TV Interview: Oliver Platt on Being Boss in ‘Fargo’

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Fargo” | 53 min. | TV-MA | Creator: Noah Hawley | Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman, Joey King, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt and Keith Carradine

If you have been keeping up with “Fargo” on FX, you would know how intense things have been getting. The show seems to be getting better and better by the week, due to its incredible writing and performances.

One of the performances that is worthy of note is Oliver Platt (“X-Men: First Class”), who plays Supermarket King, Stavros Milos.

Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with Platt about playing the king, the show’s ties to the original 1996 film, and his thoughts on modern television.

This past week we learned about the ice scraper and the money that ties things together to the original 1996 film, and I’m wondering how much of a back story were you given by Noah Hawley in order to prepare for your roll as Stavros?

Oliver Platt: “We developed this idea that he had come from Chicago with his family, and that he was just on hard times; a devout man on hard times who is given this ‘gift’ if you will. That was pretty much it. The material, itself, is pretty alive. That was pretty much it.”

We see Stavros kind of go from being sort of broken, and he believes God gave him this money, and then to who he is now, this man who has so much power, and he’s even calling himself the king. How do you think he evolved into the man he is when Malvo (Billy Bob Thorton) comes into his life?

Platt: “He built this extraordinary supermarket empire, and he’s been very, very focused on the externals. You get the sense that Malvo detects a certain amount, and he just has a nose for that kind of thing. He’s all about how everything’s looking. Obviously, he doesn’t really feel he deserves it, which is probably why he’s on some level, which is why he’s so focused on the theatricality of it all. I think that that’s where we are when Malvo shows up.”

Did you have any right of first refusal or any input on anything on the guy who got to play the young you, and how close was he?

Platt: “I thought they did a sensational piece of casting there myself. I was really surprised, and I thought that it was— clearly they had that crossfade in mind, and if you’re going to sell that there better be some architectural similarity there, you know? I thought he was marvelous. I really did.”

There’s that scene where all the crickets are in the store, and I am wondering if they were real or CGI.

Platt: “It was a pleasant mix. There were inanimate crickets, there were animate crickets, and then there were imaginary crickets. It was one of those classic green screen situations where you sort of—yet, with a lot of motion to it, too. It was a lot of fun to shoot, it was a lot of fun to shoot, and I thought that the way the concentric circles of chaos that were created in the market, itself, was delightfully realized.”

It certainly came over well. It all went very smoothly as planned, and no problems with all that?

Platt: “Yes. I think that so much of this stuff can be sort of laced in, in post. I don’t remember doing a tremendous amount of takes.”

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Oliver Platt plays Supermarket King, Stavros Milos, in “Fargo.” Photo courtesy of FX.

You worked in television when you were younger and starting out. Then you took a break and came back in the 2000s. What are your feelings on how TV has evolved?

Platt: “Depending on who you talk to, we’re in either the second or third golden age of American television, and the advent of the limited mini-series, as you observe, a marvelous thing for actors because, as you said, you don’t have to sign your life away. It’s also allowing television to do what really only television can do, which is novelize a—use the format, the serialized format, to tell us a story over a period of time and really get under the character’s skin. Television’s going strong.”

You were saying that the writing is so alive on this show. Do you think that the stuff you were looking at in the ages was written with less detail, maybe?

Platt: “Yes, certainly. Network television was very, very different and, again, it was about having closed episodes. Like I say, the fun part is to take part in a story that’s unfolding. People walk up to you on the street and they grab you by the lapels and they say, what’s going to happen next?”

Did you have any trepidation at all about starring in a show that’s based on a movie that’s so critically acclaimed that people still hold so dearly to their hearts?

Platt: “The answer is, absolutely. The stuff that I was shown, the story that I was told, the fact that Joel and Ethan Coen had blessed it was not insignificant. I have to say, I think that Noah’s done a pretty remarkable job of sort of threading that needle of writing in their tone, but sort of— he had his own voice, if you will and, to me, it’s pretty impressive stuff.”

And lastly, what do you think it is about Fargo that’s made it such a fast fan favorite?

Platt: “I think it’s a combination of the storytelling and the style. There’s something so compelling about exploring the menace and the loneliness beneath that culture; the people that ostensibly are incredibly polite, button down way of—the way that people relate to each other on a superficial level. I think that there’s a fascination to that, and then the fact that if good writing is compelling sequences of events then Noah’s really got that nailed.”

“Fargo” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. CT on FX.

About author

Preston Barta

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.