Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman Discuss ‘Fargo’

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Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks Fargo Interview

Colin Hanks as Gus Grimly in 'Fargo' (Photo Credit: Chris Large/Copyright 2014, FX Networks. All rights reserved. )

FX’s Fargo is one of the best reviewed, most addictive new shows of the year and, sadly, it’ll be coming to a season one end with the finale airing on June 17, 2014 at 10pm ET/PT. No details have been released on what could possibly happen on a second season of the limited series, however given the critical acclaim and ratings Fargo has garnered, fans are hopeful that a second season will be given the go-ahead by the network even if it doesn’t include any of the same characters.

And speaking of Fargo‘s characters, Molly (Allison Tolman) and Gus (Colin Hanks) are the show’s heart and soul, the couple viewers have been cheering on and rooting for to succeed and find happiness over series’ season one run. As the show heads toward what’s bound to be an incredible finale, Tolman and Hanks joined forces to talk about their characters, the success of the series, and all things Fargo.

For Fargo fans worried about reading anything that gives away details on the season finale, feel free to read on. There’s not a single season finale spoiler in this Q&A.

Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman Fargo Interview

What was the most difficult part of jumping from where your characters were initially, which is kind of a friendly relationship, to being full-on married with a child on the way after the time jump?

Colin Hanks: “It wasn’t very hard. It’s all make-believe at the end of the day. Allison and I obviously, we get along quite well, and by that point we had been spending quite a bit of time together up there in Calgary. So, it really was kind of effortless. It really wasn’t a big change. We didn’t really need to approach it any different. I think really the only thing that might have been difficult was the fake stomach that Allison had to put on. That’s probably the only difficulty.”

Allison Tolman: “That was the only difference for me, yes, but it was easy to slip into that kind of like domestic rhythm. It was really easy and really fun, but I’ve never played pregnant before other than like in a two-minute sketch for something. So, that was the part that took the most work for me, but I got into it pretty easily.”

Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to play any of the earlier stages of your relationship?

Allison Tolman: “No. […]I feel like we both think that getting past that kind of bumbling stage for both of them, we stayed in that stage for just long enough, and getting to skip past courtship was kind of cool actually. It kind of missed how painful that probably would have been between these two sort of awkward people. So, I didn’t miss it. I don’t think Colin did either.”

Colin Hanks: “No, I didn’t. I thought that A) it was a fantastic choice on Noah’s part, and B) I think that the way that the characters interacted obviously everyone was very much rooting for Gus and Molly to get together, so I thought it was really sort of a nice twist to let that be the sort of courtship that the audience sees because the audience can put everything else together, and they can imagine how the logging festival went and so forth. So, I thought it was really cool and it was nice to be able to just jump to the good stuff, so to speak.”

When did it dawn on you how admired and universally loved Molly was?

Allison Tolman: “I think it’s sort of steadily dawning on me. I’ve never done this before so I wouldn’t know what a hit felt like anyway. So, luckily, my costars are able to be like, ‘This is going really well.’ They are able to kind of clue me into how big a deal this is, and then, we’re lucky to live in the age where I can get on the internet and I can see what everybody is sort of chatting about and what they’re saying, and almost exclusively people really love this character. So, yes, I think it’s still on a week-to-week basis is something that’s still kind of settling in.”

She’s so self-facing and assertive in a way that’s unique. Is there anyone in your life that you pattern her on?

Allison Tolman: “I like to think there’s parts of me in Molly. She certainly is steadier than I am, I think, but I don’t know. My process is not to kind of like develop a character and do a big back story and base it on someone, etc. Like, I think that Molly is kind of who she was on the page from the very beginning for me, and I’m not sure like which people have gone into creating that character, but for me, it was all in that pilot episode right from the beginning.”

We saw the FBI become interested in Molly’s detective work on the case and praise her for all of her hard work. How did it feel for you to have your character finally have someone to listen to her when Bill’s been telling her for the last year that she’s crazy and should stop talking about it?

Allison Tolman: “It’s so funny; I knew reading that scene how important it was but it didn’t really occur to me until I got to set that day like what a big deal that was, what a pivotal scene it was. I mean until I got on set with Keegan and Jordan and they were both like, ‘We’re so excited we get to play this scene. We’re so excited we get to be the ones who finally give her some recognition.’ I was like, ‘I guess you’re right. This is a big deal and it’s a long time coming.’ So, that kind of drove it home and that made that scene really fun to play.

