Every now and then an esteemed actor from the posh theater world decides to make the move over to movies and television to slum it with us nerds. When Carrie Coon did so in 2014 with dual TV/movie roles in Gone Girl and The Leftovers, the unwashed entertainment masses all had the same reaction: “Now where have you been all our lives?!?”
After a successful career treading the boards on Broadway, Coon is now a pop culture mainstay and we couldn’t be happier about it. The Copley, Ohio-native absolutely shines in any role she takes, no matter how prominent or minor. From Nora Durst on The Leftovers to Gloria Burgle on Fargo season 3 and beyond, Coon quite simply goes hard in the paint.
Next up, Coon will be introduced to an even wider audience than ever before with the announcement that she’ll be headlining season 3 of HBO’s The White Lotus. Before then, however, let’s recap some of her best work to date.
The Leftovers (2014 – 2017)
Nora Durst on HBO’s The Leftovers is the role that brought Carrie Coon to television prominence and it likely remains her most difficult acting challenge yet. Nora Durst is cruelly nicknamed “Nora Cursed” as she undergoes the most tragic event of anyone in this prestige drama. When 3% of the world’s disappearance inexplicably disappears in an event known as the “Sudden Departure,” Nora becomes a statistical outlier by losing her husband and two children. They’re not dead. They’re not missing. They’re just gone.
Through three seasons of The Leftovers (which again: is really, really great), Coon captures not only the unimaginable pain of losing one’s family but also the awkward attempt to build a life after it. Yes, losing her whole family makes Nora sad. How could it not? But as time goes on it also makes her weirdly warmer – or at least more playful and rebellious, almost childlike in a sense. It’s the best acting performance in a show full of great acting performances and it helped put our beloved Carrie on the map. – Alec Bojalad
Fargo Season 3 (2017)
Fargo’s third season is a bit of a mixed bag by the show’s lofty standards, but its cast is stacked. While Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and David Thewlis have all rightfully garnered widespread praise for their performances that year, it’s Carrie Coon’s often understated performance that ultimately anchors the entire season.
As Police Chief Gloria Burgle, Coon serves as the law enforcement officer who typically finds themselves at the center of most Fargo stories. Coon plays Burgle as a person of almost supernatural resolve who is trying to keep their moral compass aligned even as she falls deeper into the rabbit hole of Fargo’s most existential and downright bizarre story. Coon’s ability to play that character as a real person in an unreal situation is on full display in a series’ best episode which sees her travel to Los Angeles to learn about her murdered stepfather’s past and learn a little more about the mysteries of the universe in the process. – Matthew Byrd
Gone Girl (2014)
In a 2021 interview with The Independent, Carrie Coon described her performance in Gone Girl as “horrific to watch.” Coon later clarified that she wasn’t feeling great at the time of the interview and meant to say that she learned a lot on-set in her feature film debut and in the years that followed. Even still, she’s perhaps being a bit too harsh on a performance she described as an example of her “making faces.”
In a film that focuses on the relationship between two deeply disturbed individuals, Coon’s Margo Dunne offers a necessary sense of perspective. As the sister of Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne, she’s torn between her desire to support her brother while grappling with the acknowledgment that Nick often comes across as a big ol’ wife murderer. At the same time, Coon’s ability to establish such a close sibling relationship in relatively few scenes leaves you wondering if Margo is one of the “cool girls” that Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne laments about during the film’s famous monologue. – MB
The Nest (2020)
In other hands, the role of Allison in 2020’s The Nest could easily have fallen into ‘beleaguered mom’ territory – the kind of cliched part in which women shout “You’re going to be late!” up the stairs to teenage kids, and then sigh into the mirror while moisturizing their elbows at the end of a hard day. Not in Carrie Coon’s hands. She and writer-director Sean Durkin, whose second feature this was after 2011’s award-winning Martha Marcy May Marlene, make Allison vibrate with life. Opposite Jude Law as her con man husband Rory, they both deliver performances that would be called career-best if they didn’t keep on delivering them.
