Glenn Howerton talks about his role in FX’s hit show “Fargo”

Glenn Howerton can usually be seen on FX playing the slightly diabolical Dennis Reynolds on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, on which he also writes and executive produces. However this spring he’s joined the network’s newest drama, Fargo, based on the critically acclaimed Coen brothers film. Howerton plays Don Chumph a gullible personal trainer out to blackmail his client’s wealthy ex-husband with the help of Lorne Malvo (an intense Billy Bob Thornton). The multi-talented Howerton joined MediaMikes on a call to discuss Don, Fargo and was more than happy to field a few ‘Sunny’ questions as well.

What originally attracted you to the show and playing Don?

Glenn Howerton: I didn’t know a whole lot about it when I said yes to it if I’m being honest. You know, television moves at a different pace than film. I knew that the Coen Brothers were involved, I’ve been a big fan of FX dramas for a while, and obviously I’ve been a part of the family for many many years and the president of FX John Landgraf called me and you know, he knows my background is not really in comedy. A lot of my background is actually in a lot more dramatic stuff, weird. You know so he threw it out there, ‘would you ever want to be on one of our dramas?’ and I said absolutely. So it just came along and even though it’s kind of a comedic role, he felt like it was something I hadn’t really done comedically before and it was part of a drama and he explained the concept to me, who the character was, what the tone of the show was. I’m a big fan of the movie Fargo. Basically without ever even seeing the script, I said yes just because of all the people that were involved.

Would you say the character of Don is a reference to the character Brad Pitt played in the Coens’s Burn After Reading?

Howerton: I assumed the same thing you did when I read the script, that it was a pretty clear homage to that character. I don’t remember ever actually having that conversation with Noah [Hawley] but I know that he definitely wanted to distinguish it enough from that character. Which I think is something that happens naturally when you cast two actors. He and I are always going to have a different take on it. So yeah, I think the homage was clearly there but I certainly tried to stay away from anything Brad did in the movie. It was nice because I actually did rewatch a lot of Coen Brothers movies including Burn After Reading and I was like my god, Brad Pitt’s performance in that is so brilliant…I don’t even think I could match that even if I wanted to.

Your character is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, how difficult is that to play?

Howerton: Well some of the tools are not meant to be sharp. So I’ll start with that, you know, you’ve got a lot of instruments in the tool shed…It’s kind of a difficult question to answer only because I’m one of those guys that I have to just kind of feel it. Otherwise it becomes a very intellectual exercise if I start thinking about it too much. So I think it’s more getting into a very open minded mindset where for me, I felt like this was the kind of guy who is very easily influenced. Especially by someone with such a presence as Lorne Malvo has. Obviously there is the threat of violence behind it all. But I think this guy’s not so much afraid of any kind of violence against him as he is of sort of getting caught. I don’t know, it’s sort of just the feeling of being innocent again. I mean it is a very different character than the character certainly I play on ‘Sunny’, who thinks he knows everything. I think this guy thinks he doesn’t know as much as he needs to know. But I don’t know…I think it’s just bringing a real openess to the role. More listening than demanding or saying.

How was it sharing scenes with Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne?

Howerton: Billy’s great. I’m always a little concerned any time I get into a scene with somebody who I–you know someone I have so much respect for as I do with Billy. Just because they say never meet your idol, you know, so…I don’t want to meet this guy and have him be a son of a bitch or something. But he could not be a nicer, easier person to work with. He’s extremely open to suggestion, very easy to work with. Very professional, being on set knowing all of his lines, clearly is listening. I’m a big fan people who I feel like when I’m talking to them in the scene, they’re actually listening to what I’m saying. So even if I did flub a line, he was listening to me, he’d pick up on it. So it was a lot of fun. It kind of became like a really weird sort of Abbott and Costello-y kind of relationship where I kind of end up becoming his lackey. It was a lot of fun and you know, I’m not accustomed to usually playing the, for lack of a better word, the dumb one in the comedic relationship. I’m usually the straight man so it was a lot of fun not playing the straight man.

