“It was so artful and provocative,” says Carrie Coon as we chat via webcam (watch above) about the critically acclaimed second season of “The Leftovers.” In this hit HBO drama series, two percent of the world’s population (140 million people) have suddenly disappeared off the face of the Earth, in what is known as the “Sudden Departure.” Coon plays Nora Durst, who lost her children and husband in the blink of an eye on that fateful day.
She readily admits to relishing the chance to play such a complicated and unusual character who struggles to cope with the inexplicable loss of her family in strange and unexpected ways. “Unfortunately as an actress, we’re not often asked to be unusual, which is a real shame. The thing that makes this show so real is that we’re not shy about extreme behavior. I love being asked to confront in myself the possibility that I am capable of anything; I mean anything taboo or dark or strange or dangerous.”
“That’s important in the world; to consider that there are behaviors that we ought to understand, rather than judge,” the actress explains. “That is what art is for, to teach empathy. And I hope that our show is doing that.”
While reactions to the first season were divided, the second season of “The Leftovers” was widely embraced by TV critics, as the show shifted course and became lighter in tone. For Coon, it felt natural for the show to become more positive as the show’s characters started to cope better with the inexplicable loss they were trying to confront. “I don’t believe that human beings deal with tragedy with just one thread of emotion. So, the humor coming back in made it more complex and also more real,” Coon says. “We use humor a lot when we’re in pain, and I love that we covered that in season two. That’s what made the season stand out to people.”
Indeed, the broadcast journalists proved their affection for the show at the recent Critics Choice TV Awards, where “The Leftovers” earned six nominations, the most for any drama series. Coon won Best Drama Actress. She still finds it hard to believe that she is the only member of the cast to be honored with an award. “I wasn’t expecting to win anything that night, it was towards the end of the night when everyone is really drunk and nobody is listening too, so it was very surreal, almost like it didn’t happen,” Coon admits. “I’m so happy to be recognized, but I can’t believe [the cast] weren’t standing up there with me.”
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