Have you been keeping up with the FX series FARGO? It is totally insane in the best way possible. With a true story plot line, the ten part series has audiences begging for more each week and I’m one of them.
Guest star Oliver Platt, who plays Supermarket King, Stavros Milos, is having serious problems and Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) is making sure those problems work to his advantage. Fargo airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on FX.
Platt has such an amazing history in film. The first time I saw Platt was in the film WORKING GIRL and then FLATLINERS (both films I love!). That was followed by THE THREE MUSKETEERS and a role I would always remember in A TIME TO KILL.
He would dabble in television with a guest role in the fantastic series THE WEST WING and also appear on Broadway in SHINGING CITY. He took the role of the sniveling White House Chief of Staff in the epic disaster film 2012 that was a box office smash!
Now, on the FX series FARGO, Platt plays Stavros Milos – a man with serious issues that are often followed up by pills, alcohol and trusting Loren Malvo. I had the chance to ask Oliver a few questions about his new role.
Hi Oliver, thanks for speaking with us today?
How much of the character of Stavros did you know before taking on the role?
You know, we developed this idea that he had come from Chicago with his family, and that he was just on hard times; a devout man on hard times who is given this “gift” if you will. That was pretty much it. The material, itself, is pretty alive. That was pretty much it.
What was your time in Calgary like for you?
Well, it was funny. It was very, very cold when I was there, but then we also—there was a little bit of the Chinook, too but apparently the Chinook wasn’t visiting with the frequency that it usually did. There’s a scene that takes place in Episode 6 that—it was pretty intense, and we were in, I think, ten degree below weather doing this stuff over and over again. What can I tell you? It helps. It’s like in terms of you’re putting yourself in the position of what the character’s going through with Mother Nature giving you a huge assist. The landscape—it’s a very, very well chosen location in terms of feeding that sense of the expanse and sort of the desolation and maybe the loneliness of those people.
Did you have any input about your character or the younger you?
I thought they did a sensational piece of casting there myself. I was really surprised, and I thought that it was—clearly they had that cross fade in mind, and if you’re going to sell that there better be some architectural similarity there, you know? I thought he was marvelous, I really did.
Is it a challenge to play a character that is so in and out of himself?
His head has been so successfully messed with, so artfully screwed with, and it’s just a delicious sort of menu of obstacles for an actor to—is it God, is it my ex—who could possibly be doing, or orchestrating these things. On top of that, the way they’re messing with…the way his medication has been messed with so that the way he’s perceiving it is—orchestration actually isn’t a bad word to describe the whammy that Billy Bob [Thornton’s character “Lorne Malvo”] put on me.
The scene with the crickets was that CGI or did you have to deal with those pesky critters?
It was a pleasant mix. There were inanimate crickets, there were animate crickets, and then there were imaginary crickets. It was one of those classic green screen situations where you sort of—yet, with a lot of motion to it, too. It was a lot of fun to shoot, it was a lot of fun to shoot, and I thought that the way the concentric circles of chaos that were created in the market, itself, was delightfully realized.
How do you see television and its evolution since you were on Miami Vice?
Depending on who you talk to we’re in either the second or third golden age of American television, and the advent of the limited miniseries, as you observe, a marvelous thing for actors because, as you said, you don’t have to sign your life away. It’s also allowing television to do what really only television can do, which is novelize a—use the format, the serialized format, to tell us a story over a period of time and really get under the character’s skin. Television’s going strong. Network television was very, very different and, again, it was about having closed episodes. Like I say, the fun part is to take part in a story that’s unfolding. People walk up to you on the street and they grab you by the lapels and they say, what’s going to happen next?
Why did you decide to take this role, was there something that particularly attracted you to it?
