Carnegie Mellon University
October 12, 2015

Generations of Talent

Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson

Ted Danson, Patrick Wilson

In the world of Joel and Ethan Coen, even the darkest corners of humanity are illuminated with humor. The complexity of their characters and storytelling must be treated with care by only the most skilled of actors.

So it comes as no surprise that three Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama alumni were cast in the second season of FX's award-winning series "Fargo," a spin-off of the Coen brothers eponymous 1996 film.

This chapter of "Fargo" takes place in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1979, where Patrick Wilson (A 1995) plays Officer Lou Solverson, trying to solve a local murder with his father-in-law, Sheriff Hank Larsson, played by Ted Danson (A 1972). As they work the case they encounter a complex cast of characters, including a young, misguided woman named Simone, played by Rachel Keller (A 2014).

"It's always exciting for me to see where different School of Drama people land," Wilson said. "I was going through the makeup trailer saying, 'this is awesome we have three people from CMU.'"

Though each of the actors' matriculation at the School of Drama differed by more than a decade, they managed to find common threads that bound them together.

"One of the most important things I got out of Carnegie, is that 'The play's the thing,' Danson said. "The ensemble — the play is something bigger than yourself. Your job [as an actor] is to illuminate the material, it's to illuminate the human condition. It's not about you and the spotlight, it's about serving the work. This gives my job bigger meaning and more depth to my heart."

"It's always exciting for me to see where different School of Drama people land. I was going through the makeup trailer saying, 'this is awesome we have three people from CMU.'" — Patrick Wilson

Wilson echoed that sentiment saying that he felt his training began with the text and allowed him to take a personal approach to his craft.

"One of the things I love about actors is there's a real mystery to it," Wilson said. "I think CMU is great about making it personal. What you see [from alumni] is a respect for the text and the craft."

Both Danson and Wilson were excited to watch Keller, a recent graduate, do their alma mater proud on the show, which, has been her big break.

Rachel Keller (A 2014)

"The filming was sort of the best thing and the scariest thing," Keller said. "Because it was exactly what I want to be doing, but that can bring out your weirdest and deepest insecurities. I found it was much more collaborative than I expected. I was immediately asked my opinion about [the story] not just by the other actors, but the production team."

As for working with her fellow alumni, both of whom are veteran TV and film stars, Keller felt right at home.

"I think everyone works differently, but I remember the day that Patrick and I were on set together and I felt his style was familiar," Keller said. "I know the kind of leadership School of Drama alumni have and their expansive awareness of everything going on on set. I think both Patrick and Ted had a really acute awareness of what was happening at all times."

The season premier of "Fargo" airs on FX, Monday, Oct. 12 at 10 p.m. EST.