It is impossible to talk about Fargo—the TV series, the movie… hell, even the place—without talking about the accent.
It’s one that gets bastardized pretty frequently, and if you come from anywhere in the Midwest and have any semblance of a regional dialect, you’ve more likely than not endured a mocking “oooh, YA???, a “you betcha” or even an uncreative “Minnesoooooooota” from someone in your life. In other words, it can be a bit of a cliché, and as such, it is a difficult accent to get right.
In honor of last night’s Season Three finale, we’re ranking the accents from all three seasons of Fargo. For the purposes of this list, we’re only looking at main characters or important recurring characters, and we’re limiting it to characters who are supposed to have Upper Midwestern accents—so no Lorne Malvo, no Gina, no V.M. Varga, and no Mike Milligan.
Actor’s origins: Flagstaff, Arizona
When it’s there, Ted Danson’s Fargo accent isn’t terrible, but ultimately its downfall is its woeful inconsistency. It comes and goes from scene to scene, sometimes from sentence to sentence.
Origins: Minooka, Illinois
On paper, his Midwestern roots are an asset here, but Nick Offerman’s Karl Weathers mostly just winds up sounding like… Nick Offerman. He hardens up his “L”s and flattens his vowels, but like Ted Danson’s, his accent is spotty at best and never manages to sound that different from his natural, distinctive speaking voice.
Origins: Alabama/London/South Korea
Don Chumph is supposed to be a total doofus—one who botches his blackmail plot so badly he winds up at the mercy of the sinister Lorne Malvo—so it makes sense that his accent would be a little camp, but that being said, this is just rough. We’ll always treasure his Philly accent, though.
Origins: Crieff, Scotland
In fairness, Ewan McGregor faced a uniquely difficult challenge with his dual Fargo roles; on top of having to work against his natural Scottish brogue, he was tasked with playing brothers whose class differences would factor slightly into the way they speak. Emmit’s wealthy, the Parking Lot King of Minnesota, and presumably has ditched a bit of his working-class roots for appearance’s sake, so his accent’s a little lighter than that of his failed parole officer-turned-criminal brother, Ray. Still, all things considered, McGregor’s accent(s) leave(s) something to be desired.
Origins: Mart, Texas
Give Plemons credit for really going for it, but Ed Blumquist comes off sounding downright cartoonish.
Origins: Naperville, Illinois
Bob Odenkirk’s Minnesota accent as Bill Oswalt is a more subtle, realistic take, and for that we have to give him props, but it’s perhaps a shade too subtle. Odenkirk’s got the same challenge as Offerman—doing a believable accent when you’ve got a very distinct, recognizable natural speaking voice—and he does it more successfully, but every once in a while you can hear a shade of the Chicago area slip through Oswalt’s Minnesotan.
Origins: Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Milioti’s Betsy falls victim to the same problems Jesse Plemons’ Ed does, accent-wise. Ultimately, she goes just a hair too big with it, and it winds up sounding a little like the mom from Bobby’s World.
Origins: Washington, D.C.
It’s worth noting that this one is technically not a Minnesota accent; we learn in Season One that Stavros Milos moved his family to Minnesota in 1987 to escape his debts, and based on the accent Platt’s going for here, we’re supposed to presume his character originally hails from Chicago. But 20 years in Minnesota would presumably affect that accent a bit, resulting in a bit of a Midwestern hybrid, so for the purposes of this list, we’re including it. In a vacuum, it’s a decent-but-not-great Chicago accent, but when you factor in the time spent in Minnesota, it feels just about right.
Origins: Los Angeles, California
Winnie Lopez’s accent plays up the sing-songy cadence to the nth degree, and at times you can almost hear her smiling as she’s speaking, but it works for a character who’s meant to embody “Minnesota nice.”
Origins: Long Beach, California
As Emmit Stussy’s right-hand man, Stuhlbarg utilizes an accent that’s accurate but not too over-the-top. You can pick up on it, but it doesn’t get too campy and distract from the humor of lines like “feminine hygiene deployed as a weapon.”
Origins: Seattle, Washington
As the matriarch of the Gerhardt crime family, Floyd is tough as nails, and you can hear it in her voice. The sing-song quality of a Winnie Lopez or a Betsy Solverson or a Peggy Blumquist isn’t there, but that Midwestern unflappability absolutely is.
Origins: Sacramento, California
Colin Hanks’ accent in Season One is an exercise in restraint; his character hails from a city (Duluth) rather than a small town, and his accent is less pronounced, but it’s sprinkled in appropriately.
Origins: Sandy, Utah
Like Floyd Gerhardt, Nikki Swango’s accent plays up the hardness of those flat vowel sounds, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also adept at softening it into something more tender when the moment is right, like the way she says “coconut” when Gloria (Carrie Coon) offers her pie.
Origins: Hampshire, England
Two words: Aw jeez.
Origins: San Mateo, California
Carradine’s accent as Lou is pretty on-the-money and fitting for the character: He’s sharp, and—like a lot of Midwesterners—he’s genial but in possession of a strong nose for bullshit.
Origins: Houston, Texas
Molly Solverson is the heart of Season One, so it’s important that her accent reflects that. She sounds warm and nurturing, but there’s a skepticism and a weariness there too, the kind that comes from years of being overlooked by her bosses and having to settle for assault rifle-themed cakes.
Origins: Copley, Ohio
Based on the effectiveness of her accent and her familiarity with the phrase oh, for cute, it seems that Carrie Coon’s knowledge of the Upper Midwest runs deep. Gloria’s pretty no-frills, and her accent’s strong without being campy. Plus, her use of “what the heck” throughout Season Three is pretty unparalleled.
Origins: Point Pleasant, New Jersey
This one may be controversially high, but listen: Is Kirsten Dunst’s Minnesota accent—which made its first memorable appearance in Drop Dead Gorgeous, and which she has honed by listening to her family members, who own one of the state’s oldest farms—over-the-top? Of course. Is it a ridiculous caricature? Oh ya, you betcha. But it’s perfect for Peggy Blumquist, who manages to be both the show’s comic relief and its greatest source of pathos. It’s goofy, but it’s fitting; Peggy’s half-nuts, and she deserves a big, off-the-rails accent to match.
Origins: Amesbury, Massachusetts
Jeffrey Donovan’s got an advantage as Dodd in that he just looks like a guy who would sound like that. The hats, those winter gloves, the cigar—he’s the guy who comes home from vacation every year with a freshly killed deer strapped to the front of his car. The guy who’ll always help you put snow chains on your tires even though he’s a little disgusted you don’t know how to do it yourself. So it’s fitting that Donovan’s got one of the best accents of the series—he’s one of only a few cast members to really pull off that hard, curled-tongue “L” sound (the way he says “glazed” when ordering a donut is perfection).
Origins: St. Paul, Minnesota
As Simone Gerhardt, Rachel Keller is the only cast member on this list who actually hails from Minnesota—and you can tell. Her accent’s authentic, just a slight exaggeration of her natural way of speaking, so of course it’s pitch-perfect.
Origins: St. Petersburg, Florida
In Season Two, Patrick Wilson played a young version of Lou Solverson—played by Keith Carradine in Season One—and remarkably, their accents are pretty close (although Wilson’s is a little more pronounced). Both avoid going over the top while still maintaining a pretty textbook example of the dialect, and Wilson nails it—the cadence, the vowel sounds and the colloquialisms in a way that truly brings Lou Solverson to life.