Jeff Russo Explains How Britney Spears’ “Toxic” Became A Theme For Season 5 Of ‘Fargo’ – Sound & Screen TV

Appearing for a panel at Deadline’s Sound & Screen Television live-music event, Jeff Russo described how he adapts to Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley’s requests.

Noting several times that he adjusted the show’s music per Hawley’s ideas, Russo also addressed a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in the season. The revamped version accompanies Jon Hamm’s character Roy Tillman as he walks from a car to a barn where his men are holding Dot (Juno Temple).

“I get these phone calls from Noah,” Russo said. “It’s really funny. We have a great working relationship. He will call me and he’ll be like, ‘Okay, Toxic.’ I’m just quiet. ‘Uh, okay.’ Then he said, ‘No no no, hear me out. The walk.’ And I knew exactly what he’s talking about with the walk.”

Lisa Hannigan, a frequent Russo collaborator, sang the lyrics for “Toxic.”

“We called our friend Lisa Hannigan, who has the voice of an angel, who had sung stuff for us before,” Russo said. “She was like, ‘Send me your track.’ I created a track and sent it to her. She sent me back some ideas. That was a whole back and forth, but the idea that came from trying to figure out how to tell that part of the story without being too much on the nose.”

In the series, Roy has been looking for Dot, who left him and assumed a new identity. When Dot makes the news, Roy spends the season trying to kidnap her, but she keeps thwarting his goons. The idea of having fun with this somber moment suited the tone of Fargo.

“As you’re seeing Jon walk you see the black in his eyes,” Russo said. “You see the blackness in his heart. It could’ve been a really dark score, but that felt too much. That felt too on the nose. So then we tried to do something a lot more fun.”

Russo also recalled changing this score for a split screen scene in Season 2 when Hawley put it together in the editing room. A similar shift happened in Season 5 involving a sequence Hawley assembled as a documentary, complete with voice-over.

“So we had this score, it was really working, and then Noah calls me and says, ‘Remember that score? Let’s change that,’ ” Russo said. “Then we do it. We have to roll with it. We really do roll with it pretty quickly.”

Themes Russo writes for characters can shift to different characters, too. The score that became Dot’s theme was originally composed for Lorraine Lyon (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

“As the show edits were coming into me, I call Noah, ‘You know, we were really sort of percussion heavy here but I think you really need to lean more into ringing,’ ” Russo said. “He’s like, ‘That’s a really good idea.’ We take themes that might mean for one character and it could end up someone else.”

Check out the panel video above.

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