'Fargo' Star Carrie Coon on Fighting for Truth in the Face of Alternative Facts

"We are in a very dangerous time regarding the end of the truth," the Emmy-nominated actress tells THR about what her role on 'Fargo' represents.
Courtesy of FX
Carrie Coon on 'Fargo'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season-three finale of FX's Fargo, as well as the series finale of HBO's The Leftovers.]

In the final moments of Fargo's third season, Carrie Coon's Gloria Burgle sits across an interrogation table from V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), the monstrous wolf of a man she's hunted all season long. She paints a bleak picture of the future for the memorable villain, one that involves dwelling in a prison cell while she celebrates her son's birthday with fried Snickers bars at the state fair.

"There's no better way to spend a Saturday in this, our great American experiment," a confident Gloria tells Varga. "So when you're eating mashed potatoes from a box in a dark room, think of me among the amber waves of grain."

But Varga posits a different future, one in which an authority figure will arrive within the next five minutes and tell him he's free to leave, while Gloria helplessly watches. "I will disappear into the world, so help me God," he threatens. But the warning doesn't shake Gloria. She remains steadfast in her vision of what lies in store for Varga, a man whose actions have destroyed countless lives.

Which future actually occurs? That's up to you. The season ends with the camera slowly pushing in on the door, stopping short of crowning a winner between Gloria and Varga's versions of the truth. The viewer is left to decide who and what is about to walk through the door: an ambassador for Varga's alternative facts, or an ambassador for Gloria's actual reality.

For her part, Coon has her own answers to how things ended in the great mental war waged between Gloria and Varga on the FX anthology series, but she won't reveal them. It's the same philosophy the Emmy-nominated actress applies to her other breakout television role, Nora Durst on The Leftovers, who closed out the critically acclaimed (if underviewed) HBO drama under similarly ambiguous circumstances. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Coon weighed in on why she keeps her view of both shows' endings close to the vest, who and what she feels her Emmy-nominated role of Gloria Burgle represents in our modern moment and how we're facing "a very dangerous time regarding the end of the truth."

What's the biggest misperception that people may have had about Gloria Burgle?

Boy, that's so funny, because the nature of Gloria is such that I find her so straightforward and so direct that it's hard for me to see her getting misrepresented. Probably the biggest problem is that people loved Shea Whigham too much, because he's so good at what he does, that they found themselves inadvertently rooting for [Whighham's character] Sheriff Moe Dammick instead of Gloria Burgle. They probably thought ... maybe they thought she was going to die. I know the sheriff never dies in Fargo. Maybe they were looking for it this time, because they know that Noah [Hawley] plays with the tropes of the Coen brothers' oeuvre, and maybe they thought that Gloria was going to get killed. Or that she was going to ... maybe they thought she was going to fall in love with someone. That's probably the biggest misperception, because she didn't. Unless you count Winnie [Lopez, played by Olivia Sandoval], which is kind of a special friendship. 

Season three felt especially resonant in today's climate, particularly that last scene between Gloria and Varga. What do you feel Gloria represents in this installment of the anthology?

I think Gloria represents the truth, that there is in fact objective truth, that there is no such thing as an alternative fact, which undermines the definition of the word fact, and that, without the truth, it's impossible for us to have rational discourse, and without rational discourse, it's impossible for us to create a society with rules in which everyone can operate freely and thrive. We are in a very dangerous time regarding the end of the truth.

There's kind of an open-ended quality to the way that Fargo ended, and certainly that is a similar quality that exists in The Leftovers, too. There is also the common thread between these two characters you've played this year — that of suffering through some technical difficulties. Did you feel any sort of sense of closeness between Gloria and Nora? 

Well, they're certainly both played by me. That's one! They're close in that, at the cellular level, they're played by the same person. But for me, I think maybe something that the showrunners who have hired me pick up on is I believe in the existence of ambiguity. My life is very ambiguous. Very rarely do I know exactly what to do or what's going to happen. That's really how life works. Life doesn't work like a Hallmark movie where all the loose ends are tied up, or even a Shakespeare play, where often there's a big wedding at the end and everything gets revealed and resolved. Life doesn't actually work that way. I think that art that's not afraid of ambiguity feels more like life to me, and that's what's similar. And in fact, I also have a problem with technology. I'm a bit of a Luddite. I have often had machines fail and/or start working in my presence, and so perhaps Damon [Lindelof] and Noah picked up on something that my father picked up on when I was a little girl.

In the spirit of these ambiguous endings, I know at the very least in the terms of The Leftovers, you don't want to reveal what your interpretation of the ending is...

Absolutely. I believe it robs the viewer of his or her own experience of the show, because the power of the ending is what it reveals about the person who's watching. And I think the show was impactful for many people, because I think people ... I think some of our fans felt compelled to engage with ideas about grief and belief, and I've had some people tell me how when the show was over, they would continue to talk about it for an hour afterwards with their partner or their friend. I would never want to sway someone's examination of their own life experience of their own belief system or rob them of the opportunity to have a conversation with someone they care about who maybe had a very different idea by saying outright what I believe the ending is. I think that completely undermines the power of the show. 

Do you have the same outlook for Fargo, too?

Yeah. I'm the actor, I'm just a vessel. That sounds pretentious, but really, this is just my job. I'm just putting on some pants and saying some lines somebody told me to say. My experience is actually not as important as your experience. Me crying onstage is not as important as you crying in the audience. That's what's important.

Can you at least weigh in on the Mad Libs scene in the Leftovers finale? Do you have any idea why she calls it "the great Antonio in the sky," of all things?

I don't. (Laughs.) No, I really don't. I thought that was so unusual. Even the part of speech, it didn't make that much sense to me. But Mad Libs don't always function the way you expect. But no, I don't know why. It just sounded sexy, maybe? It sounded sexy.