CALGARY - It's mid-March and they're having a heatwave on the set of FX's "Fargo."
According to a nearby thermometer, the temperature is 27 degrees and with the sun already beating down, there's a good chance that things could get above freezing in Minnesota-by-way-of-Alberta.
This is cause for celebration and nearly everybody is behaving as if summer has arrived. The assistant director is walking around the parking lot set in short-sleeves, even as two members of the crew are shoveling snow for the backdrop to the next scene. In truth, though, things have become so mild on the "Fargo" set that they've run out of actual fresh snow and they're using pristine white stunt-snow delivered via truck.
Although all of the "Fargo" actors have their own nightmare stories about shooting in sub-zero temperatures brought about by the polar vortex, on this morning, the stars are actually having makeup applied to make their cheeks look ruddier and colder.
Next to a Duluth police cruiser, Colin Hanks and Joey King are both being prepped for their next scene, a long take that finds Gus Grimley's car getting stuck in the snow. On a show that embarked on a dizzying bodycount before the completion of the pilot, it looks like a low-stakes scene, but in Noah Hawley's reimagining of the Coen Brothers' wintertime classic, it's often the little things that cause the most drama, or that cause otherwise stable characters to crack.
In this case, a patch of slippery ice is going to cause frustration for Hanks' Gus, an in-over-his-head cop and father who became a key piece in a small-town crimewave after a late-night encounter with Billy Bob Thornton's Lorne Malvo in the "Fargo" pilot.
The potential for a snowy stumble is why Hanks and King are in makeup next to the car, but a pair of dopplegangers are standing 10 feet away being made to look equally frigid. Hanks has a stunt-double to make sure that an upcoming pratfall is flawlessly executed, while King has a stunt-double to make sure that somebody other than a 14-year-old actress is behind the wheel of the squad car when it's supposed to be reversing in a snowbank.
It's not that King isn't at least peripherally capable of putting a car in reverse, but the need for a stunt-woman becomes clear when the "Ramona" star expresses confusion at how to make the dinging stop during dialogue-driven closeness. The answer? Close the car door. Yeah. Better to have a pro behind the wheel.
Several hours later, the stunt has been executed flawlessly. No bones were broken on the various slip-and-falls and no actors were crushed underneath the wheels of the Ford Taurus. In quick succession, I sat down with King and then Hanks to discuss the Grimley family, one of two father-daughter duos -- Allison Tolman and Keith Carradine's Solversons are the other -- that give "Fargo" its heart.