Ever since Billy Bob Thorton shambled onto the screen back in 2014, the best part of any season of the anthology series Fargo has been its inscrutable villains. Borrowing spiritually from an entirely different Coen Brothers movie, this series of Anton Chigurh-esque characters continue to float through Midwestern America doling out justice by their own moral codes. And Fargo Season 5 is no exception.
The show’s latest season features Sam Spruell as Ole Munch, a hired gun who plays by his own archaic rules and may or may not be a centuries-old Welsh supernatural being called the Sin Eater.
“Part way through the season we decided maybe it is Munch and that he could be 500 years old,” director Thomas Bezucha tells Inverse. “And if he's 500 years old, he can't die and he is cursed.”
Bezucha, who directs Season 5’s final two episodes and played a key role in the show’s writers room, says he took particular pleasure in crafting Munch’s character, though it’s hard to play favorites in a cast that includes Jon Hamm as an evil sheriff and Juno Temple as an unstoppable mama bear with a sugary sweet Minnesota accent.
In an interview with Inverse, Bezucha talks about working with Fargo Season 5’s incredible ensemble, the subtle Donald Trump Easter egg you might have missed, and what he knows about Fargo Season 6 (spoiler alert: it’s nothing).
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you wind up working on Fargo? Because I was looking at your IMDb and I couldn’t really draw a direct line from your filmography to this show.
Noah [Hawley] reached out after the last film I made, Let Him Go with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, and we just started talking. I was a huge fan of his and a massive fan of Fargo. And so when he called and said, “Would you want to work on the season?” I was like, “For sure.”
What specifically do you think it was about Let Him Go that got you this job? Are they similar?
A little bit. Also, half the crew from Fargo worked on Let Him Go, including Trevor Smith, the production designer who worked on both.
Noah and I have a pretty similar sense of humor and we like the same movies. There was enough for the Venn diagram that there was a big overlap. And I think in this season of Fargo, there's a lot about family and that's definitely in my wheelhouse. I love a dinner table scene. So I was happy to end the season with a dinner table.
Fargo always has great casts, but Season 5 is really amazing. I feel like everyone this season is trying to be like the Billy Bob Thorton of Season 1. But, in my opinion, Jon Hamm is the real standout. His character is just incredible. What was your approach when you were directing Hamm? And what did he bring to the character?
Jon's got such a great sense of humor, but it was a lot about containment for him. Maybe. There was a lot of speechifying, but some of the most powerful work he does is the silent work where you are following Roy who's not saying anything. When he's seething. I also loved the scenes between him and Lorraine and the confrontation in the shed with Dot. He's just great.
It was interesting to see him like a villain and a monster like that. I'd never quite seen that before. And he rose to the challenge, clearly. There's almost like a Mad Men vibe to his performance.
Yeah, psychopath. That's the word. Anyway, I think the obvious read for that character is he’s a bit of a metaphor for Trump, right? He's this sort of messianic conservative political leader. He’s sending money to very fringe right-wing militias. Do you think that's accurate? Do you think that's what the show is going for or is there more to it than that?
Yeah, it's interesting. It's about power, for sure. I would imagine that Roy is more of a believer in what he says than some politicians. I think Roy is less political and more of a believer in a certain worldview.
And then I think he's undone by this irrational feeling for Dot. That thing he says to Bowman: “The most I ever felt was for that person and I never want to feel like that again." There's something about Dot that's his undoing for sure. Weirdly, she's a good mad match because she's the one who doesn't back down. She's not cowed by him when she's chained in front of him and she's threatening to kill him. There's something about the match of wills. I think it's her willfulness that confounds him.
Yeah, that's a great dynamic. I guess it's a good segue to flip it and talk about directing Juno Temple and working with her in those scenes. What was your approach? What sort of advice did you give her and what did you learn from her in seeing her act in these episodes?
There's not a more dedicated person on the planet to the work than Juno, and she was very protective of Dot and Dot's story. We talked a lot — Juno and Noah and I — about that. The thing about Dot is her resilience. She's never a victim. She never sees herself as a victim. She doesn't ever really break down. I'm going to do what I need to do to get back to my family and I will cry about it later, but not now. And there's just that relentless drive of hers and that willfulness. She's pretty steely and she'll do anything to get back to her family.
I wanted to ask about the music in the season. I thought there were some really incredible needle drops, including the scene in Episode 9 where “Y.M.C.A.” plays while the militias are arriving at Roy’s ranch, which is so funny. How did that come about and why do you think it worked so well in that scene?
I can take zero credit for it. That's all Noah Hawley and Regis [Kimble] the editor. But “Y.M.C.A.” is popularly used at Trump rallies, which, I mean, it's just crazy.
Noah has his encyclopedic knowledge of music. So that's all him. He found that crazy “I’ve Got You Babe” cover by Tiny Tim that plays in episode three. That's so scary. It's great.
There's also that great cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” But I didn't make the Trump rally connection. That's really interesting. So the one other character I want to talk about was Sam Spruell as Ole Munch. That is such an unnerving performance and so powerful. What was it like working with Sam?
I had the privilege of being part of the whole process all the way through. I was one of the writers in the room talking a lot about the Munch character.
OK, so can you explain Munch to me? What even is he? Is he human?
There's the thing in Wales, the Sin Eater. I think it was originally meant to be an ancestor of Munch. But part way through the season we decided maybe it is Munch and that he could be 500 years old. And if he's 500 years old, he can't die and he is cursed.
You see it in the writing and Sam's performance. He speaks about himself in the third person. He doesn't say me or I, he says “a man.” There’s this dissociative quality to his presence on the Earth.
He can disappear. He can appear. I loved him. He's sort of the Anton Chigurh, or who's the guy on the motorcycle in Raising Arizona? He's just this elemental force that's blowing through this landscape.
I adore Sam Spruel. He's a brilliant actor, but I don't think that was the easiest space to occupy for as long as he had to with that crazy haircut. I think it was pretty lonely.
That’s fascinating. Well, you answered all my questions about Season 5, but I feel like I should ask about what comes next. Have you talked at all with Noah about Fargo Season 6? Have there been any discussions? I think we all want the show to continue, but I don't know what's happening.
You're not alone. We've had no substantive conversations. I got my fingers crossed.