarantined life? I try to keep as normal a schedule as possible to be honest! I still do yoga at home, make my own avocado toast, and attend class over Zoom. It is very important for us to be practicing Social Distancing at this time, but that in no way means it is easy. I have been making daily To Do lists to give my day more structure and feel more accomplished in my actions.
Clearly, I like to stay moving :)
6. What is your dream role? (real or imagined)
Easy, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the Musical on Broadway. Elle represents one of my favorite female roles and is a large inspiration. Elle is a funny, confident, beautiful woman (played by the stellar Reese Witherspoon who is a role model to me in her own right). More importantly Elle is a smart woman who prioritizes her education. Though people underestimate her, she uses her wit and brains to prove them wrong. Education has always been an important factor in my life. I have always loved learning and Elle represents a character that not only embodies the values that align with my own, but she serves as a role model to young girls and gets to make the audiences laugh. The Musical? I love Broadway and who wouldn’t want to take Elle Woods to the next level through singing and dancing like Laura Bell Bundy? Sounds like a dream to me!
7. What is your “Hollywood Dream”?
To either be on or be a part of the creative team for a successful family sitcom that goes into syndication. I know it is not the typical Hollywood Dream! However, I would thrive in that work environment because it is similar to theater being that it shoots in front of a live studio audience. My dream is to go home every day satisfied because I told a story that made people laugh. And if it goes into syndication… then those stories will continue to be shown to many different audiences for a long time.
8. Your first concert was Justin Bieber. What was your second?
Wow, you are taking me WAY back. I can still remember that JB concert so vividly. His swooshy haircut, the purple jacket, the piercing screams of thousands of teenage girls. Funny enough, my second concert was a COMPLETELY different vibe. I went to go see Train, which now seems a little random for a 10-year-old girl to see. I remember being one of the only children there amongst a sea of 40-year-old parents. But hey, regardless what age, “Hey, Soul Sister” will always be a classic song that anyone can jam along to.
9. One thing you’ve learned about Hollywood that you didn’t know before.
Interesting question. One thing that I didn’t realize until more recently was that Hollywood is a lot smaller than you think. Everyone either knows, has worked with, or is friends with pretty much everyone. I think that is what made it so easy to connect with people on “Ozark”, even though I was completely new to the cast. Everyone was so kind and candid, and we quickly bonded over shared friends and shared interests. For example, my TV Mom Janet McTeer and I spent our first day working together talking about her character Sarah Bernhardt in her recent Broadway show Bernhardt/Hamlet. I am a big Broadway fan and knew of other people who had worked on the production. We fell so easily into a conversation about the incredible Broadway community and the history of Shakespeare and acting in general.
10. What Netflix shows are you watching right now?
I am currently finishing the most recent season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” It is HILARIOUS. If you love Beyoncé, Broadway, the Office, New York, comedy, weird cult circumstances, Tina Fey, (I could continue) … this show is the show for you. The writing is so well done, and the performances are out of this world. The characters, especially Titus, are my favorite.
When I am watching a Netflix drama, I am of course re-binging Season 1 and 2 of “Ozark” … Duhhhhh! How else am I going to be all ready to go for Season 3’s drop on Friday March 27th!
11. What was the audition process like for Ozark? How did you find out you got the role?
The audition process was actually quite quick! I had auditioned for the show in the past and was also a fan before I read for Erin. I remember receiving the audition for Erin and immediately telling my mom “I am going to get this role. I don’t know why I know this, but I am.” I spent a good two days working on the script and watching clips of her mom’s character Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer) from Season 2. I also watched many clips of the kids on the show, Jonah and Charlotte, so that I could make sure to match the existing tone and style of the kids and their acting. I then put myself on tape for the role. About a week later, on a Monday, my agent told me that he had heard some good news from casting and that I was in the final selections for the role.
