Interviews: Colin Hanks and Joey King talk FX’s ‘Fargo’

CALGARY – It's mid-March and they're having a heatwave on the set of FX's “Fargo.”

According to a nearby thermometer, the temperature is 27 degrees and with the sun already beating down, there's a good chance that things could get above freezing in Minnesota-by-way-of-Alberta. 

This is cause for celebration and nearly everybody is behaving as if summer has arrived. The assistant director is walking around the parking lot set in short-sleeves, even as two members of the crew are shoveling snow for the backdrop to the next scene. In truth, though, things have become so mild on the “Fargo” set that they've run out of actual fresh snow and they're using pristine white stunt-snow delivered via truck.

Although all of the “Fargo” actors have their own nightmare stories about shooting in sub-zero temperatures brought about by the polar vortex, on this morning, the stars are actually having makeup applied to make their cheeks look ruddier and colder. 

Next to a Duluth police cruiser, Colin Hanks and Joey King are both being prepped for their next scene, a long take that finds Gus Grimley's car getting stuck in the snow. On a show that embarked on a dizzying bodycount before the completion of the pilot, it looks like a low-stakes scene, but in Noah Hawley's reimagining of the Coen Brothers' wintertime classic, it's often the little things that cause the most drama, or that cause otherwise stable characters to crack.

In this case, a patch of slippery ice is going to cause frustration for Hanks' Gus, an in-over-his-head cop and father who became a key piece in a small-town crimewave after a late-night encounter with Billy Bob Thornton's Lorne Malvo in the “Fargo” pilot. 

The potential for a snowy stumble is why Hanks and King are in makeup next to the car, but a pair of dopplegangers are standing 10 feet away being made to look equally frigid. Hanks has a stunt-double to make sure that an upcoming pratfall is flawlessly executed, while King has a stunt-double to make sure that somebody other than a 14-year-old actress is behind the wheel of the squad car when it's supposed to be reversing in a snowbank. 

It's not that King isn't at least peripherally capable of putting a car in reverse, but the need for a stunt-woman becomes clear when the “Ramona” star expresses confusion at how to make the dinging stop during dialogue-driven closeness. The answer? Close the car door. Yeah. Better to have a pro behind the wheel.

Several hours later, the stunt has been executed flawlessly. No bones were broken on the various slip-and-falls and no actors were crushed underneath the wheels of the Ford Taurus. In quick succession, I sat down with King and then Hanks to discuss the Grimley family, one of two father-daughter duos — Allison Tolman and Keith Carradine's Solversons are the other — that give “Fargo” its heart.

In her interview, King admits that she's never met anybody her own age named “Greta” and talks about Hanks' insistence that she tell people he's a better on-screen father than her “White House Down” daddy Channing Tatum. 

And in his interview, Hanks discusses the importance of minimizing Gus' bumbling and the possibility that he may still be around in a second “Fargo” season.

The Joey King interview is on Page 2.

The Colin Hanks interview is on Page 3.

Click through for both chats. And remember that “Fargo” airs Tuesday nights on FX.


HitFix: I guess my first question is have you ever in your life met a person your own age named Greta? 

Joey King: That”s a good question.

HitFix: When did you last meet or hear of a Greta?

Joey King: Greta, Greta, Greta. Well to anyone that might have met me named Greta, I”m sorry I don”t remember you. So, no.

HitFix: But I just like all the names on this show.

Joey King: Yeah, Greta Grimly.

HitFix: Exactly

Joey King: Like what a name. I mean I like it.

HitFix: But they”re sort of the kind of names that almost inform you on what the character is because I feel like I sort of someone named Greta Grimly…

Joey King: Who”s not very aggressive. 

HitFix: Could only be one kind of person or…

Joey King: Yeah, exactly.

HitFix: Now okay. Tell me about how this sort of came to you and if you knew “Fargo” as a movie.

Joey King: Oh yeah. I mean I love the movie “Fargo,” honestly. Great movie. Classic. How could you not know about it? So coming into this, I had a meeting with Noah, the writer. And I got to meet with him. Because I have really, really short hair, extremely short. This is a wig that I”m wearing right now. Yeah. My hair is a, well, a little bit longer than yours. So I had a wig on in the audition and so I kind of surprised him. I took off my wig and he was like, “Oh, wow.” But, you know, it was like a great audition. I got to meet him and getting to talk to him was really cool and getting to talk about the part and doing, reading some lines for him. And I don”t know. When I read with him I only read once and then I got the call saying that I got to be in “Fargo” which was very exciting, you know. I love the cast. I love the crew. 

