Frances McDormand on “Being the Other” Actress

When Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Fargo many commentators focused on how her police officer character didn’t fit the mold that were traditional award-winning roles for actresses. Of course, McDormand’s career has followed a non-traditional trajectory since her film debut in 1984’s Blood Simple. McDormand spoke to the New York Times Magazine about her unique approach to her career and uses her latest acclaimed role as an example.

McDormand points out that one of the reasons why she pursued more character-based work is because her “look” didn’t seem to fit any roles. She says, “I was too old, too young, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too blond, too dark — but at some point they’re going to need the other. So I’d get really good at being the other.”

For example, McDormand’s character in the acclaimed film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri isn’t the type of character an actress McDormand’s age would traditionally play — in fact, McDormand views the character in a masculine light. She reveals, “I really played it like a man. I completely based the character upon John Wayne and John Ford movies, because that’s a two-hour arc. Those characters can come out of nowhere, they don’t need a lot of background, you don’t have to explain why they’re like that, they just are the way they are.”