Billy Bob Thornton came up with his character's hair cut on his own. The moment Noah Hawley saw him, he knew they were both on the same page regarding the character.
Every episode starts with the onscreen words "This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 2006 (or 1979/ 2010 depending on what season it is). At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred." This is a nod to the way that the 1996 source movie Fargo started (also by claiming that its events were based on a true story). However, neither the movie nor the TV show are actually based on true events. In a 2014 interview, the show's Executive Producer Noah Hawley clarified the "true story" episode introductions by saying "the show.... It's all just made up. The whole cloth. I didn't go looking for [a] true crime. It started from a character standpoint and everything grew organically out of that."
Each episode of the first season has a title that refers to a koan, parable, or philosophical paradox.
The name of the character 'Deputy Knudsen' is a reference to The Big Lebowski. The private eye that is following The Dude was hired by the Knudsens, Bunny's family back in Minnesota.
Season 2 takes place around an incident in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1979, and focuses on a young Lou Solverson (played in season one by Keith Carradine). The writer, Noah Hawley, says season 2 not only draws inspiration from Fargo, but also from other Coen Brothers movies such as Miller's Crossing and The Man Who Wasn't There
This is actually the second TV show spin-off of the movie Fargo (1996). The first was in 2003 starring Edie Falco. A pilot was shot and aired but the series was not picked up.
In Season One Episode 2, as Deputy Solverson and Lester exit the drug store, a parking spot is designated "Parking Reserved for Owner Mike Zoss". This is a reference to Mike Zoss Drugs, a Minnesota pharmacy, and no doubt a nod to the Coen brothers who spent time there in their youth, and subsequently named their production company Mike Zoss Productions, as well as giving the name to the pharmacy that is robbed in their film 'No Country For Old Men'.
In season 2, the poem Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine) recites is called Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Season 2 Episode 9 ("Castle") is narrated by Martin Freeman, who played Lester in Season 1.
In the first episode, Lester walks into a diner to meet up with Lorne, a sign advertises White Russians for $4.95. This is an obvious nod to the Coens and their film "The Big Lebowski" whose lead character The Dude drinks White Russians throughout the film.
When the FBI detectives discuss about the fox, rabbit and cabbage riddle it is a reference to the Office (UK) series. In fact Martin Freeman solves the riddle just like his character does in the Office.
Writer Noah Hawley and director Randall Einhorn confirmed that both the series and movie take place within the same universe.
Even though Noah Hawley is the only writer credited in the whole first season, he actually put together a writers room, with people that help him tweak the stories and discuss ideas.
In the trailer for season 1, there is a clip where Mr. Numbers (Adam Goldberg) shoots a would-be robber with a gun covered in a Scrunyon bag. No such scene appears in the series. However, you can find the deleted scene in the "extras" section in the DVD, among others.
The Gerhardts' house in season 2, is the same house that appears on AMC's Hell on Wheels as Brigham Young's house.
There is Jewish symbolism throughout the first 4 episodes of season 1. Lester Nygaard's house number is 613. The ransom note to Stavros asks for an amount ending in 613 and when Gus talks to Molly after he has arrested Billy Bob Thornton, he tells her that he was on "a 613 - a dead dog". According to Judaic authorities, there are 613 mitzvahs - or commandments - in the Torah. Of course, we also keep seeing the Mitzvah Tank, in front of Gus's apartment, at the gas station where Gus gets the 613 call.
Bruce Campbell, who plays President Ronald Reagan, was also briefly visible onscreen in the source movie Fargo. He is in the soap opera that is playing on the TV in the kidnappers' cabin. This was actual archival footage of the young Campbell in a real 1980s soap opera, Generations, that really was one of his early acting jobs.
The 'fox, rabbit, and cabbage' question posed by Pepper and Budge to Lester is the exact same question posed to Martin Freeman (Lester) and his colleagues in The Office (UK, 2001): Season 1, Episode 4 - Training. Martin Freeman (Tim, Lester) gives the correct answer in both series.
The second season is kind of a prequel to the first season. Expanding on the Solversons' family and their story, and Molly Solverson is seen as a young girl.
The music in the credits of Rhinoceros (season 2) is "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" which is a nod to the Coen Brothers movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" In which the fictional band The Soggy Bottom Boys performed the track.
The show shoots in the Winter for real, which is the reason why the seasons air a year and a half apart.
Bruce Campbell, who plays Ronald Reagan in season 2, also had a minor role in the original Fargo (1996). As of 2017, he's the only actor to have appeared in the film and the TV series.
The soundtrack for season 2 contains several songs featured on the soundtracks for Coen brothers films. Included among them are: "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), as well as "Run Through the Jungle" and Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In" (The Big Lebowski).
Jesse Plemons who portrays Ed Blomquist in season two, and Bob Odenkirk, who portrays Bill Oswalt in season one, both appeared in Breaking Bad as Todd and Saul Goodman, respectively.
In season one the character of Lester wears a deer stalker hat made famous by Sherlock Holmes. Martin Freeman who plays Lester also stars in Sherlock Holmes as Watson.
In season 3, episode 4 the episode is narrated by Billy Bob Thornton who starred in Season one as Lorne Malvo.
In season 1 episode 3 when Gus goes to tell his boss he could have picked up Lorne Malvo his boss mentions that 'it's just like Sioux Falls all over again' a mention to season 2 well before it was made!
In Season 3, Episode 3: When Gloria (Carrie Coon) rings the bell at the window of the Writers Guild Of America, the chime continues to resonate until the woman answering puts her finger on the bell. This appears to be a nod to the Coen Brothers movie Barton Fink where John Turturro rings the bell and Steve Buschemi puts his finger on it.
Billy Bob Thornton and Stephen J. Root have both appeared in films by the Coen brothers: The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Colin Hanks's father, Tom Hanks, appeared in The Ladykillers (2004). Adam Goldberg and Tom Hanks appeared together in Saving Private Ryan (1998), which also featured Harve Presnell, who had appeared in the original Fargo (1996). Ted Danson from Season 2 also appeared in Saving Private Ryan.
Jim Gaffigan was originally cast as Donny Mashman in season 3, but unfortunately had drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
Each season features at least one cast member who has previously appeared in a film directed by the Coen brothers.
David Thewlis also appeared in The Big Lebowski (1998) for directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
Noah Hawley is one of the show's producers. Hawley is also the name of a neighboring town to Fargo, North Dakota.
The blanket that Otto uses in 3 episodes of season 2 was bought by a fan in New York
Season 3 costars Shea Whigham and Michael Stuhlbarg previously costarred in Boardwalk Empire.
Hawley has previously worked with Adam Goldberg, Ryan O'Nan, Joshua Close, Susan Park, Kai Lennox, and Cristin Milioti on "The Unusuals."
Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon appear together in Season 3. McGregor appeared in August: Osage County, based on the play by Tracy Letts, husband of Carrie Coon. Ironically, Letts was initially quite resistant to McGregor's casting in the film adaptation.
Ewan McGregor previously appeared in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a character previously played by Alec Guinness. The Coen brothers previously directed The Ladykillers (2004), which featured Tom Hanks in a role previously played by Guinness. Hanks is also the father of series cast member Colin Hanks.