HitFix: Why couldn”t Greta Grimly have short hair?

Joey King: Apparently it wasn”t very 12-year-oldish. So this is what it is.

HitFix: Okay. Is the wig comfortable at least?

Joey King: Yeah, it”s like a custom made fitted-to-my-head-type thing so it”s very comfortable. 

HitFix: I guess the key question is does it add an extra layer of warmth in the middle of all of this?

Joey King: I would think so, yeah.

HitFix: Do you feel like you could stick little hot pads underneath it somehow.

Joey King: I think I would overheat then because, you know, like all the heat and cold stuff is like ran through your feet and your head. So I think I would overheat. But no, it”s pretty comfortable and I think it definitely adds a layer of warmth.

HitFix: And when did you meet Colin? Did you have to read with him before at all?

Joey King: No, the first day I came on set I actually met him. And I kind of didn”t realize at very first who he was. And so we were in front of the trailers. He was like, “Hi, I”m Colin.” And I was like, “Oh, you”re my father. That”s right. Hey dad.” So it was really cool meeting him. He”s a really nice guy. 

HitFix: You”ve had a sort of a string of on-screen parents who have been sort of young parents. 

Joey King: You”re right. You”re right. 

HitFix: Who have been your favorites of your young on-screen parents? None of whom I feel like are probably old enough to actually have you as a daughter.

Joey King: Well, they could actually. But they had to have me young. Colin made me promise him that I would always say that he was a better dad than Channing Tatum. He made me promise in that, but I”m gonna have to say that Channing was amazing. He was so much fun. And Colin”s great too. I haven”t gotten to work with him long enough though because I worked with Channing for three months and I worked with Colin, you know, for a few weeks here and there. I”m trying to think. Who else did I have as young parents?

HitFix: Amanda Peet on “Bent.”

Joey King: Oh yeah. Amanda was cool. Who else…

HitFix: Those were the three that I was sort of thinking of in my mind. People who didn”t really seem old enough to be parents.

Joey King: Yeah, because Colin actually has like tiny, tiny children.

HitFix: Did he explain to you how you were supposed to say he was a better parent than Channing. Like what makes him better?

Joey King: Well basically he – we were in the shuttle together one day and he goes, “So, am I a better dad than Channing Tatum?” And I said, “Well, I haven”t worked with you.” And he goes, “No, no, no. You tell me 'Yes.'” And I said, “Okay, okay.” And he goes, “Glad we have things straightened out.” He”s really funny and I thought that was hilarious, you know, because they”re both great guys and I guess Colin”s a bit competitive.

HitFix: Apparently. Who knew? So tell me a bit though about the relationship between the two characters on screen.

Joey King: Greta and Gus are father and daughter obviously. I kind of said that in the wrong order though. But…

HitFix: I can reverse it in the transcript, don”t worry.

Joey King: Great. But they have a really good relationship. She”s a good kid. She”s quiet and she is a good girl. She doesn”t want to do anything to disappoint or displease her father. And she just wants the best for them as family because, you know, her mom is passed away and she just, you know – and the same thing with Gus. He wants the best for his kid and he knows that she”s a good girl. And they kind of just have a good dynamic together. They”re very alike and I think that they work great together as a team in the show. They have a good strong relationship as father and daughter go. More than, you know, usual like most parents. Because sometimes it”s just, “Oh dad, you don”t understand” when you”re a 12 year old or a teenager. And they get along really well and they”re kind of friends, too. Not just father and daughter.

HitFix: Now we saw out there you were doing a little bit of driving stunts but you didn”t actually get to do the stunt work. So how comfortable were you feeling behind the wheel.

Joey King: I am not afraid of driving. I have practiced a bit at home. Not for this scene. Just, you know, in general. So I felt pretty comfortable behind the wheel even though I wasn”t really driving. I mean I tried to convince the director to let me drive and he”s like, “It”s not on me if you run over Colin so I”m not gonna let you do it.” And I was like I told John Cameron, the producer — he”s hilarious — I was like, “Please convince him to let me drive.” And he”s like, “I tried so hard.” But it was all good.

