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‘Fargo’ Boss Noah Hawley on the Works That Inform His Own Writing Process

·3-min read

Fargo” showrunner Noah Hawley lives and works in Austin, Texas, so even before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people to work from home, he was already doing that. “On some level, my life was set up for this better than other people,” he says.

“I had a writers’ room in L.A., so the first and third week of the month I was Zooming into it already from here.” His 500-square-foot bungalow, built separately from his house, is where he wrote “probably all of [‘Fargo’] Season 4,” as well as his upcoming novel “Anthem.”

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He also has an editing bay in the space. When the pandemic hit, he realized he’d be taking meetings and attending virtual events and award shows, in addition to working on the show there, so he spruced things up a little bit.

“I brought in a lot of musical instruments — a drum kit, electric guitar, electric bass, amps — to try to bring some play to the space, and also some play that my kids could do when they’re out here,” he says.

Hawley draws a lot of inspiration from the writers who came before him in his medium, as well as in his family. His copy of “A Child’s Guide to Freud” wraps both of those things in one, as it was the first book written by his mother, Louise Armstrong. Published in 1963, it is an illustrated children’s book that explains the Oedipal complex, which, Hawley admits, “was very risqué at that time.” His maternal grandmother was also a writer and Hawley feels it is important to “keep the connection to the writers of my past” close by.

Original scripts from radio series “The Goon Show” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” invoke certain sounds and always remind Hawley to “broaden [his] view” about what storytelling can be. That is because in the medium of radio “you can do anything and it doesn’t even have to obey the laws of physics.” They also transport him back to his childhood. “My dad had gone to drama school in London and he brought back these old ‘Goon Show’ records,” he recalls. “I grew up listening to them. They’re very silly, invented radio plays with all of these different voices and characters. And so, there was something about the way that radio could transport your imagination.” He then graduated to listening to “Hitchhiker’s” in the 1980s on NPR.

It isn’t always the finished product that Hawley finds intriguing. When visiting the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Hawley came across a three-page thematic statement for Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” the first book he remembers that made him want to become a writer. He made copies of the document and framed it for easy reference. The book was something he “picked up right at the end of high school and I realized for the first time a novel wasn’t just a story, an adventure; it could be a broad, thematic look at our life here on this Earth,” he says. But the document also offered him insight into the author’s process, which was special in its own way and something Hawley says he hasn’t found in any other archives.

Although Hawley doesn’t keep around a lot of copies of his own work (for fear of looking like a hoarder, he laughs), he does cherish special mementos from set, especially the fedora his “Fargo” Season 4 costume designer J.R. Hawbaker sent him after the show wrapped. It is signed by every cast member he killed off in the season’s scripts and it came with photographs of all of them wearing the hat. “Apparently when I wrote, ‘There goes Josto,’ he’d come in for his fitting and they’d put the hat on him and take a picture of him. I really loved that,” Hawley says.

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