‘Fargo’ at ATX: Noah Hawley Talks Future Seasons and More

FARGO -- Year 3 -- Pictured (l-r): Michael Stuhlbarg as Sy Feltz, Ewan McGregor as Emmit Stussy. CR: Chris Large/FX
Courtesy FX

AUSTIN, Texas — It was the last question of the ATX Television Festival’s “Fargo” panel, but probably foremost in the minds of the FX drama’s fans: Will there be a fourth season of the program?

Executive producer and showrunner Noah Hawley said he didn’t currently have an idea for a fourth season, but he certainly sounded open to a return to the wintry, crime-ridden Midwestern landscapes the show has explored in its first three seasons (the current season wraps up June 21).

“Here’s the thing — I wasn’t sure there was going to be a second season” after the first, and after the second was in the can, he was similarly unsure that there would be a third. Each time around, he explained, it took him some time to come up with the core concepts for the next season. He noted that FX executives were patient with that process, and added that they had even said after the first season, that he didn’t necessarily need to follow it up unless he had an idea he was excited about.

“If an idea comes, we will do another one,” Hawley said. “I am certainly aware of the danger of overstaying your welcome or repeating yourself.”

He noted that crime stories lend themselves to all manner of philosophical and moral explorations, and even attempts to “understand the meaning of the universe.” 

“I love telling stories in that vein,” he said, even if he doesn’t have an idea for the fourth season of the show at this moment.

Hawley also addressed the political parallels that many have seen in the current season. Asked if the show’s crime boss, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), is the kind of man who would employ someone like Donald Trump — or whether Varga would be more likely to be one of Trump’s employees, Hawley said with a laugh, “I think those forces cancel each other out — there can be only one.” 

He added, “It’s not my goal to make something political — the Russia part of it came out” of his own family history, including the story of a grandparent who fled the Cossacks in the Ukraine.

As he noted, every episode of “Fargo” has an on-screen preface about the saga being a “true story,” even though every twist and turn has come from the brain of Hawley and his creative team.

“So what does that even mean — the words ‘true story’?” Hawley said. “I really wanted to deconstruct that this year.”

He did discuss the idea that these explorations of truth, lies and the manipulation of both had some resonance in the culture at the moment, and he recalled one of the lines spoken by Cy Feltz, Michael Stuhlbarg’s character: “‘The world is wrong — it looks like my world but everything is different.’ That’s what we’re exploring this year.”

Hawley also linked the opening scene of the season, which was set in an East German bureaucrat’s drab office, to the quest of Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) to find the truth about some unsettling deaths. The unfortunate man in the office was just as helpless as Gloria, in some ways, when it came to those who would twist the truth in pursuit of their own goals, according to the “Fargo” showrunner.

“There’s violence” to the false story that the East German interrogator was imposing on the hapless citizen in front of him, Hawley said. “It’s mental violence — irony without humor is violence.” That opening scene in that interrogation room “would be funny if it wasn’t so horrible,” he noted

As for physical violence, Hawley said that, though there is some gunplay this season, he tried not to have anyone shoot a gun all season long, in part because season two featured a “big circus of evil” and some epic gun battles. On “Fargo,” he wants the bloodshed to have thematic and psychological ramifications, not just plot value, and he observed that it is not that hard to be creative about the ways people commit violence on the show.

“I sort of wish we didn’t have to kill anyone, but I don’t think anyone would watch Minnesota Nice without it,” Hawley said.

Having appeared in a Coen brothers film (“A Serious Man”) and “Fargo,” Stuhlbarg, who was on the panel along with guest star Mary McDonnell and executive producer/director John Cameron, offered some comparisons and contrasts between the two “Fargo” worlds.

When he got the “Serious Man” script, “there was no rewriting — it was the same the first time I read it and when we shot it,” Stuhlbarg said. “It’s the same with this [TV] experience — there were no rewrites, which doesn’t happen. I could not have improved upon what I was given and I loved what I was given.”

That said, the “Fargo” TV experience brought a new director into the mix every few weeks. “It was a new energy, a new collaborator,” Stuhlbarg said. “That kept me on my toes, and that was always kind of wonderful — to have a new set of eyes providing new perspectives on what something could be.”

The actor added that the Upper Midwest accent was a challenge to learn — but very difficult to say goodbye to. “Once you learn it, it’s really hard to let it go,” Stuhlbarg said. “You bring it with you” to the next job.