'Fargo,' the 10-part limited series coming to FX in April, is sort of like the acclaimed Coen brothers' film that inspired it, but also very different.
'It doesn't rely on the movie,' explains Billy Joe Thornton, a member of the show's extraordinary cast. 'While it pays great tribute and has the same tone … it's its own fresh thing.'
Thornton on Tuesday appeared at a panel session to promote the show during the Television Critics Association press tour. He told reporters that, four or five years ago, he wouldn't have committed himself to a TV series. But in the time since, he has witnessed the overall quality of big-screen films wane, while television has greatly improved.
'The entertainment business can pretend all they want but the movie world has changed drastically,' he said. 'It used to be that if you went to TV from film, something was wrong - like you might as well be on 'Hollywood Squares.' … But now, it's a feather in your cap to do a great television show.'
Thornton plays 'Lorne Malvo,' a rootless, manipulative man who meets and forever changes the life of small-town insurance salesman 'Lester Nygaard' (Martin Freeman). Colin Hanks plays Duluth Police Deputy 'Gus Grimly,' a single dad who must choose between his own personal safety and his duty as a policeman when he comes face-to-face with a killer. Allison Tolman also stars as 'Molly Solverson,' an ambitious Bemidji deputy.
The cast also includes Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh and Adam Goldberg.
An adaptation of the 1996 best-picture Oscar nominee from Joel and Ethan Coen, the TV version of 'Fargo' features an all-new 'true crime' and follows new characters, all entrenched in the trademark humor, murder and 'Minnesota nice' featured in the film, though it was filmed in Calgary.
'I don't think you need to watch the movie (to understand) the TV series,' said screenwriter Noah Hawley, who wrote all 10 episodes. 'I think you should watch it because it's a great movie, but you don't need to.'
The Coens are listed as executive producers, but haven't exerted a lot of influence on the project, according to Hawley.
'They read the first script and liked it. Then they just told me to go and make your show,' he said.
'Fargo' premieres April 15 at 10 p.m. on FX.