Ewan McGregor says playing two brothers on ‘Fargo’ an ‘amazing challenge’

Ewan McGregor on playing dual roles on 'Fargo'

CALGARY — Ewan McGregor lifts up a faded polo shirt to reveal a slab of white padding strapped to his midsection.

The Scottish actor’s prosthetic paunch is key to his transformation into Ray Stussy, one of two brothers he plays on the third season of the Alberta-shot, Coen Brothers-inspired FX series “Fargo.”

Ray, a parole officer, has a long-running grudge against his more handsome and successful older brother Emmit, the “Parking Lot King of Minnesota.”

Their father died when they were teenagers, leaving Emmit a sports car and Ray a stamp collection that turned out to be valuable.

Emmit later hookwinks his brother into a swap and Ray blames all his life’s disappointments on losing a fortune he’s convinced is rightfully his.

“He’s got a hard life. He’s got a job where he watches men pissing in cups all day long,” McGregor says of Ray, while taking a break from filming at a soundstage in a Calgary industrial area.

McGregor is barely recognizable while in costume as Ray, with phoney tufts of scraggly hair attached to a bald cap.

McGregor worked hard to adopt the distinctive Minnesota accent that’s a hallmark of the show, and also had to learn how to calibrate his voice while switching between Ray and Emmit.  

“Why I took (the role) was because it was an amazing challenge,” he says.

There is a bathtub scene early in the season that required McGregor to show a real potbelly while in his role as Ray, which complicated playing Emmit.

“I ate from October till January when we started — just, like, anything I wanted,” says McGregor.

While Ray is “more lazy and slouchy and unhealthy,” Emmit is more trim and upright. So when McGregor was on the heftier side, he says he had to squeeze into Spanx in order to play Ray.

The show’s third season is set in 2010 but touches on themes that fit with the 2017 zeitgeist.

“It’s quite interesting with the whole Trump thing because I feel sometimes there’s moments that I’m channelling,” says McGregor.

That mostly comes through when he’s playing money-hungry Emmit — “like, his thin skin and the way he can react when (something bad) goes down.”

Executive producer Warren Littlefield says the show’s theme of “the truth is what you say it is” will resonate at a time when phrases like “alternative facts” and “fake news” have entered the popular lexicon.

“It became, in the last number of months, far more interesting and relevant,” says Littlefield.

Anxiety over the encroachment of technology also plays heavily into the upcoming season, says actress Carrie Coon, who plays Gloria Burgle, a newly divorced small-town police chief who feels untethered in her life.

Gloria is made uneasy by the bright cellphone screens she sees everywhere she goes.

“There are many moments in the series where she looks around and she notices everyone else is looking down and no one’s communicating with her anymore,” says Coon, who admits she was a holdout when it came to getting a cellphone.

“I completely understand Gloria’s point of view about how alienating this technology can actually be when it’s unfamiliar to you,” Coon says.

“She feels, I think, the erosion of community as a result.”

The first episode of Fargo’s third season airs Wednesday on FX Canada.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Bike dragged several blocks after hit and run

Wheel-less bike dragged underneath van along Dallas Rd. after cyclist hit

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

Millstream Road closed to traffic at Bear Mountain Parkway

Downed hydro pole blocking both lanes at Industrial Way

Man arrested at gunpoint outside Vic High

Police were called after he allegedly threatened a teacher with a knife

Skydiver lands safely after cutting away main chute

Central Saanich emergency services called after witnesses saw spiralling chute

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

Britain gives long-lost Franklin expedition ships to Canada, Inuit

Deeds to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror signed over to Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in

Three days after rampage, people still gathering at memorial to lay flowers and honour victims

Liberals urged to tax e-commerce services like Netflix

Trudeau has been adamant that his government wouldn’t increase taxes on online subscriptions

Why some B.C. daycares didn’t opt in to subsidy program

Deadline passes for program aimed at laying foundation for universal child care

Charges follow collisions between pickup and police vehicles in Nanaimo

Majore Jackson, 32, and Andrew John Bellwood, 47, from Nanaimo, face numerous charges

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

Most Read