Despite “Fargo’s” total 18 Emmy nominations, as well as his own for supporting actor in a miniseries, Colin Hanks is still taken aback by the response the show has garnered. “It’s an awesome feeling,” he says. “This is on par with so many of these shows that I admire – that someone would think of ‘Fargo’ in the same breath is sort of surreal.”
Though the role of soft-spoken police officer Gus Grimley had only one scene in the pilot, Hanks was instantly in love with the script and the concept. “Never mind if I get the part, that’s out of my control,” Hanks says he told himself back in the audition stage, “But this is a fun afternoon. This is an audition I don’t mind driving across town for.’”
“That pilot script was so gripping and so much fun to read, but more importantly I think was the decision on how to tell the story.” The decision to hold off on introducing his character was one of many elements of the show that set it apart for the actor, whose TV credits are so varied as to include “Dexter,” “Burning Love,” and “The Good Guys.” He praised creator Noah Hawley’s ambitious decisions and the exciting nature of the piece to not “color by numbers” in terms of storytelling and structure. Hawley’s risks “made the show that much more exciting to be a part of.”
“And it was fun for me to play a father for the first time.” The actor, who has two young daughters, worked closely with 15-year-old Joey King on scenes between Gus and his daughter Greta. “She’s fabulous, really fun to work with,” Hanks exclaimed.
Being a father has shaped his worldview, Hanks explained. “I don’t think you need to have kids to play a father or a parent on TV, but obviously it definitely helped inform Gus a little bit.”
It was recently announced that “Fargo” will return for a second season—but with a new storyline and actors. “It is both a bummer but also I think it’s great,” he says, once again taking the opportunity to tout the show’s narrative. “If it’s these continuing adventures of Gus and Molly (Allison Tolman) it’s going to feel fake. That decision to make a 10-hour movie with a beginning a middle and an end – with that end being important, I think that makes a lot of sense. So, that sword cuts both ways.”
Noting that the word “hero” is used a lot when discussing his character’s triumph at the end of the series over Lorne Malvo’s (Billy Bob Thornton) evil, Hanks doesn’t think Gus is a hero at all. “I think Gus was forced to do something at the end that he did not want to do and Malvo forced his hand – forces Gus to do something that forever changes him.”
“Thank gosh,” the actor says, slipping back into the Minnesota charm for a beat, on the happy ending waiting for Gus at home. “Just because Malvo is gone at the end that doesn’t mean Gus doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night. They’re going be fine but that’s something [Gus] has to deal with forever. – I’m glad that Gus got that moment and took those steps but I didn’t think it was ‘heroic’.”
“The thing about Gus is he is one of the nicest characters I’ve ever played,” Hanks adds. “But he had a complexity to him. He was wrestling with something. He was definitely wrestling with his own demons.”
“Gus knowing his shortcomings and having to protect his daughter, I get that. It’s a very human thing.”
Now having played on both sides of the law after appearing as killer Travis Marshall on “Dexter,” Hanks notes that he enjoys complex roles that he can wrap his head around rather than teen-targeted spots that first broke his career.
“It’s about finding those different guys,” he remarks. “At the end of the day I’m trying to find things beyond just the nice guy. I’m looking for complexity, I’m looking for shades.”
Recognized this year for supporting actor in a miniseries, Hanks has not gotten used to being able to say he is an Emmy nominee. “It’s a strange feeling,” he laughs. “A foreign feeling, but a welcome one. It’s been a bit of a trip. But more importantly I’m just glad that the show has been recognized the way that it has.”
Hanks has no idea how he will celebrate should he take home the statue, but is looking forward to the experience of attending the awards more than anything else. “I’ve got a golden ticket to see Wonka’s Factory, so I’m pretty excited.”