Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Fresh Fiction spoke with series star and native Texan Allison Tolman recently. We talked to her about her experience making “Fargo,” working with all the cast, and what Dallas taught her about being an adult.
On the show you play a police deputy whose job is to sometimes question people, like Lester. And as a guy whose job is to interview filmmakers and talent about their filming experience, what, in your opinion, is the art to a good interrogation?
Allison Tolman: “[Laughs] Learning your lines well. No, I think that certainly the way that it’s written and certainly the way that we tried to play it is that I think you just have to remember to listen to everything that your scene partner, or in your case your interviewee, is telling you, not just with their words but with their body and their eyes, and pick up on things that will help lead you to what your next question should probably be. In my case, hoping that that will help you crack the case.”
And playing a female officer in the series, were you kind of afraid of being compared to Frances McDormand of the 1996 film?
Tolman: “Certainly that fear was there. And I knew going in that these characters were really different and that the character of Molly was really strong in her own right. But it was definitely a concern of mine, and especially as a newcomer, you know, you don’t come out the gate as a singer and try to compare with Judy Garland. So, it was scary for me to come into this role, I knew people associated with her, the comparisons were nerve-wracking. But I think that we’ve proven in the past few episodes and since we’ve started that these characters are different enough that people can draw parallels between them, but they don’t have to be pitted against each other. So, I feel a little bit of that pressure has been taken off.”
For sure. I know this a common interviewer question, but I’m genuinely curious. This is pretty much your first big role, and I am curious how you got it and how it was for you?
Tolman: “My background is in theater and a little bit of sketch, and I was in Chicago when I booked the role, just kind of working at my day job and doing auditions here and there, but not really booking anything. And I put myself on tape for ‘Fargo,’band then sort of walked out of the room and forgot about it and went about my daily life. And then a few weeks later they called me and asked me to come in and test in New York, and then five days after that they called and told me that I had the role. So, it’s kind of a quick unfolding and a really fast way for your life to change that much overnight.”
I would certainly say so. And to get this part with such an amazing cast.
Tolman: “Yes! It was certainly overwhelming. I think that when I first got the call I was probably in shock. Noah Hawley, the writer and creator, made the call and told me that I had the role. And the way he tells it I said, ‘thank you’ very politely, and then I had to get off the phone because I had to go back to work. So, I know inside I was definitely freaking out and losing my mind, but he said I was very calm and composed at the time. So, yes, it was intimidating, but luckily once I got there everyone was so kind and patient and welcoming I didn’t have a lot to worry about.”
Tolman: “There is a favorite scene that I have that I got to film with Colin Hanks, and it’s in episode 8. And the really nice thing about it is that we had permission when we played it to not feel like we had to speak too quickly, that it was okay to have some silence in there, and it was okay for these two people to just exist in the same space for a little while. And that one was really special. It was really fun to play that and to not feel like— because I talk a lot in the show and I do a lot of police talk and I have to relay a lot of facts, so getting to just sit with my character, Molly and Gus to just sit together and have not as much to say was really nice as an actress to be able to play with that.”
I’m calling from Dallas. And I read that Dallas is where you felt like you learned to be an adult, and I was curious how that came to be.
Tolman: “Yes, I went to Dallas as soon as I got out of college, which getting out of college is like the scariest time in anyone’s life, I think, because you suddenly have to actually leave the school system and figure out what you’re going to do. So, yes, Dallas is where I figured out how to balance a checkbook and that you had to have a job, and you couldn’t go back to your parents and say, ‘I need some more money for the food.’ So, yes, Dallas has a really special place in my heart because I spent that time there. And in addition, that’s where I started my career and that’s kind of where I grew my résumé, and it was really kind to me, theatrically and commercially. I did a lot of work there.”
Since you spent most of your life in Texas and recently moved to Chicago. What was it like shooting in Calgary?
Tolman: “Calgary is beautiful, and I had a really good time there. And I think that, yes, coming from Chicago I had a little bit of training for that cold, so that was helpful. It certainly gets colder in Calgary than it does in Chicago. And it was a long winter.”
What did you during your free time during shooting to decompress and enjoy the beautiful Calgary winters?
Tolman: “We spent quite a bit of time together off set, go to dinner together, etc., go see movies or whatever, so that was kind of how we spent our time. You’re on location and everybody’s away from their families, and so you kind of bond pretty quickly, because you’re the people that you have to spend time with, which helps with those days that you do have hard scenes or you have depressing days that are long days, you can spend time with the people that you’ve met.”
And I am about to exit college. Do you have any advice for me as I step out into the real world?
Tolman: “Oh man. You know, just remember that no job is worth being unhappy, so if you’re at a job that you don’t like you should find a different one. And just remember that everybody’s been through it and everybody survives into their 30s, and it’s a lot easier by the time you get to that point. You’ve gotten into a good rhythm.”
I think so, too. Thanks, Allison.
“Fargo” airs on Tuesdays at 10/9c only on FX.
Feature Photo: Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson in “Fargo.” Photo courtesy of FX Network.
Center Photo: Molly Solverson (Tolman) investigating Lester’s (Martin Freeman) house in “Fargo.” Photo courtesy of FX Network.