Home Shows Fargo Star Jessica Pohly Talks Playing an Outsider, Working Alongside Talented Cast & What’s To Come

Fargo Star Jessica Pohly Talks Playing an Outsider, Working Alongside Talented Cast & What’s To Come

Fargo has never been better.

As the veteran series continues through its Golden Globes-nominated fifth season, we’ve been treated to a deliciously intriguing tale that sees a Midwest housewife suddenly confronting the sins of her past.

The cast is a who’s who of Hollywood heavy hitters who bring their A-game to Noah Cawley’s enticing and gripping entry into the anthology.

The captivating and scene-stealing Jessica Poly is an essential piece of the well-rounded ensemble as she steps into the role of FBI Agent Meyer, who, alongside Agent Joaquin, are investigating big, bad Roy Tillman’s many misdeeds.

Pohly is a standout as Meyer, and as the series turns toward the backend of the season, things will only ramp up for the FBI agent as secrets continue to unravel and all the various threads begin to collide.

TV Fanatic was thrilled to speak with the charming Pohly, whose career continues to shine. And we chatted with her about more than just Fargo, including her role in the hit film Pee-wee’s Big Holiday and much more.

Were you a fan of Fargo, the series, the movie, all of it coming in, or were you new to the whole world?

No, I was a huge fan. My dad was a huge Coen Brothers fan, and he kind of introduced me to The Big Lebowski and a lot of their movies, so I grew up a Coen Brothers fan and loving that tone and that weirdness.

And so, when it became a series, I was very much on board. I think Noah does a really good job of honoring what the Coen Brothers, the template they set up in terms of tone.

Oh yeah, for sure. It still has that quirky vibe, very methodical. He honors that original movie for sure.

What was it about Agent Meyer that you connected with when going out for the role?

I love playing outsiders of any kind, and it just so happens that even though she is FBI, she’s an outsider in the world of this series. When it starts, she’s coming from out of town.

I’m one of the few characters who does not have a Minnesota accent, and Noah asked me to kind of lean in more to my New York thing. And so I like that she was coming into a situation with a different point of view than the rest of the people.

And she seems like she is- I don’t want to say she’s serious, but she seems like somebody who’s about getting to business. She is very much about her job and very much about getting justice.

Is that how you see her? As somebody who wants to play by the rules and do her job effectively, at least to this point.

Yeah, I think she gets a little bit more humorous. The character gets a little more humorous, maybe not her, though, as it goes on. But she’s devoted her life to enforcing the law, the justice system.

She believes strongly in it and has been brought into the Fargo office. It’s her job to see what’s going on in terms of weaponry in this country, and she very quickly realizes that Roy Tillman is stockpiling illegal weapons. So yeah, she’s trying to raise a red flag.

One of my favorite scenes was when you meet Roy Tillman, and he’s in the outside bath, and that’s a great scene. What do you think that Meyer really thought during that first meeting?

Okay, so I talked a lot about this scene with my partner Nick Gomez, who plays Agent Joaquin, and he referred to it as, I don’t want to use crude language, but a certain measuring contest of a certain body part.

And so, he’s like, that’s what the scene is. We’re just measuring body parts. Which is funny because Jon Hamm is literally naked. So yeah, I mean, it’s a dick-measuring contest, actually.

Yeah, literally. My favorite part was when he got out, and put the towel on, and it was a Roy Tillman towel.

When we first saw that, we laughed so hard. I mean, it’s so funny.

I know for sure. What was the filming process like coming off of talking about that scene for you? What was it like filming the series?

Honestly, lucky for Jon, that was early in the series, and it was quite mild out still, so it was not very cold that day. It wasn’t warm, but it was still like Calgary autumn, so it was only in the forties, and he was in an actual hot tub, so it wasn’t terrible. But filming was wonderful.

One of the most fascinating artistic jobs I’ve had. Everybody that goes into making this show is a craftsman, the best at what they do, every single person on the crew.

So, you have the best of the best people who’ve been with the show since season one, gather them all in Calgary, and then you take them out into the middle of the nowhere in snow and are like, okay, make a beautiful movie, essentially. So, it can be grueling.

It was really cold, but everybody was so psyched to be there and playing at the top of their game. From my experience, it was pretty great.

The cast is just stacked from top to bottom, with just so much talent, which I imagine would be such a blessing as well, being on a set like that with so many talented people who’ve been in the business for a long time.

Absolutely. Whenever I get to share space with those kinds of really seasoned actors, I always learn so much. I learned a lot in terms of just the craft of it all from working with Jon and from working with Juno.

