Martin Freeman on Starring in the ‘Fargo’ TV Series: “I’m not interested in playing an echo of something that was done 20 years ago. This is its own thing”
Fargo remains one of the highest regarded films of the 1990s, so many people are leery of the idea of FX turning the Coen brothers’ crime masterpiece into a limited television series.
Nonetheless, the series will tell a different story than the original film and Joel and Ethan Coen are executive producers of the series. However, it’s hard to argue with the acting talent involved so far. The cast includes Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt, Keith Carradine and Martin Freeman, who will be portraying a character named Lester in the series.
He spoke to New York magazine about why he took the project, working on his American accent, and how his real-life wife ended up playing his fictional wife on Sherlock.
Freeman admits that before he read the script he wasn’t interested, but his mind changed after reading the pilot script. He explains, “The first I knew about it, I was getting the script for episode one and the offer to play Lester. In a vacuum, just hearing about it, I might have thought Well, do we need that? I had the same feeling, by the way, about Sherlock. Really? Do we need that? But after the first few pages, that turned into, Yes. We do need it, and I need to be in it.” Later, he continues to praise the script by adding, “I can only go on the script that I’m sent, and this one was interesting, it was engaging, and it was surprising. I got to cover ground that I haven’t covered before. I showed it to my Mrs. and she’s like, ‘You have to fuckin’ do this.’ So I did.”
Freeman also points out that he was interested because it wasn’t simply a rehashing of the film. He reveals, “I’m not interested in playing an echo of something that was done 20 years ago. This is its own thing.”
In addition, the role comes with a few challenges for Freeman. In particular, this is the first time Freeman has to use an American accent. Though the thick Midwestern accents were one of the most notable part of the original Fargo, Freeman notes that there are just as many quirky things about British English. He says, “The truth of some of those Minnesota accents is that even some Minnesotans think that they’re kind of funny. So it’s a fine line of getting that and honoring those characters. Not being reverential to them or patronizing them, but to also acknowledge that some of the things the characters say are funny in the way that some of the things that are classically English are kind of ridiculous.”
Of course, Fargo is only one of the television series that Freeman stars in. On the other side of the Atlantic he stars as Watson in Sherlock, the BBC series that retells the Sherlock Holmes stories in a contemporary setting. Recently, Freeman’s Watson got married, and his television wife is none other than Freeman’s real-life wife Amanda Abbington. On how that happened, Freeman reveals, “During season two, Mark [Gatiss, executive producer] said to me, ‘You haven’t talked about who might play Mary.’ That was the first time this conversation had ever come up. I said, ‘Well, to be honest, I think Amanda would be pretty good,’ and he goes, ‘That’s exactly what we were thinking.’ They knew she was able to be funny and engaging and just right. I mean, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re being John and Yoko, but Amanda can do this all day long in her sleep. Of course, I love her, but I know also she’s really fucking good. I wouldn’t say she should play everything in the world, but as far as this casting, it’s pretty good.”