The accents employed by the people of “Fargo” are an evolutionary adaptation against loneliness: flat, inoffensive tones with occasionally chirpy vowels, reminiscent of bird calls, to lull neighbors into feeling neighborly. It’s not how Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Nikki Swango talks at all.
Winstead’s Swango, the bridge-master parolee instigator of “Fargo” Season 3, is from Chicago. It’s pretty normal for “Fargo” to take place outside of “Fargo” — it covers pretty much the entire region covered by the North Dakota-Minnesota accent. But Chicagoans had no need to adopt it. They’ve historically been bounded together so tightly that that they never needed of “Minnesota Nice,” the consciously exaggerated cheeriness of their Great Lakes neighbors to the Northwest. In such close quarters, they rely on strategy and guile.
Winstead’s character started out with the same accent as the other characters, until “Fargo” creator Noah Hawley decided Swango should be from Chicago. Everything fell into place.
“She’s so not polite,” Winstead told TheWrap. “She’s so not Minnesota nice. She’s very brash and bold and in your face. And then once I started doing her with the Chicago accent it made so much more sense. … 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 in ‘Fargo’ tend to get into that territory where they’re being so nice even though they’ve got these dark, sinister things going on.”
Winstead also talked to us about why Nikki loves Ray Stussey (Ewan McGregor so much), and why after “Fargo” she’d be well-qualified for a stint on “Ice Road Truckers.”
Watch the video above, and come back for more of our interview with Mary Elizabeth Winstead.