When Fargo, the 1996 film, hit cinemas, it earned the great Frances McDormand her first Oscar, reminded everyone why Steve Buscemi is such an exceptional character actor, and made the most of both William H. Macy and Peter Stormare as well. So when the Coen brothers’ movie was revived in 2014 as a TV anthology series, the resulting show clearly had some very big shoes to fill cast-wise.
Across three seasons to date, that’s a task that Fargo’s small-screen iteration has easily achieved. The first season not only starred Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks, but also featured Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Joey King, Glenn Howerton, Kate Walsh, Adam Goldberg, Oliver Platt, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
Across the second and third seasons, everyone from Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart and Ted Danson to Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Carrie Coon and David Thewlis has also led the charge – with Cristin Milioti, Brad Garrett, Bokeem Woodbine, Nick Offerman, Kieran Culkin, Michael Stuhlbarg, Hamish Linklater, Scoot McNairy, Ray Wise, Fred Melamed and Frances Fisher making appearances, too.
With Fargo now returning for its long-awaited fourth season – screening on SBS and at SBS On Demand from Thursday 8 October – it’s continuing as it always has: with a stellar slate of on-screen talent. Between them, they’ve evoked laughs on Saturday Night Live, weathered Chernobyl’s bleakness and popped up in plenty of symmetrically framed Wes Anderson movies.
Here’s your who’s who guide to this impressive line-up.
Stand-up comic, three-season SNL star, two-time Oscars host, big-screen comedy go-to – thanks to all of the above, Chris Rock’s resume has sprawled far and wide over the past three decades. On screen, he has everything from New Jack City and Dogma to Pootie Tang and Grown Ups to his name, as well as voice work in the Madagascar films and writing, directing and starring in reflective comedy Top Five.
If playing self-made African American crime syndicate head Loy Cannon in Fargo’s fourth season seems like a departure from Rock’s usual roles, at least of late, that’s a trend he seems to be embracing. After his small-screen stint, he’ll be seen in the latest Saw film, Spiral, which is actually based on his own idea for the horror franchise.
From acting opposite Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun, to starring in 1970s blaxploitation flicks, to playing Baltimore’s mayor on The Wire, Glynn Turman’s career hasn’t been short on variety. Peyton Place and A Different World also feature on his small-screen resume, as do In Treatment, How to Get Away with Murder and Mr Mercedes. And, in cinema, Turman has featured in films as varied as Cooley High, Gremlins, Super 8, Bumblebee and The Way Back.
As Doctor Senator in Fargo, Turman plays Loy’s closest friend, as well as his crime outfit’s second-in-charge.
If it wasn’t for 2008 British talent show I’d Do Anything, Jessie Buckley mightn’t be a star. The TV series searched for a new actor to feature in a West End revival of Oliver! When Buckley came in second, it kickstarted her career. Since then, she has featured in the 2016 version of War & Peace, opposite Tom Hardy in Taboo, and in 2019’s hit mini-series Chernobyl. It was her award-winning performance in 2017’s Beast, as well as her turn in 2018’s Wild Rose, that heartily surveyed her on-screen talents, however. This year, she also leads Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things alongside Fargo season 2’s Jesse Plemons.
In Fargo, Buckley plays Oraetta Mayflower, a Minnesota nurse who calls herself an ‘angel of mercy’.
Since playing one of cinema’s most enthusiastic high schoolers in Rushmore, Schwartzman has been a Wes Anderson regular, featuring in six of the director’s subsequent films. But, from affable private detective comedy Bored to Death and fellow TV series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, to Marie Antoinette, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Listen Up Phillip, Schwartzman hasn’t been short on other projects.
His latest: Fargo’s Josto Fadda, the self-entitled heir to the Fadda crime family – aka Loy’s nemesis.
From Ben Whishaw’s lengthy resume, many a role stands out: his performance as Lord Sebastian Flyte in 2008’s Brideshead Revisited, playing poet John Keats in Bright Star, his three-film role as Q in the Bond series, his voice work as loveable marmalade-coveting bear Paddington and his efforts in miniseries A Very English Scandal. He was desperate to find a match in The Lobster, one of the grown-up Banks children in Mary Poppins Returns and the weasely Uriah Heep in The Personal History of David Copperfield, too.
In Fargo, his character Patrick ‘Rabbi’ Milligan is the adopted son of Fadda crime family head Donatello. And yes, the name Milligan has popped up in the series before, thanks to Bookem Woodbine’s Mike Milligan in season 2 – a man with links to Kansas City.
E’myri Crutchfield made her acting debut in 2015’s Vacation remake and, half a decade on, her career is still just getting started. That said, she featured in sports comedy series The Kicks, has popped up in both True Detective and the rebooted Amazing Stories, and earned a NAACP Image Award nomination for 2016’s Roots.
As Ethelrida Pearl Smutny, a 16-year-old eager to go somewhere in life, Crutchfield narrates Fargo’s fourth season.
Thanks to both Deadwood and Justified, Timothy Olyphant has given 21st-century television two of its best authority figures. In Santa Clarita Diet, he went in a completely different direction as the often law-skirting husband to a new zombie. Other career highlights include Scream 2, Go and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as well as small roles in both Rango and The Good Place that playfully nod to his most famous small-screen parts.
Unsurprisingly, Olyphant plays a US Marshal in Fargo – he’s Dick ‘Deafy’ Wickware hailing from Utah and determined in his efforts to bring down Kansas City’s criminals.
For four seasons on Boardwalk Empire, Jack Huston was in the thick of a sprawling period crime drama. Featuring in season 4 of Fargo is almost like returning to familiar territory, then. Elsewhere, the grandson of Hollywood great John Huston has popped up in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, played Jack Kerouac in Kill Your Darlings, taken on the title role in 2014’s Ben-Hur remake, and appeared as Robert Kennedy in The Irishman and will next be seen in horror film Antebellum.
In Fargo, Huston’s Odis Weff is a Second World War veteran turned Kansas City police detective.
Watch the season 4 trailer here:
An all-new 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.
Our minds are very much on U.S. politics this week, given that Americans will head to the polls for the 2020 presidential election in less than 50 days. We're joined by documentary filmmaker Nanette Burstein, who talks to Fiona about making a landmark biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Nothing was off limits during the 35-hours spent interviewing Hillary about her life as a feminist trailblazer and polarising figure in US political life - or when Nanette asked Bill Clinton to open up about confessing all to Hillary about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. You won't want to miss this interview. Elsewhere in this episode, we preview the new season of The Good Fight, Ben has been (re)watching The West Wing, and Fiona has high hopes for Regina King's One Night In Miami.