TCA: FX's 'Fargo': Like the movie, but different

"Fargo" is coming back as a TV series. But viewers shouldn't confuse the FX series with the Oscar-winning 1996 film from Ethan and Joel Coen.

The new series will be a limited drama series inspired by the film that will feature an all-new true crime story with new characters established in the trademark humor, dialect, murder and "Minnesota nice" of the original film. The 10-part series will premiere April 15.

The character of Marge Gunderson, the pregnant law enforcement officer played by Frances McDormand in an Oscar-winning performance, will not be a part of the new series. 

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Key to the new "Fargo" will be the feel of the Minnesota region, where people "have an inability to communicate," said Noah Hawley, executive producer and writer of all the episodes. "It's a stoic culture where people don't talk about feelings. It's broken the way people communicate."

The project stars Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo, a drifter who meets and forever changes the life of small town insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman).

Duluth Police Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks) is a single father who must choose between his own personal safety and his duty as a policeman in investigating the case. Allison Tolman also stars as Molly Solverson, an ambitious deputy.

The Coen brothers are listed as executive producers, along with former NBC entertainment head Warren Littlefield. But the filmmakers are not directly involved with the production, which was filmed in Calgary, Canada.

"TV is not their medium," said Hawley. When Ethan Coen read Hawley's pilot script, he responded, "Yeah, good," and gave the project his blessing, Hawley said.

"When Ethan said, 'yeah, good,' that means he's over the moon," said Thornton, who wore a sleeveless black T-shirt to the session at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. The actor appeared in the brothers' 2001 "The Man Who Wasn't There."

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Added Littlefield: "The Coens said, 'This is strange. We feel like you've channeled us'" in reference to Hawley's script.

He said the TV adaptation of "Fargo" actually began in 1997 when he was first pitched a "Fargo" project by Bruce Paltrow and Robert Palm. He ultimately passed because it was "a TV version of an iconic film."

Another "Fargo" adaptation directed by Kathy Bates and starring Edie Falco in the role of Marge Gunderson was produced by CBS, but eventually went nowhere.

When Littlefield and Hawley worked together on the short-lived "My Generation" series, the idea of doing a new version of "Fargo" was sparked.

Thornton said he was drawn to what will be his first TV project because "television is where it's at." The small screen does not have the negative stigma it had when he was becoming known in film.

"It's now a feather in the cap," he said, describing his character as "God and the devil wrapped up in one."

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