Labels: Fargo, Projects, Videos

VARIETYSPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “Who Rules the Land of Denial?,” the June 7 episode of “Fargo.”

When Wednesday night’s episode of “Fargo” begins, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Nikki Swango has already been beaten severely by two mob thugs and knocked unconscious in a prison bus accident. By the end of the second act, she wandered bleeding through the Minnesota snow, a crossbow wound in her leg, into a bowling alley, where she sits down and orders a double whiskey. The scene is reminiscent of a particular classic Coen Brothers movie. It is also a critical moment for Swango, whose fortune appears to finally change after being on a steady downward trend.

Winstead spoke with Variety about the bowling-alley scene, the movie that inspired it, and how her character has defied her expectations.

How much did you know about Nikki before you signed on to do the show?
Literally nothing. I had talked with Noah [Hawley, creator and executive producer] about the third season. We had talked about the first two seasons as well. Nothing ever materialized or worked out. We were always saying that we wanted to work together. He called and asked if I was available for Season 3. I had just finished working on something, and I was like, “Yes. Whatever it is, yes.” I didn’t really care what the role was. At that point I had seen both seasons and was so in awe of what he was doing that I just really wanted to be a part of it. By the time I got the script, I was already doing the show, but I hadn’t been told anything about the role. So once I read it, I was floored by this character, and really surprised by her, because I wasn’t expecting to play someone like that.

What was it that surprised you about her?
I guess I thought I’d be playing a really nice Minnesota cop or a really sweet Minnesota housewife. I didn’t expect to be playing this brash, sexy, confident, bold fighter of a woman. She’s just so much woman. I guess I hadn’t really seen myself that way before doing this. It’s definitely brought me a whole new level of confidence now that I’ve played her. But going into it I thought, “Am I the person for this? I don’t know if I’m enough woman for Nikki Swango.”

But you still got to do an accent.
She’s from Chicago, so I got to do sort of a Midwestern accent — still in the same world, but a slightly different version of it. It feels like Minnesota, but Nikki Swango’s version.

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Labels: Articles and Interviews, Fargo, Projects

Labels: Fargo, Projects, Videos

LOS ANGELES TIMES – Mary Elizabeth Winstead had come close to signing on for “Fargo” before, but scheduling conflicts prevented her from taking part in either of the first two seasons of FX’s celebrated anthology series.

“I was always pulling my hair out,” Winstead says while stopping by The Times’ video studio.

So when “Fargo” creator Noah Hawley called and asked if she’d be interested in a part for the show’s new season, Winstead accepted, sight unseen.

“I learned from watching the first two seasons that there’s no such thing as a bad part on this show,” Winstead says, adding that it’s the first time she has ever taken a part without first reading the script.

The role Hawley ended up giving her — Nikki Swango, a bubbly femme fatale and aspiring bridge champion — surprised Winstead, who was expecting something more along the lines of Allison Tolman’s sweet, smart police officer from Season 1. Instead, she was playing a woman with the know-how to use an air conditioning unit as a murder weapon and then brush it off by saying, “Life’s a journey.”

“What she does in the first episode is, like, ‘Whoa! This is a very interesting person with a complicated moral compass,’” Winstead says, laughing. “But she has this whole other side to her that’s very optimistic and beautiful and romantic.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Winstead talks about other ways the role has surprised her (she never expected “Fargo” to require trips to the gym … but then she didn’t know she’d be sharing a bathtub with costar Ewan McGregor, either), the bridge tournament research trip she took and why “bad-ass” women characters just seem to keep coming her way.

Labels: Fargo, Projects, Videos

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – There is a quintessential Fargo moment in the first episode of the third installment of the FX series, when sexy parolee and competitive bridge player Nikki Swango looks at her balding, pot-bellied, stamp-obsessed, Corvette-driving boyfriend (and parole officer) Ray Stussy and says this: “We’re a team, you and me. Simpatico, to the point of spooky.”

If you’re obsessed with Noah Hawley’s virtuoso reimagining of Fargo as a television series, then you’ll know the key words from above are “competitive bridge player,” “stamp-obsessed,” “Corvette,” “simpatico,” “spooky” and, only to a slightly lesser extent, “Swango” and “Stussy.”

The details always matter in Fargo: the words and names and how they’re pronounced; the visually adroit use of wide shots right before the cameras dive in to see what outside influence will try to unsettle the belief systems of the locals; the raucous, upbeat music and the stoic, placid people; the overall tone, which is a dance of the quirky with the folksy, almost always ending in the deadly. These are the trademark Fargo elements that crop up each season.

