Award-winning actress Carrie Coon talks to Awards Daily TV about the finale season of the critically acclaimed cult hit ‘The Leftovers.’
If you’re tuning into both HBO’s The Leftovers and FX’s Fargo, you’re lucky enough to catch a double dose of actress Carrie Coon. In The Leftovers, Coon plays Nora Durst, a woman who lost her family in the Sudden Departure, a rapture-like event that wipes out 2 percent of the world’s population. As The Leftovers comes to a close in its third season, Carrie Coon says goodbye to the role that garnered her a Critics’ Choice award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. And as she says goodbye, we’re dying to know what happens to Nora.
I caught up with Coon to discuss the series finale. Read what she had to say about the show moving from Texas to Australia and what Coon thinks of the show’s ending.
What was it like for you going from Texas to Australia?
It always felt like we were re-starting a new show because we started in New York and we had one crew. We moved to Texas and had another crew. We stuck with them for a few episodes of Season 3, and then we went to Australia. That was a completely different set of people. It starts to feel like you’re working on a new show every time you move. That was very unusual.
Also, because of the way Tom and Damon remade the show every season. Season 3 almost felt like two different seasons of television to me when I was doing it. It was weird. It was great, stimulating and lovely.
Let’s talk about Nora. She’s gone on quite a journey. Now she’s going down a different route. What do you think the audience are going to take from her story this coming season.
One of the things I noticed from the beginning is how she’s pretending again. She’s pretending to be OK. Of course, Kevin is concealing his new coping mechanisms from her as well. They’ve gotten far from each other in that way. The distance in that relationship is what creates space for the possibility when the opportunity presents itself that she could potentially see her other family again. The thing she has to do is to continue herself from Kevin to make that possible, which is what’s so sad about it.
I always hope that people take from Nora’s journey is that grief is not linear. We don’t move through grief in some orderly way. It’s highly personal, and it’s filled with all these jagged ups and downs. Nora, when we find her in Season 2 with her prostitute habit, she’s not afraid of her own annihilation. She doesn’t fear her own death. In fact, she may feel ashamed she wasn’t able to take her own life when she lost her family, so her own annihilation is not something she’s afraid of but losing Kevin is something that’s real and something right in front of her.
I think it’s really sad to see her create distance from him in Season 3 to accommodate her grief and the possibility of seeing her children. That’s something nobody would give up on if you were presented with that opportunity. Almost none of us would pass that up. Think of the people who lost their loved ones on MH370 and how they called off the search. How deeply unsatisfying it must be for those people to have that mystery in their lives.
You’re still hoping. You’re still wondering how they lost a plane.
Exactly. With all the technology, it just seems an impossibility. That’s why I always thought the show never feels supernatural to me because there are so many examples of mystery in our lives right now that are quite real and in front of us. I feel the show is quite truthful actually.
TV seems to be foreshadowing and close with what’s going on.
Artists have always been the filters for what’s happening in the world around them. It just so happens there are a lot of artists working in TV. The role of show runner has been elevated and is a kind of art form now. I think Damon Lindelof and Noah Hawley (Fargo) are our new literati. They are responding in real-time to the things that are shifting around them and they happen to be very observant. They happen to have wild imaginations so it makes perfect sense to me that TV is feeling very pressing right now because of the caliber of artists that are creating for us.
They’re telling a story of civilization.
Sadly, it is the end of The Leftovers. Were you happy with the way it ended and it closes without any room for more?
As the actress playing Nora Durst, I was very satisfied partly because I was a big part of it. That was satisfying for me as an actor because I was able to finish out the series as a major part of the story, but also because I do believe that it does leave space for people. I think good art says more about the person watching it than it does about the creator of the piece.
The ending could have been wild and explosive and infinite, but it actually ends up being quite personal and gets to the heart of the very things that Damon is most interested in.
I really respected that choice.
Did you get much creative input in the seasons as to where you would have liked to see Nora go, or did you leave that to them?
I didn’t have creative input. Damon is very much the architect of the story. A lot of actors would have a conversation with Damon, but he and I rarely spoke about the story because I believe we both had a very intuitive understanding of Nora. He had such a compassionate approach and was so astute. I rarely quibbled with writers over the storyline. They certainly took her in directions that I could never have thought of. It’s not my job, but Damon and I have a really lovely, simpatico and artistic relationship that I rarely question.
Nora was very unpredictable and that was fun to watch. What was it like to play someone like that?
It’s great fun. She’s quite volatile, and I guess I’m grateful to be able to lean into that female rage we’re all walking around with. Actresses are being asked to use their whole selves in a way they haven’t, and that’s what’s changing. It’s a really interesting time to be an actress on TV because of all the services available and that there are networks willing to take risks that they wouldn’t have taken ten years ago.
Nora is part of that movement, she’s mercurial and unpredictable and angry. The show asked me to use my whole body. I’m a theater actress, and so much of TV and Film is about your face. I felt they demanded so much from me and if ever Damon was asking me to go back to an emotion, whether it was grief, sadness or anger, there was always a reason.
Damon is unique in that he’s paying attention to his actors as they make the story and I think he pursues qualities in us that are interesting to him as he watches us develop the characters. Inevitably what happens is he pits you up against your deepest existential fears. You as the actor are having to face up to your own annihilation because Damon is asking you to, and it’s so terrifying, but also satisfying. So often, I think female characters are such flat points. We all know the bitchy girlfriend that comes around at the end and realizes her hapless boyfriend is worthwhile, or the wife who’s just out upon and shakes her head, but keeps on going. We’ve all seen these characters before, and it’s just so satisfying that Noah and Damon are writing. It’s a really exciting time.
Damon also has a great female cast.
I rarely got to act with the women on the first two seasons of the show. When I finally encountered Regina (King) in the second season, it was so gratifying to work with these women that I admire so much. Then of course, in Season 3 I got time with Amy, and it affirms everything I already knew. They were the kind of actresses who I wanted to work with, and it was nice to have some female energy. I love the guys, but there’s something about working with the women.
What are you going to miss the most about working on The Leftovers?
The surprise factor is what I’m going to miss the most. You just never knew what was going to come next, and it was so much fun to dive in 48 hours after you got a script. In addition to the script, that volatility of Nora’s vulnerability. I was so excited to play her because I got to make those turns. There was nothing about her that was conventional. It was hard to say yes to the next thing.
It’s been so much fun to watch Nora’s ride. Now, you’re working on Fargo, and you have two shows on the air.
I finished The Leftovers in September, so I had already moved on from it. The fact that they are airing the same week was completely unexpected. I didn’t expect both shows would land the same week in April, and that’s unusual. The fear is that you’re utterly exposed as a hack, people are watching and judging two of your performances. Ideally, people are appreciating the distinction between the two stories. There’s an emotional reserve to Gloria in Fargo, that while similar to Nora, she occupies that mid-Western aesthetic that we’ve come to understand in the Minnesota nice world.
I feel like people must hate me because I’m on two amazing shows.
I hope not. I’m so grateful to be asked. It’s so much easier to act with good smart writing, and that’s what I have with Noah and Damon. I’m so spoiled, and my mom and dad are excited.
Having this double dose is good. We can’t have enough.
The Leftovers airs its final season Sunday nights on HBO at 9pm ET.