Is the Fargo TV Show Based on the Movie?

Fargo: How Much the TV Series Has in Common With the Movie

The 1996 Oscar-winning classic Fargo will get a second life on the small screen when it premieres on April 15 on FX. The 10-episode season takes place in the same North Dakota town and has a host of quirky characters (played by actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman), but this is also a whole new story and universe. To get the details on the new series and clear up how similar (and how different) this will be from the movie, we got lots of clarification and interesting tidbits from the show-runners and cast at the Winter TCA.

The Coen Brothers Are Executive Producers

Executive producer and writer Noah Hawley said that the Coen brothers didn't have to put their name on the series, but they read the first script, and they really liked it. Hawley said that the filmmaker brothers told them TV is not their medium, but "they just told me to go and make my show." After the pilot was completed, Hawley said that Ethan Coen said, "Yeah, good." This is high praise from a Coen, according to star Billy Bob Thornton, who has worked with them. "When Ethan says, 'Yeah, good,' he's over the moon," Thornton joked.

One of the Coens' Casting Directors Cast the Show

Once the Coen brothers decided they wanted to be involved, the producers said they recommended a casting director they like to work with, Rachel Tenner. Tenner had never worked in television before, but she helped put together the Fargo cast, which also includes Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Kate Walsh, and Adam Goldberg.

The Characters Aren't the Same, but They're Closely Inspired by the Movie

Exec producer Warren Littlefield said that the fact that they didn't have to use the same characters from the movie — like Frances McDormand's pregnant sheriff, Marge Gunderson — was liberating. Though none of the characters are the same, most of them seem to be inspired by a movie counterpart, as evidenced by their names. For instance, Allison Tolman's character is a police officer named Molly Solverson (like McDormand's Marge Gunderson), and Freeman's character is the oft-bullied Lester Nygaard, which resembles William H. Macy's character Jerry Lundegaard.

The Actors Also Have Great North Dakota Accents

The actors said they have a dialect coach on set and rely on the coach, so the accents don't get too outrageous. "We've got the ears of our guide there telling us when we're going too broad," Hanks said, adding that the actors "all just sort of said, 'Don't go too big; try to keep it as realistic as you can.'" Hanks also joked about the development of his own accent, saying that at first, he was "somewhere between Chicago and Canada, [and then he] whittled it down to Minnesota." As for British actor Freeman, he told us that while he doesn't stay in character between shooting his scenes, he does stay in the Fargo accent, because it's "too much of a leap" to go between his own accent and the Midwestern dialect.

Source: FX, Getty
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