‘Fargo’ Producer Doesn’t Want Season 5 to Be the End for the Snowy Series


The Big Picture

  • ‘Fargo’ maintains its unique identity across seasons through a blend of drama and comedy.
  • The series always embraces the challenge of creating new worlds for each season, set in different decades with a different cast.
  • There is hope for more seasons of ‘Fargo,’ even though the creative team didn’t go into Season 5 thinking about that.


The announcement of a Fargo TV series, the first season of which debuted in 2014 with Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman at its center, raised a lot of eyebrows, primarily of fans of the Coen brothers’ movie. How would they recapture the magic of that world and expand it, not only over the course of a season, but for multiple seasons? But in the hands of show creator and showrunner Noah Hawley, and in the anthology format with a different and equally fantastic cast each season, it pulls off the trick of feeling like Fargo while still being something new and fresh and different.

The latest installment of the series Fargo: Year 5 is set in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2019 and follows Dorothy “Dot” Lyon (Juno Temple) as she finds herself in a bit of trouble involving her past. Being on the radar of North Dakota Sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm), someone she very much does not want back in her life, has turned Dot’s simple Midwestern existence upside down, leading her to want to fight for her family by any means necessary. On the other hand, Roy has been in search of Dot for some time and is determined to make sure she sees things his way.

During this interview with Crumpa, executive producer Warren Littlefield talked about never wanting to repeat themselves with Fargo, starting Season 5 with the feeling it might be the last but now believing there are more stories to tell, getting such a great cast on board for each season, the mother-daughter relationship between Dot and her child, how Hamm approached building his character, agonizing over every detail of the series, and what he loves most about producing a TV series.

Fargo

Various chronicles of deception, intrigue, and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. All of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, North Dakota.

Release Date
April 15, 2014

Main Genre
Crime

Rating
TV-MA

Seasons
5

Studio
FX


Producer Warren Littlefield Views the Seasons of ‘Fargo’ As a Big Book of True Crime

Juno Temple as Dorothy 'Dot' Lyon in Fargo: Year 5
Image via FX

Crumpa: This is a particularly interesting project because every season is different and yet it still always feels like Fargo. Do you guys have an approach you follow for each season? Are there specific elements or themes that you feel like always carry over, so that it always inherently feels connected? Do you see a throughline for all the seasons?

WARREN LITTLEFIELD: On behalf of everyone at Fargo, we accept that as an enormous compliment because we want you to feel that each year that we do Fargo. We want you to feel that it’s an entirely new story and that, in no way, are we repeating ourselves. We’ve also covered the 1950s, 1970s, 2010, 2018 and 2006. We’ve spanned eras. [Noah Hawley] finds elements that play in the world of Fargo where there’s deeply dramatic story, and this is certainly as dramatically heavy as anything we’ve done, and yet in the middle of all this dramatic tragedy, we also present comedy. That’s what always unites us. We’re in a world of Minnesota nice. We’re in the world of Fargo. Emotions are not particularly expressed or encouraged. They’re bundled up as everyone bundles for the winter. Emotions are bundled, as well. And then, our story tends to slice those open and expose, all while finding the absurdity of human life bouncing against that tragedy and that drama. That’s what unites us, each year. We imagine there’s a big book of true crime and that each year, the stories could be contained in that big book, as could the Coen brothers’ movie.

How far along is the season when you’re told what it will be? How much of this season did you learn about, the first time Noah Hawley told you about what the season will be?

LITTLEFIELD: Noah will start playing with an idea and he’ll tease a little bit. Every time, we’re like, “Wow, that’s wonderful.” And then, he does a fairly deep dive and says, “Okay, now I’m ready to talk about it.” A lot of it is thematic. A lot of it is about a journey for a character. Certainly this year, it’s Dot, who presents herself on one level, as just a Midwestern mom, but who has a very big secret for a very good reason. Who is Dot? What is she made of? Does she have the strength to go up against someone like Roy Tillman? That’s a wonderful reveal. Guys like Roy Tillman are not defeated very easily. That becomes a journey that Noah goes on, and then by the time he makes a presentation, it’s maybe 30 minutes talking about the story and the journey of the characters, and we are in, hook, line and sinker. We’re off to the races with Fargo.

Littlefield Said He Wants to Return For More Seasons in the Frozen Tundra

June Temple as Dorothy 'Dot' Lyon, holding Sienna King as her daughter Scotty in Fargo: Year 5
Image via FX

As a producer, when you have a successful show, I would imagine that you want to keep it going. When you have a show like this, that always delivers every season, you must definitely want to keep it going. Is that your hope?

LITTLEFIELD: When we did Season 1 and our partner said, “Okay, this is a limited series,” very quickly, Noah said, “I think I have more stories to tell,” and everyone rejoiced in that. I certainly did. But it takes a while and there are other things on his plate. We rolled up to this year, Season 5, and there was very much a feeling that this would be the end and we approached it that way, but I don’t think it is. It’s been so career defining for me and for Noah. We always scare the hell out of ourselves with what we attempt to do. There are many shows that are more significantly budgeted than we are. We go off to the frozen tundra in the winter and we challenge and scare ourselves by the period, by the size, and by the dramatic events that are presented to these characters, and we love to scare ourselves. We also have to navigate the tone. What unites us, year in and year out, is tone. I think we began this particular journey thinking it was the end, but I don’t think it is.

I certainly have hope that we’ll see more.

LITTLEFIELD: Thank you. By the way, I’m right there with you.