Speaking of Juno, all roads this season lead to Nadine or Dorothy. We’re starting to see that now, especially with the FBI knowing she’s around and everything like that.

What can you tell us about the back half of the season, where things will go next in your story, and where things will converge as far as the larger story of Nadine and Roy?

There are so many themes woven into her character. Noah’s done an amazing job of weaving themes through the season, as he always does.

One of the themes that he talked about is the theme of debt, an American debt, and on a macro level like student debt, car loans, what we actually owe to society, and then on a personal level, what we feel people owe us or what we are owed on an interpersonal level.

And so it’s really interesting that you have a character in Roy Tillman who believes he’s owed Dorothy, essentially.

And so how does that play out when one person feels they’re entitled to another and entitled to so many things, but entitled to stockpile weapons, entitled to skirt the law or make it up or create it, and then entitled to other people’s bodies so it gets dark necessarily.

So you’re going to follow that train of thought to its conclusion.

Switching gears from Fargo, I’d like to ask about Pee-wee’s Big Holiday. Pee-wee was one of my favorite shows growing up. And the Big Holiday is such a great final way to honor what Pee-wee was. Can you tell me about that experience and working with the late Paul Reubens?

Yeah, that was one of the first jobs I had when I moved to LA, and it was an absolute dream come true because I also grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and I just auditioned for that. I just went in for the audition.

What I didn’t know is that Paul and I actually had a lot in common in terms of our technique. I didn’t realize he’d been at The Groundlings, and I was just starting there. I’m now a main company member there. It was just these interesting parallels.

I didn’t know what to expect, but he’s someone who- the way that he was on set and as a professional very early on showed me how I would like to be as a professional. He is one of the greatest folks I’ve ever worked with. He knew everybody’s name. His hair and makeup team were there since Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

They did every movie with him and then twenty years later. Extremely loyal, a good friend, and also a little bit unknowable. Of course, considering everything he went through, he had some walls up as well. He probably should have.

You just mentioned The Groundlings, and you are an actress who takes on comedic and dramatic roles.

How do you think that they compare, and what are some of the difficulties that you believe each presents when you’re stepping into a role that’s mainly comedy and then one that’s mainly dramatic?

Yeah, this is just me. I don’t know if this is how it’s for everyone, but for me, as an actor, when you approach a role, you think a lot about the stakes and how important things in the script are to that character.

And for me, when I read a comedic script, the stakes sometimes feel very clear. They’re often on the page, or if they’re not on the page, it’ll be very obvious, and you’ll have to generate them and create them.

The level of stakes is what makes the comedy sometimes very high stakes over a very low-stakes situation.

Larry David is a really good example of that. He got the wrong coffee order, but he’s treating it like he just found out he lost a leg. And with a dramatic role, that whole process is a little more subtle. So, the stakes are often just, there’s a little bit more digging that you sometimes have to do.

Not always, but sometimes.

Sure. And was acting and getting into the business something you always wanted to do? How did that come about for you?

I found theater when I was in high school. I went to an all-girls school and did a production of three sisters at the boys’ or brothers’ school. And I think pretty much from that moment, I knew that this is what I wanted to do in my life. The road to get there was more complicated, for sure.

It’s a tough career path, but it was pretty clear to me pretty early on.

Speaking about roles, comedic, dramatic, what have you, if you could craft the perfect role for yourself, the role that you think would be perfect for you, what does that look like?

I think it looks like following someone who doesn’t quite fit in as they navigate through given circumstances.

Better Call Saul comes to mind, and Bob Odenkirk’s work in that a little bit of an outsider or a strange, odd bird who doesn’t quite fit in, whose heart is in the right place most of the time, sometimes not, who’s maybe got some questionable characteristics. And yeah, I like complicated weirdos.

I always like to ask people when this is my first time speaking with them because I work for an outlet that is all about TV, to take us into your television. Take us into your DVR. What things are you currently watching or enjoying, and what’s one of your all-time comfort shows?

Comfort shows, anything, Mike Schur. Morgan Sackett. Dave Miner. Like 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and The Office. Those are comfort shows that I could watch a million times and do. Of late, I’m watching these docuseries on cults. I can’t stop watching them. It’s like a whole new category of show.

HBO and Netflix are on it. They’re creating this genre for us, and it’s just like a three or four-part docuseries on different cults. I find it fascinating, and I can’t stop watching them.

I like it. There’s so much out there now regarding that, and just kind of darker-themed television to consume, and it’s very fascinating.

Maybe a reflection of our times.

***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.***

You can watch Fargo on FX at 10/9c on Tuesday.

Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on X.

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