Early in her career, critics dismissed Jessie Buckley. She’s having the last laugh

a person wearing a bow tie: Jessie Buckley, star of "Fargo" and "I'm Thinking of Ending Things." (Josh O'Connor)

© (Josh O’Connor)
Jessie Buckley, star of “Fargo” and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” (Josh O’Connor)

When Irish actress Jessie Buckley eventually appeared for a Zoom interview that she had pushed back by a half hour at the last minute, a patterned headscarf covered her short locks, which looked dripping wet, and magenta bathing suit straps peeked from beneath a loose pink cover-up. 

Buckley, who was about to end a six-week stay on the Greek island of Spetses, where she’d been filming Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, “The Lost Daughter,” explained the delay. Because she’d be flying back to her home in London the following morning, she’d taken one last dip in the Mediterranean Sea.

“I’ve been waking up every morning at 6 o’clock and [going] for a swim in my knickers before I go to work,” she confessed. “I’ve been reticent to reenter real life, so I’ve been clinging on to fake life.”

Indeed, just before arriving to “Lost Daughter’s” remote, picturesque location, Buckley, 30, had been in Chicago completing her part in Season 4 of “Fargo” after FX’s outsized anthology series had been shut down for five months by the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, she plays Oraetta Mayflower, a nurse with a polite manner, a mincing gait and a habit of murdering her patients.

“She’s sort of an angel of mercy and, on some level, a villain,” said “Fargo” showrunner Noah Hawley, who often found himself marveling over how deftly Buckley wrapped her arms around her complex role, walking the line between farce and drama in almost every scene.

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Jessie Buckley as Oraetta Mayflower in Season 4 of "Fargo." (Elizabeth Morris / FX)

© (Elizabeth Morris / FX)
Jessie Buckley as Oraetta Mayflower in Season 4 of “Fargo.” (Elizabeth Morris / FX)

“She was great at even the most absurd things,” said Hawley, citing a vignette where Oraetta gets in a car with Jason Schwartzman’s gangster, Josto Fadda, and engages in a sex act with him while warbling a patriotic American song. “She is literally a dominatrix to Jason’s character and yet she has this veneer of Minnesota nice. You can really go wrong with that. You can go way too broad. But she didn’t.”

The latest installment of “Fargo” is as weird as ever, with thugs, do-gooders and an Oraetta-baked pie that she memorably laces with vomit-inducing ipecac. But Buckley always manages to make her drug-snorting, Edith Piaf-loving character into a living, breathing — albeit terrifying — human being. Her ability to appear totally real, said Schwartzman, is something that seeps into everything she does.

“Physically, she’s an incredible improviser,” he said. “She finds things to do in the scenes that totally affect it and change it. It’s almost like she’s driving the action, like she’s a rudder. It doesn’t even feel like improvisation — it feels like she’s that person doing whatever it is they’re doing in each take.”

Whether portraying a troubled Glaswegian country singer (in the indie film “Wild Rose”); the pregnant wife of a first responder (on HBO’s “Chernobyl”); or a girlfriend who might be a figment of

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