‘Ozark’ star dishes on the joy of playing ‘twisted’ Darlene Snell

Warning: This story contains spoilers from Season 2 of “Ozark.”

Wicked Aunt Lydia from “The Handmaid’s Tale” has some company atop TV’s pantheon of evil: murderous “Ozark” denizen Darlene Snell.

She’s one mean mother.

As “Ozark” fans know, Darlene (Lisa Emery in an Emmy-worthy performance) isn’t exactly the epitome of warmth. In Season 1, she poisoned strip club owner Bobby Deane with a syringe-jab to the neck and, much later on, literally blew the head off of drug lord Camino Del Rio (Esai Morales) after he referred to Darlene and her husband Jacob (Peter Mullan) as “rednecks.”

“He was disrespectful” she told Jacob (who calmly dispatched Del’s bodyguard with two gunshots).

In Season 2, the childless Darlene made it clear to Jacob that she wanted a baby to carry on the family legacy (a multi-million-dollar heroin empire in the Missouri Ozarks). She eventually got her wish — through several twists and turns — after killing the wife of doomed preacher Mason Young (Michael Mosley) and “delivering” the baby boy herself (that part was left to our imagination).

Then, in Season 2’s penultimate episode, Darlene poisoned Jacob (cyanide in his coffee) after suspecting that he was going to kill her during a walk in the woods (they disagreed about a glitzy casino being built on their land). “It’ll be quick, I promise,” she says to Jacob, who, lying on the ground in his death throes, croaks out a guttural laugh at the irony. His final words: “I never could keep up with you, Darlene.”

I asked the soft-spoken Emery, 66 — a Pittsburgh native who lives in the East Village — if she’s ever played a role quite like Darlene. “I did a play called ‘Iron’ with a character who was terrifying,” she says. “It took place in Northern England in a prison and [my character] had killed her husband with a hammer. She scared me more than Darlene, almost. They both had the same m.o.”

She’s asked if there’s anything redeeming about Darlene.

“I have to say, I can’t think of her as evil or else what would be the point?,” she says. “She has to have some kind of really strong convictions about what’s been done to the Snell family. I think she’s twisted but I think I have to believe in her. For me, it’s a joy to play that side of somebody, that scary stuff. It’s because you get to throw it all out there.

“She keeps saying to Jacob, ‘Why are we doing this? We have all of this, we’re providing ourselves with a lot of money, what’s the point of it all?’ I felt that before I had my kid [her son Zane, who’s 25]. I just got to a place in my life where … I don’t know if it’s biological. You want your life to have another meaning, like a completely different dimension to it.”

Netflix hasn’t yet renewed “Ozark” for a third season, but that’s a no-brainer at this point. So what will become of Darlene?

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, I can’t even imagine. But I don’t want to be killed off,” Emery says, laughing. “I don’t think that will happen really soon … but Darlene is on an arrow-straight track to hell. I think she’s such a fighter and will do anything to keep that baby.

“I don’t know if I should even say this, it’s so speculative, but whenever you’re in the [show’s] makeup trailer that’s where you hear the dirt [about the storyline]. It seems to me that [Darlene] goes on the lam and lives in the forest with the baby. I have no idea, but it’s intriguing to me.

“I never get any negative reaction [from playing Darlene],” she says. “People … think it’s a riot to see Darlene Snell on the street in the East Village. I was waiting for a bus on 14th Street and this woman comes up to me and says, ‘Oh my God, can I give you a hug?’”

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