In a cast crowded with award potential, it should come as no surprise Jean Smart's name has been mentioned along with her Fargo season two co-stars, Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, and Ted Danson, as worthy of Emmy attention. The veteran actress, who at 64, has already won twice for her guest work on Frasier and Samantha Who?, was just as fierce as ever as Floyd Gerhardt, the unexpected but tough leader of a North Dakota organized crime syndicate who comes into power after her husband suffers a stroke.
MORE: Ewan McGregor Will Play Brothers in FX's 'Fargo' Season 3 (and They're Not Twins!)
While Smart is no stranger to drama, the role was a departure from the quick-witted comedies that audiences have become accustomed to seeing her do over the past decade. "Very few actors get to show what they're capable of, ever, in their career," Smart tells ET, adding that the show's success made it a no-brainer decision. "So, when you get something like a role like I did on Fargo, you want it."
After reading a scene that creator Noah Hawley sent her, Smart says she could "see and hear her in my mind and think of all the possibilities for the character," which undoubtedly seems like a sign that the role was written for her to play.
"I pretty much knew what I wanted to do with her as soon as I started reading the scene," she says, connecting to her character's suffering. "I just understood. I understood what her priorities were."
MORE: Patrick Wilson Trades Bare Butts for Emmy Buzz in 'Fargo'
It also helped that Hawley writes great characters for women. Season one saw Allison Tolman hold the show together as Deputy Molly Solverson, while season two pivoted around Floyd and Peggy Blumquist (Dunst) with equally satisfying stories. "Noah has a great respect for women," Smart says of the creator, whom she is teaming up with again for FX's new mutant drama, Legion. "I think he finds writing for women to be interesting."
And with the new wave of female antiheroes on shows like UnREAL and House of Cards, Smart says "for actresses, it's a nice change."
MORE: Standout Performances of the Season