Carrie Coon: the young theatrical promise who shone in The Leftovers and who now has her first leading role with a villain in The Golden Age
If there was a significant year in the career of Carrie Coon (Copley, Ohio, 1981), whose fame was limited to the theater in Chicago and the triumph on Broadway with the work of Edward Albee Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? -Tony nomination included- along with her husband, actor and playwright Tracy Letts, was 2014. Almost without expectation, she appeared at two castings after having ventured into TV in minor roles, such as the journalist camouflaged as a bunny for a exposé in the failed series The Playboy Club (2011), or the brief appearance in one of the many versions of Law and order, and returned to New York to continue with rehearsals. The first of the castings was for Lost (available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Star+ and Movistar Play), by David Fincher, who relied on a debutante to play the sister of Ben Affleck, a key character in the story, moral counterpart of the Machiavellian Rosamund Pike. Interestingly, recently in an interview with The Independent, Coon called her portrayal of Margo Dunne “horrible,” and Fincher himself came out to defend the genuine transparency of her emotions as a key counterpoint to Affleck’s opaque character. “It was what the story needed.”
It is that in that same 2014 came his dazzling appearance in The Leftovers (available on HBO Max), a series created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta for HBO, and her portrayal of Nora Durst put her name on the list of actresses to watch for in the future. “Everything happened in the same year -revealed about the training that involved Lost and what it means to see that work from a distance- so when it premiered The Leftovers it turned out to be the fruit of the apprenticeship he had done with David [Fincher] and the gestation of a maturity as an actress that she did not have before”. Still today, Coon’s exclusion from the various awards ceremonies during the three seasons of The Leftovers –except for the Critics Choice Television Awards that she won in 2016-, in which she gave life to a woman who inexplicably lost her family, scratched hope and dealt day by day with the hole that pain had installed in her world. For several of its memorable scenes, The Leftovers became a cult series: the tears before the inflatable dolls that replace their loved ones, the eyes lit up at the discovery of a baby at the end of the first season, the jumps on the trampoline with Regina King.
Several years have passed since the end of the creation of Lindelof and Perrotta, and the premiere of the golden age, again for HBO and from the hand of Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, marks Carrie Coon’s foray into new territory: period drama. At the same time, his name at the beginning of the credits offers him the visibility that had been denied him until now and that coincides with two stellar appearances in the cinema, the first in 2021 -delayed by the pandemic- in the excellent The shelter (2020, available on Amazon Prime Video and Movistar Play), by Sean Durkin with Jude Law, and the second in Ghostbusters: Legacy (2021 available on Movistar Play, Flow, Google Play and Apple TV), the reboot of the universe of Ghostbusters by heir Jason Reitman. Coon is comfortable in all universes: in the England of the 80s, shaken by a nonconformity that unloads in a frantic dance on a disco floor, or in the passages of romantic comedy with Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters, wrapped in winks to the universe of adventure spielbergiana. But the golden age perhaps it means the challenge of a hostile world for her character, the ambitious Bertha Russell, wife of a railroad magnate trying to make a place for herself in the suffocating high society of late 19th century New York.
We meet Bertha for the first time in her dazzling appearance on Fifth Avenue, owner of a modern mansion that arouses comments from her neighbors, inhabitants of “old New York”, owners and ladies since the time of the first settlers of what used to be called New Amsterdam. Agnes Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) is his main rival, proud guardian of the norms of that rigid community that seems not to envy much of Victorian England on the other side of the Atlantic. Beyond the airs of an elegant soap opera about the uses and customs of an America that wanted to resemble its monarchist conquerors, the golden age explores the surface of that world, love rituals, tensions between money and power in a time that is outlining the future functioning of the world. In that sense, men like the tycoon George Russell (Morgan Spector) and the bankers with whom he disputes investments and loyalties seem more permeable to the adjustments suggested by the new businesses. Women, on the other hand, led by Agnes and her sister Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon), are the pillars of this social world, acid or sentimental, but firm in defining who enters and who stays at the door of the most distinguished.
