Last week’s episode of Fargo introduced Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as the FBI agents who completely miss it when Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo strolls by brandishing a machine gun and proceeds to shoot up the crime syndicate the hapless feds have been staking out. Unsurprisingly, executive producer Noah Hawley calls them the show’s own Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Currently hard at work on the upcoming third season of Key & Peele (featuring Hillary Clinton’s anger translator), the sketch comedy duo took a quick time-out to chat with Vulture about what’s ahead for agents Pepper and Budge and preliminary casting ideas for the Police Academy reboot they’re producing.
Lorne Malvo and his hair walk right in front of them, and they don’t notice. That’s some real suspension of disbelief right there.
Key: Such a peculiar-looking human being and they’re not paying any attention. They’re talking about preservatives, for God’s sake. There’s a little bit of an aftermath you’ll see in episodes eight and nine, and then some really cool stuff happens in ten.
How did you you guys get cast on Fargo?
Key: We just got an offer. It wasn’t until we met Noah that we got any sense of why he wanted us.
Peele: We just knew that he liked our show. We have several movies in the works, but in general I think Keegan and I are pretty wary of overloading and overselling the comedy team aspect because we don’t want to be pigeonholed in that way. But because we love the Coen brothers and because we love Fargo, and there was this amazing script, it was a real no-brainer. If there was ever a good reason to appear as “Key and Peele,” this is it.
You play agents Webb Pepper and Bill Budge, which sounds like the Coen brothers version of the East/West College Bowl.
Peele: [Laughs.] Totally. Noah told us when we got there that he thought of us as the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the series.
Well, now missing Malvo makes sense.
Key: They’re like two poor flies just flying along who get pulled into this web. When we got to Calgary to shoot episodes seven and eight, they did not have finished scripts for nine and ten, so we didn’t know exactly their fate.
Do they wind up being as interchangeable as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
Peele: No. Keegan’s character is the philosophical guy, and I’m the pragmatist.
Key: They’re like the two flat-footed detectives from Barton Fink. They’re a little more competent than we are, but it’s not even a matter of them being competent. It’s a matter of them being too myopic for their own good. It’s crazy. They spent all of this time tracking this syndicate, and this thing, this massacre, happens right in front of them.
Jordan, your character doesn’t have much to say so far.
Peele: Yeah, that dynamic evolved a little bit, but these guys actually felt like an extension of our real-life personalities. Like I said, Keegan’s character is the dime-store philosopher. His mind is too open, and mine is too closed. I had no problem taking the backseat energy-wise and focusing on the guy who’s got his eye on the prize.
All your scenes took place outside in last week’s episode. Conserving energy may not be a bad idea.
Peele: Oh my God. Calgary was the coldest place we’ve ever been. We got out of the airport and looked at each other like, “Okay, this won’t work.” I mean, it was colder than the inside of a freezer, and I’m not saying that as hyperbole. That is actually how cold it was. The guy who was laying on the ground playing dead, his hands are steaming and he’s just shivering. We felt so bad. We couldn’t shoot for more than four minutes at a time. But that being said, Calgary was strangely beautiful. It’s got the steam coming out of all the buildings; it has that low light. It’s a very cool town.
Colin Hanks was on Key & Peele last year. Any plans to bring in anyone else from Fargo to guest-star next season?
Peele: We’re actively trying to find a perfect fit for Allison Tolman, and we also bonded with Bob Odenkirk, so that would be a dream for us if we could get him to come out and do something. We’re so in awe of Billy Bob Thornton that we probably won’t ask for fear he would say no and we would ruin the great relationship that we made. I’m half joking. He really is such a nice, warm dude. We don’t have the best roles to offer people in Key & Peele. Often people will have to take the backseat to some stupid character we’re doing. At the same time, I think it has evolved into kind of a cool little club to come and do a little piece on.
You’re also working on the reboot of Police Academy. Have you talked about characters or actors from the original whom you want to include?
Peele: There are certain things that seem almost like they have to happen. Winslow seems to be the thing that everybody — he’s kind of become the real icon from the franchise more than anyone else. I would be speaking way prematurely to say that is definitely going to happen, but the last conversation we had was, “Okay, what would that be if he came back?” Let’s put it this way: If we use any character from the old series, it would be Michael Winslow.
The McFerrin vs. Winslow sketch has to seal the deal, right?
Peele: Yeah, and we’ve had some contact with him over Twitter, too. When we first did that sketch, he reached out and said he loved it. We’ve been trying to find a place for him in our show, but he’s such a unique talent. It’s got to be written for him. You can’t just plug Michael Winslow into a scene and say, “Okay, no mouth noises, though, Michael.”