Ewan McGregor isn’t exactly sure what defines “Fargo” as both a series and as a concept. He’s just sure that something about the way it has captured both the original Coen Brothers film’s spirit, as well as its own unique ethos, is rooted in the writing of creator Noah Hawley.
“His writing is so… ‘Fargo,'” McGregor said on the set of the FX limited series, which was nearing the end of production in Calgary last month. “I don’t know how he’s managed it. It’s not just the accent. It’s the rhythm of the speech, it’s the black humor of the violence.”
He trailed off. “Whatever Noah does, he understands what makes it ‘Fargo’-y, and so that’s what it feels like. So when you say the lines right it feels right, like ‘Fargo’ should.”
“‘Fargo’-y” might not be an exact term, but it’s about as close as anyone could come to pinpointing just how the show’s voice has made it one of the year’s most anticipated series. Returning for a third installment with a star-loaded cast including Carrie Coon, David Thewlis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and McGregor (in a dual role as two brothers divided by a longtime feud), “Fargo” has captured something truly unique – making it one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time.
For Coon, full credit goes to Hawley: “He’s a really bold creative thinker, but he grounds it throughly, so it feels very believable.” She said she noticed is that in certain scenes, “all these funny things keep happening spontaneously,” something that she and McGregor realized was made possible by the fact that “the writing is so specific.”
McGregor was considering other television projects when he spoke to an FX executive who told him about the available dual role planned for Year 3. But McGregor hadn’t seen the TV version of “Fargo.” “I hadn’t really wanted to see it, because I loved the film and thought it was a pretty terrible idea to base a TV series on a film we all loved,” he admitted.
But after talking to the exec, McGregor went home and binge-watched the show (fun fact: he accidentally watched Year 2 first, meaning that he saw the Solversons’ story in chronological order) — and was sold.
Coon is also on the record as having been initially unsure about the idea of adapting “Fargo” as a series, though it’s a concern she quickly overcame. Winstead wasn’t as leery: “I said yes to the show without reading anything,” she said.
Winstead said she had no trouble connecting with the “Fargo” mindset. “I think it’s examining a certain kind of human nature, examining what happens when we as a society or certain parts of the world repress ourselves and our darker emotions — the kinds of results that can come from that,” she said.
“Because of the location and the characters and the people that comprise this specific part of the country, it becomes something darkly comedic — it becomes something tragic and funny at the same time and also heightened tonally,” Winstead added. “The type of natural comedy that comes from that — nobody’s playing the comedy or really trying to amp anything up. It just exists in that way.”
Thewlis pinpointed one character from Season 2 that he felt captured an important element of the show: typewriter salesman Skip Sprang (Mike Bradecich), who found himself in deep trouble with the Gerhardt family.
At one point, Thewlis recalled, “the police are onto him and he’s making it so much worse for himself by being nervous. That’s the essence of ‘Fargo’ — people just digging holes for themselves all the time.”
But Coon took the question even broader, even perhaps invoking unspecified comparisons to another show she also happens to star in at the moment. “I keep running into the same word in my work, but I suppose the most satisfying one is ‘ambiguity.’ It’s very comfortable living in a space of uncertainty,” she said. “For my money, that resembles life better than something that’s clean and resolved.
“Noah is not afraid of putting his characters inside of chaos and watching them scramble around to find purpose and meaning in those circumstances,” she added. “Hopefully what that does is reveal in the viewer how they feel about ambiguity and chaos and meaning. And that’s the cruel joy of ‘Fargo.'”
“Fargo” Year 3 airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX starting April 19.