Jessie Buckley Will Terrify You This Season on ‘Fargo’

Evan Romano
·7 mins read
Jessie Buckley Will Terrify You This Season on ‘Fargo’
Jessie Buckley Will Terrify You This Season on ‘Fargo’

From Men's Health

  • Part of what makes FX's anthology series Fargo so great is its stable of thrilling characters in each and every season. In season 4, the most exciting is played by rising star Jessie Buckley.

  • Buckley plays Oraetta Mayflower, a nurse who is both sesquipedalian and prone-to-passive-violence.

  • Before Fargo, she's had a number of notable and exciting roles—including the lead role in one of 2020's most unique and perplexing films.

Everything that's ever been called Fargo—whether the original 1996 film by Joel and Ethan Coen, or any of Noah Hawley's four seasons of the FX crime anthology smash hit—has thrived behind its thrilling, chilling, and low-key deranged characters. The show has featured the likes of Season 1's Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) and Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton), or Season 2's Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine). These are characters who don't so much come from the Fargo handbook as the No Country For Old Men Anton Chigurh handbook; someone who terrifies with their unpredictability.

Fargo Season 4 takes that unpredictability and puts it directly into one of those midwestern "Oh yah," vessels. Enter Oraetta Mayflower, a public hospital nurse who uses big words and has an even bigger imagination for sadism. Mayflower is played wonderfully by Irish actress Jessie Buckley, who, already in the midst of a breakout 2020 may have found the best role in one of TV's most beloved shows. While the season features standout performances from the likes of Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, and Ben Whishaw, Buckley's under-the-radar unhinged nurse is the one who always has our attention when she's on screen.

Photo credit: FX
Photo credit: FX

In The New Yorker, Buckley described her character as "a nice cake with a very dark center." In another interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Buckley said the nurse was “bad-ass wrapped up in a lovely chocolate sweet.”

Oraetta Mayflower, in a way, is sort of like the bizarro version of McDormand's sheriff from the original 1996 movie. That character, Marge Gunderson, was just as well-intentioned and good on the inside as her polite accent and demeanor would leave you to believe. Oraetta, meanwhile, is anything but. “I don’t think you can expect anything from her,” Buckley told the Star-Tribune.

Here's everything we know about Buckley and her exciting Fargo role.

Chris Rock says Buckley has the best part in Fargo Season 4.

Photo credit: FX
Photo credit: FX

Given that Fargo was originally supposed to debut its fourth season back in April—its production was delayed due to the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—the show's junket and initial press run was held prior to the coronavirus changing the world so immensely. So, when the Star-Tribune reports that Chris Rock gave Buckley, his Fargo co-star a hug before complimenting her on-screen work, understand that it might be one of the last in-person hugs he's given. It also might be one of the last in-person compliments he gave. “She’s got the best part,” the Star-Tribune reporter relayed Rock saying.

Hawley, who's worked through impressive casts in all four Fargo seasons and has never repeated an actor, says that he picks the characters with purpose. “I tend to just have an instinct for who should play the roles,” He said. “I also am a firm believer that if you’re talented, you can do anything unless you prove otherwise.”

She went above and beyond to craft that Minnesota accent.

Photo credit: FX
Photo credit: FX

Buckley, who was born in Killarney, a town in southwestern Ireland, didn't only work with a dialect coach to perfect her accent, but did her share of research as well. That meant listening to podcasts and radio shows of the region too—anything to hear exactly what it really sounded like.

Photo credit: Men's Health
Photo credit: Men's Health

Part of what makes the character so scary is that you don't realize when she's being nefarious; our brains aren't socialized to hear such niceties, so much polite banter, wrapped around malicious intent. Especially as a character whose purpose is to keep people healthy and well.

“It’s always terrifying and probably the worst thing you’ve ever done until you’ve come to grips with it,” she said in the Star-Tribune interview, regarding the accent. “It isn’t just a mechanical thing. Her voice informs the character and the speed of her thoughts, how her physicality changes when she speaks. It’s all put into a big pot of stew.”

She's in the midst of a true breakout year.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Even before debuting her role in Fargo, Buckley was having the best year of her career; that comes on the heels of her leading role in i'm thinking of ending things, the Netflix film from beloved writer/director Charlie Kaufman. Ending things, based on the novel of the same name, is a movie with no genre; but if we had to call it anything, it would be an existential psychological thriller horror. She dominates the movie, sharing most of her scenes with Jesse Plemons; both manage to surf through the existential, I-don't-know-exactly-what's-happening nature of the film with tight precision.

"Plemons and especially Buckley play this somewhat abstract conundrum for real existential stakes, either tricking you into caring about them or sincerely expressing the need to be cared about," A.O. Scott wrote of the duo in his review for The New York Times. In a review for the BBC, Nicholas Barber again points out Buckley's penchant for masterful accents. "Buckley (who is, incidentally, better at accents than any other actor in the business) makes her believable and likeable throughout," he writes.

She's got more where that comes from, too—Buckley is slated to play the lead in Maggie Gyllenhaal's feature directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, which is currently in production. That movie, based on the novel by acclaimed Italian author Elena Ferrante, will find Buckley alongside major stars like Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgard, Normal People star Paul Mescal, and Academy Award winner Olivia Colman.

Buckley can sing—and shows it off in her roles frequently.


Photo credit: Entertainment One
Photo credit: Entertainment One

You might not expect it after hearing her do the Minnesota Fargo accent to perfection (Frances McDormand would be proud), but Buckley actually entered the performing world at first with her singing and musical prowess.

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Buckley first burst onto the scene in 2008, competing in the BBC's competition series I'd Do Anything for the opportunity to play the lead role of Nancy in a West End production of Oliver!. She finished second in that competition, but it obviously wasn't the end of her story. She continued acting on stage for years after that—including opposite Jude Law in a West End production of Henry V in 2013, only a few months after she graduated from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

In 2019, she starred as a country singer—a Scottish one, at that—in Wild Rose, again getting the opportunity to put her penchant for accents on display. Entrenching herself in this role was the first time she'd ever had anything to do with country music—and she learned to really love it.

“I began to realize that country is such a pure storytelling form. It’s all about the lyrics—the music is incredibly simple—and the characters," she told Rolling Stone. "These songs are like three-minute movies or snapshots of people doing quite mundane things, but they have a way of cutting into your heart."

Fargo isn't her first major TV role.

Photo credit: FX
Photo credit: FX

While Fargo is certainly her highest profile (and flashiest) TV job to date, it's definitely not her first. Back in 2017, she had a series regular part in Taboo, a BBC One/FX co-production where she starred alongside a guy you may have heard of named Tom Hardy. In 2019, she had a key role in Chernobyl as the wife of one of the first responders to the Chernobyl fire, dealing with his painful and brutal demise.

She also appeared in a trio of BBC series: The Woman in White, The Last Post, and War & Peace, where she starred alongside Paul Dano.

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