Allison Tolman on Fargo, The Mindy Project, and Twitter

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Photo: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Apparently, Twitter is for more than starting a beef with Iggy Azalea. Who knew?

Certainly not recent Emmy nominee Allison Tolman. But when The Mindy Project mastermind Mindy Kaling sent her a compliment about her work as Molly Solverson on Fargo through the social media site, her reply — which was equal parts gratitude, mutual admiration, and wishful thinking — wound up scoring her a part written specifically for her.

“I just wanted to let her know I was such a fan of hers from Fargo. She was so fresh and funny. I loved watching her relationship with Colin Hanks develop even though that was so not what that show was about,” Kaling told Vulture during a set visit in October. “While we were corresponding, the producer side of me thought, Everyone has their eye on her right now. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use her in a modern romantic-comedy setting, the furthest thing from Fargo, in the same way that we bring guest stars on to play my boyfriends?” A few weeks after the exchange, a two-episode arc, which begins tonight, was written for her, and Kaling delivered the news personally via phone. Tolman, who was interviewed in one of the office set’s fake gynecological-exam rooms less than five feet from the stirrups and a bevy of urine-collection cups, chatted with Vulture about the new gig, why she enjoyed TMP long before she was going to be on it, whether she’ll be revisiting Fargo, and more.

Sorry for the bizarre interview room. No woman wants to be in this kind of room more than she has to be, even if it is a fake one.
Right? But if you step out, I’ll slip on a gown so we can get started.

How’d this become your follow-up to Fargo?
I think Mindy and some of her writers are fans, and Mindy and I had a little interaction on Twitter one day. She was like, "I love Fargo." I was like, "I love you. Put me on your show." And a few weeks later she called me and said, "We have a role for you." I guess I put it out there and was persistent and it worked out. A case of ask and you shall receive. I already knew the show, which was helpful. I spend most of my time opposite Adam Pally, who is a delight.

Mindy is basically an about-face from where you spent the last year working.
Completely. It is a fun little departure. I went from the dark, dark Fargo world straight into the bright, shiny Mindy world.

I imagine this role requires less clothes and more makeup than Molly Solverson.
That was actually a selling point. On that call, Mindy said, "We’re going to make you cute as hell. Your clothes are going to be adorable." I was like, "Sold. You had me at ‘no parka.’" No snow on set. I get to wear makeup and jewelry and heels. What?! It’s exciting.

Who are you playing?
Abby is a historical-romance novelist with a line of books about the Civil War and sex — not love so much. It's local color because one of the writers has a sister who does that for real for a living. Abby is friends with Tamra, who still feels bad about what happened to Adam’s character, with Dr. Reed stealing his girl, so she sets him up on a blind date with Abby. And it is disastrous. It does not go well on any level.

Can you tell us why it goes so badly?
Because Peter is Peter. He’s insensitive and immature. He’s shallow. He has a higher opinion of himself than is realistic. He’s kind of a dick, especially on this date. But he gets his shit together enough for them to be able to spend another episode together, so that’s good for me. It is not one long date. It turns into a bit of a story line. Maybe she’ll even get to come back again someday. I’m hoping that his interaction with Abby will send that character on a different trajectory. I’m hoping she straightens him out a little bit.

You mentioned you knew the show. Assuming you watch, why?
I really like Mindy’s humor. Even though she has a writing team now, I feel like it all comes from that same place in her brain and her heart. I really liked this world they created. I also really liked the open casting philosophy that they seem to stand by. They cast all sorts of people of different races, sizes, types, et cetera, and that has created a sitcom world that actually looks like the world I live in. I appreciate that when I turn on the television. She writes for women in a way that men can appreciate, while exploring what it means to be a woman and be feminine right now in a big city.

There was a line the other day where someone called her a BBW and she said, "Are you kidding? Look at these wrists. Look how thin they are. They can barely hold up the giant calzones I eat." I was like, "Yes. It is balancing act." The struggles of a modern woman. Mindy is not afraid to tackle the big issues. I appreciate that. And also, for me, the shitty place we have gotten ourselves in the media as far as the portrayal of women is not going to get any better until more woman write, create, produce, and run shows. So anytime I can throw my hat in a ring where there are women doing that, I will.

Now that Fargo's a hit and there’s an Emmy nomination under your belt, has actress life gotten better?
It is easier in ways; harder in some. Up until a few weeks before I booked Fargo, I worked a regular job at an IT firm for three years, in the customer-service department. That’s where I met my boyfriend. I didn’t make a lot of money but I knew how much I would make every week, so it was easier to plan. It’s scary to not know when your next job is coming, and that is a daily fear when you are trying to act full-time.

They've said season two will flash back to the past, pre-Molly. Does this mean what I think it means?
I will not be in the next season. They are going back in time, and sadly, they are not doing any trick casting. I won’t be playing my mom. They aren’t handling it American Horror Story style. I won’t pop up as a real-estate agent or a clown or even in a crowd. It is bittersweet. I am really sad. I would be really lucky to spend even one more day on that. It was so friendly and such a learning experience. But as a fan, I am excited to see what they do with the season.

Are you glad the marathon known as awards season is over for a few months?
It was fun while it lasted, but it was quite a rigmarole. That weekend is no joke. It’s a roller coaster. I don’t think I have ever worn more outfits over the course of four days than I did Emmy weekend. You barely sleep. You don’t eat. They feed you meat on a stick at these parties, and I am not eating a skewer in a borrowed cocktail dress with professional contacts all around me whom I am meeting for the first time while job-hunting. "Oh, hi, Chris O’Dowd, who I think is a genius, I just spit a little piece of sausage at you. Hope you don’t mind." "Game of Thrones cast, sorry my fingers were covered in teriyaki sauce when we shook hands." It is impractical, the food that they serve you. You can’t make that look cool. And you always wind up with like five cocktail napkins and there’s no trash cans because they don’t match the aesthetic, so you have to ask people at the tables if they mind if you leave your trash where they are eating. The struggles of awards season. Of course, no one will read this and feel sorry for me and my nominated-people problems.