Kirsten Dunst talks about the second season of Fargo and getting to grips with the cold!
What was it that attracted you to doing Fargo?
The first season was done so well. And it was shot so beautifully. I knew that I was going in to something of which I could be confident of the quality. Also, the role was just fantastic. I only got to read two episodes before signing up for the series, but I knew that the trajectory of Peggy’s story was really something exciting. I knew that there was a lot in store for this character, and that she was very unique.
Explain a little bit about Peggy Blomquist. What’s she like?
She’s kind of stuck. In reality, she’s quite delusional about what she hopes to accomplish. What happens in the first episode, though, kind of spins her off a little bit. She really wants this other life that she’s read about in magazines – her dream is to move to Los Angeles and become a celebrity hairdresser. But she’s stuck in Laverne, Minnesota. She’s with a lovely man who wants to have kids, but she’s just not committed to that yet herself. She lives for her magazines where she reads about this other life she wants. She’s a little bit of a nut, in reality, and sort of living in two worlds.
You’re part Swedish yourself. Do you feel an affinity to Peggy through that? Is it part of your heritage?
Not to Peggy! She is a woman unto herself! But I will say that I’m very familiar with the whole Lutheran Minnesota vibe. I grew up with my grandmother – she lived with us – and she had grown up the youngest of 10 children on a farm in Minnesota. My grandmother didn’t really have the Minnesota accent, though. Maybe it just worked out of her over time. But she had a real Midwestern mentality. So I understand the mentality, but not so much Peggy.
Did you re-watch the series, or the original film, when you were cast, or do you steer clear of stuff like that so you’re coming with a fresh perspective?
I didn’t re-watch the TV programme because I’d seen it pretty recently. But I hadn’t seen the film in a very long time so I did re-watch that – just to have it back in my wheelhouse. It was more to get to grips with that “Minnesota Nice” veneer, that sense of nervousness of doing something wrong. After that, I just worked on the character.
The accent and mannerisms of the Minnesota region are very distinctive. Did you struggle to master them, or did it come quite easily to you?
This was a pretty hard role to play. And I worked with a dialect coach on the accent. Because it’s set in the 70s, the clothing always helps you get into the part. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but it was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever played, for some reason. Peggy has a lot to say, always – she’s very high energy. I remember one day I did six pages of dialogue, just me! So it was a lot, and it had to be done pretty quickly and efficiently.
The landscape and the bleakness of the area are very central to the feel of the drama. Have you spent time in that part of the US?
Yeah, I have. Not where our story takes place, but I’ve spent time in Minnesota. And I’ve spent time in remote communities and all of that, so I was familiar with that feeling of having your one street where everything’s on it, and then everyone lives 20 minutes away in farm houses that are miles apart from each other.
How would you take to life if you had to up sticks and move to rural Minnesota?
It would depend who was with me. I guess if my family and friends were there, and I had a community, I’d be fine. I’ve done the city life. As long as there was an airport that wasn’t too far away, I’d be okay, I think.
So what you’re basically saying is you’ll happily live somewhere cold and remote as long as you can fly to somewhere hot very quickly?
How did you get on with the cold during filming?
We shot in Calgary, and for some reason it was unseasonably warm during the shoot, so we lucked out. They were freezing on the last season so I was prepared – I had my Canada Goose clothing and stuff. Luckily for me, too, a lot of my scenes are inside. In fact it was a problem it was so warm – we needed more snow! They’d shovel some in or we’d have to shoot in a different area.
The series is set in the late 70s, and features Molly Solverson’s dad Lou. Is it fair to call this a prequel?
Yeah, it is. I think it’s such a different universe to the first series. There are things that keep it Fargo – the way it’s shot and the music and all that – but it definitely feels like its own, weird universe.
Did you get into the whole 70s aspect of this, with the clothes and the music?
Yeah. Noah actually put together a playlist for us, which was great. It was all over the map, and included stuff like Kraftwerk. As for the clothes – I wanted people to giggle at Peggy a little bit when they saw her. She wants to live in a different place, so I wanted her to wear a beret. And when she does bad things, I wanted her to wear little white bunny ear-muffs, so there was an innocence there. Her fashion is pretty funny – you’ll chuckle at her when you see certain outfits she puts together.
Does she wear fashions that aren’t really the norm in Minnesota?
Yes, definitely. She’s the kind that would sew herself a certain outfit and then find the best coat she can, and accessorise it all. She’s definitely that kind of girl. She lives through her magazines.
