Carrie Coon on 'The Nest,' Unanswered 'The Leftovers' Questions and Surreal 'Ghostbusters' Casting

The actor also shares a thoughtful response to the real-life age gap between her and onscreen ‘Gone Girl’ twin, Ben Affleck.

9/17/2020 2:09:00 AM

Since 2014, few actors have had a filmography as wide-ranging as Carrie Coon’s, and it’s made all the more impressive when you consider that she’s been acting on-camera for less than a decade

The actor also shares a thoughtful response to the real-life age gap between her and onscreen ‘Gone Girl’ twin, Ben Affleck.

trains horses. Do you have any personal history with them?My personal history was pretty pedestrian. I grew up in a very rural area, and so I actually had horses across the street growing up. But they were lame, old paddock horses. You just jumped on them and rode around in a circle. Since I didn’t have any equestrian training, that was definitely something I had to do to prepare. It was a very important piece of the puzzle for Sean Durkin because his mother and his sister both trained horses. So he was very intimate with that field.

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How did the reality of working with Jude Law compare to your expectations or preconceived notions of what working with him would be like?That’s interesting. I was intimidated because he’s a movie star, and movie stars are different than actors. Movie star celebrities sort of have power on their own that has nothing to do with building character. (

Laughs.) They have that ineffable quality that makes it so you can’t take your eyes off of them, and I knew what that was like because I’ve acted with movie stars before. But I’ve never seen anyone captivate on camera quite the way Jude does while I was working with him. He would be in the background of a scene and your eye was immediately drawn to wherever he was. And whatever he was doing would always be so specific, and that comes from being on camera for decades. So it was really intimidating to know that I was going to have to share a frame with that. The most surprising thing about Jude is that he is so good-natured, easygoing and down-to-earth, and he was so wonderful to the actors playing our kids (Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche). He was wonderful to me, too, but what was special about working with Jude was the way he was working with those young people and how quickly he was able to build a relationship with them. That’s because he’s a theater actor. I knew that about him, but that’s the piece that really came through when you’re working with Jude; it’s like being onstage. And with Sean, the way he places his camera so far away, sometimes it felt like we were working on a play, which was so satisfying. So I suppose I was intimidated but then he was so down-to-earth that I was immediately put at ease.

Given your background in theater, I was going to bring up that long argument scene in the living room and how it felt like theater in a lot of ways.Yeah, that was certainly one of the main scenes where we turned to each other when it was over and said, “It was just like we were doing a play!” Particularly in that scene, [DP] Mátyás (Erdély) and [writer-director] Sean (Durkin) had put the camera so far from us that we really felt almost like we were alone in that room. We had done maybe 12 takes of that scene, and Sean let us play it straight through because he wasn’t really cutting; he was trying to get it all in one. And it was so incredible because when we finished, I remember I turned to Sean and said, “I don’t think I got it.” And then, they let us go a couple more times. (

Laughs.) So it took a while, but I really felt the freedom of being in the theater where we got to keep rehearsing, which was really satisfying.We all know people like Jude’s character, Rory, as they’re constantly selling something, and while watching, I remember thinking to myself, “Man, this guy is exhausting.” And sure enough, your character, Allison, says the exact same thing to him later in the movie.

(Laughs.) Right, but you can imagine a time when Rory and Allison’s relationship started and it was thrilling. It’s that point where the romance and the vision is intoxicating. Allison didn’t have two nickels to rub together, so that possibility is so enticing, and it takes a long time for it to wear on one, especially because we learned from their history that they did experience some success. And so, once you’ve tasted that, you want to believe that Rory is capable of getting it back. I mean, Allison absolutely wants to hold on to that possibility, but it is exhausting. (

Laughs.) Delusion is exhausting, as we’ve discovered politically.I know that Nora smoked a little bit inThe Leftoversseason three, but is Allison the biggest smoker you’ve played so far?Yes, I would say yes. I’ve played characters that are supposed to smoke onstage, but since you can’t light fires in the theater anymore, you have to find all these different ways to not smoke a cigarette, as opposed to actually smoking a cigarette. (

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Laughs.) So, yes, she was. And my parents were both heavy smokers growing up and smoked in our house. I don’t know how well I did, but I’m sure they’ll make fun of me. So I happen to be intimately familiar with that. (Laughs.)Have prop cigarettes improved at all, or are they just as nasty as they’ve ever been?

