The TV adaptation of hit nineties flick Fargo debuted on Channel Four on Sunday night, and it is WELL worth viewing if you haven't had a chance to yet. Those of you that have seen it have no doubt been fighting the urge to go into your best Minnesota accent since haven't you? Yah? Aw heck, it's okay, us too.
The show stars Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman in the roles of Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard, so how did the very British dude who played Jim from The UK office and Sherlock's Dr Watson manage to master this famous mid-west accent? It was all with the help of veteran voice coach and character actor Tony Alcantar, who directed all the cast in nailing down this famous dialect.
One of the main worries for Alcantar was that this way of talking had been parodied so much since the original movie, it may have come across as "accent-acting'" He told Esquire; "Every actor knew the Fargo accent in its most stereotypical sound, but then I'd have to pull the actor back to make sure we weren't accent-acting. Nearly twenty years of Fargo send-ups have rendered the accent comical, and we didn't want to approach that. There's an expectation that it's going to be all, 'YAHH!'"
So how can you master this regional accent? Alcantar went on to say; "If you compare to standard American English, [a Fargo accent] has a little bit more music to it. There's a little bit more lilt. If you look at the name of those who are not only in the story but in the state, there's a very strong Scandinavian grouping. If you look at the composition of the people and the social group's they belong to, there are German genetic roots. Their signature sound would be 'Yahh!' versus 'Yeah.' That's a very European term of agreeing."
Repetition is key too he said; "It's how anyone learns anything. Behind the scenes, the people who drove the transport van were all saying 'Yahh!' and 'You betcha!' We were speaking that way, and it got to be second nature. That's the key to learning any accent: Immerse yourself into it, and before you know it, you're speaking it."
And lastly, try not to let your own natural accent come through; "You never know when someone's going to slip into their first learned sound," he says. "There's one episode where Allison Tolman (who plays Molly, the new Marge Gunderson) was at the insurance agency. She walks in and says 'Mr Nygaard, I'm interested in buying some in-surance.' Alison was brought up in Texas, and that was a phraseology she learned. Clearly, people in Minnesota don't say insurance. They say IN-surance. Stuff like that creeps up unannounced. While everything is easier the more you do it, sometimes you slip up — we all do that."
So what have we learned here? They key to any decent Fargo accent is to just completely immerse yourself in it and practice, practice, practice! So throw caution to the wind and just go for it around the office or your gaff today, others will catch on, you betcha they will.