Billy Bob Thornton
FX will drop in on Minnesota next spring.
The network has cast Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton to star in its Fargo limited series, adapted from the 1996 award-winning movie of the same name by Joel and Ethan Coen, FX CEO John Landgraf announced at the Television Critics Association fall previews on Friday. "It will do justice too the classic Coen Brothers film," Landgraf said. "I think people will become entranced with the show."
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None of the film's characters will appear on the series, which stars Thornton as Lorne Malvo, a manipulative vagabond who has a dark and destructive influence on a small town insurance salesman he comes across. A young, female deputy in her 20s will also play a part in solving the "true crime" mystery, which will still feature the hallmark "Minnesota nice" of the feature film.
Fargo will begin shooting in the fall in Canada and is slated to premiere next spring. Novelist Noah Hawley will executive-produce and wrote the screenplay, of which the Coen brothers rewrote "half a dozen pages of dialogue," Landgraf said. Like FX's American Horror Story, Fargo is a limited series with a story that ends in the 10th episode.
Check out what else Landgraf discussed in his executive session panel:
The state of FX: The Americans and Justified have been doing well for the network this year, as has newcomer The Bridge, which finds most of its audience in DVR playback. American Horror Story: Coven will premiere in October, while Justified and Archer return in January. Louie will return at long last in May.
The new kids: FX plans to increase its original scripted series from 13 to 25 in the next few years across its networks (FX, FXX, and FXM). Six pilots currently in development include Death Pact, The Comedians starring Billy Crystal, The Andrew Gurland Pilot, Last Girlfriend on Earth, Charlie Kaufman's How and Why and You're the Worst. The network won't let HBO and Showtime have all the period drama fun either. FX will delve into a Mayflower story that is "gritty and character-driven" and will tell the Native American side during that time. "It's a different approach to that subject than broadcast networks would do," Landgraf said. "It's auteur-driven."
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Tyrant on the way: David Yates (Harry Potter films, State of Play) will direct the pilot for Tyrant, a new series about an American family drawn into a turbulent Middle Eastern world. The series will begin shooting in Morocco soon.
Watch out, Walking Dead! Landgraf puts the graphic nature of Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse's vampire series The Strain on par with the horror seen in The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. The story will be told over three to five seasons, with no more than 65 episodes. Veteran actor John Hurt recently joined the project about an ancient but revived strain of vampirism that resembles a viral outbreak.
A new network: FXX will launch in 72 million homes on Sept. 2 with FX original series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, and an nightly version of Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell making the transition to the new, younger-targeted network that will be more in the "Comedy Central vein," Landgraf said. The new animated series Chozen and the broadcast premieres of 45 new movies will also debut on the network.
Joining the non-linear game: FX plans to launch the FX Now app (its equivalent of HBO Go) in November, rolling it out across multiple platforms.
The upshot of non-linear viewing: Landgraf thinks FX Networks' programming benefits from not being as ratings-dependent as the broadcasts networks. For one, it allows FX to be more creative. "You can have show that serves a different purpose," he said, admitting that he is "weary" of catering to 18-34 tastes. The Bridge's median age is 51 years old. In addition, this allows the network to take time to develop its shows from season to season. "Sons of Anarchy hit its peak last season in its fifth season," he pointed out.