With only two episodes left to shoot on Fargo season 4, to get the production completely finished safety in 25 days during the pandemic, FX opted to film episodes 10 and 11 “with two directors, two full A units and more than 500 cast and crew,” said Chairman, FX Networks and FX Productions John Landgraf during the network’s fall press day.
Fargo finally wrapped yesterday in Chicago.
“We wanted to concentrate the production in the shortest period of time as possible and maintain as much quarantine and isolation as we possibly could,” added the FX boss.
Landgraf, when asked, said that the network uses “mostly the same” COVID-19 safety protocols across all their productions.
“This involves repeated testing, contact tracing and isolation, sometimes quarantining for periods of time. and isolating as many segments of the crew from each other, so if there is some infection among the crew, it doesn’t spread. This involves putting certainly the actors, and everyone who comes in contact with them, inside a rigorously-controlled bubble as we possibly can. There’s also extensive use of social distancing and medical consultation. One thing we found is that it’s really important for our showrunners and for members of cast and crew to have access to doctors and epidemiologists and have open and transparent conversations,” said Landgraf.
Also, equally helpful, per Landgraf were notes that showrunners like Noah Hawley on Fargo and Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo on Reservation Dogs sent out to crew and cast, encouraging them to stay safe and responsible outside of work in protecting themselves from the virus, so that all would be well when they arrived on set.
Added Fargo Emmy-winning EP Warren Littlefield, ”The protocols are a 40-page document and we had International SOS as our consultant. Basically, with every department of our crew and with the actors, we went through a training session of ‘Here’s what it’s going to be like’ and ‘Here are your responsibilities, here are our responsibilities’. So what we tried to do is get everybody to a place of what that experience would be, because we also knew we were the tip of the spear. There weren’t a lot of shows across the planet going back into production. So, we were at the top of that. In our final zoom, we had our directors and a lot of our crew. They were like horses at the gate, waiting for the gun to go off. They felt so ready and prepared. We found ourselves to be artistic and not comprised in the final two hours and also very efficient. I think we surprised a lot of people with our preparation. And the feedback from our actors is that they felt safe.”
In terms of turning in an 11-episode season instead of 10, Hawley told the TCA press corps, “It was mostly a matter of length on some level. We got into the middle of the season, where the scripts as written were filmed, and created three episodes that were all really long. I like a long story, but at a certain point, it feels like the show (‘s episode) should be over at some point. It felt like a good way to shift some story lines around so we can spend more time in those middle episodes with those point of views,” said the creator.
During the pandemic production downtime, Fargo season 4 star Chris Rock who plays 1950 Kansas City gangster Loy Cannon, said “the break allowed me to recharge my battery. I saw a couple of episodes and worked on my game…it’s like the Miami Heat. They had a break and now they’re better than everybody. The break helped them get better than anyone else. I don’t want the world to have COVID, but I think my last two episodes are my best.” In season 4, Cannon leads a group of black migrants fleeing the Jim Crow South to become a powerful crime syndicate that toppled many of the city’s old time kingpins.
Says Landgraf about FX COVID-19 safety protocols going forward: “We’re still learning, and it’s the best as we can possibly have hoped for so far. But I think it’s something we’re resolutely committed to, and not just doing well at the starting gate, but getting better at each day and each week.”