SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for Season 5 of “Fargo,” now airing on FX and streaming on Hulu.
Juno Temple leads the fifth season of “Fargo” as Dorothy “Dot” Lyon, a Minnesota housewife whose past begins to catch up to her. When Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm), the abusive ex-husband she escaped, sets out to find her, her survivalist side is revealed. As she lays out booby traps and lights men on fire to avoid being kidnapped, she earns the fitting nickname of “tiger.”
But for Temple, what made Dot a compelling character was not just the traits that made her a tiger, but also the qualities that made her a good mother. The show’s creator Noah Hawley told Variety that Dot’s true weapon is her kindness — which Temple said she “couldn’t agree more with.” She added that Dot also wanted deeply to have a mother figure of her own. In Episode 9, Dot’s icy mother-in-law Lorraine (Jennifer Jason Leigh) calls Dot on the phone to tell her, “No daughter of mine is going down on the one-yard line.” Hearing the word “daughter” causes Dot to tear up — a rare occurrence for the tiger.
“Sorry, it makes me emotional,” Temple says, taking a moment to reflect on the scene before continuing her answer. “It was such a profound moment, because that was a thought I had a lot throughout the filming of this installment: She wants a mother herself. It’s being rebutted, it’s being rebutted, and then Noah had promised me it’s coming.”
Temple sat down with Variety to break down the latest season of the FX anthology series, what it was like playing a domestic violence survivor and saying goodbye to her “Ted Lasso” character Keeley.
Dot is both a Minnesota housewife and a tiger, and you’re able to switch between those two personas so seamlessly. What was your approach to embodying both sides of her?
It starts from the accent. I worked with an incredible dialect coach, Liz [Elizabeth Himelstein], who had worked on the movie of “Fargo” and each previous chapter of “Fargo” because the “Minnesota nice” starts with the accent. It’s a real thing. It’s a reaction to good, bad, ugly, beautiful, difficult, scary, exciting, and it may lead with the heart first — and that comes through with the accent. That helps a lot of moments that would potentially be a lot darker if there wasn’t a “Minnesota niceness” going on, which I think you see at the very beginning with that scene between Lorraine and Dot where Dot shifts to a more standard American accent at the kitchen table. It makes for a very different kind of persona for a moment.
She’s talked about as a tiger behind her back, and then when it starts becoming something that she gets to personify, we have that great moment where I’m in the burial hole. Danielle Hanson and Chris Glimsdale, who were my hair and makeup guardian angels, we came up with the idea to try and create a little bit of a tiger look with a slightly pinker nose, a little bit of a dirt stripe, and it was something that I was so excited about to have a sprinkling of an actual tiger coming out of the hole.
What I found really fun and really interesting was the moments that you might think when you read it initially, “Oh, here she’s being the tiger, and here she’s being a mother.” When you switch them, it made it really interesting. The scene with the gas station in Episode 1, with Lamorne [Morris]/ Witt Farr being shot, she’s been this fighter and survivalist, and then she does the tourniquet for him before she leaves. It’s a moment where she’s a mother. That was a beat that we actually found on the day. It was really interesting, because it was a really brilliant beat to have in that sequence of her being a surprising tiger.
Had you seen past seasons of “Fargo” before? Were there any characters that you drew on for inspiration?
This chapter is very much in homage to the movie, even with the opening — with the sewing and then watching the daytime TV and the break in. I watched the movie a lot when we were shooting, and it also feels like it has a lot of peppering of “No Country for Old Men” in there. But I had seen the seasons of “Fargo” before I had even thought “Fargo” was going to come into my universe. And when that opportunity arrived, I was completely flabbergasted, because there’s some of the best performances on TV throughout those seasons of “Fargo.” Being asked to come and join that family, even though each installment is its own, was some big shoes to fill.
I was excited reading the amount of brilliant female characters that there are in this season, and it also covers the different generations of women. That was very cool. I was terrified, and unbelievably excited. That also comes from working with Noah. He’s somebody who innately you want to make proud. Also, being the connecting dot between all these other brilliant characters was something that I didn’t want to let anybody down at any moment. Everyone was so brilliant in this show, and made me a better actress. Different characters affected me in ways that I didn’t know was going to happen with their performances, too. I’ll remember that forever. It was really special.
What conversations did you have with Noah Hawley before you read the script for the puppet show in Episode 7 with Dot’s backstory? Were you already given an outline for what Dot’s past looked like?
I remember my first day of filming was the sequence where she’s been arrested. She’s in the police station with the fingerprints. I remember saying to Noah, “Has she been arrested before?” And he said, “Oh, definitely when she was in her youth.” I was like, “OK,” and then I said to him, “Let’s get dinner, I got some questions.” It was actually within the first few days of shooting that I knew a lot about her.
