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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Our actor of the decade Carrie Coon tells all about <i>The Leftovers, </i>David Fincher, and more

Our actor of the decade Carrie Coon tells all about The Leftovers, David Fincher, and more

Photo: Ben King (HBO), Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them about.

The actor: When we started discussing names here at The A.V. Club for our favorite actors of the decade, one immediately jumped to mind: Carrie Coon. It’s not just because Coon is an immensely talented performer, one who has brought depth and charisma to roles in Gone Girl, The Post, and more. She’s also a clear TV MVP for the decade, having delivered powerhouse performances in shows like The Leftovers, Fargo season three, The Sinner’s second year, etc. But what really sealed the deal was how Coon’s career so far has essentially been a tale of the ’10s: Her first onscreen role was in 2010, and she’s capping off the year with a pair of upcoming films (The Nest and Ghostbusters 2020) and a return to the stage where she began, starring in a revival of husband Tracy Letts’ Bug beginning in January.

We reached out to Coon to do a special 2010s version of Random Roles. She had stories aplenty about working on set with David Fincher, jumping from the role of a lifetime in The Leftovers right into another role of a lifetime on Fargo, and explaining why she was more nervous doing a scene opposite British character actor David Thewlis than being in a room with Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg.

The Playboy Club (2011)—“Doris Hall”

The A.V. Club: Your first onscreen credit looks like the short-lived series The Playboy Club.

Carrie Coon: [Laughs.] Yes, that’s correct. I wore a tiny black slip from American Apparel to my audition, because we had to strip in the middle of the audition and show our bodies. And Lesli Linka Glatter, who went on to become the producer of The Leftovers and Homeland, was directing that episode. She gave me my first job in television ever—and of course I’ve run into her ever since. So she knew my work when The Leftovers happened. But that was the Gloria Steinem episode, so I was supposed to be this amalgam of Gloria Steinem going into The Playboy Club. But because it was on NBC, the conclusion of the journalist was [Affects old fashioned diction.], “I thought this was going to be salacious, but it’s just a bunch of hard-working girls trying to get by!”

It was so pat. But, I have to say—putting on the bunny suit is really iconic. And there’s a lot that goes into it: They had these sort of precut suits that they then had fitted to you perfectly, so it was like a swimsuit with a bustier and all the business. And the woman who did my hair—my hair wasn’t that long, but she teased it up into this enormous beehive. I couldn’t believe it was only my hair in there, but she didn’t use any extra hair. It was such a lovely idea that could have been really wonderful, and there were some great creators involved with that project, but it wasn’t going to fly. Once [the Bunnies] were doing the Locomotion and having a pillow fight, I knew.

AVC: Actors tend to vividly remember so much of the mechanics of their first onscreen credited appearance. Is that true for you as well? 

CC: Absolutely. At that point, I had only done a few commercials in Chicago. I had never done anything else that was TV or film-related. There’s so much vocabulary I didn’t know. Hitting my mark? I mean, I didn’t really know when you were rehearsing somebody was going to run around and put tape on the floor wherever I stand and that I’d have to do that over and over again. There were so many things I didn’t know. But I was blessed with the presence of Laura Benanti, who was the star of that show—another Broadway gal, of course—and she was so kind to me, so helpful and supportive. They all were, but she primarily sticks out in my mind as someone who knew me as a theater person, saw me and could tell I didn’t know what I was doing, and really helped me out.

I was just starting a play at the Writers Theatre. I was doing the Stoppard play. The Real Thing. I got the job on Playboy Club, and my brother was getting married. And my agent said, “You can’t do all three of those things. You’re going to have to give up something.” And I said, “Watch me.” And I negotiated, and I missed a week of rehearsals, I think, to shoot Playboy Club, and then I went to my brother’s wedding for less than 24 hours. But I did all three of them. And it was a great lesson in finding balance in this career. Also, you don’t get anything you don’t ask for. I think it’s very easy, especially as women, when someone tells us what the expectation is and what to do, to go, “Of course. Anything you want. Let me be accommodating.” And it was very empowering to have that moment where I stood up for the three things that I wanted and got them.

