One of the few things that fans of FX’s Fargo can count on for the anthology series’ third season is that there will be snow.
“It’s bad,” star Mary Elizabeth Winstead stressed about filming the show in Calgary, when she and the rest of the cast spoke to entertainment journalists at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour on Thursday in Pasadena, Calif.
The rest of the details are just as blurry as a day of flurries. While Fargo creator Noah Hawley was too sick to attend the show’s panel, Winstead and other cast members, as well as executive producer Warren Littlefield, shared as many teases they could get away with ahead of the series’ return in April. Here’s what we know for sure:
Ewan McGregor plays two characters: brothers Emmit Stussy and Ray Stussy.
“They’re both from Minnesota,” says the Scottish actor. “I’m doing the Fargo-ian accent. They’re brothers, [but] they’re not twins and their life paths have been very different from each other… I’ve had a chance to put both brothers on camera.
McGregor says this accent is no picnic for a Scotsman.
“The challenge is trying to, first of all, master that accent… it’s the hardest accent I’ve ever done and I did Dutch once,” he says. “It’s very familiar, because everyone knows it from the movie and from Season One and Two, and so the audiences’ ears are attuned to it. And then, within that, to try to find Ray’s voice and Emmit’s voice… there’s lots to play with.
McGregor does love playing two characters.
“What a great opportunity to do that,” he says. “It’s really lovely… it’s really not until you get on set where you can really figure it out and these last four days have been really great in getting into the skin in those two people.”
He adds that he’s played two characters at once twice before: Once in the Michael Bay’s The Island and once in Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert. “I’m very experienced in playing with myself,” he jokes.
Technology and social media may impact this season.
“Noah’s really enjoying and embracing it,” Littlefield says. “2010 is really contemporary, and Noah is enjoying that technology is supposed to unite, but in fact that’s not what happens at all. Aesthetically, you’ll see Noah commenting on [this].”
Littlefield says McGregor’s co-star, Carrie Coon (The Leftovers, Gone Girl), has a scene in which she’s on a plane and everyone has their heads in their phone and not talking. “From her perspective, that seems really strange,” Littlefield says.
Coon plays an ethically minded sheriff.
“Gloria [Burgle] is a sheriff, much like the Frances McDormand character [in the movie],” she says. “She really represents a kind of small-town aesthetic—a sense of community that she feels has been eroded by forces outside of herself. And her personal life is also falling apart; I think that’s the thing that distinguishes her from female sheriffs in past seasons. Her personal life is kind of eroding and it’s all happening in the microcosm and the macrocosm of the world that she’s policing.”
Winstead says her character, Nikki Swango, is “smart in a street-savvy kind of way.”
“She’s incredibly smart and savvy and, I think, has the capacity to be conniving… but I think she has a heart,” she says. “One of the things that Noah said… was, he likes all of the characters to feel like they can be a villain at any moment or a hero at any given moment. Nikki very much falls in between those two categories. She has a history and a past and a bit of a dark side to her, but whether or not she goes down that path I’m still not really sure.”
David Thewlis plays the mysterious V.M. Vargas.
“My name doesn’t give much away and, right now, even I’m not sure what V.M. stands for,” says Thewlis, who adds that he’s only shot one scene so far and that he feels his role is a “Machiavellian-type character and very scrupulous.”
Michael Stuhlbarg plays Sy Feltz, who works with McGregor’s Emmit Stussy.
“He is described as being a partner of Emmit Stussy in Emmit’s business and he has a relationship with both brothers,” says Stuhlbarg. “He’s been working with Emmit for many years and they are very close, almost perhaps more brotherly than Emmit’s other brother. And I think he finds himself in and out of their relationship in some interesting ways and I’m curious to see where this is going to go.”
Those character names are pretty great, right?
“I mean, Nikki Swango says it all,” Winstead says.
“You can always hear a writerly name versus a name,” Coon adds.
The new season’s stories connect with past seasons.
“Imagine that, as you saw in year two, there’s this wonderful book that might say True Crimes of the Midwest,” Littlefield says. “Imagine that the Coens’ movie might be a chapter and each season of Fargo might be a chapter from that book. Yes, we might have a kiss-in to Season One that we think is appropriate because we’re doing a different film each year, but they’re related, geographically… We think that’s part of the DNA that Noah uses to honor where we’re coming from and he takes off in his own directions.”
Fargo’s third season is set in 2010, which isn’t that far off in time from the first season’s time frame of 2006. Does this allow for overlapping characters?
“It’s a big region,” says Littlefield. “I think the important thing about year three is there’s intimacy. We’re a small cast in year three, and that allows us to go deeper with each one of these characters. Noah’s very focused on not repeating himself.”
It was recently announced that the Coens would be venturing into TV themselves. Littlefield wishes them the best of luck—not that they need it.
“I don’t think the Coen brothers need any advice from me,” says Littlefield. “I’m sure it will be wonderfully dark and wildly entertaining… Every time we tell them that Fargo is going to go back and do another season, usually Joel and Ethan go, ‘We’re very sorry. We know you have to go back to Canada to make it.’ They cheer us on and they really believe Noah has the vision for the series. They’re enormously respectful of that.”
It’s unlikely that the Coens will direct an episode of Fargo, but the offer is on the table.
“We have said, ‘Why don’t you come up and direct?’ and so far [they have declined],” Littlefield says.