Juno Temple stars as Dot Lyon, a feral fighter, domestic abuse survivor and devoted mother in the latest season of FX’s Fargo.

Juno Temple in 'Fargo'

Source: Courtesy of FX

Juno Temple in ‘Fargo’

When Juno Temple was asked to read the first three episodes of Fargo season five, before meeting with series creator Noah Hawley to discuss the lead role of Dorothy ‘Dot’ Lyon, there was a moment of “flittering disbelief” followed by elation then self-doubt.

“It was one of those extraordinary moments you don’t think is going to happen in your career, where a character like Dot comes into your universe,” recalls Temple over Zoom from South Africa, where she is filming Gore Verbinski’s Good Luck, Have Fun, Don’t Die. “Let alone the person who created her [asking] if it was something I wanted to do. Which was a no-brainer. I was like, ‘Are you sure?’” But Dot was too good a part to let slip. “The fact there was so much going on with her past that you didn’t learn until [later], I found delicious.”

Set in 2019, season five of Fargo centres on Temple’s Dot Lyon, a Minnesota housewife with a loving husband (David Rysdahl) and daughter (Sienna King), whose dark past, in the guise of her abusive former husband, Sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm), comes back to haunt her when she is arrested at a school council meeting. Soon, two armed goons arrive at her door to cart her back to Roy, but neither man is prepared for quite how much resistance Dot puts up.

“Dot is an incredible combination of being this feral fighter and survivor. Yet also a deep nurturer and a beautiful mother,” says Temple. “I was quite overwhelmed with the complexity and layers that were going on with Dot.”

Nailing the accent

For starters, there was the “intimidating” Minnesota accent, with Temple embarking on six weeks of dialect lessons while still playing model-­turned-PR consultant Keeley in season three of Ted Lasso. “Which made for an interesting time in my flat in London, because there was Keeley, Juno, and the beginnings of Dot, and then Juno’s inside thoughts that come out.” She laughs. “There were a lot of people in the apartment. I remember inviting my brothers over for dinner after about three weeks to try it out on them, and they looked at me like, ‘How long have you got ’till you go?’ Then, when we started filming, I stayed in it the whole time, so, by the end of the shoot, I found it quite hard to shake.”

Temple’s first day filming was the scene in which Dot is processed at the local police station and thrown in jail. Her expression as she stands behind bars, gnawing at her fingers, is a masterclass in silent acting, as the consequences of her actions slowly play across Dot’s face. “I wrapped Ted Lasso on the Friday and had three days to get my shit together to start Fargo. I felt nervous and fearful in general and was asking [Noah] as many questions as I could about Dot,” she reveals.

“I remember looking at him and saying, ‘Has she been to prison before?’ And he went, ‘Yeah, she went to juvie.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, why?’ That led to a lot more questions. Noah’s amazing. His intellect and creativity are intimidating, but he’s one of the most inspiring minds I’ve gotten to work with.”

While Temple did not receive the scripts for all 10 episodes in advance — “you would get the next two in the middle of shooting the previous two [and] you ate them up as quickly as you could when they came into your inbox” — Hawley did share an outline for Dot’s arc, “but I didn’t really know much about episode seven until a few weeks before.”

Titled Linda, episode seven explored how Dot was taken in by the Tillman family at 15 and abused by Roy. But Hawley opts to show this traumatic backstory in the form of a puppet show rather than head on. “Sometimes you don’t need to show too much to make it impactful,” says Temple. “That’s why the puppetry was smart, because if you make people look away, they don’t listen as much.”

Off set, she and Hamm avoided each other. “It was something I felt was important. Then, when it came to us finally meeting and having to shoot what we had to shoot, I was so grateful how respectful he was, because we had to go to some dark places, and he created a safe place. It’s not easy playing somebody’s monster and I thought he was brave with his performance, because he didn’t hold back.”

When it came to researching their scenes, Temple says she “didn’t have to look far”.

“On a set like that, playing a character like that, people open up about their experiences. I’m so grateful and so honoured they felt they could. The thing about domestic abuse, it’s shocking how many people in our everyday lives are either going through it or have survived it.”

Ultimately, the Fargo experience proved to be life-changing for Temple. “It made me a better actress, because of all the layers that had to be present all the time. A lot of actors will tell you they don’t have a huge amount of confidence in themselves. I am one of them.” But Fargo gave her the confidence that if filmmakers such as Hawley believe she can play a character like Dot, she will too. “Don’t let your self-deprecating inner thoughts get in the way.”

Variety of roles

The daughter of filmmaker and documentarian Julien (“my dad is probably my biggest inspiration. He’s a creative, beautiful soul”) and producer Amanda, Temple got hooked on films aged four when, ill with chickenpox, her father showed her Jean Cocteau’s La Belle Et Bête. “It made me believe in real magic.” As a child she appeared in a couple of her dad’s films before making her acting debut as Cate Blanchett’s daughter in Notes On A Scandal.

Since then, Temple has worked with directors including Christopher Nolan, William Friedkin and Steven Soderbergh, most recently starring in Paramount+’s The Offer and three seasons of Apple TV+’s global sensation Ted Lasso, for which she was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards. “Keeley was precious to me because I’ve gravitated towards playing darker characters and she was light,” says Temple of her Ted Lasso character. “She was an angel on my shoulder, a little pocket rocket that I love.”

While Temple can say little about her current role apart from “she’s another complex, brilliant woman”, she is more forthcoming about Venom: The Last Dance in which she stars opposite Tom Hardy. “It was a new one for me. It was more acting with things that aren’t there than I’ve had to do before,” she says. “I am in awe of the actors that have done it multiple times and are good at it. But it was fun.

“I love thinking about aliens and things beyond our universe and watching films about alien life forms,” she adds. “The [Venom] sets were insane. And getting to work with a female director [Kelly Marcel] was cool. I’m excited to see it when it comes out, because, even though I was in it, there’s so much I haven’t seen.”

The nominations-round voting period for the 76th Primetime Emmy Awards is open from June 13-24.