You know, as an actor, you don’t want to lose a job. That television show paid me more than probably the whole run of that theater job, which was going to be months. I couldn’t afford to not do it. But I didn’t want to not honor my word by dropping out of a play that I had committed to almost a year prior. And auditioned for, and fought for. So it didn’t seem fair that, because of a financial burden, that I would have to give up the thing I really loved. That didn’t seem fair to me. And that’s why, when I talk to young actors, I always teach them, you have to figure out how to manage your money. Because otherwise your artistic decisions are always going to be economic.

Wolfenstein (2009)—motion actor

AVC: That wasn’t actually the first time you’d been filmed for a project, right? Because you had done some motion capture work on the game Wolfenstein.

CC: I did—I was in Wisconsin for graduate school. I was cobbling together a living, because we were living off $9,000 a year as TAs. While my education was paid for by scholarship, my salary was $9,000 a year, and I was trying to live off that. So, inevitably, in addition to teaching and going to school, you have to find work. I ended up auditioning for Raven Software, which is headquartered in Madison. And they would put us through these physical tests. I had been an athlete in college; I played soccer and ran track. So I had some physical skill, some adaptability there, and I was able to start working on their games. I think I played all the women and some of the monsters in Return To Castle Wolfenstein, Wolverine, and a third game that didn’t come out while I was still there that I can’t remember. [It was actually the sequel to Return To Castle Wolfenstein—Ed.] And, you know, it was just a bunch of video game geeks, these guys running this joint—and we’re still friends on the interwebs, they reach out every now and then. Because they were so much fun. You’d be doing a scene where you’re supposed to crush Wolverine’s hand, and they’d say, “Let’s put a bag of chips on the ground so you can step on it!”

I think part of my audition for that job was I had to pretend I was a creature that didn’t have a spine, creeping out of the ground—it was that sort of stuff we were doing. But it was a lot of fun. They taught me how to do a kick up and a roundhouse kick and all this stuff—I was doing it in high heels sometimes.

And the whole mo-cap suit with the balls—now they have it so the balls are really small, they’re actually just reflection points on the suit and they put black dots on your face. But when I was doing it then, we didn’t really have face capture, and the balls were like ping pong balls on your suit. So you’d just break them all the time, rolling around. It was great fun, and I continued to go back there and work periodically after I had relocated, or graduated, and sort of moved my career from Madison to Chicago. I loved that place.

I had never had any old-school theater classes, because I didn’t do theater as a young person in my hometown—we didn’t have anything like that that I had access to—nor did I study it in college. So it was really my training ground. I had one movement class in graduate school, and then mo-cap; otherwise I didn’t have a lot of that training you think of when you think of Juilliard or NYU or any of those elite programs. We were this fledgling program that had reinvented itself with ten actors in three years, so I wouldn’t call my education comprehensive. [Laughs.]

Intelligence (2014)—“Luanne Vick”
Gone Girl (2014)“Margo Dunne”

AVC: Gone Girl is a hell of a first movie.

CC: [Laughs.] Yeah, I’ll say. Luckily for me, I was so woefully disconnected from current cinema or music or anything—I’m such a Luddite, just off doing theater in Wisconsin—that I didn’t really know enough to be afraid of anybody. And of course I’d seen movies David Fincher had made, but I didn’t know anything about his reputation. I should have been more scared than I was.

They wouldn’t let me see him. I’d been cast in The Leftovers. HBO and Fox wouldn’t let me meet with David Fincher because HBO couldn’t say whether or not they were going to pick up my show, so they wouldn’t technically release me for the dates for the film. And Fox said, “We don’t want you to meet David in case he likes you if you’re not available. We don’t want to waste anybody’s time.”

So I ended up flying to L.A. and I delayed my flight three times as they negotiated whether or not I could even meet David and whether HBO was going to make a decision soon. They were making me drive across town for meetings three times a day to meet with all these casting directors. And I was just so blissfully ignorant of all that stuff and who I was meeting. I was just this shining, hapless Midwesterner who felt like I was getting away with something. When I was out there, I met David on a Friday—and he read with me for an hour in a room.

