“Being an actor is great,” says Carrie Coon in our video chat (watch it below), “because as an actor, one of the things we’re asked to do is confront that question all the time, which is, ‘What am I capable of?’ And the answer has to be, ‘Anything,’ or else I don’t think you could do this job.” She’s referring to her role in “Gone Girl” as a woman who isn’t quite sure if her brother (Ben Affleck) is a murderer, but the film itself, in addition to her role in HBO’s “The Leftovers,” certainly tested what she’s capable of as an actor.
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“I’ve been a theater actor most of my adult life,” says Coon. She worked on stage in Chicago for years, in a variety of roles including Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” She would later make her Broadway debut when that production moved to New York, and as a result earned a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 2013. “That’s the most incredible thing that happened to me,” she remembers of the Tonys experience. “Also, like 12 of my family members were at the ceremony; my parents were sitting behind Nathan Lane. We just had the best time. I think my parents were out until 6am that night. I went to bed at like two.”
After her successful Broadway debut came another pair of firsts: she was cast in her first feature film, “Gone Girl,” and snagged her first regular TV series role in “The Leftovers.” “I worked all year, the only thing an actor wants to do,” she says of her sudden influx of opportunities. She filmed the “Leftovers” pilot before shooting “Gone Girl,” and then shot the rest of the “Leftovers” season. And if transitioning from the stage to the screen took some getting used to, it was just as big an adjustment moving from a methodical David Fincher set to a fast-paced TV production.
“What happens on a David Fincher set is that the bar is set so high,” she said. “You’ll also have all day to do it and many takes, which I found very reassuring since it was my first movie. I needed that time in front of the camera to get comfortable.”
But TV was another story: “TV moves so quick, and if you don’t get something in three takes, it doesn’t matter, we’re moving on anyway, so I knew there was a lot of pressure on me to land all those beats.”
In “The Leftovers,” she plays Nora, who suffered the worst possible tragedy when two-percent of the world’s population vanished without a trace: her husband and two children all disappeared. “It’s something you never want to take lightly. You want to do it justice,” she explains of her characters’ overwhelming loss. She took inspiration from the memoir “Wave,” about a woman who lost her family in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It was “the closest equivalent loss I could come up with for Nora, that sort of sudden disappearance.”
Despite her high-profile roles and awards buzz for both “The Leftovers” and “Gone Girl,” Coon hasn’t noticed a significant change in her life yet: “It’s incredibly flattering to be part of those conversations … We also just have to keep trying to get jobs and keep working, so I’m just kind of doing what I always do. I’m in Chicago, making tapes, putting myself out there for work, so in some ways the only thing that’s changed is the internet.”
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