Fans of FX’s quirky dramedy “Fargo” might believe that Chris Rock starring in the latest installment is bizarre. Rock would agree.
“I was shocked,” the comedian said last week during a session for the anthology series during the Television Critics Association press tour, describing his reaction when first contacted by creator Noah Hawley. He said he thought the executive producer was calling about hosting a charity project.
“I did not think in my wildest dreams it was to be on the show,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
Rock gives a rare dramatic turn as a crime syndicate boss in the fourth season, which is set in 1950s Kansas City. The project is set to premiere in April.
Hawley said he wrote the role specifically for Rock: “Once I had the idea for it, I immediately thought of Chris.”
Though Rock’s character has gray hair and may appear to be older than the actor, Rock said the role is age-appropriate. “I’ll be 55 in a couple of weeks,” he said, drawing a laugh when he added, “Black don’t crack. Money is the best lotion in the world.”
Asked about approaching the mostly serious role, Rock said he had to be more disciplined than he would be in a comic role: “It’s like the New England Patriots. You have to run the route and the ball will be there. It’s about getting the part down but also getting my personality in there.”
The project marks Rock’s first regular TV series role in more than a decade. He previously served as an executive producer on FX’s “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” in 2012.
In an interview last year, Hawley talked about the new installment.
“This fourth story is bigger than any of them, probably all of them put together. It’s a collision of these two groups that are outside mainstream America. One group is the newly arrived Italian immigrants, who are still very much ostracized and discriminated against. Then there’s Chris Rock and his family, a group of African-Americans, many of whom have come up from the South in preceding years in what is often called the Great Migration. But at the same time, Chris Rock’s character is the bank in his community; he’s the insurance company in his community.
“These two groups are both fighting to become mainstream Americans in a way that is part of what we see as the American experience — you show up and you work hard and eventually you get the American dream. Of course, hindsight shows us that doesn’t always end the way you think it should end. So thematically there’s a lot of ideas that feel new and original. I look at ‘Fargo’ and at its heart it’s the story of America in many different ways.”
“Fargo,” which was created by Hawley, premiered in 2014. The TV series followed the 1996 Coen brothers movie, which won an Oscar for its star Frances McDormand.
The series has a similar setting and references characters from the movie but is otherwise set in its own fictional universe.
Each season is set in a different year (2006, 1979, 2010) and introduces a new cast.