So I’m in the casting director’s office and I’m finished, and she said, “You did great. Let me get you a danish.” She went downstairs and got me a danish. I read with David on a Friday, I flew back to Chicago to repack my clothes, and I went back on Monday because I’d booked a guest star spot on a CBS show, Intelligence, while I was out there. So I came back from my first trip to L.A. and then I went right back for ten days, and I was in my trailer in my trashy criminal costume when I got the call that they were actually going to give me the job. And then I was starting in August. And that was July, I think.

AVC: Once you were cast, did people start to give you the requisite warnings and jokes about Fincher’s endless shooting style?

CC: You know, my husband certainly knew about it. At that time, I didn’t have any friends who had worked with him. So I just knew what the internet knew and the rumors that Tracy had heard. I guess I knew we were going to be doing a lot of takes. But I had never made a movie before! I wanted as many takes as I could get.

I didn’t know what I was doing. The first scene I had where I had dialogue, he kept saying, “I’m not getting enough screen direction.” And I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. And he wanted me to—he’s very technical—he wanted me to put a magazine down and then look up, but I had to look up at this particular angle and I just wasn’t doing it right. Because I didn’t understand what he was trying to do. And he said, “You can’t do it!” And he moved on.

We ended up cutting that scene, by the way. And I was devastated. And Ben [Affleck] was really sweet about it. The next day, I went to David, and I said, “When you hired me, you know who you hired. You hired somebody who’s never made a movie before. And I don’t always understand the vocabulary. And I don’t always understand what you’re asking. But if you explain it to me, then I can do it.” And, to his credit—and we had just been doing interiors and exteriors, this was our first real scene with dialogue—the next day, every time we had a shot, he’d be, like, “Hey, come here. Look at the monitor. See what I’m doing here? This is why I need you to glide out on your right foot. It’s really tight so I need you to be really smooth.” And he taught me so much.

AVC: You’ve said that you find it hard to watch your role in that movie now. What is it about it that you find difficult?

CC: It feels like I’m doing too much. It feels like I’m making faces. I just see my teeth. [Laughs.] It just feels like a lot. And I trust David’s taste, and David was going for a very particular aesthetic, and he wouldn’t have let me keep shooting that movie if he didn’t get what he needed. What happened was, Leftovers came out before Gone Girl in the world, and so, what I see, if you watch The Leftovers—and I think I’m doing some good, subtle work in there—and then you go see Gone Girl after that: “Whoa! What happened? Did she stick her finger in a light socket?” That’s how it feels to me. Of course, I’m the only person paying attention to that.

But honestly, [Fincher] was a great guy. He was really funny. He’s sarcastic, and that’s how my family expresses love, so I felt very comfortable with his barbs. And he would pit us against each other in a very entertaining way. He would always be ribbing Ben, giving Ben shit about everything, and Ben just wanted to hang out by the camera with David and learn everything he could learn because he’s really smart—Ben is very intelligent, he’s a great, great director. He was there to soak up everything he could from David, and David was there to torture Ben and give him shit. It was so fun. So David would always say, “Ben, could you do it again, a little less somnambulant? Carrie, that was perfect.” Just to rib Ben. [Laughs.]

It was a really transformative experience. It couldn’t have been a more positive first film experience, even with the rigors of working with David. Because what I learned was invaluable.

The Leftovers (2014-2017)—“Nora Durst / Sarah”

CC: This is a book that I had read—I was a big Tom Perrotta fan—my husband had actually been called in for the role of Kevin, because Ellen loves my husband, too. And in the book, my husband is really appropriate casting: He’s an older mayor who’s sort of shambling around, and he’s not sort of the sexy leading man type. I think my husband’s very sexy, don’t get me wrong. I just mean, in Hollywood—[Laughs.] The type is a little different.

