[This story contains major spoilers from the season five finale of Fargo.]
When speaking about the essence of Fargo, show creator Noah Hawley says every season only needs two things: an element of crime, and decency. Few characters embodied those ideas better in season five than Witt Farr, the more than decent state trooper bravely battling a criminal element all season long to help out Juno Temple’s Dorothy Lyon.
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Played by New Girl and Woke alum Lamorne Morris, Farr barely made it out of the season premiere alive, when Sam Spruell’s menacing Ole Munch came knocking on Dot’s door. Unfortunately, Farr was not able to cheat death twice. Morris’ straight-and-narrow state trooper was the major casualty in the season five finale, killed by Jon Hamm’s menacing Roy Tillman. Farr pursued a fleeing Tillman into a tunnel, and had the man dead to rights, but decided he could not shoot in cold blood. That decent decision costs Farr his life, as Roy takes the opportunity to leap forward and plunge a knife in Farr’s chest, killing him almost instantly.
In the conversation below, The Hollywood Reporter checks in with Morris about Farr’s fate, when he found out that his character was getting killed off, and more about his time on the fifth iteration of Fargo.
When did you find out about Witt’s fate? Was it a shock when you read the finale script?
It wasn’t a shock. I knew partially through the season. When I first got the scripts, we didn’t know what was going to happen. And I want to say as the scripts started coming in, Noah gave me the heads up and it was like, “We think this is a good way to close it out.”
Did you agree?
Yes and no. (Laughs.) I knew the character needed to repay a debt. And giving your life is the ultimate sacrifice, when you die for a cause. And I do think that’s the kind of person Witt is. He’s someone who would literally jump in front of a bullet. So it made sense. It’s Fargo, and in typical Fargo fashion, you have to have some surprising or shocking deaths. Hopefully, it’s a memorable one!
What were creator Noah Hawley’s reasons for why this made sense thematically?
Again, we talked about the throughline of debt. That’s a major theme of this season. In fact, there was an episode that was cut … [where] they were going to have a debt meter and it was always going to track what this person owes, what that person owes. And it gets to my character and it says he owes nothing, except for he has to help this woman out and he won’t stop until he does. So Noah talked me through that in saying he would literally give his life for this. And unfortunately it happened. And again, I think a lot of it had to do with — and I want to say he said this to me, but maybe not — but, I’m a fan of Fargo. Season four, even though he’s running a criminal world, Chris Rock’s character, at the end, he just gets killed. You’re like, “what?” Season three, it’s Ewan McGregor. It’s like, all these things that just happened. And this one happened, too.
Talk me through filming the scene with Jon Hamm.
It was my last day of shooting. We don’t normally shoot a lot of things in order — and that was difficult because I’ve never had to do a death scene before. And you are waiting, you’re literally waiting months and months and months and months to do this. So it’s in the back of your head, you’re always thinking about it. You’re always thinking about it. That’s the part that was tough. And so in that moment, all that preparation, all that other stuff just goes out the window, because you are working across from the actor now. You’re working across from Jon Hamm, who is intimidating, who is very large. And he’s in character. So that just goes away, and then you start to react in the moment. So it wasn’t until after we finished that scene that I had to kind of reflect on it and go, “damn.” It’s a couple things. One, I’m done with this seven-month shoot, but also my character is dead. That was a lot to take in. But, I’m happy with it.
What were your initial calls like with Noah at the start of the season, when talking through Witt’s arc?
Noah likes to take meetings and then if he needs to see you read, he’ll ask for you to put something on tape. But in my case, we didn’t have to do that. We got on a Zoom and we talked about character, the story; we talked about where the season is potentially going and some of the themes. And we had about a 40-minute discussion, and afterwards he was just like, “I have a good feeling about these things, so I’d love to have you.” I was like, “Oh, awesome. Thank you, man.” What I should have said was, “You know what? I’ll think about it.” (Laughs.) But, that was it! I didn’t have to read, which was great, and also tricky.
Whenever you get an offer for something, you never know what about your past work they want to see, or what made them feel I was appropriate for this character. And Noah does such a great job of just understanding and then putting actors in places that fans or audiences may not have seen them in before. Again, we go back to Chris Rock, and Jason Schwartzman playing an Italian crime boss. You know what I mean? Stuff like that is crazy to me. And putting funny people in these scenarios. And in my character’s case, there’s not a lot of humor there, which a lot of fans were pleasantly surprised to see.
Yeah, Witt is very lawful good, on the moral alignment chart…
Exactly. And I had to figure out how to play that character, because normally, I am pure evil. (Laughs.) No, but it was difficult. When you read it, it doesn’t seem as daunting of a task as you might think. But when you’re an actor, and you’re playing it for real, and you’re finding out who the character is on a much deeper level… you’re walking around as the character, talking as the character. You don’t go full Daniel Day-Lewis or Jeremy Strong or whatever, but you’re an actor. That’s what we do. We figure it out.
I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I was nervous to watch it because it’s something a lot of fans of mine haven’t seen before. In my last show, Woke, there are a lot of serious moments and heavy moments, but on this show, it’s different. Because the character has some heavy moments, but there’s also a lot of action and tension. There are a lot of scenes in the hospital where I’m letting Dot know that I know what’s going on, but at the same time, you are claiming this didn’t happen… to play that real, even though it’s a silly circumstance? Playing it real, it’s tricky. I was so curious to see how it all turned out.
What was your reaction when you read through the script? And even though you’re not involved in it, the ending?
You know what I loved about it? You can read it, and it’ll paint a picture for you, but watching it? Those performances, man. Everyone in that last scene, please can we get them nominated? That was incredible stuff. It was like watching a play, watching just master actors do this thing. And Sam Spruell, watching him go from this person who’s been on this mission, this journey of however many hundreds of years journey, to go from that to being included in a family and figuring out if this is okay, but I have to kill you. That’s the plan, right? No. Watching him struggle with that was incredible.
What do you hope to take with you from Fargo moving forward in your career?
A couple of things. One of them for sure is you understand the difference a great filmmaker makes, especially in your performance. When I’m on set, a camera operator is telling me, “Hey, listen. So when you move here, I would kind of do it slowly because the camera is on this lens and it’s doing this and you’re going to look cool doing this.” It might not seem it, they’re coaching you through a lot of the cool moments. You don’t get that on a lot of projects. A lot of projects, you’re just guessing what the camera’s doing because you want to pretend that it’s not there. But with great filmmakers, they care about the shot as well. They care about how everything looks. It’s one painting for them, and they have to figure out the perfect way to craft it. So I want to continue to work with great filmmakers, people who I can learn from and who can teach me some things along the way.
And two, this cast. I fell in love with great actors. Again, when everyone is just so on top of their game, it was a beautiful thing to witness while you’re in the moment. Juno Temple is our leader on this one, and she just absolutely crushes it, which made my life a lot easier because she in the scene, is talking to you and communicating what she wants to do and what she needs and all this stuff, and it’s like, “oh man, I forgot about how awesome this part of the process was.” Because I’m so used to being silly and just telling dick jokes. (Laughs.) “Hey, look, I just did a bit about my butt!” There’s not a lot of coaching that goes into that!
Fargo season five is now streaming on Hulu.
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