Both actors noted a unique technique from director Keith Gordon, who helmed the episode and worked with Coon previously on “The Leftovers.”
“Keith will encourage an actor to go really too far — cry, weep, scream, pound on the table — and then he says, ‘That’s the thing that you’re fighting. That’s the thing that you’re fighting to keep in,” Coon said. “And so the engine is running — that’s how I describe it; it’s an engine in your body that’s underneath it and then you play against it in the next take.”
Sandoval said the two actors were “just water works” for the first few takes.
“I think he had an instinct that he needed to get those versions of the takes out first,” Sandoval said. “Then you have that emotional reality in you. It’s all underneath you and gives this quiet strength to the scene.”
“So, in particular, I knew leading up to that scene there were some other moments trafficking in that [emotional] range,” Coon said. “There’s always a temptation to lean into the emotion of a scene. [But] that’s actually to feel what you’re playing against.”
Sandoval left the set in awe.
“Really, no exaggeration: It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done as an actor,” she said. “Carrie has such an incredible strength that’s just right there behind the eyes. […] I think her performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen on television.”
Coon, of course, speaks highly of her co-star, director, and, well, everyone else.
“It’s not like I nail it every time,” Coon said. “I actually give a range of options and then let Noah and the editor make the choice. My job is to throw some paint on a canvas and they get to take a little square that they want.”
Coon’s modesty extends even further. She’s an actress who’s keenly aware of her collaborators, the demands on them, and what it takes to create a performance from page to screen.
She credits the writers for even thinking to leave Fargo in the first place: “It’s one of the wonderful ways that [creator Noah Hawley] reinvents it every time.” She nods to the editors for finding just the right balance between the episode’s two timelines: “They were trying to figure out how to fit L.A. in a ‘Fargo’ world.” She even describes a dream sequence that was cut as a means to illustrate how director John Cameron, Hawley, and the post-production team save her from looking silly.
“I don’t know if I’m telling tales out of school here, but the point being, it wasn’t challenging [for me] to do; it was challenging in post to figure out what the hell we had made.”
But it was challenging for Coon. There’s simply too much going on with Gloria not to credit the central performer, especially in scenes where she’s asked to do repeated takes weeping uncontrollably and then sit on that emotion for more repetitions of the same material; or moments when she can’t speak and instead must convey a momentous urban disconnect with just a look; or to not only trust the actor across from you, but give her everything she needs to find her own way through a scene.
“She really brought my performance out,” Sandoval said. “I want to give credit to Carrie there. It wouldn’t have turned out nearly as well without someone who was so brilliant to work with. […] She just had an instinct to be a mentor to me. I feel like I’m a better actor now having worked with her.”
“That’s who she is,” Dowd said, remembering a night during “The Leftovers” shoot when she suffered a panic attack in Australia.
“Carrie learned that I’d had this panic attack, and she sends me a beautiful email — just beautiful, telling me to take time for myself and everything. And then I get back to New York a couple of weeks after, and a package arrives for me: It’s a beautiful meditation cushion and a book [titled] ‘Real Happiness.’ There was no card, but I knew it was from Carrie. Such thoughtfulness — the care.”
“That’s what I want you to know about her,” Dowd said. “The work will speak for itself.”
Through a deep connection with her character forged from hard work and generosity of character, Coon really did give one of the best performances on television. And she should know that; after all, she’s nominated for an Emmy.
“Thank you,” Coon said, her Midwestern instincts to share credit and acknowledge a compliment conflicting. “You’re trying to beat my Midwestern humility out of me.”
Never would we dream of it. To do so would take the Fargo out of “Fargo,” and only Carrie Coon can do that.
Carrie Coon is nominated for “Fargo” in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie category. Winners will be announced at the Emmys on September 17.