Is it fair to say that 1970s fashions are probably hitting rural Minnesota about now anyway?
[Laughs] I’ve been to rural Minnesota, and I feel like it’s definitely the denim capital of the world. What do they call it? The Canadian tuxedo!
Events take place during Ronald Reagan’s first presidential campaign. I understand that the character of Reagan makes an appearance in the series.
Yes. I don’t have any scenes with him, but yes, he is in it. Bruce Campbell plays Reagan.
The show’s got a great cast, not least among whom is Ted Danson. Have you guys worked together before?
I knew Ted because his wife, Mary Steenburgen, is with my manager. So I would see Ted a lot. And he was one of my favourite people to work with on the show. I’m so happy we had scenes together. He’s so lovely – just the kindest man, really funny. You want him to be your dad or your husband.
Jesse Plemons plays your dutiful, loving husband. What was it like working with him?
We became fast friends, too. We were in pretty much every scene together, and we have very similar approaches to acting. So it was really easy for both of us, and we also really enjoyed working with each other. He’s such a cool dude and we’d hang out all the time off set. He’s like a real friend of mine today – it wasn’t just a ‘set’ friendship. We really got along very well.
How long did the shoot take?
Almost five months. It was a really long shoot, especially being in Calgary, because it was winter and so you didn’t necessarily want to be outside that much. I’d never seen Friday Night Lights [starring Plemons] so I binge-watched that, which I adored. And I’d hang out with Jesse and order food in. It was very mellow when we had time off. I went once to Banff with my brother, and we went dog-sledding, but other than that we stayed in our little apartment complex.
So did you make Jesse watch Friday Night Lights all over again?
No, but I got all the gossip because of it – all the behind the scenes stuff. Whenever I wanted to talk about somebody, he could tell me all about them – it was great! That’s the best way anybody could watch Friday Night Lights. I know who was dating who and everything!
Does it feel different, working on a TV show as opposed to a movie?
Very, because you have multiple directors, and you get new scripts that you’ve never seen before, so you really have to be confident in how you work on your character. It definitely felt like I’d done ten supporting roles in ten different movies at the end of the shoot. It was the most work I’d ever done on a character.
Lastly, it seems like a lot of Hollywood actors are turning to TV shows these days. Is there more kudos doing TV now than there used to be?
I just think people are watching television more. They’re more excited about watching a television show than they are about watching films. It feels almost more special right now to be on an exciting television show. And it’s longer, and people follow it with you. The only movies that people seem to go and watch now are big event films or animations, for the most part. And movies are so expensive to go to now. If you get tickets and food for your kids, it’s a lot of money.
So in spite of the hard work and the long shoot, if the right role came up for you on TV again, you’d do it?
I would! I’m not in a position right now where I want to dedicate myself to a long-running series, but I would do another mini-series or a movie for television. I’d be open to television again, for sure.
The Miniaturist Interviews: Romola Garai
Romola Garai plays Marin Brandt in The Miniaturist, premiering soon on BBC-1, here she talks about what drew her to the drama and being in a costume drama where she pretty much only gets to wear one costume.
What attracted you to the role of Marin?
I’d read the book shortly after it came out and I thought it was a really surprising novel, really interesting and with very strong feminist themes in it, so I was very excited about it. Time passed and then an email popped into my inbox with the subject, The Miniaturist. I thought it was fantastic they were making it and I was really excited to read the script.
It’s a very genre-bending novel; it appears to be like a costume drama we have seen before, but very quickly we realise that it’s not that. It’s about a woman coming into her own in a society that’s very patriarchal, it’s about a love affair, it’s about discrimination, and it’s about people trying to survive in an incredibly controlled state. It’s a thriller and it’s also a story about political and emotional awakening.
Marin is a particularly interesting character, I think she has one of the best arcs. When I first read the book, she was the character that stayed with me, and when I read the scripts I immediately remembered everything about her. She’s told in beautiful detail in the novel, which John has retained in the script. Marin is just a great character to play, it was a real treat.
Tell us about Marin.
When you first meet her, because the story is told through Nella’s perspective, you meet a woman who seems very cold and intimidating. Then gradually you get this drip-feed of information about her; you see she’s been helping Johannes run the business and you learn that they were orphaned at a young age. She’s very intellectual, she’s very well read, and she’s not married, which is very unusual at the time.