Were there other elements of Dot’s past that you learned about that we didn’t get to see in the puppet show episode?
I like to keep that close to home, because that’s some of her story that we chose not to put out in the world. I want to respect that. Sometimes it can be annoying, but I do I ask a lot of questions. I love really creating a full life for a character that I’m playing and living with properly. I had a lot of fun with Noah, talking about different ideas and different things that had happened in her past and how they’ve made her who she is today. One thing that was a really great thing to talk about, and then to get to play out, was her secret weapon as true kindness and her ability to nurture — but also she really wants a mother figure. And throughout the whole show, Lorraine just ain’t gonna give her that. And then there’s that moment with the phone call when she’s at the Tillman ranch, and Lorraine says, “No daughter of mine.”
I’m so grateful — I mean, for so many reasons — to Noah, but one of them was that I lead with my emotions, and he was very aware of when we were allowed to let Dot have a moment to really cry. That was really important. That’s where I need a director. I just love the relationship between an actor and a director. The most exciting thing in the world is when you have a director that has ideas that just blow your mind, and make moments even more special and important and sometimes terrifying and sometimes the most loving moments you’ve ever gotten to play out. And they really thought it through. I need that guidance sometimes. There were definitely certain moments where I couldn’t help but get emotional initially, and he was like, “Not yet, not yet.”
What was it like working with Jon Hamm, especially on those emotionally taxing scenes?
It was interesting, because for most of the shooting, we didn’t cross paths at all. The days that he was working, I was not. That was also something that was important, because my character is so desperately trying to not be found by him ever again. The first beat we shot together was the hospital where I wake up, and I so think it’s going to be Wayne, and then it wasn’t. That’s a really upsetting scene, but it was fantastic. He’s so brilliant. It’s hard to play the monster like that, and I mean that mentally, too. The days that we had that were really, really challenging, especially in the abattoir — that sequence — he was so respectful. It meant that we got to go to the difficult places we needed to go to because we felt safe.
“Fargo” is known for taking viewers into a world of crime that is outside of their typical reality, but unfortunately Dot’s story is one that women can relate to. What was your approach to balancing the elements of “Fargo” that make it a dark comedy, while telling Dot’s story with the sensitivity it requires?
When you play a character who has survived domestic abuse like that, it’s amazing how many people talk to you about their experiences with it. It is heartbreaking how many people have been through it, even on a film set — the amount of people that have experienced it either firsthand or have watched happen to somebody they love. It was something that was really important to me to respect and also allow people to talk about it whenever they wanted to with me.
It was hard. There were definitely sequences we shot in Episode 8 that did not make it into the episode, which I think was really a smart decision, because they were really difficult to watch. You very much get that anyway without seeing it, and that’s something that is important because people get so triggered by stuff. I have no interest in being a part of triggering something devastating for anybody, and I don’t think anybody else on this job did either. But it was handled so brilliantly by the cast and crew. It was a closed set. People who didn’t want to be at work that day didn’t have to. They also provided a therapist that was completely confidential that anyone at any given moment could go talk to if they had been triggered. I was really proud of us for having that, because I don’t think that happens all the time, and I think it should. You also need to allow yourself to feel the emotion with it when you do, and it was surprising the beats that really got to you.
But then also the lightness that I got to have with Sienna King who plays Scotty, and David [Rysdahl] who plays Wayne. That was the balance that evened it out, because they were such bright lights for me. I hung out with them a lot, and I still do — I love them so much. It’s exactly what Noah was saying is that her secret weapon is her kindness, but that comes from her family life that she is fiercely protecting from the minute we meet her. They were my safe place when we were shooting this stuff. That was the balance.
On a lighter note, to talk about “Ted Lasso,” what was it like saying bye to Keeley? Would you be open to any sort of spinoff, maybe one with you and Hannah Waddingham?
I had to finish that job so quickly and then start “Fargo” so quickly that in a weird way, I’m actually quite grateful for the fact that I didn’t have a long window of goodbye with Keeley — because I’m obviously going to miss her. She was a really happy person to play, even though she had her complicated moments and went through a lot, too. She’s somebody who wants everybody to feel the best they can that day. That was a very precious character to have gotten to play for three years.
Doing a spinoff, I feel nervous to do anything without it being the whole team, because we were such a team. But that being said, it is imperative that I find something to do with Hannah again at some point, because I love that woman profoundly.
You’re filming “Venom 3” right now. What’s it like working with Tom Hardy?
I’m learning lots. It’s fun and interesting, because there are so many things that you film that when the movie finally comes out will look different to what they were when we were filming them. I’m excited to see the creations that happen off camera, too.
This interview has been edited and condensed.