‘Fargo’: David Thewlis on Why V.M. Varga Is the Most Enigmatic Villain of His Career

     April 20, 2017

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On the set of Fargo Year 3, a handful of journalists and I were able to speak to the cast members currently filming in Calgary, Alberta, and see some of the locations where the show’s events take place. One of the most interesting was the “lair” inhabited by David Thewlis’ character V.M. Varga. Even now after having seen two screener episodes, we still don’t know much about him, and Thewlis couldn’t reveal much either at the time, but that makes Varga even more enigmatic (which is all the better). “He’s very hard to talk about,” Thewlis told us. “He’s by nature a mystery.” (As are those horrifying prosthetic teeth he wears).

Producer Kim Todd told us that, “After we cast David, Noah [Hawley] started working even more on the character. David gives you so much to work with, and Noah would keep working on the character anyway, but he would tell us and David, ok, this is a guy who is always in control of himself and everything around him. Control is his watchword.” But, we also learned that there is a place where he lets it go — though we can’t reveal that just yet.

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Image via FX

COLLIDER: When you spoke about Varga at the TCA press tour you hadn’t started filming, so you weren’t so sure about who this guy really is.

THEWLIS: Nine episodes in and I’m still … but I like that, because Noah asked me if at the start I wanted to know where he was going ultimately. And mainly, because I’ve usually done film where you’ve got the script and you’ve got the whole story, I kinda liked the idea that I didn’t know the story.

We know next to nothing about Varga, so just to start with the basics: Is he a dangerous person?

THEWLIS: Oh absolutely totally, he’s very very awful. Absolutely terrible, a terrible man, and it gets worse and worse and worse, he’s got no redeeming qualities whatsoever, as far as I can see, and he’s just an enormous manipulator. Not necessarily violent within himself, he has other people do that for him — maybe, we’ll see! I don’t want to give too much away — but he’s, I think I can say, he’s done a bit of money laundering and manipulation in the financial world, but has a lot of philosophical and Machiavellian theories to go along with that, and he talks a lot. [Laughs] And it’s not always quite clear what he’s talking about, and there are tangential references from Biblical reference to philosophical references to popular culture references to historical references … he’s the most enigmatic character I’ve played in 33 years. I don’t want to overpay the word enigmatic, but he really is enigmatic.

And he’s a bit of a loner, right?

THEWLIS: He has two henchmen, if you want to use that word, but he’s totally isolated. We’re living in the back of a big truck, and we’re not really sure why … this is why it’s hard to say, because there are plot things that no one would want me to give away, because you want to watch Fargo and not know, I wouldn’t want to know anything, so suffice to say that I’m thoroughly evil!

The role of media is very important this season — as part of Varga’s alienation, is he a luddite?

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Image via FX

THEWLIS: No no, he’s not a luddite at all, he’s using technology to his own ends. It’s a binary world to invade other people’s lives and surveillance, and he absolutely uses technology to control his entire operation. His look is kinda low-fi because he’s off the back of a truck. And you wouldn’t guess all this from looking at him, because he’s appearance is very nondescript.

As a movie actor, what drew you to wanting to work on a TV show?

THEWLIS: I wanted to do Fargo rather than do a TV production. I’ve been offered TV things over the years, but usually that’s about that I don’t want to be away from home for that long, because it’s a long time to be away your home country and my family. But I am such a fan of the Coen brothers and particularly of Fargo, and as we said in Pasadena, when we first heard this was going to be a TV show, most people were like, “Oh don’t, you’re going to spoil it, it’s such a great film” and everything, and then it came out and it’s great. And second season was the same. So when I got the call I was very keen to know more about it. I met with Noah and took the meeting, but I had just gotten married and didn’t want to be away from my wife and my daughter, and I have been now for quite a long time. And I didn’t want to do that, but this is good, so good, and if I’m going to do my first American TV it should be this.

Fargo airs Wednesday nights on FX. For more of our recent Season 3 coverage, check out these links below:

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