Fargo: Is Jon Hamm’s Roy Tillman Based on an Actual Sheriff?

With ‘Fargo’ season 5, Noah Hawley brings another exciting story about a crime unfolding in a Midwestern town with intriguing characters involved. This time, we follow the story of Dorothy “Dot” Lyon, who appears to be a regular housewife on the surface level, rich in the currency of “Minnesota Nice.” However, a deeper look into her past reveals dark turns and buried secrets. The same comes back to haunt her when she finds herself embroiled in a ruthless attempted abduction that she denies being a part of.

However, can she keep up the charade when Sheriff Roy Tillman, the man she has been running away from for the past decade, finally catches up to her? Essaying Roy’s character, Jon Hamm, brings an effortless foreboding air to the man who arms himself with his own menacing brand of law. Given the power vested in him by his profession, Roy manages to cross certain thresholds and poses a unique threat. As such, the nature of his character will likely lead viewers to wonder about his basis in reality.

Roy Tillman, A Constitutional Sheriff

Roy Tillman from season 5 of ‘Fargo’ is not based on a real person. Although the series routinely employs the “based on a true story” banner, it is only a tool that creator Hawley utilizes to increase his story’s element of excitement. As such, since the particular story explored within this installment in the anthology series is a fictionalized account, so are the characters, including Sheriff Roy Tillman.

Yet, in true ‘Fargo‘ fashion, Roy’s character isn’t entirely devoid of real-life relevance. Through the show, Hawley strives to explore America’s social and political climate. Consequently, many of his characters and themes end up reflecting a sector of reality that remains parallel to the setting under scrutiny by the current storyline.

Season 5 takes place in the not-so-distant past of 2019, a year ripe with socio-political complications to observe. In doing so, Roy becomes the narrative’s biggest tool as a republican, self-identified Constitutional Sheriff, not only enforcing the law of the land but defining it as well. In a conversation with Vanity Fair, Hawley discussed the character and said, “Tillman is deeply invested in religious traditions but also wears nipple rings. It’s ‘Tiger King‘ America, which manages to mix conservative and what would be called liberal values in a way that is fascinating.”

Furthermore, the creator drew a parallel between Roy’s character and former U.S. President Donald Trump, particularly their shared unexpected trait of embodying the law. “It’s [Roy’s character is] a more unexpected, more unfamiliar guy who is basically saying, I am the law. That’s what we saw with our previous president—whatever he was, that’s what the law was,” said Hawley. And there’s a sort of unsettling carnality to Jon’s character, you know, where he wants the moral high ground, but he’s also got a sex trunk. So where does the line get drawn, and who gets to draw it? That really is the thing.”

Likewise, the same trait can be seen emulated in real-life Constitutional Sheriffs. For instance, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association teaches elected sheriffs to “protect their citizens from the overreach of an out-of-control federal government.” Richard Mack, founder of the association and a former Arizona Sheriff, said, “The safest way to actually achieve that is to have local law enforcement understand that they have no obligation to enforce such [laws deemed unconstitutional or unlawful by the association] laws. They’re not laws at all, anyway. If they’re unjust laws, they are laws of tyranny.” Therefore, despite Roy’s lack of connection to a particular real-life Sheriff, his character certainly has roots in reality.

Read More: Is Fargo Season 5 Inspired by a True Story?