Ewan McGregor Calls His ‘Fargo’ Accent the ‘Hardest Accent’ Ever
Raise your hand if you get bored and try out different accents. This is a habit I picked up as a kid that continues to this day. After watching the first season of Justified, for example, the rural Kentucky accent wormed its way so deeply into my brain that I had a hard time turning it off. As a result, one of my favorite videos of 2016 was this Wired piece where a dialogue coach weighed in on 32 different performances. It really highlights the amount of detail that goes into every single sentence an actor delivers.
So one of my favorite stories to come out of the ongoing TCA press tour was Ewan McGregor’s insane struggles with the Fargo accent. During the Fargo panel (via Entertainment Weekly), executive producer Warren Littlefield tried to praise McGregor for showing up a day early to the shoot, only to have McGregor admit that it was purely out of self-interest:
I didn’t like the idea of them starting without me, plus the Fargo dialect coach was there, and I needed him. It’s [a] very difficult, strange accent to lock into. I don’t know if it’s harder as a non-American. It’s the hardest accent I’ve ever done, and I’ve done Dutch once!
McGregor also mentioned that the iconic nature of the Fargo accent meant there was no room for him to mess it up. “It’s an accent that everybody knows from the movie and from seasons one and two,” McGregor continued, “so the audience’s ear will be attuned to it.” There’s a lot of truth in that: if you ask many Americans what a North Dakota or Minnesota accent sounds like, they will immediately give their best rendition of William H. Macy or Frances McDormand’s dialogue from the original Fargo movie. To misquote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, we may not be able to define the accent, but we know it when we hear it.
McGregor’s comment also highlight how tricky it can be to master the nuances of a speaking style. We might think of accents as being a one-to-one relationship — after all, both Scottish and Midwestern accents are technically English, right? — but the truth is that McGregor must first lock into the American accent and then modify it slightly to meet the specific region. In interviews, Fargo Season 1 star Martin Freeman admitted that he had to stay in the Fargo accent throughout the entire shoot for fear of losing the nuance of the dialogue, so at least Ewan McGregor is in good company when it comes to UK actors and Fargo.
Season 3 of Fargo is currently scheduled for an April release date.