TVGuide.com's Best Performances series focuses on stand-out actors and actresses from the past year of television. Whether they made you cry, laugh or a mix of both, these are the performers — and characters — we won't forget, all year long.
When Carrie Coon was cast as female sheriff Gloria Burgle in Season 3 of FX's Fargo, she intentionally avoided watching any previous depictions of similar characters — like Frances McDormand's in the Coen brothers' original 1996 movie, or Allison Tolman's in the first season of the television adaptation. The reason? Revisiting the performances she knew hers would be compared to would have left her "paralyzed with fear," Coon says.
"You know when you take on that part you're going to be compared to Frances McDormand and Allison Tolman," Coon told TV Guide while discussing the Emmy-nominated role. "Ultimately, I can't control what people think when they compare me to people like that. I can only come out and do the performance as it is when it comes through me, and trust that [executive producer] Noah [Hawley] has built in enough nuance and change that these characters are not the same. While it is a kind of Coen brothers trope and expectation, we're all different enough that I think it makes the story interesting to watch unfold. So I rely on [Noah], and then you just have to let go and show up and do your own version of that dialect, and let it rip."
And let it rip she does. Coon's Gloria, like the hardworking Fargo ladies before her, provides the moral compass of the season. A no-nonsense woman whose typical Midwestern politeness is sometimes overshadowed by the struggles she's going through in her personal life (a recent divorce, an impending demotion), Gloria refuses to allow the heinous crimes she deals with to diminish her faith in humanity. The actress says she was able to form an unprecedented bond with her fictional alter ego.
"In some ways, playing Gloria was more intuitive than almost any other character I've played, because I'm actually from the Midwest," Coon says. "She embodies so many of the qualities that I admire in my own family, in my own community: her respect for those institutions of community that we think of as taking care of each other, and her stoicism, that sort of indefatigable alacrity that those characters have, those sheriffs, of believing in the good of people, ultimately, believing that they can make sense out of chaos, and that there's a plan. That's what gives them meaning. Those are people that I know. For me, playing Gloria was really just a way to say, I see you, and I am that, and I respect it."
Watch the video above to get more of Coon's thoughts on the role of Gloria, for which she's nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Emmy.
The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8/7c on CBS.
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Additional reporting by Alex Zalben