The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon: “It’s Hollywood that lacks imagination. Actors don’t”

“Literature has always been the greatest fuel for my imagination.” – Carrie Coon

For years, actress Carrie Coon was known mainly within theatrical circles, having bounced from regional theater to regional theater across the United States. After making her debut in Chicago in a 2008 production Bronte and her Broadway debut in the 2012 revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — for which she was nominated for a Tony Award — Coon began to receive roles on television and film. Currently she appears to great acclaim in both the HBO series The Leftovers and the FX series Fargo. Speaking with Vulture, Coon talks about the importance of imagination and challenges when it comes to acting.

Coon reveals that those who know her personally don’t know why she often portrays characters that are so unlike who she really is. She says, “My family has never understood why I play crazy, angry, depressed people because that is not the way they think of me. They see me as a totally messy, klutzy goofball — kind of weird and hyper.” Of course, that’s because Coon doesn’t want to do things that are easy as an actress — she craves challenges. Later, she adds, “I consider myself pretty game for what’s asked of me. The thing I’m drawn to most of all now is what is challenging. What asks me to use a part of myself that hasn’t been used yet?”

In fact, Coon credits the imagination of actors for pushing them into new territory. She says, “It’s Hollywood that lacks imagination. Actors don’t. That’s why we’re always auditioning for things that other people think we’re not right for, because we never tell ourselves we’re not right for something.”As an example, she points out to Hollywood’s disappointing lack of variety of roles for women her age. She says, “When you get to be a certain age as a woman, there are certain roles that keep popping up at you: cops with a heart of gold, washed-up hookers with a heart of gold, moms with a heart of gold. I mean it’s all the same.”

As a way to “fuel” her own imagination, one tool that Coon utilizes before going on stage in a play is books. She explains, “I rely on poetry or literature to keep me centered before I go onstage because it reminds me to be present. Literature has always been the greatest fuel for my imagination.”