Whatever you want to call it — a re-imagining, a reworking, an adaptation, a riff — FX’s 10-episode series Fargo will debut April 15, the network announced Tuesday as it addressed reporters in Los Angeles.
One word the cast and crew would prefer you not use is “remake.” This Fargo, which takes its inspiration and aesthetic from the award-winning and beloved 1996 Coen brothers film, features all new characters and situations as life for a group of residents in Bemidji, Minn., suddenly turns violent.
Bemidji is a real town, but we’re guessing it doesn’t often play host to some of the shenanigans featured in the series, which follows put-upon everyman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) as he finally buckles under the pressure of having a domineering wife and a local bully who just won’t leave him alone. Lester’s life changes when he has a chance meeting with a stranger (Billy Bob Thornton) in an emergency room, and Thornton’s character tells him he needs to stand up to the people in his life.
The consequences are quite bloody, and the ensuing police involvement forces young officer Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) to get better at her job, and fast. That’s just the starting point of what promises to be a twisty series with an incredible cast, which not only includes Thornton and Freeman, but also Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, Kate Walsh, Keith Carradine, Adam Goldberg, Glenn Howerton and Oliver Platt.
The first to sign up was Thornton, who said he had no qualms whatsoever about going from movies to TV, explaining that the kind of work he enjoys — character-driven pieces that were once midlevel projects at studios, or high-end indie films, are now found almost strictly on the small screen”
“I read the pilot and it was flawless,” he said. “It doesn’t rely on the movie, but it’s its own fresh thing. … There was really no reason to not do it, and now it’s actually a feather in your cap to be in a great television show. You don’t have to apologize for being on a great TV show. It’s actually something to be proud of. And when they said it’s only 10 episodes, then you can go back to doing movies, I said, ‘Bingo.’”
Thornton also enjoyed that the Coen brothers gave their approval of the project, going so far as to put their name on it as executive producers.
Another executive producer, former NBC head honcho Warren Littlefield, shared the long, colorful history of how the project finally came to fruition. Back in 1997, producers Bruce Paltrow and Robert Palm pitched a network TV Fargo series, but Littlefield didn’t feel the project did right by the film and passed. CBS eventually produced a pilot directed by Kathy Bates and starring Edie Falco as Marge Gunderson (the role that won Frances McDormand an Academy Award), but the network didn’t pick it up to series. Littlefield eventually resurrected the idea once he believed that cable television had reached the point it could provide the depth and scope that the material required.
Littlefield tapped Noah Hawley, with whom he had worked on the short-lived, high-concept ABC series My Generation, to handle writing duties.