HitFix: And you got to have the stunt person who also presumably got to have her own wig.

Joey King: Yeah, I know. When I first walked on set I was like, “Hey Colin. There”s two people that look exactly like us.” 

HitFix: Have you not had her previously on set?

Joey King: No, first time.

HitFix: Oh, okay. So obviously there”s a lot of darkness that comes into this story. Does it not touch Greta so much? I mean obviously Gus is gonna be involved with whatever”s about to happen but…

Joey King: Well I think as the story goes on you can see it deepen into the family. But there”s quite a few twists and turns in the story so you”ll get to see how that kind of encounters it. But right now at the moment in the episodes that the viewers are first gonna see not a lot touches her at the moment. But her father”s, of course, involved with all of it. So because her father is being affected by all this danger, she cares about her father so much that it”s affecting her and affecting the way he treats her. And the relationship is kind of weakening a bit. I mean it”s still good and strong, but like he has become a lot more short with her, a lot more stern with her and she”s not used to that because her father and her are friends. So you definitely see it affect her in a different way than, you know, confronting the bad guys themselves. But it definitely affects her life and what it”s doing to her father.

HitFix: Are you doing an accent in this? Are you Minnesota accenting it?

Joey King: I am. I”m definitely doing that accent. You know I think it”s very important to become part of “Fargo.” The movie was amazing and everyone did so good in the movie. And, you know, the only person that didn”t have an accent in the movie was Steve Buscemi. But it worked so well…

HitFix: Because he”s just so weird in other ways.

Joey King: Because he”s just amazing. But I definitely wanted to add, an accent to keep it good and going.

HitFix: How comfortable are you with it?

Joey King: I”m comfortable with it. I mean it”s not that difficult of an accent. It”s not like doing a German accent or something crazy like that. It”s just adding a little bit more longness to your O”s and your Ooo”s and it”s just – I don”t know – it”s a cool accent because I”ve never gotten to do it before. Anything that I haven”t gotten to do is always a learning experience and I am enjoying it.

HitFix: Now obviously it”s been chilly out there. And anyone who”s talking about it is how today is a mild day out. Have you had any particularly amusing filming in ridiculous cold weather.

Joey King: Yes. This day is awesome. It”s super warm for outside. There was this one day that I had to do a photo shoot for, you know, just like cover or whatever they”re gonna use. Who knows, you know. So I had to go out in – shoot where was I? Anyway, I don”t remember. It wasn”t snowing where our base camp was but when I drove to the location which was about 45 minutes away it was a blizzard. Like oh my gosh! There was snow everywhere. It was like whiteout. My mom was with me and both of us were like, “Oh my God.” And I was so cold and it was awesome. It was so cool. Because I live in LA. The coldest it gets is, “Oooh. 40 degrees, whoa.” And we haven”t even had that. Like winter has not come this year. And we have like no change in seasons. So this is a pleasure.

HitFix: It was 75 when I left yesterday so…

Joey King: Exactly. I left LA a few days ago and it was like you said 75 degrees. And coming here the 25 degree weather – it”s awesome for me because I never get to see that.

HitFix: Well have you been doing any winter sports while you”ve been out here? Trying to learn…

Joey King: See, I want to ski and I want to snowboard but, of course, you know my mom”s like “I don”t want you breaking your face while you”re filming. Maybe afterwards.” I want to learn how to ski and snowboard but I think it”s best if I hold off for a little bit. And plus, the snow is melting and I don”t know.

HitFix: Do you already have the next project lined up?

Joey King: I”m like stuck between a few things right now but we”ll see how it all works out.

HitFix: Is that fun for you or…

Joey King: It”s fun but it”s also very sad at the same time because you”re like, “Oh, come on. I want to do this *and* this, not this *or* this.”

HitFix: But is it stressful or does mom worry about the stress for you?

Joey King: Well my mom and I are a team, you know what I mean? She”s really awesome but we figure it out together. 

[Click through to Page 3 for my interview with Colin Hanks…]


HitFix: I love your character”s name. It seems that that”s the kind of name where you can look at the name and that almost gives you sort of a paragraph about the character already. 

