Kate Walsh could have been in “Fargo” twice. In the mid-1990s, Joel and Ethan Coen were casting their film. “I lived in Chicago at the time,” the “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” actress says. “I was an up-and-coming actress. I was a huge [Coens] fan, but I didn’t get the part.”
But now she’s in the TV series version of “Fargo,” a miniseries that tells of another, this time true tale of murder and crime in sleepy, seemingly polite North Dakota. She plays Gina, the ex-stripper whose philandering, wealthy husband is, in the first episode, murdered by a hitman (Billy Bob Thornton) at the behest, sort of, of a nervous insurance salesman (Martin Freeman).
“It’s kind of cool to have come full circle,” she says.
Walsh isn’t in a lot of the show, but her scenes represent its broadly comic side. Gina is not sad that her husband has taken a screwdriver to the head, and isn’t above straddling Freeman’s character.
Walsh filmed her scenes off-and-on over the course of the months-long shoot. That might have been jarring for her, having to get in and out of character. But it helped, in a way. “I was an outsider trying to fit in,” she says, pointing out that her character is not from there. “I pictured her coming from Florida.”
Doing “Fargo” was a change of pace for Walsh, who spent eight years with the same character: Dr. Addison Montgomery. “The most challenging thing was keeping the continuity. I would come in once a month. I loved how my character develops. I savored every moment.”
The downside is that she’s one of the actors not doing the broad Midwestern accent that so defined the 1996 film. “I did miss it,” she confesses. “I was jealous of everyone doing it. I was like, ‘Are you sure you don’t want the accent? Are you SURE?”
Walsh also didn’t get to meet the Coens, who only served as executive producers. (The show was written by Noah Hawley.) “I think they watched my audition tape, in which I wore shorts and t-shirt and a ridiculous sweatshirt. I did a high karate kick. I try to work in a high karate kick whenever I can, to show that I’m super flexible.”
Although she won’t get to stay with her character long — the show is a one-off, telling one story over ten episodes — she came to really love Gina.
“It was really liberating to play someone who says what they’re thinking,” Walsh says. “She’s honest and she’s a survivor. I identify with that. I totally empathize with her. She’s basically a prostitute — a former stripper who thought she married really well. But now she desperately wants out.
“I feel like I would need to get out of there too. I would not want to live in that mansion. I would not want to live in Fargo.”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge