Austin’s Noah Hawley talked about making two of the most interesting series on TV in recent years, “Fargo” and “Legion,” during a Saturday appearance at South by Southwest. The interviewer: Pulitzer Prize finalist and Austin resident Philipp Meyer, whose “The Son” will be premiering on AMC this spring as a series starring Pierce Brosnan.
Hawley, who’s not only a show runner but also an acclaimed novelist, said that making “Fargo” for TV was like making a 10-hour movie. And he noted that the Coen brothers, on whose movie his series was based, aren’t exactly talkative about their creative process, so he had to analyze it for himself. What did he discover? That they let the camera do a lot of the talking.
Hawley said he thinks the key to the success of “Fargo” was the focus on creating “a feeling and a sensibility” that reflected the original movie.
With “Legion,” which is currently showing on FX, Hawley has a different challenge. He’s in comic-book territory, and he’s dealing with one of the most powerful mutants ever, played by Dan Stevens. So he says he has tried to keep the audience guessing for the first few episodes, that he’s trying to establish “a state of mind” once again.
But since “Legion” is on a commercial network, he says, he has to take into consideration the fact that his narrative will be interrupted for commercials. “You have to approach it a bit different” when that’s the case, he said.
” ‘Legion’ isn’t clear to anyone yet, but we’re moving in that direction,” he said. “We’re creating a world.”
Much of the session on Saturday focused on process, on how Hawley communicates with various directors to keep the episodes consistent in tone. “You do what’s called a tone meeting,” he said. “You go over the script page by page, and the meeting can be three to four hours long.”
He said he thinks the key to success for “Legion” and other series is to engage the viewer, to disrupt expectations, to make them put down a cellphone and actually focus on what’s on TV.
“We’re not going to all you what it means, and if we do that, the viewer’s imagination is engaged,” he said. “If you don’t give what’s expected, there’s tension that makes the audience engage.”