‘Fargo’ star Jesse Plemons on Killer Landry, Killer Todd and his new killer role

CALGARY, ALBERTA. Jesse Plemons has killed on the small screen and there's a pretty good chance he'll kill again.

On Friday Night Lights, Landry Clarke wasn't always homicidal, but if you threatened the woman he loved, he wasn't afraid to send you to the morgue.

On Breaking Bad, however, Plemons' character was most definitely a psychopath, which made Todd Alquist a fan favorite of sorts.

Viewers are so accustomed to seeing Plemons build up a body count TV that when mild-mannered butcher Ed Blomquist used a garden tool to help finish wife Peggy's hit-and-run in last week's “Fargo” premiere, there was great excitement.

On the “Fargo” set in April, I spoke with Plemons about what I'm calling a three-part series studying the effects of committing murder on ordinary individuals. We also discussed the actor's remarkable run of TV work that has seen him land regular roles on some of the best shows of the past 25 years. Plemons isn't doing so badly with his feature career either, as he can currently be seen on the big screen in “Black Mass” and “Bridge of Spies” in addition to his “Fargo” work.

In the chat, Plemons talks about how this TV murder is different and how Ed reminds him of his own father.

Before Monday (October 19) night's “Fargo” episode, check out my Q&A with Plemons.

HitFix: It feels like for you this is completing a three-part series on the impact of murder on a person, what committing murder does to an individual, with Landry and then with Todd and then with this.

Jesse Plemons: That”s an interesting way of looking at it.

HitFix: They”re not the same and none of them, I assume, are reacting in the same way so how does this character”s reaction to murder, how does that seem interesting and different to you?

Jesse Plemons: The relationship with his wife was what drew me to this show in the first place, just because that”s the only way he can do any of this stuff and that”s the only reason he”s going on this ride is because of how much he loves his wife, how much he sees this dream of them having six kids and a big house and dogs and him owning a butcher shop. Ed is sort of still holding on to the ideals that the '50s put off. And Peggy is sort of half here and half far away like California. 

HitFix: Does it feel like a more substantive and grown up act that he”s committed here then, as opposed to say Landry doing what he did for Tyra , which was also for a girl to some degree.

Jesse Plemons: It was, but he was a kid. And you really didn”t get to see all that play out. I mean they kind of swept it under the rug at a certain point. [He laughs.] But this, you get to see every level of what goes on when you”re faced with these horrific acts that, in your mind, you feel like you have no other choice. And I don”t know. It”s the relationship. Ed is kind of a version of my dad, I feel like. It”s cut and dry when it comes to family like, “I”m on your side.”

HitFix: Is that a conversation you”ve had with Noah?

Jesse Plemons: Yeah. Noah [Hawley], the night before we started he sent this long email that was just like the best sort of pep talk that you could ever hope for and just talking about the world, but specifically Ed, and how every boy/man whether they believe it or not, in some ways they model themselves after their fathers or go in the complete opposite direction. And that”s someone that really looked up to what his dad accomplished and wants to do the exact same thing.

HitFix: His relationship with his wife is obviously sort of his strength. Is it also a weakness to some degree?

Jesse Plemons: Yes. Yes. It definitely is. [He laughs.]

HitFix: How seriously does that impact him?

Jesse Plemons: It”s tricky trying to answer some of these. I mean that”s what motivates everything pretty much. And both of them go on a crazy journey. Ed”s world just sort of explodes and expands and he”s being faced with the reality of the times and some of the evil that”s out there. And I think he”s a caregiver and a protector and there are some people coming in to try and mess up what he loves.

HitFix: Do you ever get the chance to stop and reflect on how much good TV you”ve gotten to be involved in in the past five, six, seven, eight, nine years?

Jesse Plemons: Every now and then. Mainly whenever people remind me. But it”s ridiculous. I mean all three of these shows have been unbelievable for sort of different reasons and the same. It”s a different experience when you”ve got really good material. You”ve got people at the top that really know what they”re doing and are really generous and collaborative and open. And it changes the way people work. The crew, they want to get up in the morning and make this as good as they can. It”s a team sort of family thing.

HitFix: You”ve had a chance to grow up in these TV shows as well and grow up as an actor. How do you think you”re different now than you were on “Friday Night Lights” and then step back and how you were on “Breaking Bad.” Like how is your evolution as an actor been tracked through these?

Jesse Plemons: What”s funny is I feel like I”ve come in some way full circle from “Friday Night Lights,” because I was 18 when I got that, riding 18-year-old confidence and I was having the time of my life. And that work environment was so incredible. It was so freeing and we were able to just really make it our own. And then after that was over it was like, “Back to the real world.” And now I”m kind of figuring out how to take that environment, that atmosphere, with me. And it makes it easy when you”re on a show like this and you have such good writing.

HitFix: Well how picky are you now because of these experiences you”ve had?

Jesse Plemons: Well I don”t know if it”s picky. I just know. I just know immediately. I read something and I don”t really ever want to do the same thing or get stuck doing the same thing. I just want to kind of continue to challenge myself and luckily I”ve been able to do that.

HitFix: It just seems like such a high standard to have to set on a script, you know, “Is it 'Friday Night Lights'?” “Is it 'Breaking Bad'?” “Is it 'Fargo'?” Well, probably not.

Jesse Plemons: Well they”re not all always going to be that, but there are several things that go into play – the director and who you”re working with.

“Fargo” airs on Monday nights on FX.