Straight actresses Karen Aldridge and Kelsey Asbille are exploring new queer territory together on the fourth season of FX's Fargo. This drama television series has been primarily written by Peabody, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning executive producer Noah Hawley after being inspired by the 1996 Joel and Ethan Coen film of the same name.
In part four of the Fargo anthology, the setting is in Kansas City, Missouri in 1950 where characters are placed in the middle of a gang war between Blacks and Italians. Aldridge [Zelmare Roulette] and Asbille [Swanee Capps] play rebels that take no prisoners in the love they have for each other. This highly praised series covers race, sexuality and power like never before in the latest offering.
Aldridge has a background of being on Windy City-based TV shows such as Chicago Med and Chicago Fire before landing her gig on Fargo.
Asbille grew up on television after appearing on Disney XD's Pair of Kings, WB's One Tree Hill and MTV's Teen Wolf. She took a break from currently filming Paramount Network's Yellowstone to meet over a Zoom call with Aldridge to discuss their roles together.
Windy City Times: Where in the world are you both, currently?
Karen Aldridge: I'm in the Bronx, in New York.
Kelsey Asbille: I am in Montana, on the Yellowstone ranch.
WCT: Where are you originally from and did you study theater in school?
Karen Aldridge: I'm from the San Francisco Bay area. I came to Chicago to study theater in graduate school.
Kelsey Asbille: I'm originally from South Carolina. I am still in school at Columbia in New York. That is where I live. I am not studying theater, but Karen is my master class on Fargo, so I am good!
WCT: This season, Fargo was set in Kansas City, but was it filmed in Chicago?
Kelsey Asbille: Yes. We shot the whole season in Chicago. Karen was my guide.
Karen Aldridge: I taught her everything she knows about partying!
WCT: Had either of you watched the movie or TV series before being cast?
Karen Aldridge: I had seen the movie.
Kelsey Asbille: I watched the series backwards with season three and then two. I was a huge fan after watching the show and couldn't believe I got to join this one.
WCT: I think television watchers should know they can start with any season similar to American Horror Story.
Karen Aldridge: It is hard to put into terms what Fargo is. I recently heard the term that it is a mindset and I think that is quite appropriate.
WCT: The series plays off of the Coen brothers calling the movie a true story, but it actually was not. Were your characters based on anyone in real life?
Karen Aldridge: Nothing literally factual. You can't look up Zelmare Roulette and find an actual person.
WCT: What is the backstory that you created for these characters?
Kelsey Asbille: Zelmare is Swanee's family and her lady love, as well as partner in crime. That embodies my relationship with Karen also. I absolutely adore her. She was such a great partner through this whole thing.
There were different elements that helped us create these characters especially our amazing costume designer J.R. Hawbaker. She was incredible and had a lot of really cool imagery from this time period, especially female outlaws, that we used to get into character.
Karen Aldridge: When I got to set I had never met Kelsey before. There are several shows that film in this area. She could have been the part of any show, but when the van turned the corner I just knew that this was the actress playing Swanee.
I'm a geek. I do all my homework making a background and storyline about the character. I didn't do that for this. It just wasn't set up that way.
Noah Hawley, the show runner and creator, took a leap of faith in casting us. We took a leap with not knowing anything about each other and these parts in Fargo. We clicked. It just happened that way. It was just that magical!
We are just like the show when we giggle and love each other in real life as friends. We are both Virgos.
WCT: What do think 1950s Fargo season four says for LGBT people today?
Kelsey Asbille: It mirrors what this whole season of Fargo does in general with inclusive storytelling. That is relevant in any era.
For me, this whole season is a deconstruction of the American dream and the experiences of those that are placed outside of that dream. It is giving a voice to the LGBTQ experience now and then.
WCT: Where did they meet?
Kelsey Asbille: Their love story started in prison. They came up with a grand scheme to get out. Swanee really follows Zelmare, who is the brains of the operation. Swanee will follow her to the end.