Did you have a favorite scene while shooting Fargo?

Howerton: I’m thinking the scene that I did in the closet with [Billy Bob] was a lot of fun which in the script was actually a little bit of a longer scene with more in there. But as I’m well versed with ‘Sunny’, you only have so much time to tell the story so you gotta cut out anything that’s not absolutely essential. But I had a really good time shooting that scene.  It’s almost awkward to be literally inches away from someone’s face doing a scene. But I think that’s part of why it’s so awkward and funny to shoot.

Coming from writing and acting on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is it hard to resist coming up with input on this character?

Howerton:  It’s not hard for me to resist it because it’s not something that, this is going to sound weird, I’m not compelled often to be a writer. I would much rather as an actor get something that’s so well written that I don’t feel the desire to write it or rewrite it. And that was certainly the case with Noah’s writing. I think he strove for a certain amount of excellence in his writing where you said things pretty much word for word that would convey exactly the message that it needed to convey. So I really stuck pretty closely to the script on this one, but to Noah’s credit, there were certain sections where my character was sort of fumfering through a moment where he was absolutely open to me changing or altering things in any way that I saw fit. But to be honest, most of the time I stuck pretty closely to the script.

How would the ‘Sunny’ gang cope with the situation that Don’s found himself in?

Howerton: I think that’s a difficult question to answer certainly because…most of the guest star roles we have on Sunny are sort of mowed over by our extremely energetic, forceful characters. You know, in season seven we actually did have a similar situation of being trapped in a closet…so I think the difference between Don and Dennis, Dennis would have spent the entire time trying to get out of that closet. Whereas Don just you know, just spent the night eating whatever he had in the cabinet and peeing into his shoe. Or whatever the hell he did, I don’t know. I think he’s a much more thoughtful, trusting character, Don. Whereas Dennis is you know more cynical and untrusting.

There’s a rumored Lethal Weapon reboot happening, how would the Always Sunny Gang react to that news having made their own sequels?

Howerton: My god. I didn’t hear that. They’re talking about remaking Lethal Weapon?

Lauren Damon: Yeah, with Chris Hemsworth.

Howerton: Oh wow, wow. Okay. Well I think they you know, in true Sunny fashion, there would be some characters who would be excited about it. And I think there would be some characters who would be adamently against it. And then the characters would probably battle it out in some way. But personally, me? Sure. Why not? [laughs] I thought the Robocop remake was good, I’ll say that!

“Fargo” airs on FX Tuesday nights at 10pm

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has recently began shooting its tenth season.


Related Content

Martin Freeman talks about his role on FX’s new series “Fargo”

Martin Freeman is known best by some as Tim Canterbury in BBC’s “The Office”. Some know (and love) him from “Love Actually. He has also donned the hat of Dr. John Watson in BBC’s “Sherlock”. Or if none of those ring a bell, he is also in a (quite unknown, rather small) trilogy called “The Hobbit” where he plays a young Bilbo Baggins. Either way, Martin has had such a diverse and incredible career to date and though his latest role could also be his best. He is making his U.S. television debut with FX’s “Fargo” playing the role of Lester Nygaard”. The show is an adapation of the 1996 cult classic movie. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Martin about the show, working with Billy Bob Thornton and his character.

Mike Gencarelli: What attracted you to the role of Lester Nygaard in FX’s “Fargo”
Martin Freeman: Well, just the fact that it’s well written. The script itself is well written, the whole thing, the whole first episode, which is what I based my decision on. It was a lovely episode. And with Lester I just got the feeling that this was going to be a role where you could give rein to a lot of stuff, to play a lot of stuff. Even within that first episode the range that he goes between is really interesting and so I knew that was only going to grow and expand in the next nine episodes and so it proved to be. In all the 10 episodes I get to play as Lester pretty much the whole gamut of human existence and human feeling. He does the whole lot and that’s exactly what you want to do as an actor. Noah [Hawley] treads that line very well between drama and comedy and the light and dark. I like playing that stuff.

