Dr. Watson, (Martin Freeman) always famous as the second lead in Sherlock Holmes, has switched roles, a part made famous by actor William Macy. Martin Freeman, also known as Dr. Watson on the widely popular Sherlock, has a new role in a Coen Bros associated television series, Fargo. Fargo was a dark comedy set in a northern Minnesota town, Fargo. Oddly enough, a fictional town actually located just across the border in North Dakota. The story is supposedly true, which it is not, but then the Coen Bros. have been known to compile strange incidents into seemingly actual events, just for fun.
Having the Coen Bros. name attached to this new series based on their film is an excellent draw for those who prefer their comedy with a touch of the sinister. From sources garnered elsewhere it seems the name Coen Bros. is the main draw to entice viewers into the television show. The opening script was given the once over by the Brothers Coen, an OK stamped on it and they went off writing, directing and producing in a medium they understand, and bring home awards in, movies.
That leaves Noah Hawley, a novelist, and screenwriter as the person in charge. The movie, for those who are not familiar with it, concerns a used car salesmen, with a debt load higher than a Minnesota winter snow field, who hires a hit man to kidnap his wife. In the Coen Bros. Movie, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay back in 1996, two men kidnap the car salesman’s wife. The series parred it down to one hit man played by Billy Bob Thornton. Jerry Lundegaard’s name has been changed to Lester Nygaard, played by Martin Freeman.
Coen Bros. movies always have some kind of enigmatic conflict or struggle. Fargo’s main character, Lester Nygaard, struggles with a theme many men secretly identify with; “What occurs when a milquetoast-ed civilized man confronts the uncivilized man hiding inside?”The story line for the first episode will not be even hinted at here. Suspense is a needed component in every dark comedy-drama. As Dr. Watson, in the currently famous version of Sherlock Holmes, Freeman’s switch to the Nygaard role will be an interesting development.
Martin Freeman, may seem an odd choice as Lester Nygaard, a role seemingly not suited to his talents. However, as anyone who has watched the Sherlock series can attest, an actor such as Freeman brings more to his roles than first noticed. In the current version of Dr. Watson, he plays a returning veteran British soldier with a strong case of (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) PTSD who overcomes the mental upheaval it caused. His nuanced acting in Sherlock Holmes hints at his control of this disorder, he displays his talent by projecting to the audience the fury that could be unleashed if pushed too far.
Freeman, for his part, brings to his characters those little quirks of men who are always in control but who contain flashes of anger, or sinister moments just waiting to pop out. As an actor Freeman’s performances must be watched closely, as in real life, people with rage just below the surface are not obvious in moments of weakness, but have tell-tale signs of bad behavior, ticks or clicks or twitches, or emphasis on words that are odd, and Freeman’s subtle performances are so smooth they seem normal. All good actors need to adjust to roles and accents and do it well, Freeman’s handling of the Minnesota dialect in that regard is deft and accurate.
The fame of Freeman’s Dr. Watson as played in Sherlock Holmes has brought him other roles and another switch of performance. Freeman has tackled the lead in Shakespeare’s Richard III on the London stage in a Trafalgar Transformed production. Freeman has grown a beard for the role and is comfortable in playing a part where a man of Richard’s stature is plagued by doubt and insecurities. As Freeman commented, he is a man with a hump on his back a limp in his leg and a dodgy arm, anyone with those troubles is bound to have doubt and be insecure. Richard takes the throne in the aftermath of a civil war, assumes the world is now his, but must convince the rest of the world it is his also. Therein lies the drama, and the actors’ challenge. The play opened July 1 and runs through September 27, 2014.
By Andy Towle