Just such a muscular arc, you know? One of the first things you’re looking at is, where does the guy start and where does he end and how do they get him there? That’s what we yearn for as actors, is that sort of distance to travel, and Noah laid that out in spades. It was a story that took this guy and took everything that he believed in and turned it on its head, and he didn’t know who it was, who was doing it to him even though he had his—and that’s the brilliance of the scheme, is the ninja mind tricks.
Did you have any hesitation taking on a role based on a film?
The answer is, absolutely. The stuff that I was shown, the story that I was told, the fact that Joel and Ethan [Coen] had blessed it was not insignificant. I have to say, I think that Noah’s done a pretty remarkable job of sort of threading that needle of writing in their tone, but sort of—he had his own voice, if you will and, to me, it’s pretty impressive stuff.
If you agree we are in the golden age of television, what are some shows that would fall into that category now?
I absolutely agree with that. One of the shows that I’ve been watching, I like to watch—obviously Breaking Bad, and there’s that classic—Breaking Bad. I’ve been watching The Americans, the second season of which has been pretty sensational, I think; I’ve been watching—I’m blanking here a tiny bit. I absolutely feel that we’re living in a, again, depending on who you talk to, a renaissance of—
Do you think it’s cable or broader?
I think that cable creates the environment that’s most friendly to it for obvious reasons because of the obsession with serialization, or rather of syndication is not really there. I’m trying to come up with a couple other shows for you, though.
Stavros goes through some changes of a rich man to a broken one, how do you see that evolution when Malvo shows up?
Well, he built this extraordinary supermarket empire, and he’s been very, very focused on the externals. You get the sense that “Malvo” detects a certain amount of…there, and he just has a nose for that kind of thing. He’s all about how everything’s looking. Obviously he doesn’t really feel he deserves it, which is probably why he’s on some level, which is why he’s so focused on the theatricality of it all. I think that that’s where we are when “Malvo” shows up.
Why do you think FARGO appeals to people?
You know, I think it’s a combination of the storytelling and the style. There’s something so compelling about exploring the menace and the loneliness beneath that culture; the people that ostensibly are incredibly polite, button down way of—the way that people relate to each other on a superficial level. I think that there’s a fascination to that, and then the fact that if good writing is compelling sequences of events then Noah’s really got that nailed.
Understanding that the Coen brothers are very different with their humor, did your portrayal come from that and the writing?
Yes, that’s usually the way you want to go about it, is to let the writing tell you, inform your own sense of—guide your own sense of rhythm, and it’s very much in there. Yes. In the best case scenario you can’t see the joke. You know what I mean? It’s just arising organically out of what the conflict that’s been created between the people in the scene and the way the guy regards himself and all this stuff. It’s happening on a lot of different levels, and you just get on the horse and you ride.
What brings you a thrill in filming now?
Oliver You know, that’s a really great question. I consider myself blessed that I—I just get a kick out of figuring out what it is. The thing is, I’m just interested by the next thing that comes along that’s probably—hopefully a little bit different than something I just did, but it’s a mysterious—the attraction is mysterious, and I don’t necessarily understand it; I’m not sure I want to, but it’s just something that I get a kick out of doing. I consider myself lucky to continue to get opportunities to do it.
How do you play a character like Stavros who is definitely an ass?
Well, the first key is that you don’t look at the person that way, you look at the person, you say, how does he think he’s helping, how does he think he’s making the world better. You catch an actor judging the character that they’re playing, and it’s not terribly interesting. Much more importantly, I think that Noah appreciates those aspects of “Stavros,” too. He has that perspective, and it’s something that we talked about.
Do the viewers ever find out where the money really came from?
I’m not sure.
Is there a scene that you consider a favorite so far?
Favorite scenes. The fact that I’m having a hard time answering the question is a good sign, I think. I’m sort of taking it all in. What’s your favorite scene?
The creepy shower scene of course!
And that’s where we have to end it because there are so many more secrets to be had. Fargo airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on FX. Miss an episode and you’ll miss a lot! Seriously, one of the best shows ever! Check it out for yourself.