Alberta-born cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd always thought he’d have to go to New York or Los Angeles to find success.
This image released by FX shows Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in a scene from “Fargo.” Freeman was among several people who worked on the miniseries to be nominated for an Emmy Award Thursday. — Photo by The Canadian Press/FX
But on Thursday, he landed an Emmy nomination for his work on “Fargo” — a moody drama shot right in his hometown of Calgary. The production — which airs on FX Canada — is up for a whopping 18 trophies, a tally eclipsed only by leading nominee “Game of Thrones,” which is vying for 19.
“I was really excited,” Lloyd said in a telephone interview shortly after he heard the news. “I think that everybody sort of felt like we had done something that was a little bit off the beaten path. ... It’s not something you see every day.”
Based on Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film, “Fargo” will compete for best miniseries at the Emmys, while actors Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman are in the hunt for acting honours.
Lloyd, 30, made a name for himself working as a cinematographer on commercials and films, including “Savages” and “The Better Angels.” When his friend (“Fargo” executive producer) Adam Bernstein asked him to join the Calgary shoot, Lloyd knew the show was under pressure to live up to the Oscar-winning movie.
“I give a ton of credit to Adam Bernstein. ... He really saw the potential to modernize it and take the charm of the movie and attempt to update it esthetically,” said Lloyd. “I think that had it attempted to be more of a carbon copy, or more referential, it would have competed with the things that worked really well about the movie that don’t necessarily translate into a 10-episode miniseries.”
The dark mood of “Fargo” is partially derived from its barren, snow-covered landscape. This “dynamic blandness” can actually be difficult to create while filming in sunny Calgary, said Lloyd.
“The approach was, ‘How do you create visual intrigue while adhering to this strict look that came out of the original movie that was predicated on this endless whiteness or endless expanse, that by nature doesn’t have a lot of drama?’” he said. “Staging a lot of scenes at night helped ... and then figuring out how to take the sun away all day long, which is difficult.”
After working elsewhere for so long, Lloyd said it was strange to return to Calgary, which he said has become a “bustling metropolis.”
“Frankly, I hardly recognized it. That city has absolutely exploded. It was a surreal experience, getting lost in a place that you knew once upon a time that has completely transformed.”
Chad Oakes, a Canadian producer of “Fargo,” said a number of other Albertans also scored nominations Thursday, including Jackie Lind for casting, Bridget Durnford for editing and Frank Laratta and Mike Playfair for sound.
Oakes praised executive producer and writer Noah Hyland, MGM and FX for their vision of the show.
“The expectations were incredibly high. There was a lot of pressure. I give credit to Noah for leading the way,” he said. “I keep coming down to the look of the show, the actors and the writing, all of that coming together. It’s kind of lightning in the bottle when it works, and I feel it did. We’re so proud that the Academy and its voters also felt the same.”
Oakes praised the actors, who spent a gruelling five months filming the series during one of the coldest winters in Calgary’s history.
“Allison Tolman is a newbie to this business and you’re going to see a lot more of her. She’s so humble and so talented,” he said of the actress who plays dogged police officer Molly Solverson. “Billy Bob, he is such a solid, great guy, as a human being and as a person. He’s kind and gentle and so courteous to the crew. Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk. All of these guys were just wonderful guys, not just on set but also after hours too.”
“Fargo” wasn’t the only Emmy nominee with Canadian connections.
“Degrassi” is up for Outstanding Children’s Program for the third year in a row, and Toronto-raised voice actor and two-time Emmy winner Maurice LaMarche is nominated for “Futurama.” Canadian-born writer Moira Walley-Beckett nabbed a nomination for her work on “Breaking Bad,” the acclaimed AMC drama that wrapped last year.
And, Barry Julien — a three-time Emmy winner and former standup comedian from Montreal — is on “The Colbert Report” writing team that got a nod in the variety series category.
Regina-raised “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany, meanwhile, was snubbed in the lead dramatic actress category for a second year, despite recently winning a Critics’ Choice Television Award for her work on the show.
The 66th Annual Emmy Awards will be hosted by Seth Meyers on Aug. 25.
By Laura Kane
THE CANADIAN PRESS—TORONTO