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The Woodchipper Beckons
July 23, 2014  | By Ed Bark

BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- The woodchipper beckons.

Flush with 18 Emmy nominations for FX's Fargo, executive producer/head writer Noah Hawley (top) half-jokingly fears the worst as he begins piecing together a followup that will be set 27 years earlier, tell an all-new story and be without any of the actors who made the first season so special. That includes breakout newcomer Allison Tolman, whose dedicated deputy sheriff Molly Solverson arguably stole the show from Billy Bob Thornton's malevolent Lorne Malvo.

"The subtitle will be Fargo: Backlash," Hawley told a hotel ballroom full of TV writers during the climactic session of FX's all-day lineup of panels. "And I look forward to all of your reviews."

Hawley, whose two most recent pre-Fargo writing credits are the short-lived ABC series My Generation and The Unusuals, in reality doesn't expect it to be that bad.

"As long as I  don't get lazy and continue to challenge myself, and keep pushing for what makes the show great in my mind as a storyteller, then I hope the response will be just as good," he said after the formal session. "It's not gonna be a repeat of what we did before."

Hawley and co-executive producer Warren Littlefield (who ran the NBC network entertainment division from 1993 to 1998) were unusually and refreshingly specific in outlining Season 2 of Fargo, which likely won't premiere until fall 2015. Production is scheduled to begin in January, with Calgary again the hub. But this time around,  circa 1979, the story will be set in the tri-state area of Luverne, MN, Sioux Falls, SD and, of course, Fargo, ND.

Freezing cold and ample snow, which in effect were supporting characters in FX's sequel and the Coen brothers' Oscar-winning1996 Fargo feature film, will not necessarily persist throughout Season 2 of the series.

"I think, going forward, it would be fun to start in a wintery environment and then maybe switch over during the course of a season," Hawley said. "Or if we do a third one of these, come back and say, 'It's summer in Fargo.' Because we love mosquitoes."

The only main carryover characters from Season 1 are Lou Solverson as a 33-year-old state police officer newly returned from Vietnam (played this last season by Keith Carradine, left) and his four-year-old daughter, Molly. Lou's wife, Betsy, will be seen for the first time. Her father is the sheriff of Rock County, MN, which includes Luverne.

"I don't know if we'll see any other Solversons. I haven't gotten that far yet," Hawley said. "But I am excited to spend some time with Molly's mom. It's not just her dad that gave her (Molly) her spirit."

"I spoke to Allison Tolman (below, right) this morning and told her that unless she could channel her four-year-old self, we weren't going to be able to have her in Season 2," Hawley added. "Which is a crime and a tragedy. And you should all be very angry at us for doing that because I would like nothing more than to see the continuing adventures of Molly and Gus (played by Colin Hanks in Season 1). But it felt like it would just be disingenuous -- in the service of 'truthiness' -- to give them another crazy Coen Brothers case."

There's been no announced new casting yet.  But both Hawley and Littlefield stress that "tone," not a marquee name such as Thornton, is the essential DNA of Fargo.

Littlefield, who rejected an earlier Fargo pilot while at NBC, is the good shepherd of FX's version via the production company he formed after leaving the network. This is his first real success story away from NBC and "it feels sensational," Littlefield said after the session.

The 62-year-old New Jersey native said he hadn't been in a cold weather climate for 35 years. But he hunkered down in Calgary for the duration of the Season 1 shoot.

"It was sometimes 30 degrees below zero, the winds were howling and we were freezing our asses off," Littlefield said. "I loved it. We knew we were doing something special. I didn't want to delegate. I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't want to let go."

Hawley said he was "surprised every time I looked over and he (Littlefield) was there. I thought, 'Dude you own an island, don't you? What are you doing here?' "

Season 2 of Fargo will begin in Luverne and "then ultimately it escalates to a big showdown in Sioux Falls," said Littlefield, who again plans to be on site from start to finish. Hawley said he's not yet sure how the story will end, but "I'll know before we start shooting."

Season 1 of Fargo drew on elements from two other Coen brothers' films, No Country For Old Men and A Serious Man, Hawley said. Season 2 will borrow in bits and pieces from Miller's Crossing and The Man Who Wasn't There. "So let the Internet speculation begin," Hawley said.

Still, he's emphatically not interested in branching out beyond Fargo. So Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski or Raising Arizona, for instance, are not destined to be Hawley-helmed TV offspring.

"It's not my goal in life to be a third Coen brother," he said. "Nor to sort of follow around behind them and go, 'I've got a really great idea for Inside Llewyn Davis: The Series.' "

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