Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In today’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Carrie Coon, star of HBO’s “The Leftovers” and FX’s “Fargo.” Coon has been nominated for an Emmy for best actress in a limited series for her work on “Fargo.”
“There was a lot of speculation that I would get one for something,” jokes Coon. “My odds are pretty good.”
Despite her success, Coon says she still goes unrecognized by the general public. “By and large I am totally unmolested,” she says with a laugh. But her performances have elevated her within the industry, she says. “I do have some street cred,” she says. “By being picky, I have created a little mystery about what’s next.” She has yet to commit to another role, admitting she’s been “spoiled” by the limited series format. “It couldn’t be a cop or a grieving mom, that’s the first thing,” she says. “I’d have to believe it could be sustained for whatever amount of time.”
She says she feels honored that the finale of “The Leftovers” closed on her character’s storyline. “It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility to close out the show with that monologue,” she says, which she started learning right away. “I came from being number seven on the call sheet and barely being in the first five episodes to finishing it forever. It’s a tremendous honor. I’m so proud of it.”
The final scene she filmed was the one in the LADR. “It seemed right to be just me and Nora in our birthday suits.” The nudity, she says, was critical to the storytelling. “You’re nude and it’s on the internet for the rest of your life,” she says. “It’s not a decision one makes lightly. And I’m not a 21-year-old or an underwear model.”
Coon says she’s grateful for the outpouring she received from all the fans who were disappointed that she wasn’t nominated for her work on the show. “We’re so accustomed to not being recognized in the awards season,” she says. “We all harbored a little shred of hope that we could crack the Emmys … [but] we just weren’t on the air long enough for people to catch up to us.”
But it did spark a lot of conversations about its themes, which are so resonant today. “I’m fond of saying that the world finally caught up to ‘The Leftovers,'” she says.
Coon says she and [Damon] Lindelof talked very little throughout the run of the show — and never talked about the final episode or that monologue. “I just didn’t feel it was necessary. Damon had such a great intuitive understanding of Nora,” she says. She did challenge him once though, in Season 2 when Nora abandons Kevin. “Just think of it as Nora having her own insecurity,” he told her.
But as for that final monologue, she says, “It was clear to me that I had to make a decision whether it was true or not, but in some ways, that didn’t matter because it wouldn’t necessarily change the performance of the piece.” But asked whether Nora was telling the truth, she demurs. “I’ll never tell,” she says. “It’s important to me not to rob the viewer of that experience. When they look to me for an answer, that means they won’t take the time or the care to investigate their own answer and why they feel that way. That’s why the show is powerful.”
Coon, who has also worked in theater and film (she starred in “Gone Girl”), says she’s noticed a decline in the quality of roles for women on the big screen: “Look at my category in the Emmys — they’re all movie stars! And they’re all doing television for a reason,” she says, joking that she’s going to stay home in her pajamas and eat popcorn.
As for “Fargo,” Coon says that character was the most familiar to her given her midwestern roots. “It was a more of a tribute to where I come from,” she says. “Slipping into her shoes was pretty easy. I feel like she’s a tribute to my grandmother and all the no-nonsense women in my life.” She adds, “If you can get that dialect down, the work is half done.”
Fans have noted the similarities between her characters on “Fargo” and “The Leftovers” — both Gloria and Nora, for example, had standalone episodes in airports — which Coon says she pointed out to the writers on “Fargo.” “They’re in the same building, so you wonder about what’s in the ether of the building,” she says with a laugh. As for the challenges both had with technology, “Damon said something very sweet about it, that I radiated,” she says. “That’s about the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me.”
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