An original adaptation of the Academy Award-winning feature film, the FX drama series Fargo features an all-new crime story with all-new characters. Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) is a ruthless and mysterious man who has turned the life of small town insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) upside down, in a way that he never could have imagined, and stirs up trouble everywhere he goes. From executive producer/writer Noah Hawley, the show also stars Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, Allison Tolman, Oliver Platt, Keith Carradine, Kate Walsh and Joey King.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Allison Tolman (“Molly Solverson”) talked about how getting this role was a total fluke, the appeal of the project, how easily she took to the accent, why she loves Molly, working with such a talented cast, having Keith Carradine play her father, being on such an un-glamorous show, and just how right the ending of the story feels. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ALLISON TOLMAN: It was a total fluke, really. I’m based in Chicago. I just put myself on tape at my agency in Chicago, with a bunch of other girls, and I magically kept rising through the ranks. They would make cuts, and I would make it through the cut. They just kept coming back to me. In the end, they were like, “We don’t know who this girl is, but we’ve obviously liked her for this long. We probably should bring her in with all of these other legitimate actresses and give her a screen test.” So, they did. I guess I was able to deliver on what they thought they saw in my original tape, so they took a chance and cast me, which was awesome.
What was the appeal of this show and character for you? Was it the fact that it was connected to the movie and to the Coen brothers, or was it strictly on its own merit?
TOLMAN: When I first auditioned on tape and read the scenes, I was like, “Why are they doing a TV show of Fargo?” And then, immediately upon reading my audition sides, and later on, getting to read the entire pilot before the screen test, I was like, “Oh, that’s why. They found their own voice. Whoever this Noah Hawley guy is, is pretty awesome.” I think it stands on its own. I feel really lucky that it does have this awesome name and legacy attached to it, but I think it would stand on its own, as well.
Knowing how much Fargo is associated with the Coen brothers, what does it mean to you to have their stamp of approval on the show?
TOLMAN: I think that’s awesome. It wouldn’t feel the same without that. It lends an air of legitimacy to the project that we wouldn’t have without that. I really respect the Coen brothers, as directors and as creative individuals, and with the way that they handle the industry and the business side of things. So, getting their stamp of approval on a project where they very easily could have said, “Nah,” is a really great treat.
Did you find yourself taking to this accent pretty easily?
TOLMAN: It was easy for me to take to, but I have a susceptible ear for accents. If I hear one, I can pick it up pretty quickly, and then I can’t shake it. Once I trained a little bit with our dialect coaches and had a handle on it, then I felt like I could slip in and out of it pretty easily. I had to check back in with them pretty often. And every now and then there’s just a word that you’re saying wrong, but other than that, it was pretty second nature for me.
Do you find that it’s easier to adopt an accent that’s so specific, or is that more challenging than one that’s more generic?
TOLMAN: I don’t know. For me, this accent was about figuring out where the energy lies in it. It’s a heavy, flat accent. When I first started out doing it, my one downfall was that I was doing it too sing-songy, which sounded Canadian or Irish. I had to flatten it out a little bit, which was helpful.
How do you view Molly? What kind of person is she to you?
TOLMAN: She’s the heart and the little engine that could of this show. I love the fact that she’s this determined, dogged policewoman who’s really just putting her head down and plowing through things, for the entire series, against all odds. She doesn’t get frustrated and she doesn’t get discouraged. She just very methodically plows forward, which I think is really admirable. She knows how to play a long game and be patient, which is nice. She needs that, in this narrative.
Why do you think Molly was just so different from everyone else around her?
TOLMAN: I think what drives Molly is not ambition to succeed so much as she has a really strong sense for what needs to be done and no one’s gonna do it, she’s gonna do it. If there’s trash on the ground, she’s gonna pick it up ‘cause no one else is gonna do it. I think that’s just how she operates. She’s able to adapt more quickly than the other people in the story to the changing circumstances that are going on around her. She’s pretty pragmatic. When she sees the world one way, and then she finds out that it’s not and that there are these terrible crimes that can come into your backdoor, instead of denying it, she skips that step and says, “Okay, so there are bad people. What’s next?” She’s able to move more quickly through that because of how pragmatic she is.
What’s it been like to work with Colin Hanks, throughout this experience?
TOLMAN: He’s great. We were lucky to spend quite a bit of time together, at meals and hanging out, before we ever filmed our first scene together. After we filmed our first scene, we both looked at each other and were like, “That was super fun. We’re gonna have a blast.” And we did. We had a lot of fun. Every time we were on set together, we had a lot of fun. We felt comfortable and thing came easily to us, straight off the bat. We were really lucky, in that way.
How was it to work with Bob Odenkirk, and explore that dynamic?
TOLMAN: I was really lucky to be surrounded by really awesome guys who are not just awesome to work with, but that are really fantastic off set, as well. They’ve been really friendly, and I’ve gotten to spend time with them as individuals off set, as well. Going to work with them became a whole lot easier because you feel like you know them when you have that level of comfort already. The dynamic between Molly and Bill was a lot of fun to play with. It just got better and better, as the story progressed. There was a lot of comfort there, even at the end of the season. It’s fun to watch them work together. It’s a fascinating evolution.
TOLMAN: They had a lot of awesome moments together, with him telling a story or analogy and her listening while drinking coffee. They was the way they interacted and showed their love for each other. That understated familial love is a fun thing to play with. And Keith Carradine is really just one of the nicest men in the world, so he made it really easy.
What was your reaction when you found out Keith Carradine was going to be your father?
TOLMAN: That was awesome. I found out some cast members before I knew what they were actually playing. I heard Oliver Platt was cast and I was like, “Oh, maybe Oliver Platt is playing my dad.” And then, when I found it was Keith, I was like, “Keith Carradine, Keith Carradine?! That’s amazing!” And he certainly delivered, both on screen and off. He’s wonderful.
Was it fun to be a part of such an un-glamorous show?
TOLMAN: Someone asked me about how hit feels to wear the same costume every day, and whether it gets tired or boring, but the good thing about it is that you know what to expect, every day. You know exactly what you’re wearing and you don’t have to worry about how things are going to fit, or if there’s a tag that’s itchy, or what shoes you’re gonna wear or if they’re gonna hurt your feet. I basically wore the same thing, every single day, for the most part, and there’s a nice routine to that. I did find that, more and more, in the evenings, I was putting on extra mascara and lip gloss when I was going to dinner. I was like, “I’m pretty. I’m a lady.”
Were you surprised with the journey your character ultimately took?
TOLMAN: I was surprised, by the end of it. When I read Episode 8, my jaw hit the floor. It’s funny, Noah is such a good writer that you read these scripts and they’re nothing that I could have ever imagined or put together, but you read it and can’t see any other way it could have gone. He’s just really strong, in that way.
Are you satisfied with where your character and the story ended up? Did you feel closure with it?
TOLMAN: Yeah. It was hard. I read the last episode and I had a hard time letting go. I was like, “This is it. This is how this ends.” I sat down and chatted with Noah about it and we talked through it. He said, “I need you to trust me,” and I said, “Okay, I trust you.” And he was right. While we were filming the end of the show, I thought, “You’re right. This feels right. This is the way this is supposed to go.”
Fargo airs on Tuesday nights on FX, with the season finale airing on June 17th.