Interview: Glynn Turman and Anji White on Fargo S4 and working with Noah Hawley
Each season of Noah Hawley’s Fargo comes with a self-contained narrative. Set in the titular city of Fargo, North Dakota, the American crime black comedy series is inspired by the eponymous 1996 film by the Coen brothers. Now in its fourth season, Fargo, set in 1950 Kansas City, follows the story of two crime syndicates as they vie for control. We speak to Glynn Turman and Anji White who star in the Emmy-winning show (alongside Chris Rock, Jessie Buckley, Jason Schwartzman, Ben Whishaw, among others) who discuss their characters, working with Noah, and the biggest takeaway from this season.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Glynn: I play Doctor Senator Esq. His mother named him that. Her name was, Ma'am. This was an effort to make sure that he was introduced with respect, so it was very intentional that he was named both Doctor and Senator. He's also a lawyer, which I play. I am the consigliere and the lawyer, the Esquire, for the Cannon family.
Anji: I play the role of Dibrell Smutny, the mother of our protagonist Ethelrida played by E'myri Crutchfield and wife to Thurman Smutny. Dibrell is an ambitious, independent woman who holds herself with dignity and moves with grace and is defiant to how the world labels and confines her because she is black, because she is a woman. But of course, there's more to her than her tough exterior.
Did you go back and watch the Fargo episodes when you got the role?
Glynn: Yes, of course, I did. I caught up and binge-watched everything. One season was just as great as the other, I had no favourite season. Everything was just crazy and kooky and kookier and crazier and offbeat, which is what you expect from the Coen brothers and Noah Hawley.
What first appealed to you about Fargo?
Anji: What first appealed to be about Fargo was the writing. When I received the sides for the audition I immediately fell in love with the writing. I understood who Dibrell was within those few pages. Having read the scripts, the dialogue was witty, cryptic at times, filled with rich, funny quirky characters. To prepare for my audition, I watched the very first episode of Fargo and really enjoyed it and I pretty much binged watched it twice. Noah Hawley, cast and crew executed the balance between violence and comedy well so that it really leaves you at the edge of your seat.
What was the mood and vibe on set like?
Glynn: You can't help but laugh around Chris because even his serious commentary is so witty that you find yourself cracking up because he's so spot on. He thinks and sees situations for what they really are and is able to point them out. You find yourself laughing at the truth of the situation that he's talked about. I enjoyed the company of everyone on set - the guys, the crew, everybody. The producers assembled a wonderful cast and crew and it shows in every way. The production design is fantastic. You can’t beat the lighting and being a black man working in the business, I'm always concerned about the lighting, how we're going to be lit. Sometimes the DPs are aware of our special lighting needs and sometimes they're not. And in this case, with such a large black cast, our DPs were very spot on. They paid a great deal of attention to what it was that we needed to make us look good. They’re the ones who made me look good and I needed all the help I could get.
Tell me about working with Noah Hawley and his directing style.
Glynn: He's a man of few words, but we had a wonderful conversation when I first got to Chicago and before the cameras started rolling. The two of us had dinner and we found out that we had a lot in common and we hit it off right away. We developed a shorthand in conversation and in work conversation that works for us and I watched him quietly. He's like a quiet storm. Everything is quietly done, but it's very meticulous and everything is done with intention.
Anji: Before filming began, I met with Noah and we were on the same page about Dibrell and how she operates. Noah had a very clear, fleshed out description of who she was. When on set, he would give me one or two notes and pretty much trusted me with her journey. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with Noah Hawley and hope to again soon.
What do you think the message of Fargo is this season?
Glynn: One of the things that continue to surface is the question, What does it take to be an American? A lot of immigration issues are raised and a lot of wonderful lines are fed to that narrative. One of my favourite lines of my character is when he says to the Italians who have just arrived and are taking over, "You just got here, but we've been here like the wind and the dirt." It's an acknowledgment of what each group is expecting and what each group is willing to sacrifice to gain their slice of the American dream.
Anji: I think the show definitely finds interesting and unique ways to tell the ultimate story of what people do for money which eventually leads them in over their heads. I hope the conversation and takeaways would be a reexamining of their own personal history. Recognising the sacrifices made, wars fought and unfortunately lives lost just to have a footing in this world, a place to belong at the same time creating a legacy and future for not only themselves but more importantly the generations to come.
Catch Fargo Season 4 every Saturday at 10 PM on Colors Infinity