We premiered that episode at a festival in Austin this past weekend and so we watched the episode in a big theater full of people and in that moment in the diner when they start to kind of finally…she realizes that someone is going to finally listen to her, this huge cheer came up in the theater. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool!’ People are have been sort of suffering with Molly for this whole time and getting to see her have that breakthrough was like so cathartic for all the fans. It was really neat.”

Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks Interview Fargo

Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson and Bob Odenkirk as Bill Oswalt in 'Fargo' (Photo Credit: Chris Large/Copyright 2014, FX Networks. All rights reserved.)

How far into shooting did you actually learn there was going to be that one-year time jump and what were your initial reactions to that script?

Colin Hanks: “It was when we read the script. They didn’t really say much, although I think one of the costumers let it slip that there was going to be some sort of new twist. I wasn’t quite sure what it was.”

Allison Tolman: “We had an inkling because the crew heads get the scripts before we do so they can start to plan for the next thing. So, when they told me they wanted to cut ten inches off my hair, I was like, ‘Well, either she goes into a prison camp or time is shifting somewhere.’ So I think we kind of had an idea, but we weren’t sure until we actually got that script. Is that right, Colin?”

Colin Hanks: “Yes. It was sort of there were whispers about it from some of the department heads, and then by the time once they released the script or read it, I thought it was great. I thought it was really cool. I actually, in a strange way, I sort of feel that the reveal in this show is actually sort of better than it was on the page, the way that Scott, the director, sort of orchestrated that in the movement. When I read it, I thought, ‘That’s sweet,’ but when I saw it I just started laughing hysterically. That Fargo score comes up to here is Gus delivering the mail in the most dramatic fashion possible. I thought it was really great.”

Allison Tolman: [Laughing] “I just picture viewers like checking the clock at that moment, like, ‘Why are the credits rolling? What’s happening? It’s only half an hour.'”


Colin Hanks: “Yes, but there was also the other really interesting touch which I hope it comes across in that episode, but that scene with Molly coming home and Gus is asleep in bed. That was one of our favorite scenes to shoot because it was just pure behavior. It was really just a very sweet moment that was played out and it wasn’t rushed or anything like that, but in the script, Noah said specifically in the script if this feels like the end of the movie, it’s supposed to. This is supposed to feel like the end of our journey of the show, and I guess maybe I’m wrong – Allison, correct me if I’m wrong – but maybe even like the end of the actual Fargo film as well. I thought that that was a really interesting twist, again, because the show has consistently sort of toyed with throwing curve balls and really throwing a lot of stuff at the audience and leaving them sort of on edge and not quite sure what to expect next. I thought it was really, really brilliant to be able to throw this insane curve of just jumping forward and all of a sudden seeing Gus and Molly together and Molly’s pregnant and Lester has moved on and he’s got remarried so that it really sets in motion these last two episodes.”

Allison Tolman: “That third act, I think.”

Colin Hanks: “Yes, that third act, like what now is going to happen? It just raised the stakes ten times higher.”

What are the thoughts on the use of the word ‘chemistry’ to describe you two and is the term overused or do you as actors feel like there is something unique here as opposed to other things that you’ve have done?

Allison Tolman: “I think that Colin can probably speak to that more than I can because he’s done more work than I have, but Colin and I didn’t read together. We hadn’t met before we got to the set. So, I think we got really lucky in that way and I think the producers got really lucky in that way as well because we never did any chemistry reads or anything.”

Colin Hanks: “Yes, it really was sort of a roll of the dice for sure, but luckily, Allison and I, we had met each other while we were shooting the first two episodes before Gus and Molly had any scenes together. So, we had hung out quite a bit. So, there was a comfort level there, which I think was helpful in that first scene with Gus and Molly. But at the end of the day, like really if you’re working with someone that is very easy to get along with, that makes you laugh, that you have fun with, that is, I guess, for lack of a better phrase, the real chemistry that is required but it is not necessarily totally 100% required because you can yet at the same time act and pretend you have that chemistry. But it comes so much easier when you really have it and Allison is so great and so easy-going and really just an overall joy to be around that it just made the work seem so much easier. And to be quite honest, the scenes were already pretty easy between Gus and Molly because they were so well written. So, it is really sort of as much as it’s lucky for the producers that we got along so well, we’re probably really the truly lucky ones because we got to work opposite someone you really liked.”