It’s all here. So, too, is the “Minnesota nice” philosophy being challenged by the intrusion of evil — a disruptive force crashing into people who not only fail to see it coming, but often don’t have the worldview to fathom its very existence.

All of these are typical of Fargo, from the original Coen brothers’ movie in 1996 to the last two impressive television seasons from Hawley (who wrote the first two season-three episodes sent to critics for review, directed the first one, and just finished the mind-bending and sublime first season of Legion, also for FX).

I feel the same simpatico kinship for Fargo that Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) expresses to Ray (Ewan McGregor) in that scene in the first episode.

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Labels: Fargo, Projects

Labels: Fargo, Projects, Videos

YAHOO – Ewan McGregor adds pounds and sheds his handsome exterior (and some hair) as Ray Stussy in the first look at Season 3 of “Fargo.” A 30-second teaser, released online on Monday, offers a glimpse at the cast and a just a spoonful of drama as Carrie Coon’s Sheriff Gloria Burgle spooks McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead into high-tailing it out of a simple country diner.

The teaser’s sole line, “Don’t forget your pie,” is uttered by a uniformed Coon to her son as a balding, pudgy, greasy McGregor and a smokey-eyed, leather and fur clad Winstead give each other pointed looks. They exit the linoleum-heavy diner to a snowy Fargo before McGregor’s Stussy opens the door to a slick vintage coupe for Winstead’s Nikki Swango.

Not much is known about the plot of the next season of Noah Hawley’s anthology series, and the trailer only teases a conflict between Stussy, Swango, and Burgle. Taking place in 2010, Year 3 places Stussy and his brother Emmit (also played by McGregor) at the head of the drama, and like previous seasons, any kind of bloody hijinks are possible.

Jim Gaffigan, David Thewlis, Michael Stuhlbarg, Scoot McNairy, Shea Whigham, Karan Soni, Fred Melamed, and Hamish Linklater round out the cast of “Fargo” Year 3, premiering April 19 on FX.

Labels: Fargo, Projects, Videos

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – The end of Fargo’s rather long hiatus is in sight.

More than a year after the FX anthology wrapped its second installment, production finally picked back up on the frigid Calgary, Alberta, shoot at the top of the year. Its new cast did not much have time to settle, however. The actors and executive producer Warren Littlefield met with reporters Thursday afternoon at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena to tease out what information they could about the critically adored drama and its often twisted wit.

“I am doing the Fargo-y accent,” said star Ewan McGregor of the thick North Dakota-Minnesota region’s patois. “I’ve had the chance to put both [character] brothers on camera now. The challenge is to master that accent, which is very quite difficult. It’s the hardest accent I’ve ever done. And I did Dutch once. This is worse.”

Fargo has only been filming for four days, but quite a bit seemed to get done in that time. FX kicked off the panel with a hush-hush reel of early footage, showing McGregor (as both of the strikingly different brothers), Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Thewlis and Michael Stuhlbarg in their new characters.

Showrunner Noah Hawley, who’d been on hand earlier on Thursday to promote Legion, went home feeling under the weather prior to the panel, leaving Littlefield to describe this latest iteration. Unlike the second season, this one is not a period piece. It has been described as even more in the present than the first season, which had a bit of an amorphous time period, and that means that there will be iPhones.

“I’m going to try and channel a little bit of Noah,” said Littlefield, noting that there would be moments in season three that connect to the previous two.”Noah is going to have a lot of fun embracing and commenting on the world today.”

Connections to past iterations, particularly the first season, will be limited. When one reporter asked Littlefield if there’d be any cameos from season one actors, he was guarded but did not sound terribly optimistic. “It’s a big region,” he said. “I think the important thing about year three is intimacy. We’re a smaller cast. And it allows us to go deeper with each of these characters. Noah does not want to repeat himself.”

Of the new characters, Coon’s seems the most familiar. She compared her alter ego, Sheriff Gloria Burgle, to the cop played by Frances McDormand in the original 1994 Coen brothers film. “She really represents a small-town aesthetic that she feels has been eroded by forces outside of herself,” the actress said, noting that her personal life is not in as good as shape as the franchise’s past heroes.

When talk turned to the Coen brothers, who on Tuesday announced plans to move into television themselves, Littlefield said the door is always open for them to come collaborate on the show — be it in the writers’ room or the director’s chair. “They’ve always been given open arms,” he said. “So far it hasn’t happened, but how wonderful would that be?”

Earlier on Thursday, FX chief John Landgraf said that Fargo will return in late April, but there’s still no official premiere date.

Labels: Fargo, Projects