The Leftovers took place in a world where two percent of the world’s population vanished without warning or explanation. Its most powerful performance came from an actress who seemed to appear in our world just as suddenly and unexpectedly.
Carrie Coon didn’t literally pop out of thin air to play the role of grieving wife and mother Nora Durst — she was a Tony-nominated stage actress who had done a handful of small TV guest appearances — even if the sheer force and versatility of her performance tended to leave viewers asking, “Who is that?”
The longer the series lasted, the more it seemed to turn to Coon to deliver both the harshest of emotional blows (Nora breaking down at the sight of mannequins representing her lost family, Nora in an emotional duel with next-door neighbor Erika) and the most welcome and surprising emotional highs (she delivers the final line of each season, smiling through tears). Tonight’s series finale (which I reviewed here) leans on her more than ever before. She is in every scene — often the only person in the scene — and has to play a wide and deep range of emotions as Nora reckons with the choice she made about pursuing (or not pursuing) her family to another reality. Even by Leftovers/Coon standards, it’s a tour de force. (Finale director Mimi Leder told me, “She is one of the bravest actors I’ve ever worked with, and she’s one of the greats.”) And, appropriately enough for a show where she played a woman who suffered a greater loss than anyone else, Coon was the final Leftovers castmember standing, as her co-stars said goodbye to her one by one, until she was literally naked and alone for the final day of production.
The day before the finale aired, I spoke with Coon (who is married to actor and award-winning playwright Tracy Letts) about the story Nora tells Kevin — and why Coon doesn’t want to tell anyone if she thinks it’s true — about the strange overlaps between Nora Durst and her concurrent Fargo season three role as cop Gloria Burgle, about the very Leftovers-appropriate experience of losing her co-stars one by one, about that last day of filming, and a lot more, coming up just as soon as I show you on the doll what to do…
When you got the script for the finale, what was your reaction?
The first thing I thought was, I was impressed and surprised that it went quiet and personal, as opposed to explosive and apocalyptic. And the second thing was, “Oh, no! What a long monologue.” If I’m being honest. But I got that script much earlier than I got any other script, so Damon (Lindelof) gave me more time to sit with it, which I needed. It’s like doing a one-act play. So I immediately commenced learning the speech in the few weeks I had to prepare.
The speech concerned you more than the nude scene?
Yes. My boobs are already on the Twitter. There’s nothing I can do about it. And I knew that I would be able to talk through that nude scene with Mimi. That’s more about editing and camerawork. The other thing is more my responsibility. Nude scenes, it’s not easy, but it’s also part of the job, in a way.