Colin Hanks: Yeah. 

HitFix: What does it say that you”re playing a guy named Gus Grimly?

Colin Hanks: I think, yeah, I mean Gus is, he”s kind of an open book. He”s not a necessarily a darker conflicted mysterious character. I mean what you see is what you get. And from the get-go in the show, Gus is, to a degree, out of his element and coming to terms with that. That”s one of the things I really liked about the pilot when I read it and even just the two audition scenes, they were strong, you know. I knew exactly what Gus was thinking. I knew what he was wrestling with, what he”s having to come to terms with. And to have that kind of character that”s an open book but is aware of it and is trying to fix this wrong that he was sort of forced to make, that was nice. But yeah, “Gus Grimly,” it”s a great name for sure.

HitFix: The in over his head cop – it sort of goes down several different directions. It can sort of become the bumbling cop archetype or this can be a guy that can sort of grow and sort of get up to the level. So is Gus a guy who grows as he goes through these 10 episodes?

Colin Hanks: Yeah, he definitely grows. There was definitely a concern for me that I didn”t want him to just be bumbling. But even in that first scene there was this awareness within him which he knew what he was doing. He knew he was making a bad decision, but for the right reasons. And the rest of the series is really him trying to atone for that. And that, I think, separates it from bumbling. Do you know? Bumbling is people that don”t know any better. Gus, he knows that he”s made mistakes and he knows he continues to make mistakes. And he”s not proud of it. He”s embarrassed of it. But he”s trying the best that he can. And that, to me, I think is what I really love about Gus and the thing that I was constantly wanting to make sure that we see him grapple. We have a few moments where you see him break character almost because he”s so frustrated with not only himself but with life at times. Do you know what I mean? 

HitFix: Well you don”t want to be bumbling. With that being said, we did just watch you or your stunt-double fall down several times in the snow.

Colin Hanks: Well yeah but it comes at a point in the series where this is the point where he”s tired of bumbling. He”s tired of that. And very rarely have I been able to work in projects where you get a scene like that. Where something like that happens and he gets angry and he gets upset. And it may not be, you know, crazy over-the-top yelling but coming from Gus it”s un-Gus-like. And so to be able to have those moments, yeah. But yeah, by the end of the series he”s most definitely a changed man.

HitFix: And obviously the relationship with the daughter is sort of the key piece of heart in the storytelling. How did you and Joey sort of bond to make sure that felt real?

Colin Hanks: You know I sort of feel like once you have kids it kind of comes second nature. I”ve got two daughters and I didn”t really feel that I needed to like over-emote or anything like that. Plus, Joey”s character is of that age where they”re human and they interact and they talk, do you know what I mean? So for me it actually felt really natural and she”s great. I mean she”s amazing. That first day we worked together, I turned to Noah. I”m like, “Okay well she”s a genius. She”s fabulous.” So yeah, it”s really just been two adult actors really. Well not “adult actors” but two grownups performing a scene.

HitFix: With that being said I understand that you were very invested by making it clear that you were a better on-screen dad than Channing Tatum.

Colin Hanks: Yeah.

HitFix: She outed you on that without hesitation.

Colin Hanks: Yeah, no, no, no. Listen he may have saved her and the White House but, you know I saved her from Billy Bob Thornton. That”s very different. It”s very different.

HitFix: Now what was it like working with Billy Bob in that first scene, diving into the series and having that as a scene.

Colin Hanks: Well what I loved about that scene specifically – and also this series as a whole —  I really enjoyed the fact that it was one scene at the end of the pilot. You know, here”s a main character that”s being introduced at minute 44 or something like that. So I liked the freedom in the storytelling. But also it”s a killer scene. I mean that”s that kind of scene where you really don”t have a lot of dialogue, but you just get to take in what the other actor is giving you and when that actor is someone like Billy Bob Thornton, you know, you”re a very lucky man and that”s not lost on me. So for me it was a joy. I mean I really enjoyed it. It was one of the audition scenes that I had and yeah, I just thought it”s such a great introduction for Gus, right off the bat he makes this decision that he”s got to grapple with for the rest of the series. And it haunts him.

