You don’t have to look any further than FX’s Fargo for an example of why we’re currently experiencing what’s been labeled as the new Golden Age of Television. Set in the same world as the Coen Brothers’ 1997 Oscar-winning film but with new characters and a fresh story, FX’s Fargo debuted on April 15, 2014 and quickly became one of the most talked about shows on primetime television. Smart writing and an incredibly talented cast have made Fargo a must-see on Tuesday nights, and among the stand-outs in the ensemble is Oliver Platt who plays the self-proclaimed supermarket “king” Stavros Milos. In support of the series, Platt took part in a conference call to discuss all things Fargo including his character’s arc, Noah Hawley’s scripts, and why he signed up to be a part of this edgy dramatic series.
Oliver Platt Fargo Interview
What was your initial attraction to the role?
Oliver Platt: “Just such a muscular arc, you know? One of the first things you’re looking at is, ‘Where does the guy start and where does he end and how do they get him there?’ That’s what we yearn for as actors is that sort of distance to travel, and Noah laid that out in spades. It was a story that took this guy and took everything that he believed in and turned it on its head, and he didn’t know who it was, who was doing it to him. That’s the brilliance of the scheme is the ninja mind tricks.”
How much of a backstory were you made aware of in order to prepare for the role?
Oliver Platt: “You know, we developed this idea that he had come from Chicago with his family and that he was just on hard times; a devout man on hard times who is given this ‘gift’ – if you will. That was pretty much it. The material, itself, is pretty alive. That was pretty much it.”
Did you have any trepidation at all about starring in a show that’s based on a movie that’s so critically acclaimed and that people still hold so dearly in their hearts?
Oliver Platt: “The answer is absolutely. The stuff that I was shown, the story that I was told, the fact that Joel and Ethan [Coen] had blessed it was not insignificant. I have to say, I think that Noah’s done a pretty remarkable job of sort of threading that needle of writing in their tone, but he had his own voice, if you will. And, to me, it’s pretty impressive stuff.”
The series was shot during one of Calgary and Alberta’s coldest winters. What was that like and how did it affect your performance?
Oliver Platt: “Well, it was funny. It was very, very cold when I was there, but then there was a little bit of the chinook, too, but apparently the chinook wasn’t visiting with the frequency that it usually did. There’s a scene that takes place in episode 6 that was pretty intense and we were in, I think, 10 degree below weather doing this stuff over and over again. What can I tell you? It helps in terms of you’re putting yourself in the position of what the character’s going through with Mother Nature giving you a huge assist. The landscape, it’s a very, very well chosen location in terms of feeding that sense of the expanse and sort of the desolation and maybe the loneliness of those people.”
Did you have any input into the choice of actor to play the younger version of your character?
Oliver Platt: “I thought they did a sensational piece of casting there myself. I was really surprised, and I thought that clearly they had that cross-fade in mind. If you’re going to sell that there better be some architectural similarity there, you know? I thought he was marvelous. I really did.”
Can you talk about the scene with the crickets? Were they all CG or did you have to work with real insects?
Oliver Platt: “It was a pleasant mix. There were inanimate crickets, there were animate crickets, and then there were imaginary crickets. It was one of those classic green screen situations […]with a lot of emotion to it, too. It was a lot of fun to shoot, it was a lot of fun to shoot, and I thought that the way the concentric circles of chaos that were created in the market, itself, was delightfully realized.”
Stavros goes from being broke to a man who believes God gave him this money and then to who he is now, this man who has so much power, and he’s even calling himself The King. How do you think he evolved into the man he is when Malvo [played by Billy Bob Thornton]comes into his life?
Oliver Platt: “Well, he built this extraordinary supermarket empire and he’s been very, very focused on the externals. You get the sense that Malvo detects a certain amount of that there, and he just has a nose for that kind of thing. He’s all about how everything’s looking. Obviously he doesn’t really feel he deserves it, which is probably why on some level […]he’s so focused on the theatricality of it all. I think that that’s where we are when Malvo shows up.”
Noah Hawley referred to your character as a typical Coen blustery autocrat with a very inflated sense of self. Given that the way the Coen Brothers use humor is very unique, did that affect your performance or did you let it all come from the writing?
Oliver Platt: “Yes, that’s usually the way you want to go about it is to let the writing guide your own sense of rhythm, and it’s very much in there. In the best case scenario you can’t see the joke. You know what I mean? It’s just arising organically out of the conflict that’s been created between the people in the scene, and the way the guy regards himself and all this stuff. It’s happening on a lot of different levels and you just get on the horse and you ride.”
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Fargo airs on FX on Tuesday nights at 10pm ET/PT.
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