When a casting director for “Fargo” calls you in for a meeting, it helps if you’re actually in Fargo.
That’s what happened to Tom Musgrave, a Valley City, N.D. native and graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, who was in town when his agent called him to let him know he would be auditioning for the FX TV adaptation of the 1996 Coen brothers movie. He’s currently filming in Calgary, Alb., after landing a recurring role as Bo Munk, owner of Bo Munk’s Insurance Shop and the boss of Lester Nygaard, played by popular British actor Martin Freeman.
Musgrave originally read for the role that ultimately ended up going to Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad,” “Mr. Show”), but apparently his familiarity with the area (and the dialect) made an impact.
“My audition went great and I never dropped the accent,” he said. “They said ‘we love him, but he’s too young for this role.’ But then they found this other role that would work.”
Musgrave will appear in five of 10 episodes planned for the first season of the series. He has been working closely with Freeman, which he said is “really exciting.”
“Working with him is like butter. It’s so easy to be comfortable because working with Martin is just like Martin talking to you. Plus, the script is fantastic, so I can just say the words and get out of the way.”
Acting in scenes with Freeman–the actor who stole his fair share of scenes opposite Benedict Cumberbatch and Ricky Gervais in “Sherlock” and “The Office,” respectively–is a far cry from where Musgrave almost ended up: accounting.
“After coming out of Valley City High School, I wanted to be an actor but I didn’t have any role models, so I decided to go to UND and go into accounting. I noticed right away that I wasn’t quite the same as the rest of the students, and I didn’t give a crap about accounting,” he said, laughing.
Musgrave then transferred to MSUM where he initially fumbled through acting classes (“I was like, ‘what the heck is a monologue?’”) but managed to graduate in 1998. He moved to Minneapolis, doing theatre and a few commercials before taking a friend’s advice and moving to Los Angeles. He got bit roles on the short-lived “That 80s Show” and in the movie “Beethoven’s 5th.”
“It’s been up and down a bit since moving out here,” he said, “I’ve been doing lots of theatre and commercials and working on my craft.”
Musgrave said his experience on the set of “Fargo” has been overwhelmingly positive so far. He even appreciates the extreme cold that shut down the set last week.
“Most of the show is filmed on a soundstage, but my set is an actual business near Calgary, and it totally feels like Fargo. It has these small, quaint streets, and it’s beautiful to have that cold chill when I come into the room. It anchors what’s going on and makes it real.”
And what can we expect from the depiction of North Dakotans and Minnesotans in the “Fargo” TV show? Musgrave said the accent is being toned down a bit for the TV show but that the dark humor and irony of the movie will remain.
“One thing I’ve always told people is that the Coen brothers lived in St. Louis Park, and their depiction of people who live here is done with love. Plus, the backdrop they set up is perfect for dark things to happen. The upper Midwest is really nice and everybody’s polite. Then some guys kill some guys, and it makes this perfect juxtaposition.”