8:11pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Fargo' Star Jack Huston Talks Season 4: "It's the Most Exciting Leap of Faith I've Ever Taken"
[This story contains spoilers for the penultimate episode of Fargo season four, "Happy."]
Given the content of the series and the fact that 20 main characters and change are at his disposal (not to mention a strange ghostly figure popping up on occasion), it was only a matter of time before Noah Hawley started removing some of the sprawling Fargo season four cast from the board in violent fashion — and that time is decidedly here.
Only one episode remains in the fourth season of FX's crime anthology series, with much still in the air as all hell breaks out between two rival syndicates. Among the unresolved concerns: a gas station and a couple of major players, including Rabbi Milligan (Ben Whishaw), lifted up, up and away into the great unknown at the end of the antepenultimate black-and-white hour.
The penultimate installment, "Happy," delivers even more death as war between Loy Cannon (Chris Rock) and the Fadda brothers escalates — one of the Faddas themselves, in fact, the human tank known as Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), killed by his own clumsy brutality. Gaetano's death is an odd aftershock of an even more tragic slaying: war veteran and Kansas City police detective Odis Weff, played by Boardwalk Empire alum Jack Huston. Caught between both sides of the war and making a long list of terrible choices as a result, Odis, who suffers from OCD, finds himself on the receiving end of the Faddas' wrath — shot multiple times in the chest after his illness prevents him from escaping harm's way.
It's a crushing ending for one of the more complicated figures on this season of Fargo, which always features both a police officer and a down-on-his-luck, in-over-his-head individual at the heart of the story. (See: William H. Macy in the Coen brothers' film, and the FX series' previous seasons featuring Martin Freeman, Jesse Plemons and a pair of Ewan McGregors.) Unlike those previous stories, in season four, the intrepid cop and the hapless criminal are the same person: Odis Weff, embodied by Huston, who reaches a semblance of peace with his occupation toward the end of his life, but not enough to erase his own history of violence.
Ahead of the coming season four finale, Huston joins The Hollywood Reporter for one last look at the life and times of Odis Weff, the work that went into bringing the tragic figure to life, and much more.
As an actor, you can enter a project like Fargo knowing its identity to a certain extent. At the same time, you also know each year features its own characters, its own story. How do you sort through those two ideas — the expectations from what you've seen and the openness to something new — at the start of a season?
It's funny, because with other shows, I think one goes in a little more cautious, with a slight trepidation. But when it comes to Fargo … I remember watching that first season. In fact, I remember reading about it before even seeing it. I was thinking, "What is Noah Hawley thinking, turning this classic film into a show?" I watched it, and it was this moment of the heavens opening. I personally think it might be the best first season of television I've seen. He's set the bar so high. What he's continued to do season for each season is reinvent it, reestablish his mark of what he's trying to do. If it was something else, it would be a bit more of an ask to go into this blind. And that's basically what we're asked to do in this: Noah calls you and says, "Do you want to sit down and have a chat?" And at that moment, you jump up and down.
I didn't even know they were going to do another season. I really thought I missed the boat. I was just like, "Please, please, if they do another season, I will go and start banging on their door. I want to be a part of it so badly." Funny enough, I got the call out of the blue. I was so grateful. I went and sat with Noah and he gave me a very slight overview of what he was planning on doing: "It's going to be 1950s, Kansas City, and it's about the different factions … and about finding one's own place, and about all of us being immigrants at heart." He touched upon who he was thinking about for me to play. There are only a few people to whom you say "yes" before you know anything, and he was one of those people; in the room, I just said, "Yes, please. Anything."
What were some of the details about Odis he told you about during that meeting?
"He's a detective in the Kansas City Police Department, and he's suffering from severe OCD." And that was all he told me. That was it. It's a bit of a deep dive. Back in the day when you would get these [offers], you would have auditioned or you would have seen [the show]. That's one thing about [Fargo] changing every season; you have nothing to go off of. You know he's going to be completely reinventing it every season. So it's a leap of faith. But it's the most exciting leap of faith I've ever taken. I don't particularly like watching myself in things; I find it incredibly uncomfortable. This was one of the first times where I didn't necessarily want to watch myself, but I wanted to watch the show so bad because I read it on the page, and I desperately wanted to see all of these different actors bring it to life. It's my wheelhouse. I love this stuff. It was so exciting and fun every time you were on set because you're constantly surprised by the choices people were making, and the casting itself. Noah's so great at that. He often goes against type. He's often doing something very new.
What went into developing your performance as Odis, specifically how he suffers from OCD?
I got a few of the scripts before we started filming, which is when I started seeing the backbone of the character. This is a time where people didn't know about OCD. People are calling him "Twitch." People say he has sin in his heart. People don't see it as a condition. They think he has something wrong with him. I looked at a lot of different stuff. Funny enough, my grandfather [John Huston] made this incredible documentary [about] World War II called Let There Be Light. It was about a post-traumatic stress ward where some people came back from the war without the ability to speak. They had such a severe stammer. They couldn't walk, even if there was nothing wrong with their legs. It was the magnitude of what these people had been through and what they had seen.
This season, we're playing with this great question about how a lot of these people went and fought in the war. This is post-war. You would have lost brothers, sisters and other people. Chris Rock's character says to me at one point, "Why would I fight for a country that wants me dead?" It's such an interesting question. Everybody's trying to fight because they felt very displaced after the war. Everyone is trying to make their own way in the world. Usually in Fargo, the cop is the moral compass and the moral high ground. They're the goodness, starting with the film and Frances McDormand as Marge; she was this innately good human being. This season is the first time the cop is being shown as very morally compromised.
With Odis, I went deep into how he's suffered from this terrible affliction since childhood. He's suffered in a world that didn't know it was a condition. They thought something was wrong with him. He's been on the beaten end of everyone else's comments. He's desperately tried to make his own way. After coming out of the war, being a bomb-sweeper, and finding out what's happened with him … good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. I think he was trying very hard to put himself in a position of power, because he was never in a position of power. He thought that power would instill a little calmness and maybe overcome some of this stuff. Normally, he's at the shoe end of things. Instead, he finds himself between a rock and a hard place, because he gets under the thumb of the Faddas, and then under the Cannons, and he's torn back and forth, and then Deafy (Timothy Olyphant) comes in. He suddenly loses all of that power, and suddenly it's tenfold. Everything is exaggerated. One thing I find with the character is he's incredibly sympathetic. Yes, he's done bad things, but under it all, he's a very flawed human being who was dealt a really crappy hand in life. The more research I did, the more I fell in love with him. He spoke so much to me.
What do you hope people are left with at the end of Odis' journey?
A lot of this season is about perception. It's about how people look at one another. It's a general thing to say, but, it really does relate very much to today's world. We take so much on surface. We don't realize that so much happens underneath. There's so much more to every story. That's one of the coolest things about this job. I didn't know about Odis ahead of time. I was reading him as the episodes came in. I was given that little bit from Noah, and he told me a little more as we went along, but it was really fascinating how he touched on something very present and relevant in today's world as much as it was back then, and hundreds of years before that. Thousands of years. I hope by the end of this [season], I hope Odis was a bit of a surprise. You look at him and think he's a Fargo-y character. But there was so much depth to him. There was a lot of struggle. I hope people feel bad for him … and when I say "feel bad," I mean I hope they understand him. There's beauty in all of these characters, in a strange way. That might be a weird thing to say, or a fluffy thing to say, but I really did leave this show feeling like I disappeared. I felt like I went very far into Odis. There was this amazing moment of calm at the end: You can see [at the end], Odis is happy.
Interview edited for length and clarity.