CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters)
— A particularly
punishing winter, even by Canadian standards, has served well the
new cable television series "Fargo," a reimagining of the
blood-soaked black comedy film of the same name by brothers Joel and
The 10-episode single-season series, which debuts on April 15
on Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's FX cable network, is a new
story with different characters, but leans heavily on the frigid
Minnesota setting, death, Midwestern folksiness and deadpan
humor of its Oscar-winning namesake.
The gift of Calgary's coldest and snowiest winter in years made
it easy to emphasize the bone-chilling Minnesota winter the
detail-oriented Coen brothers made central to their film.
"The winter is just perfect for this," said Keith Carradine, who
plays the father of rookie cop Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman),
the woman who takes over law enforcement when her boss is
murdered in sleepy Bemidji, Minnesota.
"It's absolutely enhanced everything we've done," Carradine
added during a recent set visit when temperatures lifted enough
to melt a little of the snowpack. "One of the central
characters of this piece is the weather."
Along with Tolman, the series stars big-screen actors Martin
Freeman as the repressed insurance salesman Lester Nygaard and
Billy Bob Thornton as hit man Lorne Malvo, who takes an interest
in pushing the buttons of everyone around him.
With a bad haircut and a killer's conscience, Lorne sets the
action in motion by murdering one of Lester's tormenters
following an off-hand remark Lester makes during idle chit-chat
in the waiting area of the local emergency room.
"One of the greatest things that I like about that character is
that nobody knows why he's there, who he is, where he's from,"
Thornton said of Lorne. "In the beginning, nobody even knows he
exists outside of Lester and a couple people."
A COEN BROTHERS BLESSING
In true Coen brothers fashion, the death of Lester's nemesis, a
local trucking mogul, satisfies but complicates the hen-pecked
salesman who channels his own violent streak.
"The two pivotal scenes between mine and Billy Bob's character
in the first episode were amazing. They were just magnetic,"
said Freeman, a British actor best known for his role as Bilbo
Baggins in "The Hobbit" film trilogy. "It made me want to do
Executive producer Noah Hawley agreed to handle the writing
of the single-season series after being approached by studio
MGM, which owns the rights to the movie, and the FX.
"They basically said 'Hey, can you write a Coen brothers movie
set in this region?'," Hawley said. "It was a really interesting
challenge presented to me. To say, what is a Coen Brothers movie,
Hawley's answer was that his "Fargo" needed to steer clear from the
traditional "case of the week" cop show. He pitched a series with a
single season as a complete story, much like an episodic film, a
format gaining traction with the popularity of FX's "American Horror
Story" and HBO's "True Detective."
"There's huge freedom in that there's no treading water," he
said. "You're telling a story with a beginning, middle and an end,
which means that every step is a step towards the end of the story.
You don't have to worry about how to keep a character's story alive
over multiple seasons."
Hawley said he wanted to echo the dark humor of the movie and be
faithful to the rural Minnesotans presented in "Fargo." But in the
character of Lorne, he diverges from the template.
"He is not a classic sociopath or serial killer," Hawley says. "He's
an anarchic force entering into a polite society."
While the series has their backing, the Coen brothers themselves are
not involved in the new version. Hawley said the pair read his
script and watched the pilot but have otherwise stayed in the
"They said, 'Look, it's not our medium. We're happy to watch more,
but we're not going to give notes,'" Hawley said.
(Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles;
editing by Mary
Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)