So Tracy and I both read the book. I went in, and they gave me Nora’s speech from Heroes’ Day, and I did that on tape. And then they gave me a scene which would eventually be with [Christopher] Eccleston. So it was a scene with my brother, but that’s a relationship that doesn’t exist in the book, so that scene doesn’t really appear ever in the series. I did those on tape, and then was very surprised to get a call. When I came back into the office, Damon [Lindelof] was there, and they just let us sit in a room. And we didn’t talk much about The Leftovers, but we talked a lot about our own lives, our own journeys in therapy [Laughs.], our own psychological weaknesses. We had a very… I’d say intimate conversation in that room. Because I think—knowing what that role was going to require—Damon wanted to make sure that he had people around him who were as interested in the pursuit of, I don’t know, spiritual darkness. [Laughs.] I think that cast is uniformly inclined toward the apocalypse in such a delightful way.

So our conversation was very personal. And my agents warned me that, after that, they would expect that I’d have to go test for HBO, that I’d have to go through a camera test. Again, something I’d never done before. I had only read with David Fincher in a room; I hadn’t had to go through ten executives and prove myself. So we were very shocked to hear a couple of weeks later that I just got the job offer outright. Because of course I didn’t understand about the hierarchy in the showrunning community was that Damon Lindelof—because of the success of Lost, because of the deal he had with HBO—had a lot of artistic license. And since he and Tom agreed I was their choice for Nora, they were able to offer me that job without putting me through all the rigamarole you would normally have to go through for a job on a network.

AVC: On The Leftovers, the material’s bleak, but it’s so funny at the same time. Were you and the other cast usually in good spirits on set, or was it a heavier atmosphere?

CC: Sometimes I think the heavier the material, the lighter the set. Because everybody needs that uplift in between takes. So I don’t think it ever felt heavy. I certainly don’t work that way. There were days at work that were harder than others. When Nora discovers her family at the kitchen table, I did isolate myself a little more that day because I had to do that thing 12 times. You know, you don’t do it once. It’s not the theater. You have to do it multiple times at multiple angles. And when you have to bring that much emotion to the scene, you have to be able to do it over and over again. And you can’t spend it all in one take, but you have to look like you’re spending it all in one take. And so I did go away and focus.

But generally, I would say it was really lighthearted. I remember we were shooting the finale, and I was doing a scene where I had to chase the goat—where I was on the hill and I had to fall down the hill. It was biblical rain—this small town in Australia where we were shooting it—they hadn’t had this much rain in 500 years or something. So the whole town was flooded; we could barely shoot. The sun almost never came out. And that night the hill was so wet that even the goat couldn’t stand on it.

So here I am—and I was doing my own stunts, so I rolled down that hill 15 times—and every time I came inside, soaking wet, covered in mud. Damon and Tom happened to be there visiting—it was all these executives and journalists—and they were all in there playing a game where they were pulling a book off a shelf, and making up the first line of the book or something. So I’d walk in, and they’re all laughing, hooting it up in the nice warm house having a great time.

It was kind of always like that. I think that the spirit of the thing—we also felt like the stepchild of HBO: We didn’t get a lot of money, we never knew if we were going to get renewed. And I love working for HBO, I’ve had a very positive experience with them, but we were always waiting to know if we were going to get one more season. You just didn’t know, because, let’s all be frank: There weren’t that many people watching the show. So they had every reason to renew it as a critical success, but they weren’t getting the numbers that would encourage them to renew it. I’m grateful to them for taking it on for three years, which they really didn’t have any reason to do. I have to give the critics a lot of credit for that, because they really championed our show, and they continued to do it. We make all the lists of the best shows of the decade.

AVC: Yeah, you made ours.

CC: Yes! Thank you. It’s a very special show.

