How Mary Elizabeth Winstead Semi-Hijacked ‘Fargo’ (Exclusive Video)

The Emmy contender has sneakily become the heart of the FX series

People were impressed in the first episode of “Fargo” Season 3 at how well Mary Elizabeth Winstead could play bridge: How confidently she moved the cards! How convincingly she guided her partner!

What they didn’t know is that she’d also learned to drive a big-rig semi

“I’d never driven a stick-shift before in my life,” Winstead told TheWrap. (You can watch her full interview above.)

Viewers finally got to see her character, Nikki Swango, pull an out-of-nowhere big-rig hijacking in Wednesday’s episode of the FX masterpiece. Winstead, like her parolee, card-shark character, has a lot of abilities you never saw coming.

A few years ago, for example, the actress formed a dreamy musical duo, Got a Girl, when on-set collaborators like Quentin Tarantino kept noting the musicality of her singing voice.

“Fargo” is a great vehicle for her gifts. Swango is a hothead, but also a sublime schemer. A lover who sees the hero in her balding, potbellied partner. A woman who takes a horrific beating, but ices down and comes back for vengeance. A Chicagoan surrounded by Minnesota nice.

Winstead and “Fargo” creator Noah Hawley have been talking since the show’s spectacular start about her taking a role. Swango was finally the right one.

“She’s so not polite,” Winstead said. “She’s so not Minnesota nice. She’s very brash and bold and in your face … It just feels so much more like she’s in her body and not sort of pretending to be something other than what she is. So many characters on ‘Fargo’ tend to get into that territory where they’re being so nice even though they’ve got these dark, sinister things going on.”

Going into “Fargo,” everyone expected to be wowed by Ewan McGregor, pulling off a skillful double role as twin brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy, the latter of whom was the parole officer boyfriend of Winstead‘s Swango. We knew we would sympathize with Carrie Coon as technology averse, recently demoted police chief Gloria Burgle.

What we didn’t know was that Swango would sneakily transform from a small-time villain to our ultimate hero. She hits you out of nowhere, unexpectedly, devastatingly.

Like a semi.