MG: Talk to us about your character’s relationship with Billy Bob Thornton’s character in the show and how it developed over the 10 episodes?
MF: Well, yeah, again it was those initial scenes with Billy that really, really attracted me to doing the role because I thought they were just mesmeric. I really loved that it was like little doing plays, little two-handed plays. It develops without kind of saying too much and a lot off-screen. There are moments of on-screen development, but throughout the series it’s sporadic. But Lorne Malvo, I suppose, is a constant presence in Lester’s life because of the change that Lester has undergone as a result of meeting him. So, everything that Lester does, every way that he develops as a character, for good and bad, you could say is kind of down to that initial meeting with Lorne Malvo. So, there is a development. We don’t get as much screen time as I would like. I think we both really, really loved sharing actual space together and doing work together and we don’t get to do as much of that as we would want, but there is more to come.

MG: Did you do anything specific research about Minnesota or Minnesotans in preparation to play Lester?
MF: Not specifically, no. Ideally, what I would have wanted to do was spend some time there pre-filming because what I wanted to do was not, definitely not do a caricature and definitely not do something that was just comic or a way of going, oh, aren’t these people funny kind of thing. So, in an ideal world I would have spent a couple of weeks hanging out in bars or just speaking to people. The ideal world doesn’t exist and I wasn’t able to do that. But I worked very hard on the accent because, as I said, I didn’t want it to be like a comedy sketch. I wasn’t playing an accent. I was playing a character who happened to speak like that and to be from that place. So, not specific research. I listened to a lot of Minnesotans, put it that way. I listened to a lot of actual Minnesotans in an audio sense, I mean a visual sense. That’s why I didn’t really go back and watch the initial film with Fargo, love it as I do, because I wanted to, for my research of accent-wise, I wanted it to be actual Minnesotans and not actors playing Minnesotans. Any more than I would expect an actor who wants to play a Minnesotan should study me. They shouldn’t study me, they should study a Minnesotan. So, that was the kind of extent of my homework on that. So, rather than thinking what is it that makes Minnesotans different or specific or whatever, I think Lester is pretty universal. There are “Lesters” everywhere in every race and walk of life and country. There are people who are sort of downtrodden and people who are under confident and all that, so that was more a case of tapping into that in myself really.

MG: You’re no stranger to shorter TV series formats, like “Sherlock”; so what did you enjoy most about having “Fargo” be a limited series of 10 episodes?
MF: Well, I think my general outlook on life is that things should be finite and things are finite. You know, we all die. Everything ends. And so for me the idea of things going on and on and on, I don’t always find very attractive. But if it’s a show that I love and it keeps going on and it retains its quality then I’m delighted to be a viewer of it. But I’ve never done things that have gone on and on. Again, like you say, “Sherlock” is a finite job. We spend a limited time of the year doing that. It’s not even every year. “The Office” was 14 episodes totally by design because precisely of what I’m talking about, the attitude of retaining quality and leaving people wanting more rather than leaving people wanting less. This 10 episodes was kind of a clincher for me. When my agent sent it to me it was with the understanding that she said, you know, “You don’t go out for American TV because you don’t want to sign on for something for six or seven years, but this is 10 episodes. See what you think”. So, that was a big attraction. And then I read it, of course, and thought, well, man, this is going to take up four or five months of my life rather than seven years and I’m in. I like moving on, I like going on to the next thing. I like having something else to look forward to as well. I do have a low boiling pressure. I just want to do other things. I think that’s basically why it is and I want to leave something, hopefully, leave something behind that people go, oh, that was great, as opposed to, oh, why did they carry on with this? It was good for the first three seasons and then it all went wrong. I’m well aware that some things don’t go wrong after three seasons. Some of my favorite things are fantastic for a long time. But, yeah, for me personally, I like the hit and run approach. I love doing this for a bit and then doing something else for a bit and then doing something else for a bit. That’s the way I’m hardwired I think.

