The ''ER'' actor moves on to bigger things with his ''Fargo'' role

By Dave Karger
Updated March 29, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Fargo (Movie)

  • Movie

Someone needs to give William H. Macy lessons in how to behave like a hot commodity. For God’s sake, don’t be so affable, peppering your speech with ”you bet” or ”boy.” Don’t sound beleaguered when you say you’ve moved to L.A. And don’t cheerily offer a reporter your home phone number.

You’d think he’d know better: Macy, 46, is an accomplished New York stage veteran who has already achieved ”Oh, that guy” status with his recurring spot on ER as chief of surgery David Morgenstern and supporting parts in Mr. Holland’s Opus (as flattopped vice principal Wolters) and Down Periscope (as Kelsey Grammer’s rival sub skipper). But playing murder-minded Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo, the actor finds himself in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

It’s true he had to lobby the Coen brothers to cast him as the scheming, feckless lead. ”I thought it was a perfect fit and I told them that,” recalls Macy, who lives with actress Felicity Huffman (Hackers). ”I said, ‘This is my role, guys.”’ Yet Macy, who auditioned early, had to wait as the Coens saw dozens of other actors. ”Yeah,” says Ethan Coen, laughing, ”it was probably pretty frustrating for Bill.”

Once he’d secured the part, though, the East Coast-bred David Mamet regular (Oleanna, Homicide) and sometime screenwriter (Above Suspicion) homed in on Fargo‘s often ridiculous Midwestern vernacular as if he were learning a foreign tongue. ”It may be his Mamet training,” says Joel Coen, ”but you can write something like ‘No, no, see, I know, see’ just to indicate that the character is groping, and Bill will treat it as text.”

Though he plays, in his own words, ”a serious loser” in Fargo, Macy considers the smarmy Lundegaard a welcome change from the rash of law-abiding squares he has tackled of late. ”Well, you know, I’m a white guy in his 40s, and I can use big words and memorize long speeches, so there you are,” he says of past typecasting. ”I think what happens is if you do something and you do it at all well, somebody else will ask you to do it again.” Macy pauses, then adds ominously, ”I shudder to think what roles are going to be coming my way.”

Episode Recaps

Fargo (Movie)

  • Movie
  • R
  • 98 minutes