Unless you were watching British TV in the early 1990s you’ve probably never caught Ewan McGregor on the small screen. The actor has appeared very few times on American shows—once on ER in 1997, once on Tales from the Crypt in 1996, and in The Corrections TV movie in 2012—but for the most part his career is an eclectic list of starring film roles.
So for his first adventure in headlining a U.S. series McGregor is going big, signing on to play two characters, brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy, in season 3 of Fargo. Deadline has the character details: Emmit Stussy—a handsome, self-made real-estate mogul—who considers himself the Parking Lot King of Minnesota and a beacon of success. Ray—a balding and pot-bellied parole officer—has seen his best years pass by and blames Emmit for his lot in life.
Fargo has stunned audiences and drawn other feature stars for its lead roles since it debuted on FX in 2014. Season 1, set in 2006, included Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks, and Martin Freeman in a chilling kind of cat-and-mouse game. Season 2 was still star-packed, with Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, and Ted Danson, but it threw the timeline back to 1979 and the story of a murder cover-up and a crime family.
So far McGregor is the only announced cast for season 3, which creator and showrunner Noah Hawley has said will be set in the present day.
While most anthology series retain the same cast or characters season-to-season, placing them in new storylines, Fargo’s consistency is all about location. Specifically the bizarre crimes and plucky people found in America’s frozen north, as conceived by Joel and Ethan Coen in the 1996 film.
The show has appeared on a number of best-of-the-year lists both seasons where critics often cite its brevity for part of its success. A lower episode order, just 10 per season, seems to help writers constrict and focus the story.
Though anthology series have been around for decades, as a holdover from the radio drama era that preceded the rise of television, they’ve seen a resurgence in American drama. American Horror Story, True Detective, Scream Queens, American Crime, and American Crime Story have all had successful runs over the past 5 years. The format is a bit more common in Britain where series like Masterpiece Contemporary and Agatha Christie do well on TV, but more modern anthologies like Skins and Black Mirror have also taken off there.
Hawley hinted that some characters from Fargo’s first 2 seasons may appear in season 3, which doesn’t necessarily mean the same actors will be available. Until filming starts on Fargo, which is set for FX’s 2017 schedule, McGregor is getting into the right mindset by reprising his character Renton in Trainspotting 2.