Fargo (2017)—“Gloria Burgle”

CC: I had watched previous seasons, only because I’d heard how great it was. I was very skeptical when I heard that someone was going to take that world and turn it into a TV show. But that’s because I didn’t know Noah Hawley. Noah Hawley is a genius. I have never seen anybody enter whatever is happening in the world obliquely in the way that he does, where he allows people to examine their present circumstances from a distance, so what they’re actually working on and thinking about is actually very current, very now, very relevant. I find that so sly and so smart. So to be offered a role in something that I thought was that intelligent—because, let’s face it: most of it’s not.

Also, I was being offered a lot of grieving moms, right? All the shows that came out after Leftovers: “So there’s a mom and she’s lost her child.” “There’s a mom and her child was kidnapped.” It was so nice to be offered something else. And, I come from the Midwest, and the sensibility of that show is very much the Midwestern stoicism, that—[Sighs.] what is it? It’s something I love. My people. I’ve said it before, but, in many ways, Gloria is the closest thing to my upbringing that I’ve ever played. Because my people—they’re stoic. They’re forthright. And they’re polite, but it’s passive-aggressive. Because they are also judgmental. And skeptical. But they’re not necessarily going to give you the satisfaction of a conflict.

AVC: Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you when you think back to the filming of it?

CC: I just remember that Mark Forward and I were laying on the floor with our heads close together having this absurd conversation about Christianity or something. [Laughs.] And we were laughing so hard, and we weren’t making any sense because it was four in the morning! And it was freezing. And we had become really good friends. In some ways, it’s like you’re laying around playing dress up with your best friend, but you’re not allowed to leave. It’s very absurd, late at night, to be on a set. And I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed harder than I did with that gang. I really loved—Shea Whigham and Mark Forward and I had—we played the police force, so we were together a lot on set, and also we had the same days off and we were alone up there without our families. We ended up spending a lot of time in cold Calgary and having a lot of roasted meats and some good talks. I remember some of those times socially more than I remember the actual filming.

Because I have to say, it’s a very well-oiled machine. And the crew had all been working on the show—this was their third year doing Fargo up in Calgary. The crews up there are phenomenal. And Noah keeps a very quiet, respectful set. It’s not histrionic; it’s not really harried or chaotic at all. It’s very calm. And in some ways the filming of the series unfolded very predictably. I think my first night when we were shooting, when there’s an intruder in the house and I have a big rifle—I had gotten a 20-minute lesson on how to hold a rifle, they didn’t have a lot of time to train me up. I had to take my coat off and throw it in the trunk of the car before I could go back in the house, because the coat would have been in my way if I was a real cop. And every time I took my coat off and walked through the foot of snow that we had—it was like, I don’t know, negative something [degrees]—everyone was wincing as I [Laughs.] was barely dressed, walking through the snow.

Oh, and I was really terrified. David Thewlis. When I had to do the big final scene with David—only working with Holly Hunter have I felt so intimidated. I was really intimidated by him, because I had seen Naked. He was playing my main antagonist, and I was so intimidated by him. And he’s the loveliest man. My husband will tell you that I have ice water in my veins, that I’m never scared of anything—any actor or any person. It’s very unusual for me to have that experience, because I’m pretty good at saying, “The person sitting across from me is a human being.” And celebrity exists on the internet. It doesn’t really happen when you’re sitting opposite someone doing a scene. But I was so terrified to act with him because I think he’s so great. And he wiped the floor with me, truly. He does that speech that he has 30 times. I was sweating, I was forgetting my lines. I just felt really underprepared. Anyway, I never feel like that.

The Post (2017)—“Meg Greenfield”

AVC: Speaking of intimidating actors.

CC: Yes, yes. It was a real who’s who for sure. Who’s working right now? [Laughs.] They’re in this film. Kind of hilarious.

AVC: Given the massive number of people, especially such a big group of you in one room for many of your scenes, was there anybody in particular that you bonded with or folks that you felt you had a commonality with?

CC: Well, my husband and I were finally in the same city and made a baby. Does that count? [Laughs.] It’s our Spielberg baby. We were on the road for years and we were finally in the same town and the same movie.

