FX’s ‘Fargo’ Interview: Adam Goldberg Talks Movie Connections, Calgary Cold and Season 2
Last week’s FX ‘Fargo‘ installment, “Eating the Blame,” proved special in a number of regards, not only establishing a direct link between the 1996 Coen brothers Oscar winner and FX’s own adaptation, but also for putting Adam Goldberg and Russell Harvard’s enigmatic mob men, “Mr. Numbers” and “Mr. Wrench,” directly in Lester’s (Martin Freeman‘s) path.
We had the chance to chat with Goldberg recently, wherein the ‘Fargo’ star revealed the difficult nature of shooting, ‘Fargo”s movie tie-in and season 2 potential.
So what were your first thoughts when you heard FX was going to produce a ‘Fargo’ series, but not necessarily have anything to do with the film beyond a setting?
I heard when I got the offer to do it, it was all sort of one thing. I thought it was pretty exciting, and I need to not squander this opportunity. It was a tough thing, for physical scheduling reasons to make work, so there was a lot of calls back and forth. I thought it was a pretty exciting idea. I just sort of naturally assumed given FX and Noah [Hawley], who I’d worked with on ‘The Unusuals,’ that it was going to be something interesting, worthwhile and autonomous.
I don’t think we’ve ever actually heard the character names “Wrench” or “Numbers” heard aloud, but what would you say the names represent?
The significance is so that we would know whose dialogue was whose when we’d read the scripts. I don’t believe you’ll ever hear it, they’ll never be referred to that way.
How difficult was it to learn American Sign Language for the role?
That was daunting. When the scheduling finally worked out for me to do it, I panicked, because I had very little time before I was meant to start shooting, I had just finished directing a feature 4 days before my first ‘Fargo’ scene. Somehow I had to squeeze in an ASL session, which I was really convinced was not going to do the job. So I was using this ASL session with my tutor Catherine [MacKinnon] to take the temperature of my absorption ability, which usually in tutorial situations is is severely lacking. I can generally absorb things on my own rather quickly, but tend to freeze up in teacher-student contexts. I didn’t know if this was going to work, but once I got together with Catherine, she really put me at ease. Russell got on the phone, he put me at ease, and helped me see that there wasn’t always logic to the signs themselves, there was a cogency to them.
Certain things you’d have to spell, but very few. It becomes like a dance, like playing music, kind of a muscle memory thing. The deal was just to get through the first day, when we were shooting that garage scene, then you’ll have two weeks, you can come back to LA, learn some more. And also, I was really moved by the beauty of the language, and was remiss I couldn’t fully dedicate myself to months of learning ASL, and being quasi fluent in it. I could only really learn what I needed to learn, and a couple conversational things around that. We were adlibbing slightly in the garage scene, they cut out a little chunk of that scene.
Even though your characters have nothing to do with Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare from the film, you two have your own unique way of disposing of a body. What was it like filming those lake scenes?
I can tell you that it was physically one of the most unpleasant days I’ve ever had of shooting, and most of my days were physically unpleasant regardless of whether I was shooting or not. It was minus 30 degree weather on a slippery frozen lake, and there’s a scene forthcoming where we’re fighting on the ice and I’m like, “really? I can’t even f–king skate.” It was weird, it was like being on another planet, not that I’ve been to so many other planets, but you have frozen beard, frozen nosehair, a lot of wind in your longs, and a s–t ton of electricity, because it’s very dry there. I just kept muttering to myself “this is worth it, this is worth it.” I’m not good in any inclement conditions.
“Eating the Blame” dropped a very specific connection to the ‘Fargo’ film in the form of Carl (Steve Buscemi)’s lost money satchel. Did it appeal to you at all to have these worlds linked, or would you prefer FX’s ‘Fargo’ stand on its own?
I think stuff like that is great, a little Rashomon never hurt anybody. Not totally sure that’s the best frame of reference for that, but certainly another point of view that ties things back to the film is interesting. But it feels pretty autonomous to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘Twin Peaks’ as I watch this, before I would think of ‘Fargo.’
The episode also left on a pretty strong cliffhanger of you two confronting Lester in the drunk tank, but we’d imagine he’s somewhat safe in there for the moment.
They cant kill him in a cell, but they could kill him later.
I heard your character has a big showing in the sixth episode, will see delve any deeper into the Fargo mob, and where your characters come from?
It’s less about the machinations of our characters, were never going to delve into the roots of our backstory, we’re all front story. I think of us as spawned from certain events, that we need to exist for these certain events, and then we disappear. This is our mission, and were on it. The only thing I ever knew, or wanted to know was that we’re an old married couple, we’ve been together forever. As an actor, I appreciate being liberated from the scriptures of classic backstory types. While backstories can be helpful, I’ve also found they can lead to a more cerebral, less intuitive performance. I felt liberated by working more on intuition and less on backstory for this character. I like that we’re from nowhere. That was really the conversation going on with why I don’t have an accent. I’m from nowhere, I’m from everywhere, and we’re an old married couple.
Does that mean we won’t get a sense of how you and Mr. Wrench came to end up together?
Not really. ASL questions would come up, and most of those were in direct relation to how they would translate English into sign language, which was kind of a collaborative process between Catherine and Russell and myself. Occasionally we would go back to Noah, and say “we’re gonna say a line like this, not like a sign language version of it, but how does that sound?” “Great!” You know, these guys would speak to each other in this way because they’re old pals. I think Russell needed to know a little more for himself, like has this guy ever been hearing or not? You know Russell has a hearing aid. As far as I’m concerned, I felt very liberated by the idea of creating this guy from dust, that’s sort of what they are. They’re nowhere men on a mission.
Who would you say Wrench and Numbers have the most intriguing interactions with over the course of the season? Can we expect a good showdown with Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo?
There may or may not be, I don’t know the protocol is for this spoiler s–t! It’s inevitable that everybody would cross paths with Lorne. I will tell you that Billy is the funniest f—king guy ive ever met in my life. And he hates the cold as much as I do, he was a great partner in commiseration.
Ratings and reception for ‘Fargo’ have been reasonably strong, though we know FX would tell another original story for any potential second season. If they decided to keep a few cast members around, ‘American Horror Story’ style, would you want to return as a different character?
I couldn’t really begin to answer that, I don’t know. Being far away from home isn’t ideal. The idea that it was one season in some way, I think was an appeal to a lot of the actors working on it. It’s a cool thing that certain cable networks are doing now. When you sign a pilot, you sign a five and a half year contract, it’s pretty crazy if you think that that’s just the norm.
‘Fargo’ premieres its fifth episode “The Six Ungraspables” next Tuesday on FX, while today saw a bit of good news in that DVR and rerun data boosted the show’s premiere episode to 8.2 million viewers, up 84% from its debut.
Check out a preview of “The Six Ungraspables” below, and tune in to see Adam Goldberg as Mr. Numbers in upcoming episodes of ‘Fargo’ on FX!