Small town. Big crime. Dead cold.
Warren Littlefield tried to develop the 1996 Coen Brothers classic film Fargo into a TV series for more than 15 years. Back in 1997, when Littlefield was President of NBC, he greenlit a Fargo pilot and one of the pilot’s marketing tools was a snow globe with the iconic Marge Gunderson, a flipped-over car and a bloody body on snow inside. But Fargo on NBC didn’t work. It ended up a busted pilot because television wasn’t ready for it — NBC didn’t have Oscar winner Francis McDormand playing the role of Marge and couldn’t capture the brilliance of the film in the format of a broadcast network series.
Littlefield kept the snow globe in a “beautifully-wrapped bag” and waited for the right time. He partnered with Noah Hawley and they found the right network in FX who wanted them to “create something that ..could be consumed for 10 years.” Liittlefield presented the snow globe to FX’s John Landgraf as the best gift he’d ever received as a network boss.
FX and Fargo proved to be a very good fit. “We do a narrative where we get to wander. We take time to live with the characters,” Littlefield says.
The first 10-episode season of the darkly funny Calgary-filmed series took place in the winter of 2006 in Bemidi, Minnesota with Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo and Martin Freeman as the nebbish insurance salesman Lester Nyguard. Allison Tolman played fan favourite Deputy Molly Solverson and Colin Hanks a Duluth cop who teams up with her to solve a series of murders. FX’s Fargo racked up the awards too, winning the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries and the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.
Created as an anthology, the second series is set 17 years earlier in the winter of 1979 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with a new cast: Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons as Peggy and Ed Blomquist, Jean Smart as Floyd Gerhardt, Patrick Wilson as State Trooper Lou Solverson and Ted Danson as Sheriff Hank Larrson.
The second season is a “different canvas”, Littlefield says. “We have a new cast and new standing sets but it’s a 10-hour movie like the first one.” Thematically he describes season two as the “Walmartization of America” as a Kansas City crime mob does a hostile takeover of the local Gerhard crime family with Peggy and Ed Blomquistt caught in the middle. It’s also Lou Solverson’s “trial by fire” in season two.
Fargo executive producer Warren Littlefield joins Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Rogers and homegrown Continuum creator Simon Barry in a panel moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman today at 10:15 a.m. in the VanCity Theatre.
Fargo returns to FX in the U.S. and Canada on Monday, October 12th at 10 p.m. ET/PT