WCT: Speaking of the end, what can you tell people about a big episode coming up for your characters?
Kelsey Asbille: We filmed at Union Station in Chicago. It was an iconic location for the series and I work with Kevin Costner on Yellowstone, who famously did The Untouchables there. I wanted to recreate the baby carriage and everything! It was two worlds colliding for me.
Shooting there was wild with 2019 travelers coming in and 1950 characters running around. It was a special day.
Karen Aldridge: Did you tell Kevin about it?
Kelsey Asbille: I didn't tell him yet. I will tell him today!
WCT: Tell me about this apple pie you ate in the series. Was it tasty?
Kelsey Asbille: Lord, have mercy! My most challenging role to date was eating apple pie with fake teeth. They gave me the most apple pie. There were four of them. I was sick as a dog afterward. There is only so much sugar intake you can do in one day. I had to lay off apple pies for a long time, but now I am back on.
WCT: So, you are saying those sound effects on the show were real?
Kelsey Asbille: I provide all of my own sounds. [laughs]
WCT: I don't know how you didn't laugh through all of those scenes.
Kelsey Asbille: There was always a lot of laughter on set.
WCT: What was it like to finally have scenes with Chris Rock?
Karen Aldridge: He was very nice. It was Chris Rock and he could have been a jerk, but there was no room for that on any level on the Fargo set with everyone being full of respect.
Kelsey Asbille: It is hard to not be starstruck around him. There was just an overall sweeping gratitude for us all to be there and telling this story. With Chris Rock it was no different. He was very committed and dedicated to the role. He was there in service to a story and I think that shows in the performance.
WCT: You had mentioned the costuming before. How important was that for your characters?
Kesley Asbille: It was my entire part. It brought the physicality and made the characters come alive. The costume fittings were so much fun. I think it was the best costume I will have for any job.
WCT: Kelsey, talk about acting in the Hayley Kiyoko queer video "Girls Like Girls." I loved hanging out with her once.
Kelsey Asbille: I love her, too! She is one of my really good friends and asked me to do the music video. It meant a lot to her and she co-directed it. It was one of her first music videos and we had no idea what a huge hit would be. It is at millions of views now!
It was one of my favorite things that I have done and it is really to Hayley's credit because she put so much of her heart into it.
WCT: Karen, how was filming Chicago Fire here in Chicago?
Karen Aldridge: It was a rite of passage. This was my Law & Order. It was fun!
WCT: You were Jeff nominate for a Next Theatre Company production?
Karen Aldridge: Yes. Chicago has a rich theater community. It was worth moving there for the winter. It was the thing I am most proud of. I am not from Chicago, but I talk about it like I am.
WCT: Yellowstone is on my list to watch. What is that experience like?
Kelsey Asbille: Don't worry, I won't hold you to it! We are shooting season four in this new normal of a COVID bubble. I am in Montana, but was quarantining in New York before this, so it is nice to be here.
I worked with Taylor Sheridan on the movie Wind River and his next project was Yellowstone. I like his storytelling. To collaborate with Taylor Sheridan and Noah Hawley is a blessing on both Fargo and Yellowstone. I am trying to take notes at every step. Check out Yellowstone and see if you like it.
WCT: I will. Are there other future projects coming from you two or are we locked down?
Kesley Asbille: The lockdown has been really crazy because it makes us realize the pace we were all going at. We have to find solace in the stillness these days.
I am glad that the industry has found ways to continue in strange times. We will see what is next. I hope Karen can do more theater because I want to see that so badly. She actually took me to Steppenwolf when I was there to see the production Bug, which Carrie Coon starred in, so that was a weird Fargo coincidence. Karen is famous in the Chicago theater world. I was with a celebrity!
Tune in Sundays to Fargo at 9 p.m. central time on FX, also airing the day after on Hulu. Look for more information at FXNetworks.com .