Dressed in the most extravagant dresses, anointed with a certain anachronism, Coon offers Bertha a perfect rictus that combines vanity and secret revenge. His subtle villainy allows him to collect the accounts from his enemies for each of the slights suffered, while at the same time commanding the direction of his family with a firm rein. For this reason, she is not only in charge of guiding her husband’s business with the appropriate advice, but also of guaranteeing that her two children are ambassadors of the same ambitions, with well-matched marriages as emblems of those mandates that she wants to fulfill.
Carrie Coon already had experience in embodying characters with elusive intentions, endowed with secret ambition. In the second season of The Sinner (available on Netflix), created by Derek Simonds, starred as Vera Walker, the mysterious leader of a community whose 13-year-old son is accused of a double homicide near Niagara Falls. Beyond the demands of the genres, Coon’s work aims to expand her characters beyond any archetype: just as Bertha is more than a new rich who demands her place with tears and caprice, Vera expresses a sensual darkness that ends grinding down Detective Harry Ambrose’s (Bill Pullman) security and tempting his downfall.
Coon has always been sure of her talent, without a hint of arrogance but with an enviable confidence. Even in the modesty of those statements about his beginnings with Fincher lurks a keen awareness of the growing recognition that has distinguished his performances. On television the proof is not only the perfect job in The Leftovers and his remarkable participation in The Sinner -which has lowered the bar from the third season-, but also in Fargo (2017, available on Netflix), where she has had to compete with talented and renowned actresses such as Jean Smart, Kristen Dunst or Jessie Buckley. In the third season of the series created by Noah Hawley, she plays Gloria Burgle, a police officer from the Minnesota region who faces an inexplicable crime: her stepfather has been brutally murdered and the only possible clues are summarized in a collection of science novels. fiction hidden in the house. Gloria emerges from that archetype of the provincial police played by Frances McDormand in the Fargo of the Coens –the haircut, the little hat, the perplexed expression-, but Coon enriches it with a subtle mismatch with the world, which offers gags in the persistent indifference that electronic devices provide for him –doors that do not open, dryers that don’t light up – and a faint sadness at the evil to come.
Those little details are what make Coon’s performances stand out beyond the dictates of the script or the markings of a director: the tone of the statement of principles at the end of The Post: The dark secrets of the Pentagon (2018), which summarizes the commitment of the press to the governed rather than to power; the crying of Nora Durst under the water that puts out the flames and her illusions in The Leftovers; the song he performs with Mackenzie Davis in Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town (2017); the beeps in the car The shelter to the rhythm of “These Dreams” by Heart; the talk about the aroma of the soul with Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters. All his expressions seem to be born effortlessly, authentically; the deep sound of his voice exudes that subtle security, humor always comes as something unexpected. Even when she writes in the Twitter bio that she is not the actress of Mindhunter –for those who get tired of confusing her with the Australian Anna Torv– expresses the best sarcasm. His gaze is always lucid, on global politics and civil rights that he turned into a flag during the effervescence of Black Lives Matter; about the future of theater in a time of crisis like the one left by the pandemic; about the challenges involved for a rising actress to have a place in the film industry today.
With the hashtag #QuarantineLife, Carrie Coon published on Twitter, during each day of 2020, the films that they shared with Tracy Letts as a ritual of resistance to confinement, making that list the envy of many moviegoers. These days he repeats the procedure with the films nominated for an Oscar, literally assuming the new task that being a member of the Academy meant for him. A few months ago he took the stage at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater with Bug, a play written by her husband and is already considered one of the performances of the season. That return to first love is combined with the good moment of his career in film and television, with the recent premieres of Ghostbusters Y the golden age, and the filming of Boston Strangler, a film that offers a new look at the serial killer of the 1960s. With a photo from the shoot, he celebrated his 41st birthday on January 24. Carrie Coon’s new year is just beginning.