Allison Tollman and Martin Freeman
[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's Fargo. If you haven't watched, turn back now or we'll sic our egg-laden pregnant spider on you.]
Don't be fooled by Fargo's "Minnesota nice." Lurking behind that polite veneer could be a killer or the cop who will bring that killer to justice.
On Tuesday's episode, Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) maneuvers Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) into revealing that he recognizes suspected killer Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) from a surveillance photo she "accidentally" drops. Lester's stunned reaction to the picture is enough of a confirmation for Molly that the two men have a connection. "She knows that he's involved and that he could help her figure out what happened and so she's frustrated that he won't come forward," Tolman tells TVGuide.com. "I don't think that she realizes in the beginning that he is actually a murderer."
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In the premiere, Lester dispatched his wife with a hammer in the heat of the moment, but his nice-guy reputation has kept him free of suspicion among the Bemidji, Minn., locals who grew up with him. In particular, new police chief Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk) is determined to leave poor Lester to mourn in peace instead of questioning him. Molly, however, isn't so easily put off. "She's very smart, she's really patient and she knows how to pace herself and play a long game," Tolman says. "She's really good at using the 'Minnesota nice' thing that they talk about to try to get her way with the people around her, like poor Bob Odenkirk's character who's just not a super-bright man, bless his heart. It's interesting to play a female character who's not ever using feminine wiles to get things done. She's just always the smartest person in the room and that's what's propelling her forward."
What gives Molly her edge is a certain resilience and practicality. "She's up against the rest of the police force, really," Tolman says. "They're unable to fathom the crime that's happening and the scope of what that means, not just for their town, but for humanity in general. They're like, 'People aren't bad.' She's like, 'Well, I think that they might be.' She's really pragmatic in that way. Her reality is constantly being redefined, but she recalibrates really quickly. ... She's not really surprised by a lot, which I think is helpful."
Check out the rest of our interview with Tolman below:
You're kind of the newcomer in this all-star cast. Was it nerve-wracking landing this part?
Allison Tolman: Everything about this process was nerve-wracking at the beginning because it was such an unknown for me. I'd never made a television show with the exception of guest little day player spots on Prison Break, which is not the same thing. I've never made a television show, I'd never been on location for this long, I've never worked with actors of this caliber -- both just in talent and how much people know them. The first week was a really steep learning curve. Everybody was really patient with me while I just learned the lingo and the day-to-day of doing things.
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Molly is kind of the TV version of Margie, Frances McDormand's character from the film Fargo. Were you inspired by her?
Tolman: Absolutely. There are a lot of comparisons that are going to be made obviously. Margie is such an iconic, strong female character. There are not a whole lot of those, especially for character actresses for myself to look at and be like, "That was cool, that was really neat." There's not a wide swath to choose from. Margie is definitely one of those for a character actress growing up interested in good work. That was a role you'd turn to.
What drives Molly to pursue the investigation despite Bill's insistence that she drop it?
Tolman: She's got a really strong moral compass. She's really ambitious, but I don't think her plan is ever, "I'm going to work my way to the top and I'm going to be the chief and I'm going to take his job because he's bad at it." She sees what needs to be done. That's the way she lives her life: "We don't have the murderer. We need to find out who it is." It's just so obvious to her that she's really able to look at the next step and then take it when a lot of people aren't able to do that, or aren't willing to do that, especially within her town.
How would you characterize her relationship with Bill?
Tolman: She's kind of like the voice in his ear that he would like to not hear anymore, that he'd like to drown out if he could. Bill becomes the chief after Vern is gone and ... so she's really at war with herself. She's just like, "I'm supposed to follow him, but he's wrong!" So she has to figure out which is worse: not following this compass that I have that's pointing me in the right direction or disobeying the chief of the force.
Will he start to take her seriously?
Tolman: He does eventually. The facts become so evident that he has to take her seriously, and that's hard for him.
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When are we going to see Molly get the first big break in the case? Will she be working with Gus Grimley (Colin Hanks) more?
Tolman: After they meet up, things start rolling pretty quickly because they start comparing notes, and that's helpful. They have energies that complement each other really well. Molly is definitely undervalued, and Gus is not a natural cop. It's not really what he loves, but it is what she loves. She's discovering that she's a natural for investigation. It's hard work for him. But putting the two of them together is really useful. He's got all of this information, and she has the ability to look at the big picture.
What does Molly think of Gus?
Tolman: In the beginning, when he comes and confesses that he let this guy go, she's really frustrated. She just can't wrap her brain around why he would let him go. In a lot of ways, Molly's personal skills are sacrificed a lot of times by her drive. Seeing her with Gus and with Greta is really fun because you get to see her interact with humans and not just her co-workers and not just suspects. So I think she learns a lot through those relationships.
Is there anything romantic there?
Tolman: Yeah, maybe in the future. There's no smooching, but definitely there's a strong draw there, which I think is evident with the scene with the milkshakes. There's a romance budding, but there are these very understated Minnesota-North Dakota people, so their courtship is very stunted and funny. They don't say anything they're thinking of feeling.
She is one of the only female characters on the show, the only female on the force. Does that affect who Molly is?
Tolman: Yeah, I think it's a huge part of who she is. There's actually one woman from Canada who plays another female deputy who's got a couple of scenes later on. We decided almost instantly that these two women had a little bit of a rivalry and that Cindy did not like Molly very much. She doesn't have any allies really and is still pretty cheerful about it. They don't dislike her. They're just like, "Oh, Molly with your crazy theories and your evidence."
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Describe her relationship with her father Lou (Keith Carradine).
Tolman: There's a lot of love there, but again in that Minnesota-North Dakota way, it's very understated. Their primary form of communication is teasing and ribbing each other, like him telling her a story with a moral, and her being like, "OK, thanks. Bye," and him handing her coffee. Those scenes with Keith were always a lot of fun to play because the subtext was so rich. She comes to him when she's having a tough time or when she's not sure what to do next. There are so few words exchanged, but she always gets what she needs from him. He's really good at reading her.
Did you have to learn the Minnesota dialect? What was that process like? Can you slip into it naturally now?
Tolman: We had really great dialect coaches who worked with us ahead of time and were there with us on set to help guide our ear and help find those proper vowel sounds. The accent, once I found it, I could slip in and out of it really easily with the exception of a few words that they'd have to be like, "It's not inSURance, it's INsurance." But the syntax was hard for me. If I had to do a line that the syntax was not natural to me, it took me six times longer for me to memorize the line.
There are some references to the original movie on the show. Can we expect a lot more?
Tolman: Yes. It's not ever really a mistake. [Creator Noah Hawley] really wrote it that way on purpose. He wanted to remind you of this scene in the movie or this shot in the movie or this character in the movie or this theme. So they're really deliberate. In addition to that, I think there are a lot of Easter eggs for really Coen-y Coen Brothers fans. They'll see those Easter eggs, which I don't even know about, but Colin Hanks would point them out to me. I'll be, "Alright, cool. Someone's going to love that. That's awesome." There are quite a few crossovers.
Fargo airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX. And check out a video of Tolman's more memorable moments from the episode here.
(Additional reporting by Sadie Gennis)