An interview with Allison Tolman
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Please tell us a little about your character Molly Solverson
My character is a Deputy on the Bemidji Police Force, who’re ones most directly affected by the crimes set in action in the first episode of Fargo. She’s a young, ambitious, very smart female police officer in a really male dominated field. She gets things done and is the only one who really sees the scope of what’s happening. She spends a lot of time trying to convince her superiors that something needs to be done and action needs to be taken.
What was it about the role that attracted you to it?
She’s a really strongly written character. The first time I read her scenes, she was immediately wholly formed for me in my head. She’s differed very little throughout the season and I feel Noah had a really strong idea of who she was when he started to write her. I really like her – she’s really smart and she’s really understated which is something that I’m not so that was really fun to play. She’s also really patient, which I’m also not – she’s good at playing the long game which isn’t a talent of mine. It’s been really fun.
How familiar with the world of Fargo were you before starting work on the TV series? How much did the movie inform how you went into the production?
It wasn’t until I started filming that I really begin to think about whether to watch the film again. I didn’t before the audition process as it seemed like a bad idea to get that iconic performance into my head as I knew there would be a lot of parallels between Frances McDormand’s Marge and the character I play, Molly. I did watch the film again once I’d gotten a good handle on Molly though. One thing about the TV series is that it really does stand on its own even without that legacy of the film.
How was it working with the rest of the cast?
It was quite intimidating coming into it from a background of not doing any television previously. It was a pretty steep learning curve, but luckily I had the dream cast in both talent and characters – everyone that I’ve come into contact with on the production has been patient and kind and really generous with their knowledge, time and friendship which has been really helpful to me. I’ve been lucky to have this group of guys to bounce things off going through the process.
And how was the experience of filming in Calgary?
We definitely had some cold days! I live in Chicago so was better prepped for the cold and snow than some of the other guys. But there were definitely some days where we all thought “boy, it would be nice if this show was shot in California…!”
You character has a very close and protective relationship with her father while at the same time is faced with investigating some of the most terrible things humans are capable of. How was that experience for you as an actress?
It’s been wonderful – I’m so lucky to have this role as it’s the perfect blend of my training in theatre, having a lot of those really dramatic roles, then moving into the comedy world which helps when dealing with the funnier, warmer scenes. There’s an added bonus of Molly being the “straight man” for Bob Odenkirk to bounce around so she can remain understated.
Your experience until now has largely been in the theatre world. How has your experience on set with Fargo been in comparison and do you have a preference between the two?
I don’t think I’ll ever want to give up live theatre completely. In fact it’s been a while since I last did a play and I’m already feeling that itch to return. It’s very different though - the actual process of rehearsal and performance on a TV set compared to theatre is so different that it took a little while to get my head around it. I’m still getting used to the pace of TV production.
How do you think fans of the movie will react to the TV show?
So far they’ve reacted with some well-earned scepticism and I think that’s fine – they have a right to question why we’re doing this and make sure we don’t mess up their memories of the movie. I think that’s fair. But I like to think that the Coen fans are a pretty savvy and smart group and I think they’ll be able to watch the show, identify the differences between the show and the film and appreciate the TV show on its own merits. It’s a strong project so hopefully we can win them over as fans of the TV show as well as fans of the movie.