Mary Elizabeth Winstead Q&A: ‘Fargo’
“This has been the most challenging thing I have ever done, in the best way” declares Mary Elizabeth Winstead during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above) about her role on the third season of FX’s “Fargo.” The actress relished the opportunity to create a character that is so completely different to anything she has done before. “I would have never thought,” she admits, “that I would have done the things I have done on this show, or gone to the places I have gone.”
In “Fargo,” Winstead plays ex-con Nikki Swango, who has hooked up with her parole officer Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor). They both become embroiled in two deaths after an attempt to steal a valuable vintage stamp from Ray’s successful twin brother Emmit Stussy (also played by McGregor in dual roles) backfires spectacularly.
When Winstead began preparing for the role, her priority was to understand the dynamic between her character and her on-screen lover played by McGregor. “The main question I had was whether Nikki really loves Ray, who is her parole officer/boyfriend. I wanted to know if that love was real or not because she’s sort of a manipulative ex-con, somewhat conniving if she wants to be. That was the one element I really needed to know for sure and once I knew that I could go full steam ahead in making her real.”
Once Winstead established that the on-screen relationship was genuine, the character fell into place for her. “It created a really interesting juxtaposition for the character because she’s doing these bad things and getting into these shady things when it comes to her past that she’s willing to do for love, which are for her very real reasons,” she explains. “It gave me something to hold on to as an actor.”
Winstead did not hesitate when asked about working with co-star McGregor. “It was so lovely, and just so easy,” she explains. “From the second we started working together it just clicked. We didn’t have to work at it, we didn’t have to figure out how to navigate each other to make this relationship feel real. It just felt real immediately.” According to Winstead, the feeling on set was upbeat and fun, which brought more out of the show’s leads. “We were both giggling with joy at getting to play these roles and do these scenes. It is so rare to play these kinds of characters that are so rich and feel so alive,” she says. “It was so infectious. He was so lovely to be around.”