Noah Hawley Breaks Down How to Write a ‘Fargo’ Story

TCA 2015: FX anthology series showrunner has a tried-and-true formula

FX Fargo Noah Hawley
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Aspiring TV writers, listen up: Noah Hawley just detailed exactly how to write a “Fargo” story.

Thanks to the cult classic status of the Coen Brothers 1996 film and its Emmy Award-winning TV adaptation last year, “Fargo” is now evocative of both a geographic place and a “truth is stranger than fiction” plot, Hawley explained to reporters during the show’s Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour panel on Friday.

To successfully write within that world, one must understand, respect and revere those aspects — as well as utilize the below roadmap.

“You meet the criminals before the crime is committed, right? It’s not a whodunit, there’s no mystery,” he began. “And you don’t meet law enforcement until the crime has been committed.”

Of course, it’s not as simple as just that.

“Then there’s a certain moral spectrum that you’re on, where — to use the movie as an example — you usually have a character who is basically a very purely good person and on the opposite pole, there’s usually some element of monstrosity,” Hawley continued. “Then I think in the middle there’s usually some characters who could go one way or the other. And that’s the interesting moral dynamic.”

This year, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons’ characters pretty much exist in that middle ground, the same area where Martin Freeman’s character hovered over Hawley’s Season 1 and William H. Macy’s lived in the movie version. The fun lies in seeing which side they all shake out to by the end, Hawley said.

Viewers can begin to see what way the newbies are headed Oct. 12 on FX. Hawley teased of Season 2: “There are a lot of bad people sort of on a collision course … who will emerge?”