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/ 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 (1996) 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.
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.
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 the film Fargo (1996), but also from other Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) movies such as Miller's Crossing (1990) and The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).
Writer Noah Hawley and director Randall Einhorn confirmed that both the series and movie take place within the same universe.
Bruce Campbell, who plays President Ronald Reagan, was also briefly visible onscreen in the source movie Fargo (1996). 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.
Even though Noah Hawley is the only writer credited in the whole first season, he actually put together a writers room, with people that helped him tweak the stories and discuss ideas.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays ex-con Nikki Swango in the third season, signed on to join the series without knowing anything about her part. She assumed she would be playing a "really nice Minnesota cop or a really sweet Minnesota housewife."
In season one, Deputy Knudsen may be a reference to The Big Lebowski (1998). The private eye that is following The Dude (Jeff Bridges) was hired by the Knudsens, Bunny's family back in Minnesota.
The same building is used in all three seasons of Fargo with different uses. Season one is Lester's (Martin Freeman) work office. Season two is the butchers Ed (Jesse Plemons) works in. Season three is the apartment building Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) lives in.
There is Jewish symbolism throughout the first four episodes of season 1. Lester Nygaard's (Martin Freeman) house number is 613. The ransom note to Stavros (Oliver Platt) asks for an amount ending in 613 and when Gus (Colin Hanks) talks to Molly (Allison Tolman) after he has arrested Lorne (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.
The music in the credits of Fargo: Rhinoceros (2015) (season 2) is "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" which is a nod to the Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), In which the fictional band The Soggy Bottom Boys performed the track.
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.
During season 2, Peggy Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst) is very eager to participate in a Lifespring seminar. Lifespring was a real organization founded in the mid-1970s and was an offshoot of the so-called "human potential" movement that began in the late 1960s. Starting in the late 1970s until Lifespring disbanded in the mid-1990s, dozens of lawsuits levied a wide variety of complaints against Lifespring, ranging from characterizing it as a fraudulent pyramid scheme to holding it responsible for over two dozen participants' deaths.
The Gerhardts' house in season two is the same house that appears on AMC's Hell on Wheels (2011) as Brigham Young's house.
Ewan McGregor spent more than two hours each day in makeup to transform into Ray Stussy, with a wig, prosthetic nose and padding. He actually gained weight for the first episode, in which his character is semi-naked throughout one scene, but began losing the weight after that scene was filmed.
The fourth season is expected to begin filming in the fall of 2019, to air in 2020. Writer/creator Noah Hawley stated that it will be a "period piece" set before the events of the second season in 1979. According to Hawley, season four will "look at Fargo from a thematically different place."
The second season is a prequel to the first season, taking place nearly 30 years before. It expands on the Solversons' family and their story, and Molly Solverson (played by Allison Tolman in season one) is seen as a young girl.
Each season features at least one cast member who has previously appeared in a film directed by the Coen brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen).
Four actors from the first three seasons all also appeared in the movie The Post (2017): Jesse Plemons, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Stuhlbarg. Carrie Coon's real-life husband, actor Tracy Letts, also appeared in The Post.
Jim Gaffigan was originally cast as Donny Mashman in season 3, but unfortunately had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
The soundtrack for season 2 contains several songs featured on the soundtracks for Coen brothers Tracy Letts films. Included among them are: "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby" (O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)), as well as "Run Through the Jungle" and Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In" (The Big Lebowski (1998)) and "Danny Boy" (Miller's Crossing (1990)).
During a 2014 interview on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Noah Hawley said that the inspiration for the character Mr. Wrench (who, like Russell Harvard, the actor who plays him, is deaf and communicates through American Sign Language) came from Hawley's time living in Austin, Texas, near the Texas School for the Deaf. "As I was formulating the show, I kept seeing sign language around everywhere. And it's such a compelling and visual means of communication. But it's also a language that most people don't speak. So it creates an amazing amount of privacy for deaf people - to be surrounded by hearing people and to be able to communicate in a way that no one can really understand. And to put in a context where you might have characters coming in who can communicate in that way can be really unsettling for characters like Lester or other characters who are confronted. You know, there is a scene in the third episode where Russell's character confronts Lester directly - signs directly at him. And it feels very aggressive because it's a very - it is a very aggressive thing that he's saying but it's also - he knows someone's saying something to him. He doesn't understand. He can't respond. He doesn't know how to get out of that situation." Coincidentally, Russell Harvard graduated from the Texas School for the Deaf.
Bob Odenkirk, who portrays Bill Oswalt in season one, and Jesse Plemons, who portrays Ed Blomquist in season two, both appeared in Breaking Bad (2008) as Saul Goodman and Todd, respectively.
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.
Jeffrey Donovan (Dodd Gerhardt) & Bruce Campbell (Ronald Reagan) also worked together on Burn Notice (2007) as Michael Westen & Sam Axe respectively.
David Thewlis also appeared in The Big Lebowski (1998) for directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
The characters of Nick Offerman and Dan Beirne, respectively Karl and Sonny (season 2), bear great resemblance between the characters of John Goodman (Walter) and Steve Buscemi (Donny), featured in The Big Lebowski (1998).
Both of the Stussy brothers are named Emmit and Ray, it is a homage to 1999 Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown (1999) where the main protagonist played by Sean Penn was named Emmet Ray.
Noah Hawley is one of the show's producers. Hawley is also the name of a neighboring town to Fargo, North Dakota.
Season 3 costars Shea Whigham and Michael Stuhlbarg previously costarred in Boardwalk Empire (2010).
Michael Stuhlbarg (Sy Feltz) & Shea Whigham (Moe Dammick) also worked together on Boardwalk Empire (2010) as Arnold Rothstein & Elias 'Eli' Thompson respectively.
The blanket that Otto (Michael Hogan) uses in three episodes of season two was bought by a fan in New York.
Jean Smart (Floyd Gerhardt) & Patrick Wilson (Lou Solverson) also worked together on Barry Munday (2010) as Carol Munday & Barry Munday respectively.
Ted Danson (Hank Larsson) & Nick Offerman (Karl Weathers) also worked on episode 9.10, Curb Your Enthusiasm: Fatwa! (2017), of Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000) as Ted Dansen & Cody respectively.
Martin Freeman (Lester Nygaard) & Billy Bob Thornton (Lorne Malvo) also worked together on Love Actually (2003) as John & The US President respectively.
Ewan McGregor and Carrie Coon appear together in Season 3. McGregor appeared in August: Osage County (2013), 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.
Jesse Plemons (Ed Blumquist) and Cristin Milioti (Betsy Solverson) also worked together on episode 4.1, Black Mirror: USS Callister (2017), of Black Mirror (2011) as Robert Daly & Nanette Cole respectively.
Billy Bob Thornton (Lorne Malvo) & Colin Hanks (Gus Grimly) also worked together on Parkland (2013) as Forrest Sorrels & Dr. Malcolm Perry respectively.
Bob Odenkirk (Bill Oswalt) & Julie Ann Emery (Ida Thurman) also worked together on four episodes of Better Call Saul (2015) as Jimmy McGill & Betsy Kettleman respectively.
Noah Hawley has previously worked with Adam Goldberg, Ryan O'Nan, Joshua Close, Susan Park, Kai Lennox, and Cristin Milioti on The Unusuals (2009).