You’ve seen him as the duck-painting husband of Police Chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo, Drew’s cross-dressing brother in The Drew Carey Show and the suspected serial killer Arthur Leigh Allen in Zodiac.
Now if only you could remember his name.
John Carroll Lynch’s relative anonymity might vanish with his latest endeavor, a juicy role as the main villain in American Horror Story: Freak Show (Wednesdays, FX). One problem: The part of the murderous Twisty the Clown requires heavy makeup, which makes him almost unrecognizable even to his co-stars.
Lynch recalls sharing lunch with Michael Chiklis during the shoot.
“I was telling a very pedestrian story when Michael interrupted and said, ‘Dude, do you have any idea what you look like right now?’ ” Lynch, 51, said by phone last week.
It’s not the first time the actor has spent considerable time in the costume department. His first break in 1987 was in Chicago when he was cast as the monster in Frankenstein – Playing With Fire, as part of the touring company of Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. A year later, he reprised the role on the Guthrie main stage, where he worked for eight seasons.
Stephen Yoakam, who acted with Lynch during his stint in Minnesota, recalls a well-prepared colleague who was always the smartest guy in the room.
Lynch started to land movie roles near the end of his time in the Twin Cities. In addition to Fargo, he nabbed parts in Grumpy Old Men, Beautiful Girls and Feeling Minnesota.
But 1996’s Fargo was the movie to put Lynch on the map: “Being in a Coen brothers movie that got Oscar-nominated legitimized me as a film actor.”
Since 1997, he has appeared in almost 30 TV series and 40 films, including Shutter Island and Gran Torino. In Horror Story, he’s acting alongside Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, as members of a struggling circus that features a bearded lady, a young man with lobster hands and two sisters sharing the same body.
He was used sparingly in the first two episodes, but his few scenes are by far the most grim, as his wordless, crudely painted clown character tortures and kills victims with an attitude bordering on boredom.
“This is the most macabre of the psychopaths I’ve played,” Lynch said. “He’s also the most misunderstood.”
Despite the steady work, he’s not a household name. But Lynch wouldn’t be opposed to a leading man role.
He was cast as Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State assistant coach convicted of child molestation, in HBO’s Happy Valley, with Al Pacino set to play coach Joe Paterno and Brian De Palma directing. But the network suspended pre-production work last month, citing budget issues.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Lynch, when asked if he thinks the movie will ever be made.
A project even closer to Lynch’s heart is Crew, a film he’s co-written about the 1987 University of Minnesota rowing team, which rose out of obscurity to become a national contender. But money is once again an issue as Lynch has struggled to find financial backers.
“Movies today either have a budget of $300 million and it’s Marvel, or it’s $50,000 from my Uncle Steve,” said Lynch. “We’re working on it. It’s like a little baby. It walks for a couple seconds and then it falls down. If it’s going to get done, it’s going to need people to stand up and be counted.”
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)