Ewan McGregor on Playing Two Characters on ‘Fargo’: “It’s a great challenge as an actor, and there’s something very satisfying about it”

Actor Ewan McGregor

“…the challenge for me really as an actor was to try and play the two parts without it being a hindrance to the audience.” – Ewan McGregor

It’s not often that one actor is nominated for an award for playing two characters on a television series, but Ewan McGregor can count himself among those who have accomplished that unique feat. McGregor has been nominated for playing brothers Ray Stussy and Emmit Stussy on the latest season of Fargo. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, McGregor talks about the challenge of playing two characters on the same show — and why he hopes to have the opportunity to do it again.

McGregor reveals that playing two brothers on the same series wasn’t as difficult as one might suspect because of careful planning. He explains, “It was very well handled before and in advance in terms of the shots and how we would shoot it. And I had two different stand-ins, two different actors, that I played the scenes with. Where Emmit and Ray were in the same scene, they got two guys — Ray and Steve — to play Ray and Emmit, and it was great. When I’ve done it before, I just had the same actor, and then we would swap sides and we would swap roles if you’d like. This time they had specific actors for the specific role, and it went really well. It was well thought-out.”

Probably because it was such a smooth process on Fargo (and perhaps the Emmy nomination had something to do with it), McGregor is open to playing two characters on one project again. He says:

It’s nice to be able to work on two different characters at the same time. It’s a great challenge as an actor, and there’s something very satisfying about it. Before when I did it in The Island, one was a clone of the other, so they were very similar. And when I did it in Rodrigo Garcia’s film, Last Days in the Desert, one was Jesus and one was the devil, but the devil appeared to Jesus in his own form, so again, they were exactly the same character, really, although they had to feel like different people. But in this instance, they look completely different, and they should feel different, and then the challenge for me really as an actor was to try and play the two parts without it being a hindrance to the audience. My goal was to make people not see me playing Ray and me playing Emmit, but just see Emmit and Ray and forget that it was being played by the same actor. That was sort of what my challenge was that I set myself. Otherwise, it’s a gimmick, and a gimmick doesn’t really hold over 10 hours of television, so that was my goal. And that’s quite difficult to do, and it was quite satisfying. I was happy that I actually achieved that, so yeah, I loved it.

Need Help? Check Out These Resources!
Airchecks         Demo Reels         Websites         Mailing Labels         Monologues

Leave a Reply

David Oyelowo: “You sort of need to pummel and plow away for longer, as a black actor, to get a degree of fame”
"I have concerns, I have hopes, you know, and that’s what you want to see in a character.” - David Oyelowo
Wendell Pierce: “I tell people all the time, get some training and become a student of your craft”
"I always said I studied to try to develop an acting muscle. The key I always thought to my career would be diversity." - Wendell Pierce
Gillian Jacobs on Returning to Theatre and Why Juilliard Wasn’t For Her
"I wanted to challenge myself again. I wanted the rigor of having to be word perfect, of not being able to pull the panic button and say 'Cut!'" - Gillian Jacobs
Watch: SAG Conversations with David Harbour of ‘Stranger Things’
Harbour talks about working on the series, acting with the mostly-youthful cast, and how the success of the series has impacted his career.
Bill Hader on Becoming an Actor: “I was afraid of failing”
"When I went to the Sundance screening of The Skeleton Twins it was the first time I said, 'Wow, I'm an actor.'" - Bill Hader