HitFix: I would be interested by the number of different styles of acting that there are on this show. It”s sort of amazing because, you know, what Bob Odenkirk does is different from what Billy Bob Thornton does. It”s different from what you do. Is it hard to find your place sort of in that world. Because some shows I guess, everybody”s doing the exact same thing. 

Colin Hanks: Yeah, I know what you mean. No, I don”t think it is because I think each character serves its purpose and it”s very clear as to what their purpose is. You know Billy Bob is obviously the very dark mysterious scary guy whereas, you know, Odenkirk is a little, he”s out of his depth and naïve and not really wanting things to change or anything like that. So I sort of feel like all the pieces, everybody has their roles and the way the characters are devised. I actually think it”s pretty unique that all those sort of talents intersect. Whereas in some movies, yeah, everybody just sort of does the same thing or it”s the same sort of tone.

HitFix: Which isn”t necessarily a bad thing.

Colin Hanks: No, which isn”t a bad thing. But, you know, I think it”s also one of the things that is really endearing about what people remember about the movie is, it”s incredibly funny but it”s incredibly violent, but at the same time it”s also real. You feel that these are real people living a real existence. So it”s actually a lot of fun in that regard because you”re not necessarily a slave to a genre or a type of acting.

HitFix: Did you approach the script with any preconceived wariness because of appreciation of the movie?

Colin Hanks: WelI I was told very early on it”s like, “We”re gonna send you to 'Fargo.' It”s all new characters. It”s all new story. So it”s not a remake.” So I read the pilot and again, you know, my scene is on page 40-something. Do you know what I mean? I thought it was pretty interesting.

HitFix: Were you warned of that beforehand? “Don't look for your character for a while”?

Colin Hanks: No, I was yeah. I was told he would come in a little bit in the first episode but he would come much more into play in later episodes. And I thought that that choice was actually pretty brilliant on Noah”s behalf. And then the other scenes that I read for the audition were from subsequent episodes. And to be honest, the writing was so good that I was really just excited to go and just perform those. A lot of times you can”t worry about what the show”s gonna be because you”re not on the show yet. So is the audition good? Is that gonna be a fun afternoon? Because if it is, I”ll go in. If it”s not, yeah I”ll find better stuff to do, trust me. And, you know, I went in and I talked with Noah a little bit and Warren [Littlefield] and they gave me a little bit of an idea of what they were gonna do. And then once I got the part Noah and I had a big conversation about Gus, but more specifically how they were gonna do this and what they had in mind. And at that point enough sort of chatter from other edges of the show biz world had told me, you know, what was gonna be. And once he told me that, I actually got even more excited because as someone that loves television shows and is sort of always wanting to try to push the boundaries, push the bar a little bit and do something that I would really want to watch. This falls in that category.

HitFix: Now for you as an actor – are you liking this trend towards the limited series, ten episodes you”re out, you”re not making a commitment  to possibly six seasons, you know – 150 episodes.

Colin Hanks: Yeah, I actually like it to be quite honest. Because A, you”re not necessarily concerned about getting trapped on something that becomes kind of monotonous  — although we should all be so lucky to be able to have jobs that last six years or more — but I just find from a creative standpoint it”s, yeah, I enjoy it more. You don”t have to deal so much with the sort of rules that have been ingrained into you as an actor like, “Well we”ve got to introduce all the main characters in the first ten pages.” Like those kinds of things, to be able to break free of that and to be able to just breathe and exist and have real moments. As an actor that is so rare to be able to get. And I think, you know, I also think it”s exciting because you”re able to get, the talent pool just widens in that regard. And so you”re able to work with Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton and stuff like that. I think it”s great. I don”t need to see characters for decades and decades and decades.

HitFix: I this works out well and it feels good to you aren”t you gonna lament that you aren”t gonna get to play Gus again? Or do you feel like where it”s gonna end at the end of 10. That”s the story…

Colin Hanks: Well I don”t know. You know, to be honest I don”t know. I”m not sure if we”re gonna see Gus again after this. I mean there have been some very, very loose conversations as to a couple of different possibilities. But look, to be quite honest I”m happy with the arc that he has just in these 10. If there”s anything additional to that I think that”s cool too.

“Fargo” airs Tuesday nights on FX.