That Friday I got a call from my Agent while I was in my AP Physics class. I remember my phone going off in class, and I immediately grabbed it and ran out of the room without any explanation. I knew the second the phone rang what it was for. After closing the deal over the phone with my agent in the hallway of my high school, I ran back into my Physics class, apologized to my teacher, sat down, and finished the class. Luckily, my Physics teacher is a big “Ozark” fan, so she was completely understanding.
After shooting the season, I learned that they had actually auditioned girls from all over the country for the role of Erin. I felt so humbled and honored to have landed this role on such an acclaimed show. Apparently, Jason had specifically chose me for the role, and after seeing my audition said he could not see anyone else playing it. Taking on this character was one of the best experiences of my life.
12. How is it juggling college with shooting?
It is a full-time job in and of itself. To give a little background in addition to working professionally I am also a Presidential Scholar at the University of Southern California 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.
Learning how to do both has taken a lot of practice. Luckily, I think my success in balancing work and school is rooted in my experiences at my high school, The Lovett School. In high school, I worked with faculty around shooting schedules for projects such as “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World,” and “Creepshow,” among others.
Lovett helped me create a foundation of balance. Specifically, I learned that I must be organized and proactive and complete my school assignments in advance. Now working with my professors in college, I depend a lot on direct and early communication.
How I am able to live the best of both worlds in college still baffles me. One of the reasons I chose to attend University of Southern California was because of their commitment to me both as a student and as a professional actor. I am so proud and fortunate to be a part of a university that so avidly supports me as a student both inside and outside of the classroom.
A social life? Still working on that one… I will have to get back to you on that.
13. Can you tell us an embarrassing story?
This story makes me want to crawl into a ball and hide, but I will make an exception and tell you anyway. It all began on a Tuesday morning this past January, the start of our Spring semester at USC. One of my friends convinced me to do a morning Yoga Sculpt class before my class at 12. The class ran over, which meant I had to hustle back to my dorm to shower and change. Also, this was the FIRST class of the semester, so I wanted to make a good impression by looking presentable and arriving a few minutes early to meet my new professor and classmates. Needless to say, I was in a hurry as class started in 30 minutes and I still needed to shower!
I continued a conversation with my friend as we both trotted quickly down the hall. I must have been walking too fast and not paying enough attention because I tripped in the hallway. As I fell my yoga mat swung around my back and with the most terrible timing slid and hit the fire alarm next to me. It immediately set off a blaring alarm throughout the entire dorm. My life flashed before my eyes, and the only thing I could see was the sign above the fire alarm that read “malicious pulling of a fire alarm is a criminal offense that can result in jail time.”
My RA walked into the hallway to find me flat on the ground, yoga mat on my back, sweaty, with the fire alarm going off. I was SO embarrassed. We quickly worked together to reset the fire alarm and contact the school security to inform them that there was in fact no emergency and instead a clumsy girl had just set off the alarm. Thankfully we were able to solve the problem and I still showered and made it to class with no jail time!
What is even more terrifying is that they told me over the phone that if the alarm had gone off for 1 more minute, they would have had to evacuate all 400 people my dorm. Learn from my embarrassing story and never run with a yoga mat on your back.
14. What does popular mean to you?
Popular can mean a lot of things… but to me perhaps it can be a reflection of people’s admiration not just for an individual’s talents but for the hard work they use to find success by developing those skills over time. The people that I admire and respect are those who have done this. Those are the people who are popular to me.
15. Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects?
In addition to the release of “Ozark” Season 3, I am excited to say that I have some really amazing, but completely different style, projects coming your way. I love being able to work on different genres and style shows because it pushes me as an actress. One upcoming project is ABC’s “American Housewife” (a very different type of Housewife than the Wendy Bryde we know and love!) In addition to “American Housewife,” I 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:
Go on.. They’re clickable.
- Photographer Hudson Taylor @thehudsontaylor
- Styling Philippe Uter @PhilippeUter
- Hair Alex Thao @alexthaohair
- Makeup Melissa Hernandez @Melissa.Hernandez