In Hollywood, they say timing is everything. Noah Hawley hit it big a few years ago. Some called him an overnight success, but in truth he had put in 20+ years of hard work, climbing his way up the ladder.
The first show of his own he created, The Unusuals, starred Jeremy Renner and was “a very offbeat new York cop show”. It lasted only one season on the ABC network in 2009. “It was the ratings.” Hawley says, “It didn’t do great, but by today’s numbers it would have done well. And, of course, three months after they canceled it, Jeremy Renner was nominated for an Oscar … ”
That is sort of how most of our work goes in this town.
The best thing you can do as a writer is to keep writing. And that's what Hawley did.
Today I want to look at how Hawley created the Fargo TV show and look at a few quotes on his process.
Check out this video and let's talk after the jump.
How Noah Hawley Wrote the Fargo TV Series
I think most people came to the Fargo TV show with the same thought in their mind: how can this be good? It was a show based on an incredible movie that felt like there was no chance of living up to expectations. Yet after the first episode and then the first season we knew we were watching something special unfold.
In a piece written by The Guardian, Hawley says “Oh, it was a terrible idea...I assumed that only two people would watch it, and one of them would hate-watch it.”
One of the trickiest things about changing Fargo from a movie to a TV show was the tone.
Hawley told The Guardian, "I knew from that first year that because we're making a 10-hour movie and not a two-hour that if we did the actual tone of Fargo — which is a more comic movie than people remember — then people might think we got the tone wrong. I said to myself, 'If you look at the whole array, tonally from Ladykillers or Raising Arizona on the one side to Miller's Crossing to the other side, I think we have to lop off each end." We shouldn't ever devolve into farce, but I also don't think we want to be earnest at any real point. What I ended up settling on is this idea of making No Country for Old Fargo, where we need a dramatic crime infrastructure that sustains the level of threat throughout, where you're always a little worried about everybody and the threat of violence is always there. And within that, you can have these comic moments."
Once that was nailed, it was all about writing great characters.
You know, kinda like how the Coen brothers do?
But how can you emulate the Coens but also do something on your own? Something that pushes your perspective and delivers a total story?
Hawley says, “It’s what I do as a novelist: I tell a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end, and then I move on to other stories,” he reasons. “Joel and Ethan Coen never make the same movie twice, and we shouldn’t either.’’
That's an interesting idea moving forward season to season.
Variety reports that Season 4 of Fargo takes place in 1950, and serves as a bit of a prequel to Season 2 and the character of Mike Milligan, a member of a Kansas City crime family whose origin story plays a big role this time around.
While we don't know much of what's going to happen, the logline is “In 1950 Kansas City, two criminal syndicates jockey to control an alternate economy of exploitation, graft, and drugs while fighting for a piece of the American dream. As tensions rise, the crime heads trade their youngest sons in an attempt to strike an uneasy peace.”
There's an obvious aura around the episodes and the writing in the first seasons has allowed Hawley to attract some of the top talents.
One of those talents is Chris Rock, who was incredibly excited to join the cast. “I thought it was easily the best thing on TV,” Rock said. “When I got the call, I thought he wanted me to host something for his charity. I was pleasantly surprised.”
While we don't have a new date for the premiere, it'll be interesting to see where Hawley takes it.
Do you love Fargo? Let us know your favorite parts in the comments!
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