Tom Hanks' eldest son Colin Hanks, 36, plays Duluth police officer and single dad Gus Grimly in FX's TV adaptation of the 1996 Coen brothers crime-comedy film, Fargo. In the pilot of the 10-episode series, which premiered April 15, Gus comes face-to-face with con man/killer Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) during a traffic stop. Feeling threatened, Gus lets Malvo drive off into the night, a choice that sets much of the story in motion. Haunted by his decision, Gus tries to right his wrongs throughout the series, which was filmed in Calgary, Canada and also stars Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), Allison Tolman, Kate Walsh and Joey King. Colin spoke with ETonline about his new role, filming in the bitter cold and working alongside some big names. Keep reading for the full interview and watch the video above for a sneak peek at tonight's episode.
How did you prepare for your role as Deputy Gus Grimly?
Colin: Really, the only preparation I did was just working on the Minnesota accent. That was really it because Gus is not a good cop really, he's sort of out of his depth and out of his element so there wasn't really any police training that I had to do, in fact I specifically did things poorly. You train, if you play enough cops, and eventually you say "I know how to hold the weapon, I know how to do this," and I sort of undid all of that to make Gus look a little more out of his element.
What made Gus an enjoyable character to play despite his shortcomings? Was it ever frustrating for you as an actor?
Well, at times it could be pretty frustrating. You try not to judge your characters too much, but there were definitely some moments when I was frustrated at Gus's inability to do certain things. The thing I enjoyed most about Gus was the fact that there was an awareness to him. Oftentimes you see these characters and they know that they're not good and they're just instantly beat down, but this is something that slowly eats at Gus. He makes the decision to let Malvo go and although technically he does the right thing, it's the wrong thing. It obviously leads to very bad things, so I like the fact that here was a character who made this mistake and spends his time, even though he doesn't necessarily want to, atoning for it and trying to fix it, and he fesses up, to a degree, as to what he did and actively tries to right the wrong. That really appealed to me.
How do you think being a father of two yourself helped you get into Gus's mindset and understand his motives?
The reason why he really lets Malvo go is because of his daughter (Greta), and not necessarily because Malvo threatens his daughter, but if something bad happens to Gus, what then happens to his daughter? Once you have kids, it sort of makes you reevaluate things, and all of a sudden you're important but only to a certain degree. In that scene he decides to let Malvo go because he needs to be there for his daughter because their mother is not there. Gus is all Greta has, and so that right there tells you a lot about Gus and the way he sort of looks at things. As a father, I just went "Oh, I totally understand that, I get that."
What was it like working with Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and being in such an eclectic cast?
We were all so blown away by how well the show was written. Pretty much the first thing out of everyone's mouths were, "Hey, can you believe how lucky we are that we get to say this dialog and that we get to be involved in this?" Billy Bob and I talked about that the first time I saw him up in Calgary and I said the same thing with Martin Freeman, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele). So, when the material is that good it makes your job a little bit easier. When the person you're acting with is good like Billy Bob, Martin, Bob Odenkirk or Allison Tolman, that makes your job a little easier as well.
How did working in the extremely cold conditions in Calgary affect your performance?
Snow and cold temperatures are characters within the Fargo universe and you have to have that. I love Calgary, it's a great city and I enjoyed my time there quite a bit. Shooting and filming in that cold could be very difficult at times. When you're shooting nights and it's three in the morning and minus 35 degrees, that's hard. The conditions are difficult for everybody, not just the actors but for the camera crews who wrap the cameras in an electric blanket and the teamsters who have to get these big trucks in and out of snow fields. It definitely becomes trying, but in terms of performance, it's all part of the show. The irony is sometimes you have to play like it's a little bit warmer. I know it's cold, but remember in the show maybe it's not that cold, so maybe lower your shoulders a little bit…but it's kind of hard when you can't feel your face!
When you read the script for the pilot, did you have any idea that a Fargo TV series would be so appealing to audiences?
For me, I was engaged and that first episode I read was so well done, I wasn't thinking about the movie and I wasn't thinking about how people would respond to it. The fact that people have taken to the show the way they have, that they love the show obviously is great and I'm relieved in that regard because you don't want to spend all this time and energy doing something that then people go "Eh, not interested." So, it's nice to find the same things that I liked about reading the pilot that people are enjoying as they watch the shows.
What did you do for fun when you weren't filming, any Canadian-themed activities?
I have my tried and true things when I go on location. I always find it's good to have an excuse to get out of the hotel and/or apartment and go do something that's not just drinking. I travel with a portable turn table, but I don't bring any records with me; I go out to all the record stores in town. It's a great way to get the lay of the land, and then, I label the city that I buy the record in. The irony is that eventually I'm going to have so many records that I have to stay indoors and listen to them because it's, of course, not necessarily a portable media. I'm a big hockey buff, so I always like shooting in Canada because they love hockey. I went to a few Flames games and there was always a hockey game on TV.