The Cast of "Fargo" Season Five Dissect Their Characters | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  

The Cast of “Fargo” Season Five Dissect Their Characters

Juno Temple, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jon Hamm pull back the curtain behind the critically-acclaimed series

Nov 30, 2023 Photography by Frank W. Ockenfels/FX Web Exclusive
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Your favorite action hero ain’t got nothin’ on Juno Temple. During Fargo’s Season Five premiere, the British actress, who is known for roles on Ted Lasso and Atonement, morphs from a meek but sprightly Midwest housewife to a machine gun-toting kidnapper/killer. So much so that during a suspenseful shootout toward the end of that episode, Temple received the compliment of a lifetime.

“Our fantastic camera operator, Mitch [Dubin, Steven Spielberg’s go-to man behind the lens] told me I ran faster than Tom Cruise. So, yep, don’t mind if I do,” says Temple, before brushing off her shoulders and comically turning her up nose during a recent video call with Under the Radar.

Temple is joined on the call by co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female, The Hateful Eight). Temple plays Dot, subservient daughter in law of Leigh’s fierce conservative mogul Lorraine–who is a big enough Republican caricature to pressure her family into posing for Christmas card photos while clutching guns.

Dot turns out to be even more formidable than Lorraine. She single handedly fends off home invaders with everyday items like flammable hairspray and ice slippery enough to be deadly, before wrestling one of their rifles away from them. Dot returns home with the hope of pretending everything is back to normal. Lorraine isn’t having it, and quickly assumes Dot hatched a ransom plot in order to make the right-wing matriarch part with some of her precious money.

That leads to a scene the two actresses relished playing. Lorraine’s confrontation with Dot, which prompts the latter to drop the Minnesota nice act and go from Fargo’s famous “oh yeah” catchphrase to dispensing some of the most menacing threats ever uttered on the series.

“[Lorraine] really underestimated Dot,” says Leigh, before describing why audiences shouldn’t make the same mistake with Temple as a performer. Says Leigh of her co-stars performance [while Temple beams], “When we were shooting that scene, every time we did it, I was stunned and pushed back in my seat.”

Such praise is part of an ongoing dream come true for Temple, which includes being offered this role and working with Leigh, of whom she has long been a fan. They continue to complement each other’s talents throughout the interview, each giving the other credit for their scenes’ success.

Leigh goes on to praise creator/writer/director Noah Hawley. When asked how Hawley stacks up to the greats she’s worked with, such as Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman, Leigh says: “Noah’s dialogue is just such a joy to read and a huge joy to be able to say out loud. Everything is just so brilliantly observed. I don’t know how he can do it. It’s such fun, smart, writing.”

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine Lyon/photo credit: Michelle Faye/FX
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lorraine Lyon/photo credit: Michelle Faye/FX

Those sentiments are shared by Hamm, who on a later video call says, “I love that Noah leans into the idea that a lot of his characters really enjoy language, and speak in very florid phrasings.”

His own character, Hamm says, “Is no exception. At first glance it seems like he could be put in the box of a plain-spoken, Marlboro Man, strong silent type. Yet when he does speak, it’s very intelligent, and wildly different from what you think it will be. That’s a big part of Noah’s style: subverting expectations. From an audience standpoint, that’s something I’ve certainly loved about his work. From a co-workers’ standpoint it’s something I very much appreciate getting the chance to do.”

When it comes to his nefariously pious, nipple pierced antagonist, Hamm jumped at the role. He’s also happy to be at a point in his career where he can take on such eccentric character parts, despite almost being pegged as a more conventional leading man shortly after Mad Men’s success.

“If I wanted to do the same thing day in and out, I would’ve probably not chosen this line of work. There’s some factory jobs I certainly could’ve applied for, and maybe gotten. But I very much enjoy, as an actor, getting a chance to do different things. And I certainly love watching my favorite actors zig when I think they’re going to zag,” Hamm says. “I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have credibility on both sides of the aisle, comedy and drama. But I also have cultivated relationships where I get to work with people who are tremendous at doing both. Someone like Noah can find the dark, very dark humor in a story like this. So it’s a tremendous opportunity for me.”

Hamm says he was also keen to collaborate with castmates as talented as Temple, Leigh, and Dave Foley. The latter plays Lorraine’s menacing and eye patch-ed assistant in Fargo, but Hamm first became a fan when watching Foley’s early Kids In the Hall work. In fact, Hamm has long been a comedy nerd, which spurred his hosting of Saturday Night Live, and his guest roles on comedy series like 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Hamm says: “The majority of my friends here in Los Angeles, from when I first got out here in ’95, have been comedians. I love it. I grew up with cassette tapes and albums of Robin Williams’ and Bob Newhart’s acts from the ‘70s and the ‘80s, all the way through to Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman, and everyone on Mr. Show, whom I got to fortunately see live at Largo and other places when I came out here. So I love getting a chance to do both. It’s a tremendous opportunity as an actor to get to do different things. And I love both sides of it.”

In some of his scenes, Hamm wears a gargantuan Stetson cowboy hat as if it’s the most common-sense fashion choice imaginable. It helps him look the part though, because he is indeed a sheriff of a remote Montana town, and before long reveals himself to be both a lawman and gangster who doles out Old Testament-esque justice to his constituents, quoting scripture all the while. But just when he appears to be a mercilessly devout Christian enforcer, we get a scene where FBI investigators visit to question Tillman about his alleged corruption while he’s in a hot tub. That’s when his oh-so-erotic nipple ring protrudes, instantly complicating all our assumptions about him.

When asked about what he wore best, the Stetson or the nipple ring, Hamm laughs and says: “That’s really up for the audience to decide, I suppose. I very much liked Roy’s shearling coat. That’s what I looked forward to putting on every day. But there’s a couple of signifiers of an outdoor, ranch, livestock adjacent character. And the hat, and the belt buckle, and the boots and the coat are all those things. The nipple rings come a little further down the list.”

Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman/photo credit: Michelle Faye/FX
Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman/photo credit: Michelle Faye/FX

Even more expectation defying than the nipple rings: scenes where Hamm wields a pistol, and looks every bit the surprise action hero in waiting that Temple does. And yet, such moments aren’t straightforwardly glamorous for Hamm. Instead, he has a thoughtful take on using guns, and was glad that he had an even more thoughtful writer in Hawley to make sure he got those scenes right.

“Guns are fraught, and they should be, they’re very dangerous,” says Hamm. “I wish there weren’t so many guns out there. And I wish the people who used them had a little more respect for them. You know, Chekhov said it— whenever there’s a gun, it’s going to go off at some point. It’s a part of the storytelling world. I certainly don’t look for jobs based on how many times I get to shoot a gun. But I’m comfortable around them, and know how to use them. I also have a tremendous respect for them. And know they just represent danger, and that’s a very easy way to get it across in a moving image for sure.”



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