The name "Fargo" obviously brings good fortune.
The quirky 1996 Coen brothers movie was nominated for best picture and picked up two Oscars for actress Frances McDormand and writing.
Now FX's acclaimed 10-part miniseries "Fargo" — which has no direct association with the film other than the title — has become a leading Emmy contender, landing 18 nominations including movie or miniseries, actor, supporting actor and actress and writing. "Fargo" also set an FX record, scoring the most nominations of any series in network history.
"It's very humbling," said Noah Hawley, creator and executive producer of "Fargo."
"I had a random number in my head, but I never imagined it would be this many," he said. "It's a heady moment. This whole thing has been an impossibly great experience. I really felt even if we had gotten zero nominations, this would be the most amazing experience in my career."
The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo, a deadly hit man who meets and upends the lives of two mild-mannered men unlucky enough to cross his path: meek small-town insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and hapless Duluth Police Deputy Gus Grimly (Colin Hanks). All three were nominated — Thornton and Freeman for actor and Hanks for supporting actor.
Also nominated was Allison Tolman, who plays Molly Solverson, a relentless deputy who is determined to get to the truth in her investigation of a series of bloody murders. The show was an all-new saga, bathed in the humor, dialect, murder, bloody mayhem and "Minnesota nice" of the original film.
Hawley said he felt "Fargo" clicked with viewers because "it was an idea that it wasn't good versus evil. It was decent people grappling with something beyond their normal level of experience. And at the end, after all the grisly murders, it was still about two decent people waiting for a baby. That's what we all yearn for, for a happy ending. It also had to do with the storytelling. You couldn't predict what was going to happen."
Thornton felt that the popularity of the film gave the series an initial boost, "and then the series was so well written and lived up to the expectations of the movie. It had a very hip vibe to it. And people are always interested in regular folks and the messes they get themselves in."
The actor, who won an Oscar in 1997 for his "Sling Blade" screenplay, was both excited and low key about his nomination: "I appreciate anything I can get these days," he said with a chuckle. "I'm happy and humbled. There's so many great performances out there. They could nominate 50 people in each category, so to be picked out is really nice."
Tolman, who was unemployed when she auditioned for the "Fargo" role, was overwhelmed both at the nomination and the attention she has received for her portrayal. "I still feel a little numb, to be completely honest," she said from her home in Chicago. "It's been a very odd year. But I think this show was the perfect storm. It was unusual, and people were ready to watch."
Ethan and Joel Coen were listed as executive producers but had no direct involvement with the series other than giving it their blessing. Former NBC Entertainment Chief Warren Littlefield is also an executive producer.
No decision has been made about whether "Fargo" will continue for a second edition, although Hawley said he is close to "having a story in my head which I like."
He quipped, "No one does a mike drop after a success."