Chris Rock, Noah Hawley Talk ‘Fargo,’ Comedy, Drama, Theatrical, Streaming & Next Projects At New Yorker Festival

photo: Matthias Clamer/FX

“I’m getting some pretty meaty offers in the past few days that I am going to attribute to Loy Cannon,” said Chris Rock, who plays the head of the eponymous Cannon crime syndicate in the fourth season of Fargo.

“Yeah, I am ready to do more stuff like this. More meaty roles,” the standup comic-actor-director announced at the New Yorker Festival in a Tuesday night virtual session. He was flanked Noah Hawley, creator, writer, showrunner and director of the FX series that’s based on the movie by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Rock said comedy is harder than drama, but drama often holds up better.

“I just worked with Jim Carrey this weekend,” said Rock, who hosted SNL Saturday where Carrey cameoed as Joe Biden. “Jim Carrey is in The Truman Show. Right. There’s 50 actors who could have been in The Truman Show. There is one guy that could do Dumb and Dumber… You should almost call comedy the serious thing… The degree of difficulty is much greater.”

That said, “Jokes are often reference dependent” while “a great drama just lasts and lasts and just doesn’t atrophy or anything. So yes, I guess I’m ready to roles that last longer. But I put comedy and drama on the same level.”

Fargo is dark and darkly comic. “I like that Chris Rock is the star of this year but Jason’s the funny one,” said Hawley, referring to Jason Schwartzman’s incompetent and entitled second-generation mafioso, Josto Fadda.

The series is set in Kansas City in 1950 as the Black and Italian crime families clash. Rock said the racism of the era struck a chord. “When I was going to school, when I was a young boy, no one was more racist and mean than the Italians. I mean, the Irish were close, but not like the Italians. It was a whole other level of racism. So yeah, it’s in my bones.”

Asked by the moderator, New Yorker staff writer Doreen St. Félix, how they view the future of feature film versus television, Hawley said, “I do think that the movie business was already challenged before COVID and is certainly challenged now… I love the format but I do think in the longer story you have more room for experimentation, you have more room to play with the medium and to tell character-driven stories. It’s hard to know from a business point of view except that everything is moving toward streaming, the high value of streaming over theatrical. And if you are a streaming company and you can have ten hours of something, isn’t that more valuable than having two hours of something?”

“I don’t think movies are dead,” Rock countered. “I think Noah is absolutely right that studios want ten hours of something. But never underestimate that movies are part of a mating ritual. That’s just what humans do. We go to movies. And it’s still the most affordable part of the mating ritual that there is. It’s cheaper than going to any sports game, it’s cheaper than theater. People need to get out of the house and that hasn’t been replaced. So I don’t think movies are going anywhere.”

Fargo, like all productions, was forced to shut down last March. It was two episodes short. The finished filming in Chicago last month and debuted its 11-episode run on September 27.

As for a a Season 5, Hawley, who’s writing another novel, said only that his publisher was watching the panel. “So I have been working on my book, I promise.” He told Deadline last month that he wouldn’t rule out a Season 5.

Rock is finishing a script and rewriting another. He said one is about an older actress – “almost like the Bad Lieutenant with an actress and lots of drugs, lot of debauchery.” The other is “about automation. Three garbage men in Newark, New Jersey, and Passaic, New Jersey just got driverless trucks. So kind of the revenge of the Luddites kind of thing.”

He’s still mulling a movie about Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831. “I read the Nat Turner book and still think there’s may a great Nat Turner movie to be made. Maybe I’ll play Nat Turner yet. Maybe I’m too old for it… Noah, you want to direct me in Nat Turner?

“You call me. I’ll do it,” said Hawley.

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