'Fargo' star Patrick Wilson on 'Star Wars' and the Vietnam War
It's early April and the "Watchmen" and "Angels in America" has been trudging from location to location in the maroon-accented uniform that makes up his regular "Fargo" attire.
He began the morning nearly an hour outside of Calgary at the Waffle Hut. A wholly assembled restaurant, the Waffle Hut is the setting for the gory homicide that sets "Fargo" Season 2 in motion and Wilson and co-star Ted Danson were doing a few scheduled reshoots on a key scene from the October premiere. Over and over again they enter the diner and discover several bodies, each surrounded by spreading pools of blood.
Between shots, the key corpses get up and wander around the set, conversing with the crew and getting their wounds tuned up to a sanguine shiny. Wilson and Danson, meanwhile, begin working their way through a series of interviews with assembled reporters, a lengthy process.
It's nearly 12 hours later that I finally sit down with Wilson on a bus outside of a different location for a scene that's late enough in the season that no details can be revealed. Wilson's Lou Solverson, 25 years younger than the role played by Keith Carradine, has been investigating crimes in 1979, but the actor has investigating the new trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakened," which dropped during the day. It was a long day for Wilson, but at least he had his priorities straight when it came to killing time.
That's why this may be the only "Fargo" interview you read this week that reveals how many times Patrick Wilson watched the "Star Wars" teaser. We also talked about how Vietnam impacted Lou Solverson and the audacity that comes from "Fargo" creator Noah Hawley.
We didn't talk about Wilson's Minnesota accent or his experience with the first season of "Fargo," but that's because we talked about those things on a rainy Park City balcony during the Sundance Film Festival in January. Watch that chat above in drizzle-capturing video form.
Check out the full Patrick Wilson Q&A below and the "Fargo" Season 2 premiere on Monday, October 12.
HitFix: I think you can tell a lot about a character from how they react to extreme circumstances. And we watched that scene this morning and seeing you walk in and you walk in on something shocking. And your character isn’t blasé, but he’s not taken aback.
Patrick Wilson: Yeah.
HitFix: What does that reaction say about this guy to you?
Patrick Wilson: That’s a guy who has been to war and knows the cost of violence. Blood doesn’t shock him. I think the loss of humanity, of morality, shocks him, or at least kind of weighs on him the whole show. So that’s him. Oh God, this is like a Saturday night he was putting his kid to bed and we’ve got a triple murder? And you’re just going, "What? The Waffle Hut?" And in fact what we go on from there, when I look down at Henry Blanton, who Ted talks about in that scene, the fry cook. There’s a beautiful monologue that Noah had written about how the look on his face reminded me of this guy. And then it’s like of like a flashback. You don’t really see the flashback, but you hear me tell the story of Vietnam. So you get very quickly sort of where his mind is and I think that’s the trouble, is he finds that solace, that camaraderie with Hank, because he’s a World War II vet. So even though we have a very quirky, fun relationship when it comes to war experiences it’s sadly very similar.
HitFix: How are those experiences contrasted? How do these men look at violence differently I guess?
Patrick Wilson: Interesting, yeah. It’s a little further back for Hank and I think he’s a little older, it doesn’t weigh on him as much. And I think it’s funny. It’s probably closer to Keith [Carradine] in Season One, where he’s just so soulful about it, but he’s not broken up about it. He just recalls this awful story. It’s still very raw for Lou. He's constantly reaching out in his way to find some answers whether it’s about this crime or whether it’s about his wife’s illness, whether it’s about himself. He’s constantly sort of looking, even in one of the scenes I have with Reagan, which I won’t spoil, but even that gets to a place where he’s like looking for some hope, for a guy that doesn’t like to talk very much, but he’s just this wounded guy that really believes in the moral fabric of the US and it just keeps getting sort of just thrown away.
HitFix: Not spoiling anything but I love that you can just toss out the phrase "one of the scenes he has with Reagan." What was your reaction when you first read or heard of that side of this season?
Patrick Wilson: I love that Noah can just swing a big stick. I admire that. I try to do that. I try to do that in my work. Like if you’re not going to take a cut then just don’t get up to bat. And I think Noah’s got a few of those moments. Remember last season when it’s like all of a sudden Billy Bob is like blonde hair and a dentist or something. It’s like, "What is happening?" But then it just sort of goes way over here then .... Yeah, then now we meet up with Martin. And it’s awesome. I think that the period of this season has enabled it to be different beast than shooting a show in 2008 or... When did the last season take place?
HitFix: In 2006, I think?
Patrick Wilson: Exactly. Sometime like 10 years ago. When you set something in a very specific year that you can look back and go, "Wow, you’re out of Watergate. We’re just back from the war. 'Star Wars' just came out..." [He pauses. Suddenly giddy] Did you see the new trailer for that?
HitFix: Oh only a few times. How many times have you watched it?
Patrick Wilson: Only four but it’s still early! [He laughs and pauses to get back to business] And, you know, the oil crisis. I mean there’s a lot to really gear it into. This is a late 70s show. So I think we’ve really run with that versus you don’t really have the same effect if you’re like, 'This is a 2006!' You’re like, "Okay." We don’t have the perspective.
HitFix: But I notice that you’re not rocking funny facial hair.
Patrick Wilson: I am not.
HitFix: What’s the thought process on not going in that direction?
Patrick Wilson: It’s funny that you say that. The thought process was he’s a guy that I think when guys came back from Vietnam, I think they started to grow their hair out because that’s just what people did but I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that was like, "I’m going to rock some sweet chops." I think he’s a little closer to early-60s guy. I had that conversation saying, "Should I even take him up like a 50s guy? This like total buzz cut?" No, let’s at least shape it. People didn’t cut their hair as much. So that was a very conscious effort, because I love a good sideburn.
HitFix: That sounds a little like Don Draper. I don't know if you watch "Mad Men."
Patrick Wilson: I don’t.
HitFix: Okay, well he’s sort of been the guy who hasn’t changed to adapt to the period and its styles, while everybody around him has. I wasn't sure if Lou was the same.
Patrick Wilson: Especially when you see me in contrast with someone like Keir O’Donnell, who plays Schmidt, who’s got like a stache and chops... Or Nick Offerman who just looks ridiculous. I don’t want to give that away, but if you’ve seen photos of him in the past few months... [He laughs.] There is a lot of that in the show. Lou’s just not that guy. I think he’s a guy that has the same spot that he shaves in every single day.
HitFix: But you're just a wee big jealous?
Patrick Wilson: You know what? I’m leaving this to go to "Conjuring 2," where I will get the sideburns right back, so I’m not worried about my '70s sideburns.
"Fargo" premieres on Monday, October 12 on FX.