Fargo‘s sophomore season kicked off last night, as twisted and incredible as ever. It’s a full reboot, travelling back to 1979 with only a tenuous connection to season one (Patrick Wilson’s Lou Solverson is the father of season one’s Molly Solverson). What remained the same is the expansive cast of dark characters that pull the residents of a small, snowy North Central town into a spiralling plot of violence and murder.
Our emotional core at the heart of season two is Ed Blomquist, played here by Jesse Plemons. Mr. Plemons is probably best known as the demented, yet incredibly polite Todd Alquist from Breaking Bad. For Fargo, Mr. Plemons keeps the well mannered attitude, but trades in Todd’s white supremacist gang for a quiet Minnesotan life with his wife Peggy (played by Kirsten Dunst). (A leaked script page describes Ed as “a cow, basically. Which sounds like a judgment, but is simply his classification in the animal kingdom”).
I hopped on the phone with Mr. Plemons in the lead-up to Fargo‘s second season, to discuss what makes Ed tick, awkward dinners with Kirsten Dunst, and comparing Ed to a certain breakout role for Mr. Plemons on Friday Night Lights.
I have to admit, as soon as Ed Blomquist was forced to kill Rye Gerhardt, I immediately thought of Friday Night Lights and how Landry had to kill that guy in season two to protect Tyra.
[laughs] I mean, subconsciously I’m sure I saw the parallel. But it wasn’t anything I was thinking of, or drawing from. But it is funny, that is the first thing that comes to people’s minds.
It’s the guy you wouldn’t expect to hurt someone, has to hurt someone. Which seems like a character you play often.
Yeah, I don’t know why. I don’t know what that says about me [laughs.] But if that’s what people keep giving me, I’ll keep taking it.
So what can you tell me about Ed Blomquist?
I think he is the classic family man, a gentle soul. Really just wants to get a piece of the American Dream. Live a long happy life, just sort of have everything he feels makes up a good life. And that is very quickly turned on its head. He has to struggle with whether or not that dream is possible, and whether or not he can let go of that dream very easily.
Even before everything starts going downhill, do you think Ed and Peggy want the same thing in life? Are they both content?
No. I think, and this is something we really talked about in terms of their relationship and the story, they are heading towards a time when they really need to figure out how to find happiness between these two wildly different ideas of happiness. Even as they’re being drug into this crazy mess, we still get these relationship tidbits that are sprinkled in. I think they’re in need of a long talk, and some reevaluating.
I want to talk about that dinner scene, which was almost as horrific as the murder that came after it.
[Director Randall Einhorn] really wanted to amp that up as much as possible, the awkwardness of discussing real issues and still maintaining the Minnesota nice. That awkwardness is sort of always present in these characters. It’s in the eye contact, and that sort of thing.
I can’t think of a more awkward meal to have that discussion over than hamburger helper.
It was actual Hamburger Helper. I’ve never had Hamburger Helper before. It was just noodles, or something else, mixed with Hamburger Helper, that they were making us eat all day.
After Ed kills Rye in the garage, does that awaken something in him? Or is it truly devastating?
I don’t know if it awakens anything in him. I feel like most people if you put them in a position where someone is coming to kill you, they’re going to defend themselves. I think maybe Ed’s survivor instinct kicks in. I think more than anything he’s a gentle person, so the thought of killing anyone is just completely out of this world. So now he has to deal with this enormous amount of guilt that comes with that as we move forward.
Then what ultimately convinces him not to go to the police? Or run away, as Peggy suggests?
I think it’s his need to hold on to this dream that he’s had his entire life. It’s a dream that his father had, that he has – to be his own boss, own his own business, raise a happy family. I think the idea of letting that go is too painful and scary for him to deal with. I think he truly believes that is something that is still possible, and not too far for him to give up hope. Really, it’s everything. And the way Peggy convinces him definitely is, she says ‘If you turn yourself in, you get none of that.’