Allison Tolman's breakthrough performance in the first season of Fargoearned her a Critic's Choice Television Award, along with Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. That kind of awards cred puts an actress in high demand in Hollywood, so it might be surprising to hear that Tolman chose an ABC sitcom about a talking dog as her follow-up to one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television.
As Tolman explained during the Downward Dog panel at the Television Critics Association winter previews on Tuesday, it might not be as much of a stretch as people might think. In fact, the actress says that she waited a long time for a role like Nan to come along.
"I really searched long and hard for my next television project after Fargo," Tolman said. "It took a long time to try and find the thing that felt like the right thing to come back to and felt like my home and where I was supposed to be. I read a lot of scripts and I did a lot of meetings. This show, specifically this web series [the show is based on] sold me. I knew immediately after meeting with [executive producers Samm Hodges and Michael Killen] that this is where I wanted to be. This is where I wanted to spend my time with this story and with this group."
Part of the reason Tolman waited so long to make her series regular return to television was because she felt ready to take on the challenge of being a leading lady. She wanted to wait for a show that not only would put her front and center, but one that she could feel proud of and would represent who she is as an artist.
"I didn't want to take a secondary role. I wanted to find my show. I wanted to do my own show. I kind of went through a lot of offers like that, that were an ensemble or to play the best friend — really great projects and great offers," she said. "I ultimately felt like I wanted to hold out and find my show and wanted to be part of something that was like my baby."
Downward Dog not only has Tolman in the lead (next to a solemn, eccentric dog named Martin), but it's not the type of show you'd expect when you hear the words "talking dog sitcom." There's a somber, indie feel to the show — and it's the first broadcast television show ever invited to screen at Sundance as proof.
The indie tone and juxtaposing genres of the show is why Tolman says it's easy to see why she chose the project. It has more similarities to Fargo than one would initially suspect.
"Fargo was a really dramatic show that was funny. Our show is a funny show that's dramatic. I think they meet each other in a weird way," she said. "Our show is like a sort of like a little indie movie. It's not a joke a page or a joke a minute. It's somber and sad and bittersweet. I wanted to do something that shook things up the way that I felt like Fargo was able to do. It was sort of a natural progression for me once I found the script."
Downward Dog premieres in the summer.