The Nest is the 1980s-set story of Rory and Allison’s relocation from New York to a country pile they can’t afford in the UK. He’s an English banker convinced that his charm will elevate their family to wealth and status; she’s a horsewoman bored shitless by his business dinners and increasingly furious about the smokescreen he hides behind. Things come to a head in one glorious scene where Allison lets loose dancing in a club while across the city her teenage daughter does the same at a house party. Like all mother-daughters, they’re distorted mirrors of each other – one insight of many in an empathetic story about family, ambition and class, and another showcase for the unstoppable Carrie Coon. – Louisa Mellor
The Gilded Age (2022-)
Most Gilded Age fans can tell you that for the most part the show is pretty silly. It’s set at the end of the 19th century when ‘new money’ people started trying to infiltrate the old money setup of New York society (if your ancestors didn’t come across on the Mayflower then join the back of the queue). As with all things that are silly, the best performers are the actors who are taking it completely seriously; that is what Carrie Coon (alongside other brilliant turns from Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski) is doing in The Gilded Age as Bertha Russell.
Bertha’s husband George (Morgan Spector) has made a stupid amount of money on the railways and all she wants is for her family to be accepted into the upper echelons of society. Spoiler: the gatekeepers are catty, petty and basically a big bunch of bitches. In Coon’s hands this fight to be part of the top tier crew seems so important – yes her house is ridiculous and she throws money at all her problems, but you really want for her to get where she longs to be. Alongside the more serious story threads of civil and workers’ rights at the time you’d think the fight for a box at the Opera would seem foolish, but Coon’s brings such dimensions to her that you can’t help root for Bertha.
As it’s a Julian Fellowes creation, the script is bursting with zingers which Coon delivers with aplomb and she looks like she is having an excellent time climbing her way to the top (in some of the best outfits on TV). – Elizabeth Donoghue
Boston Strangler (2023)
Though the focus of the movie is on Keira Knightley’s character Loretta McLaughlin, a real life reporter who first coined the moniker The Boston Strangler in Boston Record American newspaper, Coon as fellow reporter Jean Cole gives a powerful but unshowy performance which holds the movie together. She’s the older more seasoned writer who’s had to prove herself and faced sexism in the workplace over and over. She works with McLaughlin to investigate connections between the murders, growing more and more outraged when the two are referred to as “girl reporters” despite being in their 30s.
Cole is fierce, tenacious, and the two, who are fighting for justice for ordinary women, while putting their necks on the line. Though the film is decent a streaming release which didn’t set the world alight it’s the performances (and the true story behind the film) that push it a cut above. – Rosie Fletcher
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
One of the hill’s that I’ve been willing to die on for the past six years is that Carrie Coon should have had more to do in Avengers: Infinity War. Or at the very least, I wish we could have met her villainous character, Proxima Midnight, a little earlier on in the MCU. Proxima Midnight is the only one of Thanos’ lackeys that I even remotely care about or have bothered to remember their name, and it’s because of how good Coon’s performance is, even through layers of CGI.
Coon deserves more than just being one of the bonus villains in an overstuffed movie – she at least deserves the same scene-chewing monologues that Cate Blanchett got in Thor: Ragnarok. If you’re going to cast the incredible Carrie Coon just to kill her off in the same movie, like Ragnarok did with Blanchett, give her more to work with before her character is squished by a giant buzz saw. I know that’s easier said than done in a movie with so many main characters to balance, but why cast someone of her caliber if the character was only going to be a distraction for the Avengers? The fact that Carrie was able to stand out as Proxima with what little screen time she had is a testament to her talents, and here’s hoping we at least get to see her and Proxima Midnight return for a What If…? episode in the near future. – Brynna Arens
Other Carrie Coon Roles of Note: Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Post, Widows, His Three Daughters