Allison Tolman: “I think that that actor’s chemistry that you’re talking about where people just kind of get along and have sort of are like-minded, that that would work towards any relationship that you had to play. So if we were enemies, if we were brother and sister, if we were arch rivals, like whatever, anything that you have to play on camera is going to go better with somebody that you feel safe and comfortable with. I don’t think that that’s necessary to play a romantic relationship, but it certainly helps to play anything where you’re bouncing off another person.”

Without giving anything away, were you both satisfied with the way the season ends and how do you think fans will feel?

Allison Tolman: “I hope that fans will feel like the ending is satisfying and makes sense but also that they didn’t see it coming. Like, I think that’s always kind of the goal. I don’t want it to feel like that they knew this is how it was going to end up, but I don’t want them to feel like they were left hanging at all.

For me, I think that the finale grew on me the more we filmed it. When I read the final episode, I didn’t like it as much as I like it now, and after we got to play it and after we kind of put all the pieces together, the more and more right it felt as things went through as we sort of continued filming, and now, I really love it. I think that all the ends are tied up properly and everything is where it should be.”

Colin Hanks: “I feel the same way. Obviously, you spend quite a bit of time sort of working towards a goal and we all came in knowing that there would be a beginning, middle, and an end to this, and so you sort of build it up and in your mind when you’re working on it. Keep in mind we worked on this for five, six months, so a little bit longer than those watching. But really along the lines with Allison, the more we shot it, the more we filmed it, I really think that it comes to a pretty great conclusion that I hope is satisfying to the viewers. That’s always the hope and you don’t want to alienate them, that’s for sure.”

Colin, Gus is one of the few fictional law enforcement characters who really does contemplate about the potential consequences of his actions. You typically see cops or agents just barge in. Can you talk about doing something that was against the grain?

Colin Hanks: “Well, I think you’re always trying to find new turf as an actor to veer into and explore and from the very first scene in the pilot, here was a character that obviously is out of his depth, out of his element, and is acutely aware of it and has that self-awareness and knows that his actions have consequences. And in the pilot it’s very obvious that he makes the wrong decision but for, personally at least, the right reasons which is to protect his family. That obviously doesn’t change throughout the course of the season all the way up to the finale. But, look, I think that Gus he says as much in the whiteout episode: he didn’t necessarily want to be a cop. He had this other sort of thing that he wanted to do, but he needed to provide for his daughter, for Greta, so he took the best job that he could but he always looked at it more as sort of a community service almost as opposed to enforcing the law. And so, yes, I think Gus definitely does know that whatever he does, it needs to be for the right reasons and he knows that all of his actions have very serious consequences.”

It’s been really fun to watch your scenes together, but what your favorite scenes or moments with other actors on the show?

Allison Tolman: “Well, I think I’ve been pretty vocal about my favorite scene overall to play being the bedroom scene that we got to play in last week’s episode, but as far as other people I think anytime I got to be on camera with Bob Odenkirk was a joy. The relationship between those two characters really evolved from the beginning when he’s just kind of like a thorn in her paw all the way through to the finale, and I think my favorite scene with Bob is actually coming up next week. Bob is such a fantastic comedian, but he’s also just a really tremendous actor and kind of getting to watch him sort of take off the clown makeup and really just play a really honest scene which we’ll see next week was really a treat for me.”

Colin Hanks: “Allison, is there any way you can stretch out your answer a little bit more because I’m wracking my brain trying to come up with an answer? I can’t really think of a specific one, to be quite honest. With two kids, anytime I come home from work, work sort of fades into the distance and I don’t remember too much of it. It’s really nice that I’m an actor so I can watch it so I can remember what I did, but really overall, there are so many great moments in this show that it’s kind of a selfish choice. I can’t really pick one.”

Allison Tolman: “I think I remember you telling me even when we first started hanging out that you felt really like your first scene that you played with Billy Bob in the very, very beginning […] filming it was like unique for the two of you guys.”