It’s such a fun world, visually it’s great to watch, and you have an incredible cast every season.

LITTLEFIELD: Yeah. Basically, we say, “Come spend the winter with us in Calgary.” There could be reasons to complain, but no one does. They’re drinking from this Fargo cup and they’re buying into what that experience is. Each day, they look at the work and they’re in love. They’re in love with what Noah gives them on the page, but also the process that we give to them. They know to make the most out of it because it’s a moment in time where these unbelievable actors all come together, do something, and then go their separate ways. It has just worked.

There’s something so sweet and beautiful about the purity of the relationship between Dot and her child. How tricky is it to make a relationship like that work, in a show like this? What do you most enjoy about that dynamic?

LITTLEFIELD: We were shooting a visual test, playing with our lenses and a couple key locations. In essence, it’s a camera test. In our Fargo world, Noah sets it to music and it becomes pretty elaborate. It became clear in that camera test just what was going on between mother and daughter. Juno and [Sienna King] had such a beautiful connection. We gave her drum lessons. She just jumped in and embraced being in this world. We built their home in that neighborhood. There was an empty lot. We created that household for that family, and because we knew we were gonna burn a bunch of it down, we did all kinds of crazy things to it. We had a number of interiors that were on a stage, but with that house, the neighbors would come out when we were shooting at night and be like, “I’ve been working on an addition to my house that’s just a few more feet on my den, and it’s taken 16 months. In how many weeks did you build this house?” And we said, “Well, it won’t last. It’s not built to last the way your home is, but it looks spectacular.” People wanted to know if we were going to sell it. Everyone gets caught up in that spirit. Particularly for Juno and for David [Rysdahl], they got caught up in that being their home.

Littlefield Explains How Jon Hamm Built His Scary ‘Fargo’ Character

Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman in Season 5 of Fargo
Image via FX

What was it like watching Jon Hamm find this character?

LITTLEFIELD: He built his way into the character before he got to Calgary. We asked Jon how comfortable he was on a horse, and we matched up a horse with him and he had riding lessons in Griffith Park. From the early version of those lessons to the later version, and then what happened in Calgary, was a completely different guy and his relationship to a horse. That was step one in Jon accepting and becoming Roy Tillman. By the time he got up there and we started going, he was really accessing who that guy is. In my office right now is his cowboy hat because it makes me smile and think of Jon. He became that guy with all the horrible aspects. He built up that character, so then it felt so authentic. When he’s in that chapel, it was out in a meadow not far from the main house where, one day, it was just grass, and then a few weeks later, it was that chapel. It just felt so right that he was in there, holding that Bible and talking to the Lord. I give him tremendous credit because he’s been a lot of wonderful characters in his life, but he really owned this one, embraced it, and then scared the shit out of us, as that character.

The character that I am most unsure and frightened of is Ole Munch. I don’t know what to make of him.

LITTLEFIELD: Ole Munch is terrifying. Sam [Spruell] is one of the most beautiful, gentlest people you’ll ever meet on the planet. And then, he becomes a character that you’re literally scared to death of. And you don’t know the origin of this character. The deeper you go, the more you learn and the more that’s revealed. He has his own code. He’s mythological. Noah can draw from a number of different places to build a character that exists in our Fargo today.

This is one of those shows where it feels like every detail is thought about. It feels like you could open a drawer or a cupboard and everything would be how it should be and not just part of a set.

LITTLEFIELD: We agonize over it. Everyone on the crew agonizes over it. They’re really proud of what they do and what they’re allowed to do in this show. For Fargo Season 4, we were in Chicago. All other Fargo seasons have been in Calgary, so it was really wonderful coming home. When we started in early October, it was almost summer-like, but then as we started to roll, it got cold and snowy fast and we were like, “Yeah, this is the world we know. This is what we want to embrace.” Everyone really falls into it.

When It Comes to Producing TV Series, Littlefield Loves the Challenge ‘Fargo’ Presents

Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman in Season 5 of Fargo
Image via FX

When it comes to producing a TV series, what is the thing that most excites you about doing that? Is it when all the ideas come together enough for you to see what it’s going to be? Is it when the casting falls into place and you see what all these characters will be like? Is it seeing the finished product? Are there things you get most excited about when it comes to working in television?

LITTLEFIELD: I love the challenges. Every year with Fargo, we are deeply challenged to create a world that these characters inhabit. We are very much a film. We may show you a precinct or a police station, or we may show you a hospital, but that’s not where we live. Our storytelling is really filmic and we don’t have the safety net of those kinds of existing worlds where the show is built around that world. There are so many worlds that we have to service, and that’s a challenge. We love the challenge of living up to Noah’s words and of presenting a world that feels really true to his vision. I get wildly excited when Noah says, “Here’s what I’m thinking about.” I get wildly excited, as we did in February 2022, when we have a script and we can talk about casting in a significant way. And then, we figure out how to mount it and be true to those words and that vision while having the audience feel like it’s real.

The day we found Roy Tillman’s ranch, we knew we had to give it a facelift, build a chapel and put a windmill in. And then, we were like, “Will this barn stay up through the winter? This barn is over 100 years old and it looks like it’s on its last legs. What are we gonna do if that barn doesn’t make it?” And the owner said, “That barn will make it.” That was wildly exciting because we knew then, on that day, that Roy Tillman’s world was gonna come to life. We relished the details of making it because nothing is as it’s ever been before. It’s always a new challenge and a new adventure.

Fargo: Year 5 airs on FX and is available to stream on Hulu. Check out the trailer:

Watch on Hulu

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