What was great about The Post was that, by the time 2017 rolled around, we really had rubbed elbows with a lot of those actors. So in some ways it was like hometown week; we were meeting up with all these great theater people we had known for many years—I mean, Sarah Paulson and my husband obviously go way back. They were engaged once. She’s a good friend of ours. And she and I were two of the only women in the movie aside from Meryl, so we tended to find each other when we were on set. But I think this is an example of, if Tracy were here, he’d say, “And my wife was the only actor who wasn’t scared.” That’s not true, it just manifests differently for me.

But everybody was really terrified to work with Meryl and work with Tom and work with Steven. Because your family members in Wisconsin generally haven’t watched Fargo or heard of The Leftovers, but by god they’ve heard of Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. So, finally, when you tell your extended family you’re doing this movie, they may all think you’re famous, right? This is the movie that for everyone crystallized for their families that they’ve really made it. [Laughs.] Even though for most of us, they were some of the smallest parts we’ve played. But, you know: David Cross. Bob Odenkirk. Sarah Paulson.

On day one, I asked Steven Spielberg, “Do you get nervous on the first day?” And he said, “Oh, I’m terrified. I’m terrified every new scene.” And it was so nice to hear him admit that. But then the wonderful thing about Tom and Meryl and Steven is they all still love to make movies. And Spielberg—Steven is like a little kid. He’s filled with wonder. To watch him move a camera around—it was a great privilege. And to watch Meryl Streep’s process up close—not that you can discern everyone’s preparation for something—I’m not saying that I’ve unlocked the secrets of Meryl Streep. Absolutely not. Wouldn’t even know how to begin to do that. But she works really hard, and she stays relaxed, and she’s different every take. To get to see that executed is a great privilege as an actor.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)—“Proxima Midnight”

AVC: What was it like working on a project like that where it’s almost comically large in scale? I guess literally comically large—a comic book movie.

CC: I mean, so comically large that I was there for one day and then did a half a day in Chicago. When that job was posted, it was just a voiceover job. So I did an audition in my closet, and they gave me some notes. I didn’t even know what I was auditioning for when I was doing this voiceover. Then I think the Russo brothers—maybe what happened is they found out it was me and they knew my work as an actor. They invited me to come in and do some of the mo-cap. Now, of course, on those films, really the credit goes to a stunt person and 200 animators, right? Very little of it is us: just the facial expressions, the landing, the close-ups. So they didn’t really need me for very long, because Proxima Midnight doesn’t have a huge part in that film, and, once they scan you, they can make you do whatever they want.

I was in my first trimester, I was rehearsing a play in New York City, I didn’t have a lot of availability. I think they flew me down late on a Sunday, I went in Monday, I did a very quick session with their movement coach, and then they kind of threw me into all these scenes where there wasn’t another actor in the room with me. It was just the producers and the PAs and everybody working on the set with stuff they had already assembled. They would let me watch it, and I could see myself as the character moving on the screen, but I wasn’t actually interacting with anybody. I didn’t have a scene partner. In that regard—I’ve said this before and many people are critical of it—it’s lonely. I mean, you’re in a room full of people, but as an acting exercise it’s lonely. So it was hard. And the eclipse was also happening that day, so we took this huge break to watch the eclipse, and then we had to rush through the rest of the work.

To have the movie be that big, and to be there for such a minuscule [Laughs.] amount of time was really strange. Because honestly? That is the thing I get the most fan mail for. I have an Avengers jacket that sometimes I’ll throw on when I go to the corner store in Chicago, and, inevitably, someone between the ages of 18 and 47 will stop me and ask me where I got it and why do I have it. They don’t recognize me, of course [Laughs.], because of all the CGI. But it’s so strange. I just didn’t realize the extraordinary power of the franchise. It’s just not something I’m very plugged into.

AVC: And you got nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Fight!

CC: Yes. And I was, like, “Give it to the 200 animators and the stunt woman.” [Laughs.] Because I think I made three faces in that fight and maybe held a stick. They had to come up and do some reshoots—they had to come up to Chicago for a day because I couldn’t fly—I was about eight and a half months pregnant, so just imagine me, this very pregnant 37-year-old swinging this foam stick around my head with a camera around all of these twentysomethings. It was deeply embarrassing for everyone. Because I don’t do anything halfway; it’s all 110%. A lot of puffy, red-faced grunting. [Laughs.] It was pretty terrible.