Matthias Clamer/FX

MG: Lastly, was there anything about Lester that you added to this character that wasn’t originally scripted?
MF: I suppose, yeah, because I think there always is and I don’t even know what is specific, what I could answer to that. But my job I feel is to take a good script and somehow make it better. And that’ every department’s job. It’s the camera department and the design department, you know, to make this script, which is hopefully very good, to make it even better. So an actor’s job is to put flesh on the bones of the character because even though it’s fantastically written you don’t just see the script up on screen. You know, that would be quite boring if you just read the script. You have to flesh it out and just the physicality, the placement of the voice, yeah, I mean all of that stuff can only be done by an actor. Sp yes, the answer is I hope I would have brought a lot to it, but specifics, I don’t really know. But I mean everything that you see on screen, some of that’s Noah and some of it’s me.

Blu-ray Review “Fargo: Remastered”

Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, John Carroll Lynch, Harve Presnell
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: MGM
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Run Time: 99 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Anytime, I watch “Fargo” it never ceases to amaze me. The film is so dark, yet at the same time SO funny. You are just sitting on your couch going “What the hell just happened”, disgusted yet laughing. It has been a few years since I saw it but it is still as good as always. Since MGM is celebrating its 90th Anniversary, they are re-releasing this Blu-ray but as a brand new remastered edition. If you are not aware this was already released on Blu-ray in 2009 and 2011, but with great results. But this new remastered edition looks even better. Now, if you compare it to MGM’s also recently re-released “Robocop”, it is not as impressive since that was a 4K transfer upgrade. If you never owned this film before, this version is definitely the edition you want. If you already own this I would really run out unless you are a HD video junkie and need that perfect transfer.

Official Premise: The “middle of nowhere” has never looked better in this new edition, now remastered for the best high-definition picture yet! In this film Nominated for seven Oscars things go terribly awry when small-time Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can collect the ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. Once people start dying, the very chipper and very pregnant Police Chief Marge (Frances McDormand) takes the case. Will she stop at nothing until she gets her man? You betcha.

When I looked back at my old 2009 Blu-ray, I did realize quite the improvement with the new remastered 1080p transfer. You can tell right from that amazing opening shot. The snowy world that engulfs the film looks much clearly and also sharper. When it comes to The Coen Brothers, you should expect specific choices for cinematography, kudos to  Roger Deakins. This film is really a great example of a fantastic well-shot film presented perfectly on Blu-ray. In terms of audio tracks, this Blu-ray re-uses the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track from the previous disc, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. The previous releases have sounded quite amazing, specifically Carter Burwell’s score which is outstanding.

I was hoping for something new in the special features department but what we get here is the same extras from the previously Blu-ray’s, which then was also a straight port from the DVD version.  There is an audio commentary track from director of photography Roger Deakins, if you enjoyed the cinematography like I did then this is a great track. There are a few featurettes “Minnesota Nice” and “Trivia Nice”. Lastly, there is an “Article from American Cinematographer” and a theatrical trailer, TV spot and photo gallery included. If there was a little more in this department, this would would have been a must-upgrade for any fan for sure.

Enter to Win The Coen Brothers’ “Fargo” Remastered on Blu-ray [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of “Fargo” remastered on Blu-ray, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) copy of the film Blu-ray. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Coen Brothers to date (doesn’t have to be “Fargo”, don’t worry). This giveaway will remain open until April 18th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email

The “middle of nowhere” has never looked better in this new edition, now remastered for the best high-definition picture yet! In this film Nominated for seven OSCARS®, things go terribly awry when small-time Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can collect the ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. Once people start dying, the very chipper and very pregnant Police Chief Marge (Frances McDormand) takes the case. Will she stop at nothing until she gets her man? You betcha.
Special Features
• Feature Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Roger A. Deakins
• Minnesota Nice
• Trivia Track
• American Cinematographer Article
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spot
Fargo Blu-ray
Street Date:  April 1, 2014
Prebook Date:  March 5, 2014
Screen Format:  Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:  English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:  English/Spanish/French
U.S. Rating R
Total Run Time:  140 minutes
Closed Captioned:  Yes


Check out MGM 90th tumblr – also. There are tons of great gifs from MGM films, including Fargo, if you want to check it out.