Colin Hanks: “Yes, the filming of it was unique because we shot it over two nights and Billy Bob couldn’t be there for one of the nights so that was interesting. One of the scenes that I guess maybe pops out was ironically much like the scene with Billy Bob was also one of the scenes from my audition was with Peter [Breitmayer] who plays Lieutenant Schmidt. It’s when Gus goes into the bathroom and has to have that scene where he sort of has to fess up. That was a fun scene to shoot. But a lot of times there will be scenes you shoot you don’t really think much of it and then you see it and it takes on a totally different meaning, and that scene with Gus and Greta at his desk at the office where he sort of admits to her that he did something wrong and she suggests going down to Bemidji and doing it in person – that was a scene I really didn’t think much of when we shot it. I thought about it, I did the homework, so to speak, I didn’t walk away going, ‘Yes, that was a great scene,’ but when I saw it it had this different vibe to it than I remembered. So, it’s different every time. You never really know. If you need a short sound bite, all of my other scenes with Allison.”

Can you discuss working with Keith Carradine over the course of the season?

Allison Tolman: “Keith is one of the nicest men that I’ve ever met and for someone who has been doing this for a long, long, long, long time and certainly could be, I think, certainly would have earned the right to sort of like sit in his trailer and skip rehearsals and then just kind of like roll on set and do one take and then walk off, he is just one of the nicest men that I’ve ever met. And then, on top of that I think he’s so fantastic at channeling Lou and channeling this sort of gruff affection that I think really comes across.”

Colin Hanks: “Keith has been around a long time and nothing sort of really rattles him. Not only is he a great person to work with, to act opposite with, but he’s great to just hang with. The three of us had some dinners together and he’s full of stories and just an overall just really fabulous, fun, exciting, vibrant guy.”

Greta, played by Joey King, has a real wiser-than-her-years presence and we feel very protective of her. What’s it like to work with Joey?

Allison Tolman: “Well, I think that’s partly that that character is written very wisely, and part of that is just Joey who is like a really, really smart, sort of self-sufficient, very confident young woman that I think is perfectly cast in this role of this young girl who kind of takes care of her dad. You got to work with Joey more than I did, but I think she was awesome and she’s super fun to be around when the cameras aren’t rolling as well.”

Colin Hanks: “Allison is spot on. The character is very much written that way, but that’s very much who Joey is. She’s incredibly confident, sure of herself, comfortable at all times.”

Allison Tolman: “Funny. She’s super funny.”

Colin Hanks: “And really funny. She has a razor-sharp wit. Again, I think it’s one of the great things that Noah did is you only hear her in that first scene. In Gus’ first scene, you only hear her on the walkie but you instantly sort of fall in love with her and her energy. And then Gus does everything he can to protect her obviously and then you meet her and you just go, ‘Oh, this is the coolest kid in the world.’ You hope your kids are as cool as Greta Grimley. With a name like that, she better be cool, dang it, but Joey is the best. She’s awesome.”

What do you take away from Fargo that will stay with you on future projects?

Allison Tolman: “Unfortunately and fortunately for me, I’ll compare every project I do moving forward to Fargo.”

Colin Hanks: “That’s going to be hard.”

Allison Tolman: “Difficult because I can’t begin to tell people what an awesome experience this was and what a love project it was for so many people, how amazing our crew was, how lucky we were to go to work every single day and for me to meet these people that I know will be in my life for the rest of my life. So, my heart is breaking. I’m so sad for the series to be over and for us to kind of wrap it up and put a bow on it is going to be really hard and really sad. But I know how lucky I am to have been a part of this at all and to have it have been my first project is just such a blessing.”

Colin Hanks: “I think for me having been on a couple of TV shows and been doing this for a while, the reception that it’s got, the quality of the show, the quality of the people that we made the show with, all of that was pretty evident while we were making it and while it’s being aired, so I’m just enjoying it as much as I can and trying to experience as much of it as I can because it’s not always like this. I’m sure I probably sounded like a grumpy grandpa to Allison a few times saying like really just sort of take all this in as much as you can because, A) it’s very rarely like this, but more importantly, it’ll never be like this again because it’s your first show.

So, for me, it’s been great. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been challenging but it’s overall been a very, very positive experience. But now that the show is coming to an end and it’s time to sort of put that to bed and move onto the next thing and try with all of my might and power not to compare the two because everyone is different. Every project is its own thing.”

-By Rebecca Murray

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