Stavros Milos is literally plagued.
It’s not simply unfortunate that he is being blackmailed; the problem for Milos is that Lorne Malvo has come into his life and decided to make him a target. These two form one of several ongoing stories in the limited series ‘Fargo,’ a Coen brothers-approved and Noah Hawley-written continuation of the 1996 feature film.
A variety of characters living in or passing through Minnesota find evil: either stirred from within or incidentally encountered. Milos, portrayed by veteran stage and screen actor Oliver Platt, came from meager beginnings to eventually build up a supermarket empire with a little help from a gift from God in the form of a bagful of money.
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Enter the maniacal drifter Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) to do what he does best: cause chaos and wreak havoc. Taking up a blackmail plot from an inept fitness instructor against the supermarket baron, Malvo proceeds to unleash a hoard of crickets in Milos’ store, replace shower water with pig’s blood, switch back pain medication with Adderall, and kill his dog.
“His head has been so successfully messed with, so artfully screwed with, and it’s just a delicious sort of menu of obstacles for an actor,” explains Platt during a recent conference call with reporters. “Is it God? Is it my ex? Who could possibly be doing, or orchestrating these things? On top of that, his medication has been messed with, [and so is] the way he’s perceiving [everything]. Orchestration actually isn’t a bad word to describe the whammy that [Malvo] put on me.”
The series passed the halfway mark last night with “The Six Ungraspables,” a reference to a Zen koan about the mind, with Malvo further manipulating Milos (and revealing even darker beliefs), and Milos in turn ready to completely snap. The aforementioned fitness instructor Don Chumph (Glenn Howerton) is interested in the money from the blackmail, while Malvo just enjoys malevolence. So look out Milos, there is likely worse to come.
Echoing the sentiments of other cast members, Platt praised Hawley’s script, one that drew in the actor instantly and required little to no changes.
“It’s just such a muscular arc, you know?” remarked Platt. “One of the first things you’re looking at is, where does the guy start and where does he end and how do they get him there? That’s what we yearn for as actors, is that sort of distance to travel, and Noah laid that out in spades.”
“It was a story that took this guy and took everything that he believed in and turned it on its head, and he didn’t know who it was, who was doing it to him,” continued Platt. “And that’s the brilliance of the scheme, the ninja mind tricks.”
Milos is one of many characters in this plot-driven, ensemble drama that occupies a desolate landscape where happiness appears on the surface but something more troubling and even desperate lurks underneath. Malvo has also subverted the worlds of Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks), while his foil, the just and earnest Deputy Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman), continues her quest to solve a series of murders and bring down the drifter.
“I think it’s a combination of the storytelling and the style,” Platt said of the attraction and success of the series thus far. “There’s something so compelling about exploring the menace and the loneliness beneath that culture; the people that ostensibly are incredibly polite, button down, and the way that people relate to each other on a superficial level. I think that there’s a fascination to that.”
There are still five episodes to go, but the numerous stories are starting to come together more than they are unraveling. Surely not everyone will survive this ordeal, but Platt did tease a moment from next week that didn’t only shake the character, but the actor too.
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“There’s a scene that takes place in Episode 6 that was pretty intense, and we were in, I think, 10 degree below weather doing this stuff over and over again,” said Platt of shooting in and around Calgary, Alberta. “It helps in terms of you’re putting yourself in the position of what the character’s going through with Mother Nature giving you a huge assist. The landscape is a very well chosen location in terms of feeding that sense of the expanse and sort of the desolation and maybe the loneliness of those people.”
In all, Platt is confident and amazed with what has been told and what’s to come -- we still can only speculate as to who will live and who will die, and everyone seems fair game.
“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,” said Platt. “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 he had his own voice, and it’s pretty impressive stuff.”
‘Fargo’ continues Tuesday nights at 10/9c on FX.