No, they’re terrible. They’re just terrible. They’re the worst thing for your voice, and they taste like you’re smoking a burning stick, which can’t be healthy. I would much rather smoke a real cigarette; I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s true.

Before the family moves to England, Allison senses that something is off with Rory. Would you say that you also have strong intuition when it comes to reading people or rooms?I think many actors would say that they do, and also, I think you’ll discover that many actors are middle children. (

Laughs.) We’ve had a lot of practice reading a room, making adjustments and perhaps being the harmonizers in our families. Or, perhaps, there are family dynamics at play that require one to be vigilant, right? Just to know how to navigate whatever the emotional dynamics are in a household or in a room — I can relate to that. And also, what you’re dealing with, of course, is a marriage, a long marriage. Rory and Allison have been together a long time. I’m only seven years into my marriage, and you can’t get away with anything after that long. (

Laughs.) Your partner, even if they don’t know what’s wrong, knows when something is off because you’re so intimately familiar with each other’s rhythms. That was one of the things I loved about the script; it was dealing with these tacit agreements we make in a marriage and I hadn’t quite seen a movie deal with that so explicitly.

Both of your restaurant scenes are awesome, especially the first one where Allison rattled off the dinner order. I really appreciated how she called out the waiter for deferring to Rory, which was still the default mode in the ‘80s.(Laughs.) Yes, absolutely.

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It also came up again at a party when they’re introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Rory O’Hara, which led Allison to volunteer her name amid the “confusion.” Can you talk a bit about her resistance to the gender roles of that era?Yes, it’s true that in that time, those gender roles were more overtly codified in Great Britain, and you see how Allison chafes against that very public declaration of gender roles. However, that’s not to say that the United States didn’t have the same dynamics at play; they were just much less overt. Our system is not one that is codified by a monarchy on down. Our class system is much more subtle than that and much more economically-based, as opposed to being born into landed gentry by being a Tory, for example. And so I think it’s really interesting to take an American — who has actually been operating under a similar dynamic — and then putting her in a place where that dynamic is just so spelled out and so in her face every day. Because in America, she was able to ignore it by being sort of an entrepreneur in her own right, and that’s just not something that’s respected when she crosses the pond.

Even though the circumstances are much different, there’s a scene where Allison is partying and dancing with herself, and it immediately reminded me of Nora dancing on that hotel room couch inThe Leftoversseason one’s “Guest.” As you’re working on something new, do you tend to notice parallels like this to your previous work?

It’s funny because the energy of those scenes was very different, and the longest I’d ever been on camera in my life was shooting that episode ofThe Leftovers. I mean, I had never done an episode of television that required me to be in almost every frame. So I was dealing with some other circumstances, and that scene, while intimidating, got a little bit lost in all the other pressures. And, in fact, when I shot that scene on that particular day, I was so terribly ill. I was really sick during most of that episode, and so most of it feels like a fever dream. In contrast, while I was getting ready to shoot that scene in

The Nest, I was really scared of it because it’s not just a dancing scene; it’s also dancing in the ‘80s. It is specific to dance in period, and while I was a child in the ‘80s, not an adult, people’s bodies do move specifically according to the time they’re born in. So it’s always profoundly interesting to me how certain genres of music or movement couldn’t exist without what came before, and so, I was very nervous about it and the lack of inhibition. I love going to the edge, I love letting myself go and I love being invited to do that, but you don’t want to do it poorly, right? You don’t want it to not feel as visceral, explosive and free as you see it in your mind, so I was very intimidated by that scene. But Sean gave me some great music, and the atmosphere was very conducive to embracing that moment. It was getting on into daytime, and they had these amazing extras who just looked fantastic; they were really going for it every take. It was dark and smokey in there, and they really did help me out by setting the tone appropriately.

The Nestis mostly shot at this beautiful manor in England. Does a unique location add something to your performance whether you realize it or not?Gosh, I hope so. We all know that a new environment is always stimulating in ways that are overt and ways that, like as you point out, that may be subconscious. And so, oftentimes, in dramatic stories, you’re telling a story about a person who’s out of place — a fish out of water story. So it’s always helpful when you’re playing a person who’s under that circumstance. When Nora goes to Australia, when Allison is pulled to the UK, where you are actually, yourself, a fish out of water and where you’re processing a lot of new information. I do think that it probably creates hopefully an aliveness that supports the story that you’re telling.

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Fantastic actress. She was the heart and soul of The Leftovers. Yesss. carriecoon is the BEST ! Her surname.. carriecoon

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