Jesse Plemons is on a roll. After his recent turn opposite Johnny Depp in the hit movie “Black Mass” and supporting work in HBO’s Emmy-winning “Olive Kitteridge,” Plemons steps up to one of the starring roles in the second season of the FX anthology series “Fargo.”
As mild-mannered Midwestern butcher Ed Blomquist, Plemons has a juicy storyline opposite Kirsten Dunst as his on-screen wife, Peggy. They’re introduced deep into the season premiere episode, which airs Oct. 12, but immediately become central to the show’s new twisted crime story.
Variety sat down with Plemons at this summer’s Television Critics Assn. press tour to discuss his streak of great TV, how “Fargo” channels the Coen brothers’ idiosyncratic style and the surprises in store this season.
You’ve been involved with some all-time great TV series — “Breaking Bad,” “Friday Night Lights.” Are you always looking for something at that level again?
I feel like I’m my best when I’m really interested in the writing and the character. I’ve gotten really lucky to be a part of such amazing shows. It’s not as much as me picking and choosing, I’ve just been really lucky with the things that have come my way. I respond to good writing, directing and casting.
Your look in “Fargo” may surprise people, but I understand you had already put on weight for “Black Mass”?
I had, and (showrunner) Noah Hawley told me to keep it, which was a little saddening at first. I thought, “OK, I think I can make it. I’m feeling so much older, I’m having back pains when I walk up stairs and breathing heavily, but it’s worth it for ‘Fargo.’ ”
You and Kirsten Dunst are quite a pair in these early episodes. What was your experience like working with her?
She’s one of those actors. She’s been doing it her whole life, so she just throws herself into it immediately and is totally down to just figure it out and play. It was actually kind of nice to be on location in Calgary because it forced everyone to get that much closer. This is probably going to be one of my favorite Kirsten Dunst roles. She’s really good in it.
When you’re working on “Fargo” does it feel at all like you’re in a Coen brothers movie?
I’ve never worked with them, but it’s definitely a tone that I’ve never really gotten to play with and it’s a lot of fun. Crazy extremes.
“Breaking Bad” has a little bit of that.
A little bit, for sure. But this season especially seems like it just takes that to the extreme with what people are willing to get on board with and forgive and laugh at too. It’s a really interesting mix of so many things.
How much did you know from the start about where the season was going?
I’d read four episodes and then we got the next two right around when we started the first episode. I knew what was going, on but then it takes a turn in episode seven that totally caught me off guard. And then it takes another turn. After episode six, I was totally flabbergasted at Noah’s mind and how he comes up with some of this s—.
You weren’t born during the time this season is set. Did you do any research into the period?
I talked with Noah a lot about where Americans were in 1979, the rebuilding of hopes and dreams and trying to sweep the ‘60s under the rug, to move on and simplify the world again. It’s really all in the scripts. Noah did a great job of sprinkling in little tidbits from history.
Did he recommend any ‘70s films for you to watch?
Not really. There were some Coen brothers movies — “Miller’s Crossing” and “No Country For Old Men” especially — but I think I was more interested in the character and the world (Noah created). After seeing the first episode I had no idea that he had that ‘70s visual style up his sleeve, it was another nice surprise. It is tricky in eight or 10 episodes — if you’re gonna tell a story that’s that big — to make sure it all works.