Fargo TV series captures flavor of Coen Brothers film

Billy Bob Thorton in FX's new Fargo TV series Barb Oates

First, let’s explain what the new Fargo TV series on FX is not.

Billy Bob Thorton in new Fargo TV series on FXIt’s not a continuation of the story begun in the 1996 Coen brothers film that has become a cinematic classic. None of the characters are the same, and the setting is different. Nor is it a parody or satire.

It can best be described as a riff, mining the same droll Midwestern sensibilities and placing them amid a story that is always intriguing and at times shockingly violent.

After seeing the first episode of Fargo — which premieres on FX Tuesday, April 15 at 10pm ET — it’s no wonder the Coen brothers gave their blessing to Noah Hawley’s script and even lent their name as executive producers. With a ridiculously loaded cast — Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, Oliver Platt, Keith Carradine, Glenn Howerton and newcomer Allison Tolman — Fargo is one of the true delights of this or any TV season.

Set in the real town of Bemidji, Minn., Fargo focuses on the collision course of repressed Everyman Lester Nygaard (Freeman) and enigmatic hitman Lorne Malvo (Thornton). They meet by chance in a hospital waiting room and begin a relationship that proves increasingly deadly at every turn. Left to investigate the crimes is young officer Molly Solverson (Tolman), who, in perhaps the most blatant nod to the film, comes across as a younger version of Marge Gunderson, the role made iconic by Frances McDormand.

Fargo-tv-seriesTolman (pictured above) had spent most of her career in the theater, and was working a temp job when she landed Fargo.

“As far as breaks go, I cannot tell you how many times I have been like, ‘I am so glad it was this show,’ and not some show where it’s about vampires who are also werewolves,” Tolman says. “People are just so excited about it just in concept, and I feel really lucky and really blessed.”

Tolman says she stayed away from re-watching the movie when developing the character so as not to make her performance an impersonation. What she did not stay away from, though, is soaking up as much knowledge as she could from her illustrious castmates.

“They have all been really kind and really welcoming to me,” she says, admitting to initially being “terrified” at the prospect of trying to hold her own with everybody. “It was definitely worse in my head. I have a unique ability to take good news and turn it into anxiety, [but] they really are amazing to work with, and they work in such different ways. I really am learning a lot from these guys who have done it for a long time.”

Images Credit: Matthias Clamer/FX