Coming off the successes of The Hobbit and Sherlock, Martin Freeman portrays meek insurance salesman Lester Nygaard in FX’s new dramady Fargo, a 10-episode series which debuts on April 15th at 10 pm.
Inspired by the Academy Award winning movie of the same name, Fargo features an all-new crime story with new characters, told with the trademark humor, murder and ‘Minnesota nice’ that made the film a classic. Billy Bob Thornton portrays Lorne Malvo, a manipulative killer who meets and forever changes Lester Nygaard’s life.
During a break in filming, Martin Freeman came to the TV Critics tour to talk about his first American series.
How did this come to you?
I was shooting Sherlock, I was in my hotel room, and I got an e mail from my American agent with the offer of this job. I read Episode One and thought, ‘I’ve got to do it.’
There were not enough reasons not to. It was gratifyingly straightforward, and I was very happy about it.
It wasn’t the idea of making a Fargo spin-off at all. I enjoyed the movie and the Coen Brothers, but it could have been a terrible Fargo spin-off. It had to stand on its own, and I felt it did.
Can you talk about getting into the accent for this?
I don’t find the Minnesota accent easy at all, so I stay in the accent, not the character, all day when I’m on set, because it’s just too hard otherwise. We want to be so respectful of it, and not just send it up.
We want to do it as real as we can, and if you want to do anything well it’s always hard, that’s the truth of it.
This is your first American show – were you interested in it because it was a limited series?
Yes, one of the reasons I never [came here] for pilot season is that I can’t see myself signing up for something for seven years, even in principle.
So I got this script on my computer, read it, read the offer, thought this is great, spoke to my agent and she said, ‘It’s until April, and then you’re done.’ It couldn’t have been more perfect for me.
I hear there is going to be a fourth season for Sherlock.
That was news to me. People have told me that today. If journalists are saying it, it must be so.
I’ve not read any new scripts, all I know is we all like the show and we all want to keep doing it for as long as we enjoy it.
Given the Steven Moffat connection, will there ever be a crossover between Sherlock and Doctor Who?
Not that I know of. I think my name was on an extremely long list once for a Doctor, but they never asked me. But I like the show.
Between all of your roles, which are you the most recognized for and how do reactions differ?
Having both Sherlock and The Hobbit in the same universe, time-wise, that’s a pretty big one-two combination for people recognizing me. It’s a toss-up between those two, and it’s different degrees of mania.
Which mania is more extreme, The Hobbit or Sherlock fans?
How was it working with your Sherlock co-star, Benedict Cumberbatch, as Smaug the dragon, on The Hobbit?
He wasn’t there in body, so it was a lot of good old-fashioned pretending and imagination. That was what he had to rely on playing Smaug and that’s what I had to rely on as Bilbo, just imagining that there was a hundred and thirty foot dragon that sounded a bit like Ben.
On the one hand it gives you a lot of freedom, but on the other hand the ideal is to have the actor there. But in cases where that can’t happen you dictate your own pace when you’re on your own, which has its own advantages too.