'Fargo' TV show spins a new story out of the world of the Oscar-winning film

The FX show 'Fargo' stars Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton. Freeman said he was satisfied that the TV series was separate enough from the original film. 'I'm not interested in playing an echo of something that was done 20 years ago,' the 'Sherlock' actor said.

Kevork Djansezian/Reuters
'Fargo' stars Martin Freeman (r.) and Billy Bob Thornton (l.).

Almost two decades ago, Joel and Ethan Coen introduced moviegoers to Frances McDormand’s Midwestern accent and unusual uses for a wood chipper with their film “Fargo.”

And now the 1996 movie is the basis for a new FX series that debuts tonight. While the Coen brothers’ film centered on a car salesman (William H. Macy) who decides to make a fortune by having his wife kidnapped and keeping part of the reward for himself, the TV version of “Fargo” focuses on a man named Lester Nygaard, an insurance salesman. Billy Bob Thornton stars as a drifter named Lorne Malvo who, according to FX, “meets and forever changes the life of [Lester].”

In addition, Colin Hanks portrays a conflicted policeman and actors Bob Odenkirk, Glenn Howerton of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Oliver Platt, and Kate Walsh of “Private Practice,” among others, appear on the show.

The Coen brothers are executive-producing the show and it’s set to run for 10 episodes.

Freeman recently spoke with Vulture about his decision to take the lead role.

“In a vacuum, just hearing about [the show], I might have thought, ‘Well, do we need that?’” he said. “I had the same feeling, by the way, about ‘Sherlock’ [on which he stars as Dr. John Watson]. ‘Really? Do we need that?’ But after the first few pages, that turned into, ‘Yes. We do need it, and I need to be in it.’” 

He acknowledges it’s a tough balance to strike when parodying the Midwestern accents and culture to do so without being patronizing.

“But the truth of some of those Minnesota accents is that even some Minnesotans think that they're kind of funny,” Freeman said. “So it's a fine line of getting that and honoring those characters, not being reverential to them or patronizing them, but to also acknowledge that some of the things the characters say are funny in the way that some of the things that are classically English are kind of ridiculous.”

Freeman said he was satisfied that the TV version of “Fargo” can stand on its own.

“I'm not interested in playing an echo of something that was done 20 years ago,” he said. “This is its own thing.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.