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Interview: Colin Hanks On His Character In ‘Fargo’

Interview: Colin Hanks On His Character In ‘Fargo’

Interview: Colin Hanks On His Character In ‘Fargo’
May 06
09:52 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

Fargo,” 53 min.
Creator: Noah Hawley
Stars: , , , , , and

NT Daily had the opportunity to speak with “Fargo” star Colin Hanks, who plays Duluth Police Deputy Gus Grimly. We talked about his character frustrations, his transition into television and career pressures.

What has made Gus an enjoyable character for you to play regardless of some of his shortcomings, or was it kind of frustrating for you?

Colin Hanks: “Well, at times it could be pretty frustrating. You try not to judge your characters too much, but there were definitely some moments where I was frustrated. I was frustrated at Gus’ inability to do things—do certain things, I guess I should say, but Gus is as well, and so, that was really something that I sort of leaned on and drew from. The thing I enjoyed most about Gus was the fact that there was an awareness to him. Oftentimes you see these characters and they know that they’re not good, but they’re just instantly beat down, but this is something that slowly eats at Gus. He makes this decision to let Malvo (Thorton) go and although technically he does the right thing, it’s the wrong thing. It’s not something he should have done. It obviously leads to very bad things, and so, I like the fact that here was a character that made this mistake and spends his time, even though he doesn’t necessarily want to, atoning for it and trying to fix it, and he fesses up, to a degree, as to what he did and he actively tries to right the wrong. That really appealed to me. That was the initial kernel when I read the pilot, and then, as the show progressed, I kept trying to come back to that regardless of my frustrations of Gus not being able to get his act together, so to speak.”

This show has such an excellent cast, but one of the things that surprised me about this cast is that I know most of them for their film work. We’re beginning to see many actors go into television, like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in “True Detective.” What appealed to you about kind of make that transition into television?

Hanks: “I think in this day and age now an acting job is an acting job. I don’t really see any difference between whether it’s a film or a movie in so much as a job is a job. Is it a TV series? OK, great. How long will it be? Is it a movie? How long will it take? They’re both sort of the same in that regard. The way that I find that they’re very different now is that the quality of television is so great, and now, you have television series that are not necessarily entrenched in this old—the old television rules. For example, our show is very different. It’s a ten-episode series. There’s a beginning, middle and an end, and so, in that way, it’s almost like a ten-hour film. It takes its time to tell its story, but yet, it also doesn’t follow by the rules of you have to introduce the eight main characters in the first ten minutes. I’m a season regular and I don’t show up until about 40 or 50 minutes into the first episode.

So, those sort of rules, while still in effect for some shows, are not necessarily— they don’t have to be followed every time, and so, I find that now storytelling is a lot more freeing in that regard in regards to television, and I kind of like that. I like the fact that now you can really spend time with these characters and get to know them and it’s not this sort of paint-by-numbers storytelling or paint-by-numbers acting. You really get to take your time as if it was a film, but you get to take nine more hours as opposed to just one. That’s kind of refreshing, but for me, it’s all about the writing and the characters. I don’t care if it’s a movie or a television series, whatever is best.”


I’m not sure who you knew in the cast before doing the show, but do you feel that not knowing someone makes it easier or harder when doing scenes with them?

Hanks: “Well, it’s definitely easier if you know the person or if you’ve worked with the person before, because you already have that shorthand and you’re already sort of comfortable. When I say working with, what I’m talking about is really when you’re not working, when you’re both sitting around in between takes and you’re basically just trying to pass the time. I had worked with Billy Bob [Thornton] before and spent a lot of time just hanging out with him. So, I was very comfortable with Billy Bob, and that was really sort of it.

Rachel Blanchard (Kitty Nygaard), I had also done a film with, but I didn’t have any scenes with her. So, in terms of the majority of the people that I worked with, the majority of them were new. But everybody was so great and so much fun to work with that I would jump at the opportunity to work with all of them again at the drop of a hat.”

There’s all this pressure riding on Gus to kind of right his mistake in the eyes of the law and take down Lorne Malvo. I’m curious what is the most pressure you’ve felt working in this business as an actor?

Hanks: “I think more than anything else, you want to do good work. You want to serve the project in the way that it needs to be served. There’s no point in signing on for some job and you’re off making some other movie or TV show in your head that’s the complete opposite of what everybody else is trying to do, and so, I always just try and bring whatever I can to an audition. Hopefully, it’s in line with the vision, and then, I try to support that as best I can, and it’s different for every job, but the pressure is always there. Obviously there have been some times where I feel like pressure has gotten to me a little bit more just because— I remember on ‘King Kong,’ I was like, the entire world is going to see this. Better be good. That led to a sleepless night, more than a few actually, but really you just try and focus the best you can on the work and let that be both the pressure, accept that pressure, but then also have that be the pressure release. I would much rather be doing the work and try to do the best you can and then forget about it and not worry about anything else. That is really sort of the pressure that I put on myself. No one puts any more pressure on me than I do myself. So, I would much rather just try and feel like I am okay and then move on and try and find what is next on the call sheet.”

From the ratings, it’s obvious that people are loving “Fargo,” but are there any projects of yours that you really enjoyed making but they didn’t quite get the attention that they deserved?

Hanks: “Nowadays, everything seems to live forever. When I started out, a lot of things had a relatively short shelf life. You’d be on a television show, it would be on that night and then maybe you’d never see it again, and now, you can pretty much find everything. There’s a way to pretty much find it all, but I don’t really know. I’ve sort of— I’m always pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention that ‘Orange County’ gets. I’m always very proud when people say they’ve seen ‘The Great Buck Howard’ because that was a movie that I was very proud of, but overall, I try not to think about that too much. I really just try and focus on what the next thing is.”

Episode four titled “Eating the Blame” airs tonight at 9 p.m. on FX.

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