The last time FX brought a Fargo cast to the Television Critics Association press tour, those season 2 actors had to sheepishly admit that they hadn’t watched the first year when it aired because they were convinced the idea of doing a Fargo TV show was terrible. When they were offered parts in season 2, they had to be bullied into watching the first by loved ones who kept insisting, rightly, that it was great.
The season 3 cast admitted they had their own reservations about the idea when they first heard about it a few years ago, but many of them had watched it long before Noah Hawley and Warren Littlefield offered them roles in the new batch, which will debut in April.
Carrie Coon, who will play small-town sheriff Gloria Burgle, admitted her initial reaction to the show’s existence was, “‘What a terrible idea! Who does this guy think he is!’ But then I watched season 2, loved it, and here I am.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Nikki Swango, said it took her a little longer to watch, simply because she was so convinced upfront that it was a bad idea that she refused out of sheer stubbornness even when friends assured her she was wrong, but eventually dove in, and, “Pretty much as soon as I got the call from Noah, I said yes before I knew what the role was.”
The only new castmember present who hadn’t seen the show prior to taking the job was season 3’s lead, Ewan McGregor, who plays the dual role of twins Emmit and Ray Stussy, and he said it was simply him being busy, not an opposition to the concept of adapting the Coen brother classic. When a Fargo producer met him at a film festival and said they were looking for an actor to play a dual role — which he has done several times previously in his career — he was intrigued.
“I’m very experienced at playing with myself,” he joked.
Though an ill Hawley missed the session, producer Warren Littlefield was there to talk about the ways that the 2010 setting and its technology will change the nature of the familiar Upper Midwest setting.
“2010’s really contemporary for us,” he said. “Noah is enjoying that technology, in many ways, is supposed to unite, and perhaps that’s not what happens at all. … Carrie has a scene where she’s going to be on a plane, and she notices everyone around her has their heads down and their face in their phone, and no one is communicating, no one’s talking. I think from her perspective, that seems very alien. Noah’s going to have a lot of fun commenting and embracing the world as it is, almost today.”
Though the Coen brothers recently announced plans to move into television with a series of their own, Littlefield said that thus far, they had continued to politely decline offers to write or direct for the TV Fargo.
“They cheer us on, and they really believe that Noah has the vision for the series, and they’re enormously respectful of that,” he said.
The actors couldn’t say too much about their characters — not only because of Hawley’s usual secrecy, but the fact that the season only began production last week — but a few revealed the basic shape of their role in the story.
Asked, for instance, if Gloria will occupy a similar moral space as the Solversons, or Marge Gunderson in the movie, Coon said, “I think she does serve that function, and don’t we need that more than ever? She really represents a small town aesthetic. A sense of morality that she feels have been eroded by forces beyond herself. And her personal life is falling apart around her. That separates herself from the previous sheriffs. Her personal life is eroding… I think she is representing decency and ethics. How successful she is is what the show is asking this season.”
The actors present — including David Thewlis as V.M. Vargas and Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz — all took the appropriate amount of pleasure in the evocative names Hawley had assigned their characters.
“Nikki Swango says it all,” Winstead said. “I had no other questions after that.”
McGregor said there was one particular aspect of the Stussy twins he was finding challenging to play: “It’s a strange accent to lock into. I don’t know if it’s harder or not as a non-American accent. I wish I was coming at it from an American accent rather than a Scottish one. It’s the hardest accent I’ve ever done, and I played Dutch once.”
And where the first two seasons were linked by the Solverson family, Littlefield declined to say if any of the surviving characters from those stories might appear here.
“Noah is very focused on not repeating himself,” he said. “There will be a kiss with the past, but I could not tell you here today (what it will be).”