Exclusive Interview: Noah Hawley On Fargo Season 2

Noah Hawley did the seeming impossible, turning the Coen Brothers acclaimed film Fargo into a TV series. Not only did he do the name justice, but FX's Fargo is one of the most acclaimed series on television in its own right, joining the ranks of Breaking Bad, Man Men, Game of Thrones and True Detective on lists and nominations. So far there have been no characters from the movie Fargo in the series, so no Marge Gunderson or Jerry Lundegaard. It's all been original characters like Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and police chief Molly Solverson (Alison Tolman).

For season two, Hawley took Fargo back to 1979 with an all new cast of characters. Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson play cops investigating the new crime, and Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons play a husband and wife who get wrapped up in it. I spoke with Hawley after FX's Fargo panel for the Television Critics Association. Season two premieres October 12 at 10 on FX.

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Noah Hawley Fargo Season 2 Interview

What was harder, the pressure of the Fargo movie or the pressure of the first season of Fargo?Noah Hawley: Probably the movie I think. It was such a bad idea, right? It was literally, everyone who heard we were doing it was like, "That's a terrible idea." But then it was kind of liberating at the same time because it's like, it's such a bad idea that all we have to do is not be terrible. The second bad idea obviously was once we got it right, to throw everything out and start again. You get your sea legs and you understand the process. Psychologically you work your way through "this feels right and this doesn't feel right" and it's tested and everything. Then it becomes more about being more ambitious on a story level and like, okay, well, this is Fargo but is this also Fargo?Isn't that how some of the best movies and shows have come about? They shouldn't have worked but they did it so right.Noah: Right, no, I know, it's true. But it's the definition of fiasco, right? Greatness and fiasco is the same. You're reaching for something just out of your grasp and if you get it, it's great and if you don't, it's a disaster.Lorne-Malvo---unhinged.-017In season one, Malvo was the mysterious stranger which is a great archetype. In season two are you dealing with a noirish archetype of a woman getting a sap into trouble with Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons' characters?Noah: Not deliberately with that archetype. I think what it was more for me was how do we turn what has been an internal struggle for these two men in the movie and the first year, into a relationship. A relationship dynamic, and obviously it's internal for both of them but it's also they have to work together. Sometimes they're pulling in different directions. How he thinks they should get out of it and how she thinks they should get out of it are different. The region, defined in many ways through the Coen Brothers movie, is a place where people have a really hard time communicating basic information to each other. That becomes much harder.Fargo season 2Are cops always heroes in the Fargo world?Noah: Not necessarily. We haven't explored that other dynamic yet but you definitely need heroes in that world. They don't always have to be law enforcement, but we haven't played that out yet.Is there really snow even in the summer up there?Noah: [Laughs] No. In fact it was a much warmer year this year. Plus, we went over into spring so it's only the first three hours or so that has snow in it, and then it becomes a much browner place, but I like that. I like the idea that if you looked at a photograph from the first year and a photograph from the second year, you couldn't confuse the two. They look totally different. They're clearly different movies.The music was such a powerful part of the show, is there new theme music this year?Noah: We have the same theme but all the other music, I said to our composer that we had to write all new music because those themes were so tied to those people and that journey, that it really threw me to hear them in this context. We sort of threw everything out. I shared a lot of Mahler cues, concertos and compositions with the composer because it felt like in a way the Germanic-ness of the Gerhardts but also there's something more tumultuous and muscular about that style of classical music that I felt would play really well into this year so we pushed the music in that direction.Fargo season 2The one year time jump was a bombshell in the first season. Now that you've used it, is that tool out of your toolbox?Noah: Yeah, I think so. This season happens much more in real time, but then the key is how do you come up with other structural innovations that keep you from just falling into a linear trap. That becomes a challenge of part of the assessment of should we do this again becomes: all right, it's not just do we have a good story to tell, but do we have a good way to tell it, these good twists structurally that keep it interesting?1979 is a period piece, but was 2006 a period piece too?'Noah: In a way, yeah. It was pre-crash. The economy was booming and it was a sort of bucolic America in a way that the last few years we've been trying to get back to that, I think. For us, because I say this is a true story, by definition it's like when the book comes out about a famous true crime, it takes a few years to really figure out what actually happened. The idea is I could never set it last year because there just hasn't been enough time to let the dust settle and figure that stuff out.Fargo season 2Is there an art to the violence on Fargo?Noah: Well, you know, the violence in the Coen Brothers movies is always shocking and I don't ever really want to put violence in for entertainment's sake.But it's somehow beautiful in parts.Noah: Yeah, and that's disturbing and I think that that's important for us to recognize too, that it should be unsettling. The other reason that I'm so committed to rounding out every character is so that there's no death where you stand up and cheer. It's really traumatic stuff and it should feel that way.fargoYou said Fargo was a bad idea to begin with, but now you see lots of movies are becoming TV shows, only they're doing direct sequels. Do you think Fargo had anything to do with that?Noah: I don't know. The last few years, I wouldn't say we were the first attempt. I think The Firm was out the year before us.Well, if we're going back, MASH.Noah: Yeah, all those things, so I think part of what we're facing is a universe with 20, 60 providers of original scripted content and everyone's like, "How do we cut through?" If you have a pre-branded title, it's easier to sell.