2020 is giving Chris Rock room to stretch his artistic wings and feel himself. He’s co-writing and starring in the latest Saw horror film, Spiral. And he’s playing a bonafide gangster in the upcoming fourth season of Fargo, Noah Hawley‘s brilliant FX anthology series of crime in small-town America based on the Coen Brothers film. Rock spoke to Entertainment Weekly about his experience on the show — and compared his character to one of television’s best.
“He’s a businessman, he’s a deacon at his church, he’s a loving father and husband, he owns a bank,” says Rock of Loy Cannon, the central character he plays in the new season. “And he’s also a criminal — he fixes fights and runs numbers and prostitution. He’s always on edge. It’s Tony Soprano-esque.” For fans of that iconic, influential HBO crime series The Sopranos, this comparison must feel like catnip. I love the idea of Rock exploring the duality of his criminal character and his weirdly sympathetic impulses for familial piece, and I love that Rock’s experience has been at least somewhat similar to James Gandolfini‘s.
Rock is generally effusive about his experience filming the series: “This is the best part I’ve ever done and, honestly, probably the best part I’ll ever have.” He also teases the bigger scope of the upcoming season:
It’s the biggest Fargo. The scale is tremendous. Fargo normally tells little stories that get out of hand. They’re about ordinary people, something happens, and then we get to see how evil ordinary people can be. This is quite different. We start off gangsters, so we’re beginning with bad people, and then it escalates.
Were there any difficulties making the series? For one, the “freakin’ cold.” They shot in Chicago, often outdoors, and Rock was freezing (but as he says, “one of the great things about acting in the cold is that the cold does some of the acting for you, so you don’t have to fake it”). Rock also served as (in his words) “the senior black person on the set,” speaking to Hawley and the other filmmakers whenever something about that experience felt inauthentic — thankfully, “nine times out of 10 the person you say it to appreciates it.” But by and large, Rock played Cannon “like a person,” not necessarily aware of his place or symbol in human history, even as Hawley’s scope and filmmaking techniques (“You have a two-page monologue and the camera is moving like that, everything’s got to be perfect”) increase in complexity. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited to see Rock’s work in this series.