Briefs: ‘Ozark’ production resumes November, Kennesaw’s Shaquira McGrath on ‘AGT,’ 11Alive’s Elwyn Lopez joins ABC News in Atlanta

Laura Linney (left) as Wendy Byrde and Jason Batemtn (right) as Marty Byrde during season 3 of "Ozark" on Netflix.
Laura Linney (left) as Wendy Byrde and Jason Batemtn (right) as Marty Byrde during season 3 of "Ozark" on Netflix.

Credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Executive producer and actor Jason Bateman said he hopes to begin season four of his Netflix drama “Ozark” in November.

“We’re going to start November 9,” said Bateman to IndieWire. “Everything is moving well toward that, and we’re very confident in the guidelines and protocols we’re going to be following. We’ve got tons of consultants, [and] we’re learning a lot from other productions.”

“Ozark” shoots interiors at Eagle Rock Studios in Norcross and exteriors in a range of locations such as Lake Allatoona, Braselton and Midtown Atlanta. The final season will be 14 episodes, split into two.

This show, like many, can’t fully sequester cast and crew, so Batemen is anticipating some positive tests might pop up.

“[Sometimes] we’ve got 60 or 70 people on stage, [and] sometimes [we’re] in a very small location,” Bateman said. “You’ve got ad-hoc air conditioning tubes and vents going in there, pushing air. Every one of those crew members is going home every night to families that are not having to follow a strict quarantine... So chances are high that we’re going to have some virus come through our set — often.”

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AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Live Show 1" Episode 1511 -- Pictured: Shaquira McGrath -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Live Show 1" Episode 1511 -- Pictured: Shaquira McGrath -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

Kennesaw singer Shaquira McGrath landed in the semifinals of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” last week during the first round of live shows this season.

Americans voted her in as one of the top 5 of 12 acts. As is common on the show, four of the top five acts were singers.

McGrath was able to perform live at Universal Studios, but it was not a typical show — thanks to the virus. Instead of a live audience, they built huge screens featuring hundreds of people watching remotely.

“It’s more distracting than exciting,” said McGrath, of the experience in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “It’s so weird.”

Some acts used the Universal lots outside, and overseas acts had to perform virtually, like a ukelele player from Taiwan. (Despite its name, “America’s Got Talent” has recruited international acts for many years.)

“AGT” did a video piece focused on McGrath’s desire to be a singer as a child, but she was discouraged because of her weight. “I was my own toughest critic and my own biggest roadblock,” she said in the video. “AGT” has changed her life immensely providing her a major boost in confidence.

She successfully performing Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” for her opening audition in front of a live audience just before the pandemic hit. She followed with a virtual take on Alecc’s “Wake Me Up.”

McGrath last week returned to country with the Rascal Flatts hit ballad “What Hurts the Most.” She chose the song on behalf of a friend who used that song as a salve after her father died. It’s also the music genre she’d like to explore if she has a chance to record an album.

Unfortunately, she said she had a technical issue with her earpiece, creating an echo of the backing instrumental of her song in her ear. Distracted, she said she didn’t feel she properly emoted the song.

“It really bothered me,” she said. Afterwards, “I literally bawled my eyes out. Every time I see it, I get upset. I hated it.”

The judges were kinder. Howie Mandel said he liked the performance but preferred her first one more.

Sofia Vergara (“Breathtaking!”) and Heidi Klum (“Your voice is larger than life!) gave her standing ovations.

Clarkson said how difficult the song is to sing and noted that McGrath didn’t hit every note but complimented her on her soulful, powerful voice.

McGrath said she was thrilled to sing for Clarkson after watching her win “Idol” 18 years ago when McGrath was a child.

“She just talked to me,” McGrath said after her performance. “I’m freaking out!”

For the semifinals, she said she plans to sing an upbeat song.

“I am self-conscious,” she said. “I get nervous on stage. Doing upbeat songs gives me a chance to channel my Sasha Fierce and get myself out of my shell.”

There are at least three more quarterfinal weeks to go, so we won’t see McGrath until September for the top 20 semifinal round.

Because of the pandemic and the fact Georgia is such a hotspot, McGrath is prohibited from going home. She is sequestered in her hotel room and cannot regularly hang out with other contestants. They have to Facetime and Zoom instead. They are also tested for COVID-19 every three days.

“It’s mentally taxing,” she said. “I stare out of my window and see this beautiful city, and I can’t go out!”

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Elwyn Lopez has joined the Atlanta-based ABC News bureau as a multi-platform reporter.
Elwyn Lopez has joined the Atlanta-based ABC News bureau as a multi-platform reporter.

Credit: ABC News

Credit: ABC News

ABC News has hired its first multi-platform reporter based in Atlanta, Elwyn Lopez. She will be providing news reports for ABC News’ NewsOne (its service for its affiliates like WSB-TV), digital and radio.

Lopez was most recently an 11Alive reporter for two years. She reported in both English and Spanish on air. Her bilingual reporting focused on immigration policies and their impact on those living in Georgia.

Before that, she spent six years working at CNN in Atlanta, covering stories such as El Chapo’s escape in Mexico, the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, the Baltimore protests following Freddie Gray’s death, Hurricane Patricia and Hurricane Matthew.

Lopez was born in the U.S. but grew up in Madrid in a bilingual, bi-cultural household.

The rest of the ABC News Atlanta team is Steve Osunsami, Brandon Baur, Janice McDonald and Darryl Calhoun.

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