A few years back, while living in Dillon, Texas —and by ‘living’ I mean becoming so completely lost in the pitch-perfect sense of place of Pete Berg’s Friday Night Lights’ that one feels like an honorary resident— we came face-to-face with a face you don’t ordinarily see on screen. A young, pasty, button-eyed thespian with ginger hair and a seemingly remedial grin. He only offered up a few lines, words that painted him as the typical nerdy, self-deluded sidekick to the more marketable loser, but there was something so disarming and idiosyncratic about his delivery, that audiences quickly took notice.
The characters’ name was Landry Clarke, and the actor – a then 18-year-old Jesse Plemons.
Flash-forward to 2015, and Jesse Plemons is one of the main draw cards of the most critically acclaimed American drama series currently airing – Fargo. Masterful directors and showrunners have formed a disorderly line his door, in the rare case of an unconventional talent getting their rightful acknowledgement.
To celebrate the expanding profile of a man who rewards us with increasing depth and range with each performance, here are some of the reasons why we love Jesse Plemons.
Plemons’ breakout role deserves its own entry, as it introduced us to the actors’ odd charms and affable mannerisms. The character of Landry was initially the typical overcompensating, undersexed brainiac – spewing out witticisms at every moment except when in front of a member of the opposite sex. But thanks to Plemons’ ability to humanise the character, and an undeniable charm that seems to belie the face it funnels through, the writers couldn’t help but write more depth into the role.
By the end of the series, audiences saw Landry form a believable relationship with one of the most attractive and enigmatic characters; form a power-metal-come-pop-funk band and demonstrate on-stage charisma as a front-man; and become a functioning member (and intermittent star) high-school football player, all the while remaining the awkward, academic oddity with which we were initially enamored.
Plemons’ Landry was a celebrated achievement in naturalistic acting, and in a show that boasted one of TV’s most believable relationships —between Kyle Chandler’s Coach Eric Taylor and Connie Britton’s Tammy Taylor— that’s no mean feat.
He looks like he could be your mate
In this increasingly promo-poster conscious industry, a particular brand of man spends the most time on the casting couch: a could-be Abercrombie and Finch model whose facial skeleton might have been bought from Ikea and assembled in a studio back-lot. As more game and comic adaptations devour the columns and rows of our weekly guides, we’re forced to get to know actors with about as much dimension and distinctiveness as an Action Man action figure.
Apart from the bizarre fact that he bares a striking resemblance to Matt Damon while looking absolutely nothing like Matt Damon, Plemons is graced with a face that you could pick out of any crowd, and with the personality of someone who made you laugh in high school and who you sometimes wonder what they might be up to.
He's a leading man stuck in a supporting character's body
At present, casting agents seem to be moving Plemons towards the supporting character-actor basket, which is better than throwing him into the quirky best friend bin. He played the deadpan son of Philip Seymour-Hoffman’s cult-ish leader in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, joined Breaking Bad as Neo-Nazi simpleton-slash-psychopath Todd, and set an unmatchable bar with a commanding performance in the opening of the otherwise ho-hum Black Mass.
On paper, Jesse Plemons wouldn’t be your first thought when choosing a leading man. Fargo is the closest thing he’s come to it, but just because your wife’s Kirsten Dunst doesn’t mean you’re suddenly Jake Gyllenhaal. He might feature more in Fargo than in The Master and Breaking Bad combined, but it’s not like he’s zipping through the streets of Prague and escaping epileptic cameras like his quasi-doppelganger, Jason Bourne.
But we’ve seen Plemons as Landry, and we’ve seen his increasing versatility. We have faith that his effortless and infectious ways will one day woo the bigwigs, and Jesse Plemons will be contesting Ryan Gosling for the affections of Emily Blunt, and will not only win, but win, then make Ryan cry, and not in a sexy way.
He was everywhere before he was everywhere
Before Landry and Todd and Val Dodd, you may have seen young Plemons in a few turn-of-the-century cinematic masterpieces such as the completely illogical Like Mike (how can a 14 year old boy play NBA basketball in a way that defies physics? It just doesn’t make sense) and another Jonathan Lipnicki (the idiosyncratic toddler from Jerry Maguire) vehicle – When Zachary Beaver Came To Town – a kids flick about the world’s fattest boy named Zachary Beaver, a name that suggests the writer of the original novel is unnecessarily harsh on her characters.
Between children’s films and Friday Night Lights, Plemons turned up in one-off episodes of basically every single network series including Judging Amy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Huff, NCIS, and Cold Case. But perhaps his most memorable cameo was on Grey's Anatomy, as boy disfigured by facial tumors. Rumour has it that Plemons forwent prosthetics and grew genuine tumors for the duration of the shoot.
He did this, without shame:
Speaks for itself, really.
He’s going to win an Oscar. You heard it here first.
After Plemons appears alongside Tom Cruise in Doug Liman’s 80’s-set crime thriller Mena, we predict he will turn up in the next-next Scorsese, McQueen, Bigelow and Weir film, snagging at least one Oscar in the process. This will see him overtake Jesse Eisenberg, Jesse McCartney, Jesse Williams and Jesse Spencer to take the crown as the most Google'd Jesse on non-Chinese earth. In 2019, he turns his attention to writing, and his sprawling epic Siblings about three penitent brothers, starring himself, Matt Damon and Michael C Hall, will quickly appear on all-time top ten lists, proving Plemons as a genuine Hollywood legend.
An all-new season 4 Fargo story will premiere with two weeks of double episodes, beginning 8.30pm Thursday 8 October on SBS. Episodes will continue weekly at 9.30pm from Thursday 22 October. New episodes will be available at SBS On Demand each week on the same day as broadcast. Relive the first three standalone seasons of Fargo now at SBS On Demand.
Watch the season 4 trailer here:
Missed season three? Start with the first episode at SBS On Demand: