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Fargo Breakout Allison Tolman on That Big Twist and Channeling Marge Gunderson

FX’s Fargo is its own thing, a wonderfully kooky and violent homage rather than a copy of the Coen brothers film — but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t Marge Gunderson in tonight’s episode. Spoilers ahead if you’re not caught up.

Right after Gus and Molly decide to take their flirting to the next level and head to a logging festival together, we jump ahead a year to 2007. They’re now married. Gus has quit being a cop. Molly’s still obsessed with getting Lester, but she’s also expecting and has changed her hair to look, well, not unlike Frances McDormand’s Fargo bob. What’s going on? Vulture turned to series star Allison Tolman for answers. The actress, a Texas native who worked such odd jobs as personal assistant, children’s theater teacher, and dog walker before getting the offer to be on Fargo, discussed the surprising turn of events, Golly shippers, and how easy it is to get angry while looking at Martin Freeman.

Well, holy shit.
I know, right? Ha!

How did you find out the show would be jumping ahead in time?
I found out when I read it, but I expected it because they were like, “We wanna cut your hair.” Mmmm, okay ... There were warning signs in production floating around. I read it and was like, Shut. Up. I texted Colin [Hanks] and was like, “Are you reading this? Oh my God.” I haven’t seen the episode yet, but I’m actually about to do the DVD commentary with [executive producer] Noah Hawley so I’m going to see it for the first time while being recorded, which I’m sure will be awesome. I’ll try not to curse. I loved that device so much. So cool, so fun. And the end of the episode with Lester? Gah! So good.

There are many good things about what we find a year later, but the best discovery might be that both Lester and Lorne have better hair.
[Laughs] They both get swag, right?

Finding out that Gus and Molly are a family now is right up there, too.
Yeah, they’re perfect for each other. And it’s so funny because people are shipping — this is a term I learned — they’re shipping these characters and they really want them to be together, but they’re also terrified that now one of them is going to be, like, obliterated.

Really?
Yeah! I feel they’ll be instantly so excited that this has happened and then seconds later they’re going to go, “Nooooo.” The stakes are so much higher now. The misery that can be wrought has increased tenfold if one of them gets killed off, which is totally possible in this crazy world we’ve created.

It didn’t occur to me that one of them could die, mainly because of how similar Molly is to Marge now. And, dammit, Marge and Norm make it out of that movie alive.
You’re a savvy viewer. That’s good. I will not tell you whether that’s false confidence or not.

Obviously Molly isn’t Marge, but it feels like the show is deliberately setting up that comparison. Especially with that scene in the bedroom with Gus.
Oh, absolutely. In fact, it’s scripted that way. In the script for the episode, the scene with Colin and I in bed, which was my favorite scene to play in the entire series, it said, “If this feels like the end of the movie, it should — but the cameras roll a little longer than we need to and we learn the third act is just about to start … ” And then it gets into that scene in Vegas and you’re like, “Oh fuck, I forgot!”

She’s saying, “We’re doing good,” and —
And nothing bad can happen — oh, wait! Other things to tie up. It was definitely purposeful.

Right before the flash-forward to 2007, Molly was having a terrible time trying to convince Bill that they had the wrong guy. She’s so kind and decent but also so torn up and frustrated that she’s not being heard. It seems like a lot to play at once.
It’s really hard. That was actually a really difficult one. It was the most difficult and most sad scene I played with Bob Odenkirk, where he says, “It’s not going to happen. You have to let it go.” It’s just so heart-wrenching for her. And he’s right. Even though he’s wrong, even though he knows he’s wrong, he’s right. Playing that realization and even just reading that realization in the script — this has been her singular pursuit above all other things for this entire series, and watching her have to kind of put that on the back burner is so sad. And then we jump forward in time. I mean, I can’t imagine what a patient man Gus must be to allow her to have all this murder display in their bedroom.

She falls asleep staring at that murder collage.
[Laughs] I can’t even imagine. She says she’ll let it go, but she’s just playing the long game. It’s hard for her because it’s personal. She lost her friend. She’s a little obsessed I think. At the same time, Bill is eager and ready and hungry for an explanation that absolves his friend, Lester, of this crime. When he’s offered up an alternate solution, it fits so nicely into his heart and what he wants for his world.

Lester gives her this wave right before the time jump when she’s staring at him through the window, like, “Can’t catch me!” Her obsession is understandable.
That cocky little smirky face. Oh, he makes me so angry! It’s easy to play a scene where I don’t have to say anything and I just have to react to Martin and what he does is give me this cocky little smirk. I remember my blood boiling, like, “You motherfucker.” Martin’s so good at making that come to life. And that’s why, a year later, Molly’s still calling the FBI, still piecing it together, even while she’s allowed herself to focus on other things. She started a family. It’s hard to play that, too, to play her continued obsession but layered with all these other things.

There’s a great moment for Bill and Molly when he introduces her to his adopted son, a grown man from Africa. Molly’s so darned touched when she hears the crazy story of how they almost didn’t meet, and it’s just a funny, lovely reminder that Bill has never been the enemy.
Filming that was awesome. For someone who was just — I was just purely infuriated by Bill for the first six scripts. Starting in episode eight and continuing through to ten, the relationship between Molly and Bill just grows in leaps and bounds. They speak to each other in ways that they’ve never spoken to each other before. That begins with this little window to his soul. She starts to love and appreciate him. I certainly did.

And Bob’s even giving you advice about where to live in L.A. now, right?
Yup. My boyfriend and I are going to take the plunge and come out to LaLa land this fall. Rent a place, give it a year, see how we feel. I’m a Texan girl and my boyfriend’s a midwesterner, so I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. Bob took me on a neighborhood tour, showing me the best places. He brought me a map, printed out, put boxes on it like, “These are the areas you should live.” “I want to, Bob, but I don’t know if I can afford these ones. Maybe these ones?”

I read that you bonded with the cast over a "crazypants" meal. What made it crazypants?
There was so many times during filming where I was like, What is happening? Look who I’m hanging out with. This is bizarre. And there was one night where we were at a hotel bar, Bob, Martin Freeman, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, and I, which is odd enough on its own, but then Stephen Root walked into the bar, and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s Stephen Root,” and Martin was like, “Oh, yeah!” And I said, “He must be here filming something,” and Martin goes, “Allison, he’s in our show.” “What?! Go get him!” He’s not in my storyline, so I pretty much went, “Are you fucking kidding? That’s amazing.” So Martin went and brought him over and the amazing amount of comedic talent at the table increased exponentially. I was honored to even be there.

Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images