New Ulm actor feels at home in Fargo
Caps off busy 2023 that featured a role in Oppenheimer, marriage to longtime partner Zazie Beetz
NEW ULM — As someone who grew up in New Ulm, actor David Rysdahl felt right at home in the new season of the FX crime-drama Fargo.
Rysdahl plays Wayne Lyon, a devoted and loving husband and father who is caught between his family he loves and his overbearing rich mother who doesn’t approve. Rysdahl said he was out of the country when his agents told him about the role. To audition, he had to get creative with help from his wife.
“It was eight pages, two scenes,” Rysdahl said. “My wife’s an actor also, so she read [the other parts] for me. I did a self tape, you put your iPhone up with with some lighting equipment and record yourself. You send it in to the casting director and they’ll either give you notes on it, or they’ll pass. They gave me some feedback on it. I did it again. And then three weeks later, we were visiting my wife’s grandparents in Berlin. I got the call at 10 o’clock at night and we went out dancing.”
The part was a full-circle moment for Rysdahl, who got his start doing plays at Cathedral High School and graduated a Greyhound. Homeschooled until 7th grade, Rysdahl identified his first school play as when he broke out of his shell and realized his love for acting.
“My mom told me to audition for the play,” he said “I was like, ‘I don’t know, I’m a little nervous about it.’ She said, ‘Just try it out.’ And I went in for it. Only a few guys auditioned so I got one of the leads. I remember my first time on stage and the feeling of a flow state. People talk about where you feel fully present and all the worries of life drop away and you’re fully in the play. That happened to me on stage. I remember feeling in the moment I loved acting. I love storytelling and that feeling is something I’m still chasing with everything I’m doing now.”
Rysdahl faced several challenges preparing and doing Fargo. The filming for the season took six months, which is twice as long as a movie filming period and the longest he has ever done. He was also concerned with doing the material justice as someone who was a big fan of the original movie. Rysdahl said seeing similarities between the character and his father helped him embody the character.
“When I do an audition or decide I’m gonna do a part I’m like, ‘Does this person live inside me?'” He said. “I remember asking, ‘Does Wayne live inside me?’ He does. I’m from Minnesota, and not saying Wayne is like every Minnesotan, but my dad has some similarities. He loves his family, he’s averse to conflict, he supports his wife and children, one hundred percent. I felt love inside of me and Wayne lived inside there.”
Rysdahl also had a supporting role in Oppenheimer, one of the biggest blockbuster films of 2023. He played Donald Hornig, a chemist who worked on one of the teams who developed the atomic bomb. Rysdahl said portraying a real person like Donald Horning takes immense dedication and preparation behind the scenes.
“When you’re playing somebody, you’re trying to get everything you can about them,” he said. “If you’re playing somebody who’s a famous person, you’re either going to try to be as authentic as possible or you’re going to try and do a take on it. It’s based off what you feel you can bring to the character, but also based off the script. With Donald, I look very different than Donald Hornig. It was interesting casting, but he’s not a well known character. They wanted the essence of him, so I tried to find the essence of who this guy was.”
Rysdahl has had a busy year outside of acting as well. He married his longtime partner and actress Zazie Beetz, who he met in 2014 and started a production company called Sleepy Poppy with in 2022. Rysdahl said he enjoys working with his wife, as she pushes him to be a better and more authentic actor.
“I know Zazie and she knows me better than anybody else in the world,” he said. “We know when somebody’s being false as an actor. When Zazie does a take and she’s not being [fully present]. I’ve seen the tricks and she knows my tricks as an actor. They’re things you do when you’re not being fully present. That can push me to be more authentic in a scene because they know you so well. They also know the process of acting so well, they can really help you be the most surprising and authentic self.”
As for the future, Rysdahl is committed to remaining active. At Sleepy Poppy he has several films and TV shows currently in the works, including a film based in Minnesota. As an actor, his next filming session begins in February, on a project Rysdahl said he could not speak on yet. On the whole, he said he wants to keep making shows and movies he cares about and one day start a family.
The first three episodes of Fargo have already been released, with new episodes premiering every Tuesday at 9 p.m. from now until the season finale Jan. 16 on FX. To catch up, the show is streaming on the FXNOW app and Hulu.