Immediately after watching this week’s exceptionally bloody episode of Fargo some time over the weekend, all I wanted to do was talk about it. So I asked one of my UPROXX co-workers if he had seen it. He hadn’t, so I warned him that it was devastating and fantastic. He responded a few hours later with an email that read, “well, f*ck,” and nothing else. It was that kind of episode.
R.I.P. Mr. Numbers. R.I.P. all those fish. R.I.P. Lester Nygaard’s chance at not going to Hell. Hopefully not R.I.P. Molly Solverson (she has to be alive, right? Right…?). R.I.P. Don Chumph, the spray-tanned chump played by Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame. I spoke to Howerton earlier this week about Fargo, Billy Bob’s bowl cut, and season 10 of Sunny. He is a (Turkish) delight.
So, congratulations on pulling a Sonny Corleone and getting swiss-cheesed with bullets.
(Laughs) It’s funny, when I was younger, there were only two things I wanted to accomplish as an actor: to die horrifically on camera, and to turn into a werewolf. I’m halfway there, so if you know of anyone who’s looking for a werewolf…This also continues my streak of getting shot in the head. I hope it’s nothing personal.
What was it like sitting in that exercise machine gun…thing all day?
That was a real thing. I wasn’t stuck in that rig all day or anything like that, but I spent a lot of time in that thing. When we were done shooting, I was worried I gave myself a hernia because I was screaming so much, especially because they were muffled screams. There was a lot of built-up pressure inside my body when I was shooting it. I definitely pulled something in there, but I healed. It was intense, man. And I wanted it to be intense. It was really fun, because my character, as well as being a comedic role in this dramatic thing, it’s very different from anything comedic I do on Sunny. He’s much more naïve and stupid than Dennis. It was really fun doing something that I think the Coen Brothers do really well in their movies, which is have these really funny comedic moments that kind of lull you into a sense of comfort, and then something horrific happens and it’s not funny at all.
Did you reach out for the role, or was the role offered to you?
I’ve known the FX team for years, obviously. Many of the same guys who were there at the beginning are still there now, which is a testament to how talented they are. They knew that even though I’ve been doing comedy for years, a lot of my background is in dramatic work — I never set out to be a comedian or anything like that. John Landgraf, the CEO of FX, he asked me, would you ever have an interest in a dramatic role? And I said, yeah, of course, it’d be really fun for me to do something not comedic at all. One day, I get a call from him and he says, “Hey, we’re doing this thing, we’re doing Fargo: the miniseries.” Fargo happens to be one of my favorite movies in the history of every movie I’ve ever seen, and I was really excited. Of course, he picked me for a damn f*cking comedic role, but at least it was very different from what I do on Sunny *laughs*.
Do you see Don as being a good guy who got in over his head, or someone who’s just really bad at being bad?
He’s been thinking about how, well, it used to be $45,000, or whatever the f*ck that number was, and now it’s a million. He’s been thinking about it, and he wants more. He’s going to try to get this guy to give him more. So he’s not the greatest guy in the world, but I do think he’s a good guy.
A good guy with amazing grooming habits. That reminds me: which took longer to perfect, your spray tan or Billy Bob’s bowl cut?
Well, the tan, such a pain in the ass. But I didn’t actually do a spray tan, it just wasn’t necessary. And I’m not a method actor, so it wasn’t like, “I need to be this guy!” It doesn’t have to be that f*cking complicated. So, really, it was just makeup, and thankfully, my character wore tracksuits, so I didn’t have to get it all over my body all the time. Just my face, my neck, and my hands.
How soon after signing up did you know your character’s fate?
John Landgraf basically told me when he pitched it to me that Don was going to get in over his head and bite it in a spectacular manner. And that, more than anything, is what really sold me on it. I was going to get to do a really fantastic death scene. Again, all I’ve ever wanted. So I knew I was going to eat it. I just didn’t know how. It wasn’t until I was probably halfway through shooting that I got that final script, and read it and was like, holy sh*t. I didn’t think it was going to be that brutal. But I think it was kind of genius on [creator Noah Hawley]’s part. Not to minimize my character’s importance, but to give this insanely operatic, really dramatic death scene to this pawn — usually a death scene like that is reserved for the king or the queen or one of the knights, not this f*cking cog. For him to die in such a spectacular manner is really brilliant, and funny and awful and brutal. He’s kind of a good guy, and to see him die this way…hopefully, if I’ve done my job, you really like this guy by the time you’re four episodes in with him.
But from the beginning, you’re still like, “This guy’s going to die, I know it.” And Noah did such a great job of getting him in situations of, like, OK, here it is, he’s dead. And then he doesn’t. Oh, he’s going to get a nail gun to the head. And then he doesn’t. And then he gets taped to the chair, and you’re like, “He’s f*cking dead.” And then he doesn’t, and you’re like, “Maybe he’s not going to die.”
And then boom, he dies in the worst possible way.
What you said is one of the reasons why I like Fargo so much. It’s a drama that doesn’t have its head up its own ass — it’s not afraid to show something horrific, and then the next scene, something hilarious.
It’s so great to sign onto a project sight unseen, and then have it turn out to be as good as this one was. I mean, I knew going in that it was Coen Brothers-approved, so if those guys are putting their stamp of approval on it, I mean, I think they’re two of history’s greatest filmmakers, so I knew it had to be at least pretty decent.
Have you or anyone in the cast heard any feedback from either of the Coen Brothers?
Not personally. I think they were more involved in the beginning, making sure it was at least in the same vein of what they do. Beyond that, I don’t really know how involved they were. I’m sure they were consulted, but I personally haven’t heard anything from those guys. Which maybe is a good thing.
It means you didn’t do anything wrong. How far along are you guys writing season 10 of Sunny?
We’re done writing, and we’re two weeks into shooting. It’s happening. It’s going to be a great season. I’m obviously a big part of the process all the way from the beginning, and yet every year, after we’re doing writing, I wonder, how the f*ck did we just do that again? This sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, but I dunno…I really love this show, and it’s so important to us to make sure the quality is high. It’s this sort of chip on my shoulder. I don’t want anyone to say, “Oh, they’re just cashing in at this point. There’s no point in doing the show anymore. They’re just doing it to make a buck.” My personal goal is to hand people a season…as long as I look at every season, and I go, “You know what? Think whatever you want, but I know how hard we worked on this to give you something that is our level of care,” and I think season 10 is great. I’m excited for you guys to see it.