“Don’t assume just because I’m an old woman that my back is weak.”
It’s a defining line for Floyd Gerhardt, played to great acclaim by Jean Smart, in the second season of FX’s Fargo. Floyd is the matriarch of a crime family who assumes the boss-like role, only to be ensnared in a bloody, ultimately deadly season-long battle. It’s one of the defining roles in Smart’s decades-spanning career, one that netted her an Emmy nomination and a Critics’ Choice Television Award.
Speaking to PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, Smart says it was the speech in which that line was spoken that told her she needed to play the part. “I read for Noah Hawley,” she recalls. “And once I read that speech, I just knew everything about her.”
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Smart even created a backstory for the character — though it didn’t exactly mean much in the end. “I had my own theories as to why she was named ‘Floyd’ — I had this whole actor-y backstory about why her father named her Floyd and blah blah — but I waited until the end of the season to ask Noah, because I wanted to have my own ideas,” she says. “And he said, ‘My wife has an aunt named Floyd and I just thought it was cool.'” She adds, with a smile, “That’s it?”
Whatever backstory she made up, of course, it made for one heck of a performance. Watch more in the video above. Smart can currently be seen starring as Blake Lively’s mom in A Simple Favor.