“Fargo” actor Rodney L. Jones III, in the midst of the early stages of his career, is settling in by playing pressure-packed roles.
In Season 4 of FX’s anthology series, the 12-year-old from Chicago plays Satchel Cannon, the youngest son of Chris Rock’s Loy Cannon, the figurehead of a 1950s Kansas City Black crime syndicate.
Satchel is at the center of an uneasy partnership. He’s sent to live with the Faddas, the rival mobsters of Italian descent. In exchange, a son from the Italian crime family goes to live with the Cannons.
“It felt really great to know that I was playing someone really important,” says Rodney, an Ashburn native. “It was fun getting to see all the props that were on set, getting to know my castmates and meeting the crewmates and getting to know Satchel.”
Rodney says his character has had to “grow up” really fast.
“He’s been forced into being a part of the business, and he’s got to learn all these things when he’s just a kid,” he says. “He shouldn’t have to experience all these things, like people dying in front of him. He’s on the run, and he’s had to grow up on the run. He doesn’t have the love of his family to grow up with. He’s really on his own with Rabbi [actor Ben Whishaw] the only one taking care of them.
“But, other than that, he’s on his own, and he’s surviving. He’s learning to take care of himself. And now he’s got this dog he’s taking care of, so he’s been forced to become this man at a young age. … Yes, he’s in the situation, and now he’s dealing with it.”
During filming for “Fargo,” Rodney says he noticed differences and similarities in how Black people deal with racism today compared with how that was done in the 1950s, when season 4 takes place.
“There isn’t segregation now like it was back then in the ’50s,” he says. “But it’s still fragments of it left during this time. And you know it’s happening again with the police brutality of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.”
Between “Fargo” and his appearances on the hit HBO series “Lovecraft Country” as well as in the upcoming “Candyman” sequel / reboot, Rodney finds himself learning his trade by working with veteran actors like Rock, Glynn Turman, Courtney B. Vance, Jason Schwartzman and Emmy Award-winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
“It was great working with them, though I didn’t really get to work with Chris much,” he says. “We connected saying that it’d be good to work together on another project sometime. On the first day after the screen test, I taught Matthew [Elam], Jason [Schwartzman] and Ben [Whishaw] how to play this card game called James Bond.
“At the time, I wasn’t actually aware — until my grandfather actually had told me because I had seen all the James Bond movies, even the new ones — that Ben was in ‘Skyfall.’ I was, like, Wow!
“Courtney showed me the different camera angles, how I really should be positioned in the scene. He helped me along with it.”
Rodney loved filming “Fargo” so close to home, as the series utilized multiple locations around Chicago, as did “Candyman.”
“It was pretty exciting because Chicago has always been a big place,it’s making a really big mark on this world,” he says. The show “was filmed here, and it is crazy that, out of all these 50 states in America, Chicago was picked, so ,yeah, I’m proud of it.”
He watched the original “Candyman” film in preparation.
“I had not been familiar with it, but my mom and her brother, they watched the film when they were younger,” he says. “Now, during this time, kids aren’t easily scared because they’re exposed to different types of horror. Different for those like us, so I wasn’t really scared, but it was a good movie. It was pretty interesting.”
And what should “Fargo” fans expect from Satchel as season 4 wraps up?
“We’ll see Satchel growing,” he says. “He’s growing while he’s on the run. He’s becoming a man. He’s learning all the things he’ll need to know in life now that he’s been thrust into this business. How to deal with danger whenever he’s in this situation. And, other than that, we’ll have to wait and see.”