Pregnant police officer Marge Gunderson is nowhere in sight in FX’s Fargo, the upcoming anthology series that takes its title, tone and cues from the classic Coen brothers movie. In adapting the film for television, writer Noah Hawley was tasked with creating entirely new characters and storylines, with the “no Marge” mandate right at the top of the list.
But even with the award-winning Frances McDormand character out of the picture, FX’s Fargo introduces a very smart, very capable leading lady of its own: Molly Solverson, an experienced deputy working for the Bemidji Police Department.
“She’s the smartest person in every room she’s in — which is hard to live with in this small town,” Allison Tollman, who plays Molly, told Spinoff Online on the Calgary set of Fargo. “She’s super ambitious, but mainly because she has a strong sense of how things should be done, not because she has an end goal in mind — just because, well, this is what you do.”
At first, Molly seems like little more than “the lady cop” sidekick. By the end of the pilot, her role as a key player becomes clear.
“I wanted a chance for the characters I created to be viewed on their own merits,” Hawley said of Tollman’s role. “We meet this young female deputy, and we think she’s a fun sidekick character — and then we flip it.”
With Molly and Fargo, Tollman is stepping into the biggest role of her career. “Coming into this from theater, and a little bit of commercial and a lot of sketch comedy, this is a pretty wide and welcome detour for me,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a miracle, to be honest.”
“Allison competed against a lot of very experienced actresses, with a hell of a lot greater credentials and a resume than her,” said executive producer Warren Littlefield. “She just had an amazing audition. When we revealed [her audition] to the network and studio, we said, ‘Several actresses can play this role, but Allison Tollman is this role.'”
On Fargo, Tollman is surrounded by an all-star cast that includes the likes of Billy Bob Thornton as low-life criminal Lorne Malvo and Martin Freeman as downtrodden loser Lester Nygaard. According to her fellow actors, Tollman has stepped right into the role without missing a beat.
“She’s amazing. She’s like an old pro,” said Freeman. “It’s like she’s been doing this for decades. She doesn’t have a deer in the headlights thing to her at all. I don’t think she’s over-awed. Maybe she’s nervous on the inside, but she doesn’t show it on the outside. She seems very self-assured, and she should be, because she’s smart and she’s talented.”
Keith Carradine plays Molly’s father, former police officer Lou Solverson, who left the force after an injury that left him with a bit of a limp.
“He takes a certain pride in being an officer of the law, but he’s happy to be out of it,” he said. “And now, he’s watching his daughter, who has chosen this same world, and it concerns him. It gives him a sense of pride; he’s proud of her commitment. But he’s worried about her safety.”
That concern doesn’t exist between Carradine and Tollman as actors. “Allison, she’s got it going on,” Carradine said with a big smile. “I can’t tell her any [advice]. I wouldn’t presume to. She’s really, really good. There’s a reason why she’s here. It’s not an accident. She’s the real deal.”
Just as Tollman is the real deal on set, Molly Solverson is the real deal in the world of Fargo. “She ends up driving things forward because she’s the only one who feels that these crimes are connected, that there’s more than meets the eye here,” she said. “She knows she’s surrounded by total morons.”
Tollman describes Bob Odenkirk’s character, Bemidji Police Department’s Bill Olson, as “the king of the morons.”
“He’s determined to put blinders on and think, ‘Nope, everything’s fine,'” she said. “He’s her boss — but he’s wrong about this thing. Watching her struggle with that is interesting.”
As Molly gets closer and closer to the truth of her investigation, her father grows more and more concerned.
“He’s watching her wrestle with this case,” said Carradine. “He’s concerned. She’s experienced and accomplished and all of that — in fact, early on, it would appear she’s destined for the position of chief of police — but at the same time, she’s my only kid. I lost my wife, she lost her mother. It’s just the two of us.”
Perhaps Molly’s father doesn’t have much to worry about, considering how strong she is. Then again, this is Fargo; a quick trip to the wood-chipper is never out of the question. For now, however, it appears that Molly will be on the case for a while — and with any luck, Tollman’s here to stay as well.
“Everyone has been so patient with me as I learn the ropes of how this works,” she said. “It’s been fun. I’m having a blast.”
Fargo premieres April 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.
Stay tuned to Spinoff Online for more interviews from the set of Fargo.