For Chris Rock, who has spent his career trying to avoid what he calls “the Eddie Murphy handbook” that Hollywood has for breakout Black comedians, Fargo was the perfect opportunity.
Season 4 of FX’s anthology crime series, inspired by the 1996 film, is set in 1950 Kansas City, where the head of the Black crime family (Rock’s Loy Cannon) trades youngest sons with the head of the Italian mafia in an effort to help keep the peace between them.
His character “doesn’t exist” on TV or film, said Rock, who had to wait much longer than expected to show audiences what he calls the best role he’s ever had. Season 4 was supposed to debut in April, until the coronavirus shut down production in March with two episodes still to film. Filming resumed last month and wrapped a couple weeks ago; Season 4 will now debut Sunday on FX, with episodes available to stream on Hulu the following day.
“The break helped me, honestly,” Rock told reporters earlier this month, explaining that the hiatus gave him a chance to recharge and refocus after being “exhausted” as the shoot went on. “I don’t want the world to have Covid, but I think my last two shows are my best.”
Earlier this year, prior to the production delays, Adweek sat down with Rock and Fargo creator/showrunner Noah Hawley to talk about Season 4, the advantage of airing on both FX and Hulu, and why each of them chose to reimagine a film franchise (Hawley had been hired last to write and direct a new Star Trek movie, although Paramount paused those plans in August; Rock is executive producing and starring in Sprial, a reimagining of the Saw horror films, which is due out next May).
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Adweek: Noah, talk about your relationship with Fargo when it comes to doing another season. Is there pressure hanging over your head to come up with a new idea, or do you sit back and wait for inspiration to come to you?
Hawley: There’s always a scenario, for lack of a better word. [For Season 1] it’s two men in emergency room. And one of them’s a very civilized man, and the other is the opposite. And then you go, ‘That’s interesting. Who are they and what happens next?’ Or [for Season 2,] a woman drives home with a man sticking out of the windshield of her car, makes dinner for her husband—so there’s always something like that, which is a starting point that that tends to come a bit out of the blue.
And for this year, it was, ‘There’s two crime families, and in order to keep the peace, they trade their youngest sons’—and that seemed really interesting to me and fertile. And the time period was attractive to me to look at because it’s always a story about America, and 1950 was a really pivotal part of American history. So it comes to me like that, and then I start to go, ‘Well, who are these families? And who are the children they swap?’
How does Chris enter the picture? Who makes the first move in this relationship?
Rock: Not me! [laughs]
Hawley: I came up with this idea that it’s the character that would ultimately be Loy. It’s the Italians and the African American group and I just thought, ‘Oh, that guy’s Chris Rock.’ And so literally, I called Chris—I didn’t have a script, all I had was this the setup—and said, ‘Come and do this with me.’