One of the reasons I found her such a fascinating character is that she’s full of secrets and she’s layered; very conflicted and has great faith, but also passions. The house they live in is essentially a tinder box of secrets that Marin has been sitting on to try and stop the secrets exploding out. However although it seems she is trying to keep a lid on it I think she believes that they could subtly break all the rules and be free within the house at least, if only her brother stopped acting so recklessly.
Hopefully audiences will question what is driving her hostility towards Nella. Marin needs Nella a lot to maintain the appearance of being a normal household but it’s also very important that Nella is afraid of her so that she doesn’t try digging and discovering the secrets that they are all trying to keep – because if anyone finds out then their futures are ruined.
What was it like doing the scenes between Marin and Nella?
I loved working with Anya, she’s an incredibly accomplished actress. She’s got a difficult job in this, because Nella has to be very innocent at the beginning of the story, which is always difficult for an actor to play, and also more innocent that a woman of that age would be now. She’s constantly making discoveries, she doesn’t have the information that the rest of us do so she’s always learning new things, and she’s done that with real beauty and subtlety. I really enjoyed doing all our scenes together.
Tell us about Marin’s costume.
Marin only had one costume until a very late stage of the story. Her costume is typical of the puritan values of the period which rejected anything that smacked of luxury or louche values. They also didn’t wear make-up in this period at all, certainly not women of this class and station, and the hair was very simple and scraped back. Her head would have been covered at all times, so I had a black cap that I wore, but to be honest when I wore it I couldn’t really hear what anyone was saying and also talked incredibly loudly because I couldn’t hear myself, so essentially I was shouting at the other actors!
What makes The Miniaturist stand out from other period dramas?
I’ve done lots of historical pieces but there’s something very unusual about this. When you do contemporary novels set in the past the writers are able to do a lot more, and tackle complex themes which writers writing at the time weren’t able to do. More than that, it’s interesting in that it explores a number of different genres. It has elements of a thriller and then it becomes a family drama and then it becomes a polemic about what happens in societies that are so controlling.
I hope people will sit down to watch the show because it’s a pretty costume drama and will be surprised that it is actually rebellious and constantly bringing up important issues – and that they’ll be so engaged they won’t be able to look away.
Trust Me Interviews: Sharon Small
Interview with Sharon Small, who plays Dr. Brigitte McAdams in new three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs this August on BBC One.
What attracted you to this project?
I liked the character and the premise of the piece – I don’t think we’ve seen this before. And everyone is like an armchair detective, everyone is an armchair actor or doctor, so I thought that people would get off on that and think, gosh what would I do in that circumstance? The audience are the people who are privy to the truth and not us. With my character, Brigitte, I like her neediness, her sassiness – she’s fun and quick-fire talking – and quite honestly I rather fancied myself as a doctor [laughs].
How would you describe your character?
Brigitte is a good person; she’s sassy and is a really good doctor. She has got some issues, but she is trying her best to run this ward and with great intentions, which I think a lot of NHS doctors are.
How did you prepare for the role?
I grew my hair so that I could tie it up – normally I have short hair. We had a fantastic medical training day with Dan and got to do airways and cannulas and stitching and things like that, I loved that. The most important thing for me was to go around the actual A&E department (or ED department as I now know it’s called) in Edinburgh. We met this fantastic doctor – just watching him and really getting to observe what goes on in a ward, the dynamic, what people do and noticing that people are always looking at folders, everyone’s always collaborating and talking to each other. Everyone is always moving around, a lot more than you think and not that quickly. It’s less dramatic than you think.
Is your character challenging to play?
She was. Similarly in something that Jodie mentioned, I had quite a lot of medical jargon to say quite quickly, but I had less of the procedural stuff to do in terms of operational things. As the character is more and more revealed I had to make sure that I took care of how that happened, and that it was subtly done.
What makes a hospital a good arena for a drama?
It’s an ever-changing landscape, a hospital. Every new sort of event that you’re presented with means that you’re having to make life-saving decisions. People’s lives really are at stake, and honestly, my little taste of pretending that I was an ED doctor made me feel quite powerful. If I could fix people so that they survived, that would be an amazing ability.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced so far during filming?
Saying the medical words Metronidazole – Met-ron-ida-zole, Metron-i-dazole – and trying to make scrubs look even remotely interesting, I don’t rock scrubs like Jodie does, I’m way too curvy for that!
