Jeff Russo on 'Toxic' as 'Fargo' Season 5 Theme – Sound & Screen

Composer Jeff Russo delves into musical nuances on 'Fargo'

by Zain ul Abedin
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Jeff Russo on 'Toxic' as 'Fargo' Season 5 Theme – Sound & Screen
© Charley Gallay/Getty Images

At Deadline’s recent Sound & Screen Television event, composer Jeff Russo shared insights into the unique musical selections for “Fargo” Season 5, including Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.

Working closely with showrunner Noah Hawley, Russo adapted the series’ musical ambiance to align seamlessly with the evolving narrative, particularly highlighting a pivotal scene featuring Jon Hamm as Roy Tillman. In this season, Hamm’s character navigates complex emotional terrains, marked by a dramatic walk from a car to a barn.

This sequence, underscored by a haunting cover of “Toxic,” performed by Lisa Hannigan, plays a crucial role. Russo detailed the creative process behind this choice, emphasizing the collaboration with Hannigan, whose ethereal voice brought a fresh dimension to the iconic track.

Their back-and-forth exchanges fine-tuned this cover, aiming to enrich the storytelling without being overtly explicit.

Chasing Shadows: Music's Irony

The narrative of Roy Tillman in the series is deeply intertwined with his pursuit of Dot, portrayed by Juno Temple, who eludes him by assuming a new identity.

This cat-and-mouse dynamic is cleverly juxtaposed with musical elements that infuse a lighter, ironic touch to otherwise tense moments. Russo’s approach to the score - choosing levity over darkness - adds a layer of complexity to the viewing experience.

Russo also recalled adjustments to the musical scores in previous seasons, driven by Hawley’s visionary editing decisions. For instance, a score originally meant for another character in Season 2 was repurposed to enhance a split-screen effect, demonstrating the fluidity and responsiveness required in their collaborative efforts.

Similarly, Season 5 saw adaptations in the musical themes to fit documentary-style sequences introduced by Hawley, further showcasing Russo’s agility in reimagining musical compositions to fit the narrative needs. This ongoing partnership between Russo and Hawley exemplifies a dynamic and responsive working relationship, where spontaneous ideas are transformed into compelling auditory experiences that resonate with the thematic currents of “Fargo”.

The adaptation of “Toxic” for a crucial scene not only underscores the character’s internal conflicts but also enhances the storytelling, proving that music, skillfully aligned with cinematic elements, can profoundly amplify the emotional landscape of a series.

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