SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for Season 5, Episode 9 of “Fargo,” now airing on FX and streaming on Hulu.
Lamorne Morris was in the middle of watching the third season of “Fargo” when he got a call about being on the show. As a fan, he was eager to see how he would fit into the world he had watched on screen. In the fifth season of the Noah Hawley-created anthology series, he plays North Dakota state trooper Witt Farr, as the show’s escalating drama revolves around Minnesota housewife Dorothy “Dot” Lyon (Juno Temple), who is on the run from her abusive ex-husband Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm).
Witt Farr plays a pivotal role in the season’s penultimate episode, as Roy is finally catching up to Dot, or Nadine (her old name), which is what Roy exclusively calls her. In the episode, the question of whether she can avoid him shifts to how she can escape him. And the answer to the latter is through the help of others, including her once antagonistic mother-in-law Lorraine (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who enlists the FBI to raid the Tillman ranch in search of Dot. Witt Farr gets a call from deputy Indira Olmstead (Richa Moorjani), who tells him, “You gotta go save her, Mrs. Lyon.” With that, he is on his way to lead the FBI in their mission to find Dot and end Roy’s reign of terror.
In an interview, Morris spoke with Variety to discuss where Witt Farr’s desire to help Dot stems from, Joe Keery blowing vape pens in his face — and whether his “New Girl” character Winston would survive in the “Fargo” world.
Having seen the show already, what was the most unexpected part of working on the series?
I’d probably say Noah’s process, because you can catch him staring at performances, and if he doesn’t say anything, that means he likes it. And every once in awhile, he’ll come and whisper in your ear, “Try to say it like this, or do this, or remember this is going on.” He’ll drop a little gem in your ear to keep you keep you on track. I’m used to a lot of directors sometimes overdoing it, just constantly feeling like they are forced to say something to you even if there is no adjustment to be made. It can throw you off a little bit. Noah, I think in his mind, he did a great job casting, so there’s not too much heavy lifting on that side.
And another part, I thought Calgary would be this desolate place. I’ve seen the seasons of “Fargo,” and a lot times it’s farm land and blank plains of snow. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised at how bustling the city is. I was like, “Damn, I thought this place would just be a bunch of cows and tumbleweeds.” The restaurants are some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to, some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life.
What conversations did you have with Noah about the part, and what he wanted from it?
He kept harping on the idea that debt plays a big theme in this show. A lot of people have debt, whether it be financial, or in Witt Farr’s case, he owes a debt to Dot, who saved his life in the opening episode. Because he’s such a stand-up guy, he will always repay the debt. Once this happened, he won’t stop until he can help her, or at least until he knows that she’s in a safe place. The way Noah explains it is he is the type of person that will split the bill down to the penny because he has zero debt. We talked a lot about “Minnesota nice” and blending it with my own version of that, and who I think this character could be — not so on-the-nose “Minnesota nice,” but in his deeds.
What was your reaction when you read that Indira would tell Witt he needs to be the one to save Dot?
It felt expected, because it seems like he’s on this solo mission. He’s got Indira helping him here and there, but being a Black dude in this type of town, this environment, maybe you want to stay out of the way. And when I read that, I thought, “Well, this makes sense to who he is.” Not to the average person, but to who he is because he owes this debt, and it’s just the right thing to do. Witt Farr has sisters and a mother, that’s his thing. It just made sense that this would be his mission to go and try to fix things.
In Episode 9, we see pretty much all the characters in Dot’s camp coming together. How does this change things for Roy?
Roy used to have this autonomy. He’d run this town, he’d run everything, essentially, and no one stepped in his way. He had this free reign to do whatever the hell he felt like doing. Even when people would come one by one, he’s put out fires before, he’s murdered people. He’s done all these little things, but now he sees the entire squad coming. You see him, even in Jon’s performance, where he’s feeling like “Ah shit, my back is truly up against the wall.” The only way out of this is mayhem. And that’s what you see.
Witt gives that great speech where he pleads with the other officers to ensure they do not hurt Dot upon finding her. What do you think galvanized him to say that?
He’s been through it with her. He understands what happens when you get a bunch of people with guns running around. He’s like, “I’m not doing all of this just for you guys to kill her.” This is going to take everything we’ve got to find her and to bring her to safety. The last thing I need is some accident happening when you see her because she is not just going to be laying around in fear or hiding. She’s gonna be fighting, and you might not know whose side she’s on. But when you see her, just know, finger off the trigger. For him, it’s a survival thing — not just for himself but for her. I think that’s what brought that energy on to him because he’s seen combat before like this. Friendly fire happens often.