What do you hope audiences will take away from this drama?
I hope that they’ll find themselves in that dilemma of wanting Cath/Ally to succeed, because she’s a good person and she ironically is brilliant at the job. I’m hoping that they’ll see the dilemma that she has, and as you want her to keep succeeding, it means she’s going to keep compromising people as she goes, as well as herself.
Trust Me Interviews: Jodie Whittaker
Jodie Whittaker plays Cath in three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs on BBC One this August.
What appealed to you about this project?
I was sent the script for the first episode and it fascinated me because it went in a completely different direction to how I thought it was going to. Particularly at the beginning when she’s suspended for whistleblowing and loses her job. It could have gone so many ways, and the fact that she takes on this new identity isn’t the way that I thought it would go. I love the fact that her choices are quite morally dubious – they certainly aren’t black and white. She makes decisions that are quite challenging to justify, even though we know her reasons. I’ve never acted in anything medical before, so it felt completely new.
How does Cath’s lie come about?
Cath starts off by having a conversation with her best friend, Ally, who is a middle grade doctor in A&E and is giving it all up to emigrate to New Zealand. Ally is packing up the life that Cath would have loved to have had, leaving it all behind to go and do something completely different. Suddenly there is an opportunity for her to take on the identity of her friend and in that panic, not necessarily the clearest thinking moment in her life, she does it. Once you set off on a path of lies it’s very difficult to undo it without bringing everything crashing down.
Did you receive any training on medical procedures?
Yes! The writer, Dan, who is also medical consultant and a doctor outside of TV production, showed us a load of stuff that he used when he was training people. He brought in the CPR dummy and showed us how to do a cannula and he, very bravely, let me put a cannula in his vein. I did it right, thank God! Also, YouTube is amazing. The genius of the internet is that you can basically sit at home and Google medical procedures, and TV shows such as 24 hours in A&E, which I watched hours of.
How else did you prepare for the role?
With regards to the technical stuff, we had an on-set consultant so that there was always someone to help when we had to do the procedures. The best thing for me was that my character was also out of her depth and didn’t always know what she was doing, so it kind of covered my own personal fumbles. I’m not someone who likes to over prepare for dialogue scenes, because I think that makes me not listen to what the other person is saying as I’ve already decided how I’m going to do it. It immediately makes it interesting and new and you can’t plan for that, which is great. You can’t ‘wing’ the medical stuff so I had to do my research for that. One of my friends is a Sister in A&E and I sent her a lot of messages asking ‘how do you pronounce this?’ and ‘what does that mean?’, so basically she was my personal medical coach even though she works full time!
Is it challenging playing someone who leads a double life?
Yes, but no more challenging that playing someone who has had something happen to them that I haven’t personally experienced. What’s hard is trying to gauge how good a liar she is, or how in a panic she is. You’ve got to be careful, because you can’t make the other actors seem stupid. These are intelligent, fully formed characters that you’re working with, so it was a fine line of being able to deceive and it not being something that comes easily to her. However, it can’t be that it makes everyone around her feel a bit like an idiot for not working it out. That was tricky, but the director is there to help guide you through it.
Did the uniform help to get you into character?
Yes. It feels odd when you put it on. I did five weeks of studio filming, back to back – all the medical stuff was contained so everything started to become a bit like second nature. The first few times I had to put on an apron, the ‘take’ ended up being about 15 minutes long. Then I worked out that you shouldn’t put the gloves on before the apron! There was lots of daft stuff like that, but you then get into a rhythm. It’s good because it makes you immediately feel like you look the part and then all I had to do was make sure that I knew the lines!
What were some of the challenges that you faced during filming?
I’m not very good with learning dialogue when there are lots of medical terms! I enjoy the adrenaline of being on set because I’m quite good at choreography, I respond well to being taught something physically. That’s why I was terrible at school, because they talk you through things rather than physically show you. I enjoyed doing the different types of surgery as it was fascinating, it’s nerve-wracking but you realise that you can do it. Also, the team who created the props put in so much hard work to make sure we didn’t mess up our bits. I struggled with having massive speeches that involved these medical words. I don’t have a brain for that!
Did you enjoy working in Scotland?
I absolutely loved Glasgow! The crew were phenomenal and the city is wonderful. I could move my family up there and we had a great time as there were loads of brilliant restaurants and everyone was lovely. It was brilliant and I would snap up another job there very quickly, although it does get very dark and cold over winter!
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