Jason Schwartzman says that he’s a fan of “Fargo” — so working with series creator Noah Hawley on Season 4 was a huge plus.
” ‘Fargo’ is my favorite show,” Schwartzman, 40, tells The Post. “I remember that I was in the middle of Season 2 and I was thinking to myself, ‘It’s amazing that this exists, that it gets to be made. It feels like it’s doing what it wants but it also doesn’t feel reckless — there’s a real point to this.’
“I was impressed on an eerie level.”
“Fargo” returns to FX on Sunday after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, with Schwartzman and Chris Rock starring as Josto Fadda and Loy Cannon, whose Kansas City crime syndicates form an uneasy alliance in 1950 and inevitably butt heads in their ongoing battle to win control of the city’s underworld. Hawley wrote or co-wrote all of this season’s seven episodes onto which he’s stamped his singular trademarks: dark, quirky, offbeat humor; colorful characters including an on-the-take cop with OCD; brutal, didn’t-see-that-coming violence; florid dialogue and, of course, weird names (among them Swanee Capps, Oraetta Mayflower, Dick Wickware, Thurman Smutney and Doctor Senator).
“I was thinking, ‘What does this guy have, a name generator, like an anagram machine?,’” Schwartzman says. “At the beginning of the shoot, I swear to God, one of the first things I did was write down the names and try to unscramble them to see if they were anagrams.
“They weren’t, but it’s just really cool.”
When viewers first meet Josto, he’s assuming a leadership role in the family after the death of his father, Donatello — but it’s not smooth sailing, especially when his younger brother, Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), arrives from Italy.
Schwartzman, says he’s aware of the parallels to “The Godfather” which resonate with him; his mother, Talia Shire, acted in the “Godfather” movies — directed by her brother (and his uncle), Francis Ford Coppola. (He’s also first-cousins with actor Nicolas Cage.)
” ‘The Godfather’ was one of the things that struck me, but honestly, it was less about the Mafia or crime and more to do with power and the siblings [Josto and Gaetano],” he says. “‘The Godfather’ is such a great example of the way that works and how power is distributed and handed down to generations.
“I’m half-Italian and half Polish-Jewish and I know a lot about my Italian side,” he says. “Before we started shooting the series, I reached out to someone in my family I know has been archiving our history and I said, ‘What do you have?’ It really was an amazing experience to learn about my family … I was reading letters back and forth between my grandparents and my great-grandfather and there are very old home movies … seeing my grandfather and his brothers and my great-grandmother and great-grandfather on a trip to Italy when she must’ve been 16.
“Also being around these Italians from Italy all day long on the set, I felt like when I was showing them the photographs and letters it was like me being, ‘See? I’m Italian!’ on some sub-conscious level. I was trying to understand my place in the story and in the world of ‘Fargo.’ ”
Schwartzman says Hawley didn’t give him too much information about Josto before they began shooting. “He said, ‘Your father is going to die and you’re going to take over the family and there’s a struggle between you and your brother.’ To be honest, I feel that [Josto] is spoiled, maybe petulant. I realized he’s not hitting people, he’s pulling rank, like a kid kicking leaves on someone or pulling their suspenders.
“One thing he wants is for his dad to say to him, ‘Yeah, you’re amazing’ — but his dad is dead,” he says. “He’s not fully cooked before they take him out of the oven. He’s too raw to be out there. His scenes work best when he’s not collaborating with [the other actors] it’s such an interesting experience to act in a parallel way to everybody else.”
While Schwartzman and Rock are the titular stars of “Fargo,” they didn’t spend too much time together on the set, he says.
“He’s incredible — so kind and smart and I was excited to work on this with him,” he says. “I didn’t realize that when you play someone’s nemesis you’re not often in the same scenes together. I imagined us spending hours on end on the set every day. All [Josto] does is talk about Loy Cannon but we were well into shooting when we had one of our first big scenes together and it freaked me out. I was so nervous.
“It was like an 8-page scene and I must have done it in 48 seconds, he says. “Everybody was like, ‘Slow down!’”