Witt and Dot first met while Dot was being kidnapped. At this point, Witt did not know much about Dot’s story other than that she was tied up in some crazy situation. Do you think that Witt would still have that desire to help her out had she not saved his life?
I think he still would have. I just don’t think he would have been as invested. It’s still his job. However, some people clock in and clock out, and they don’t bring work home with them. Because there was a bullet through his leg, that’s the scar that will always remind him of that time that someone saved his life.
I’ve never been shot before, but I would imagine I will always remember the scenario and the circumstance and who did it and who helped me, who saved my life. But if that didn’t happen, he would still do it. He just wouldn’t be as gung ho about it.
In Episode 8, when Witt sees Dot at the hospital with Roy, he insists on driving her home but is then interrupted by Gator and his backup. Knowing how erratic Roy and Gator can be, how worried is Witt about his own safety? How does he balance that fear with his desire to protect Dot?
When you wear the badge, that’s the oath that you signed. You’re like, “I know there’s an injustice happening, and it just has to be done.” He knows what he’s up against. He can figure that out in Episode 3, when he sees Gator and he matches Gator with the sheriff, “Oh, this is the sheriff’s boy. This is Gator Tillman. This is getting heavier than I thought. This is getting bigger than I thought.” He has to jump into action there.
Speaking of Gator, you and Joe Keery have a lot of tense scenes. What was it like developing that dynamic?
It was pretty cool. It’s weird, because he’s such a nice guy, but we’re actors. He’s such a great actor that it was kind of easy to bounce off of that, my disdain for his character. He’s a real piece of shit. Even when Joe is improvising, he’s Gator, and it sometimes catches you off guard. There are moments where he’s blowing vape pens in my face or patting me on the cheek. He definitely helped in having my character hate his character, which I think was awesome.
Are there any details from Episode 9 — or maybe prior episodes — that viewers should keep in mind before watching the finale?
I don’t want to spoil anything, but it might be the wildest. I can tell you, a lot of actors on this show deserve some awards. Juno Temple, Sam Spruell, Jon Hamm, Jennifer — everybody on this show, when I watch it, I’m like, “These motherfuckers are dope.” I would just tell the audience to watch out for great performances, and the story gets wild. It definitely gets crazy.
Now, I have to ask a “New Girl” question. How do you think cop Winston would be able to help out on this mission.
With love, humor, he’d send Ferguson in first to scope out the scene. He’s not “Minnesota nice,” he’s just too nice. He’s super naive. And I don’t think he would survive it. I don’t think so at all. Besides, you can’t wear colorful bird shirts in that type of weather. Winston is an L.A. environment guy.
Do you miss Winston? How do you think he’s doing now?
I do. The way I got to perform when I was playing Winston was a dream come true. I find it incredibly enjoyable. Right now, “New Girl” has a new audience where it feels like it’s just as big now as it was when we first debuted. I would say Season 3 in “New Girl” is where I found my stride of like, “Oh my God, this is what I like to do, this style of performance, this character, these choices that are very left of center.” I thoroughly missed that style of performance and silliness and the whimsical nature of it all.
And not to say I don’t enjoy things like “Fargo” or some other projects and movies I’ve done, but “Fargo” you have to be a certain type of invested, and there’s a stillness to it. There’s this gravitas to the stakes that even in your downtime, I’m keeping myself on edge. With “New Girl,” it was just free for all, loose, improvising every scene. I definitely miss doing that.
Are there any talks of a “New Girl” reunion?
There have been talks about it. I’m not sure how serious those talks were. It is such a fun thing to do for us as performers, but the writing was so great, I’m not sure how easy it was for Liz Meriwether and her squad to create it. I feel they had fun in the writers’ room, but I’m assuming it was also a tough job because I feel like every episode was on point. It takes brilliant writers and a lot of hard work to accomplish that. And so, it’s easy for me as a cast member to say, “Oh, yeah, I would love to do another,” because I just get to play and perform, but someone’s got to create that atmosphere.
Listen, I would totally be down. Hell, someone write a spinoff. If you’re reading this article, write a Winston spinoff! I am totally down to do it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.