The Sinner (2018)“Vera Walker”

AVC: Your husband was originally cast first, right?

CC: Yes, he was. He had a nice conversation with Derek and Antonio Campos—of course, they had made Christine together. We were already all in and we decided absolutely he should say yes to that job. We’d go to New York for the summer and “I’ll hang out with the baby and you’ll go to work and it’ll be so great.”

And then they came to me. [Laughs.] And so we thought, “Well, if you’re going to be there doing the job, I might as well be there doing the job, too.” Which, perhaps I wasn’t thinking very clearly.

AVC: How was it filming?

CC: Insane. My baby was eight weeks old. We had to get early vaccinations and take the Amtrak train because we didn’t want to put him on a plane when he was seven weeks old. I got yelled at by ladies in the train station, but… I don’t know what I was thinking.

Of course everybody wants to be supportive of the new mom on the set, but the reality of the set is not conducive to breast pumping. When you’re on location, they don’t have a clean room with a sink where you can go sit for 20 minutes without somebody knocking on your door every five. And that’s not to criticize anyone—they’re just doing their jobs and trying to make the day. I want to make the day and get home to my baby. It’s just the reality of being on the set. I think we had a half-hour to an hour lunch break every day where I had to eat, pump, and nap. As you can see, not all of those things could happen in that amount of time. And it was really, really hard.

There were some lovely things about it, too. Obviously, we really loved the creator, Derek, and Antonio, and the team they had assembled. We became really close to Bill Pullman and his wife. Tracy and I, we had a great time with them. They remain friends of ours. The series has continued to do really well—I’m getting recognized on the streets because everybody’s watching it on Netflix. Because everyone loves a good thriller.

Widows (2018)—“Amanda”

AVC: It’s a small role, but you got to finally shoot in Chicago.

CC: I did. And it’s so funny because I wasn’t living there, so we visited my house for 48 hours. Again, I was in the middle of another job or something, and my availability was very limited. So I literally flew home for about 48 hours and popped in and did those scenes really quickly. I mean, Steve McQueen—it was a real whirlwind, we didn’t have a lot of time for introspection. He just tried to tell me what he needed and we would do it.

And the other lovely thing is that it was being shot in Chicago so I knew all the supporting players. So in that 48 hours I ran into a bunch of my theater friends and it was a reunion. And I also think that Chicago boasts some of the best actors in the business, and I always love to see a big movie come to our city and shoot and realize how easily they can populate a film with all the very fine actors that are in my city.

AVC: When in Chicago—is there still a fundamental feeling when you come back to somewhere like that where it feels like home, or does it feel a little more distant than it used to be?

CC: It does feel like home, because we’ve got a great, comfortable house. But it feels like home less and less because I’ve been so disconnected from it—from the community for so long. I just don’t have the knowledge, for example, of the young actors coming up through the theater scene. I used to have a really good handle on the interesting people I wanted to watch. I’m just much less involved with all of that. And of course, when you’re building a TV and film career, it’s much harder to build in time for theater, though Tracy and I have done really well. I don’t think I’ve gone more than two years without doing theater and, in fact, my next project is a play at Steppenwolf in December.

AVC: I found an interview you did in 2010—very beginning of the decade—with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel—where you had insisted that you saw yourself going back to theater in Wisconsin. Do you still think that’s a possibility in the foreseeable future?

CC: Look, the invitation is open. I have a standing invitation to go back to Wisconsin. And my husband and I—who knows what the next steps will be? We want to have another kid—whatever that means for the future, I can’t say. But we’ll always return to the theater somewhere. And we’ll see what happens in the election, whether we return to the United States or not. [Laughs.] But—let’s say I won’t eliminate any possibility for the future. Including going back and doing theater in Wisconsin.

Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.

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