Nora Durst goes through the wringer in “Lens.” The most recent episode of The Leftovers saw Nora casting a stone, stealing a questionnaire and learning Kevin’s secret. Actor Carrie Coon chatted with Watching The Leftovers about Nora’s state of mind, filming with Regina King and her take on women’s rage.
What’s Nora’s state of mind at the beginning of this episode?
Nora is preoccupied because she has a lot of responsibilities. She’s taking care of a baby, a woman who’s in a coma and a man who can’t get his sh** together. [Laughs.] Also, she’s having this kind of PTSD in relation to this supposed disappearance of Evie and her friends. She’s trying desperately to believe that there’s not been another departure. She’s carrying the idea of the lens—that she could have been biologically or somehow responsible for the disappearance of her family. Kevin’s not in the place to share that trauma with her. She doesn’t have a partner to say, “Hey, this came up the other day and it’s really upsetting,” which is unfair and unbalanced.
Why does Nora throw the rock through the Murphy’s window?
I think I need to leave that one up to people who are watching. We’ve seen Nora act out of her impulses and deep anger before. I believe people are capable of anything, and sometimes people are very childish. They can justify anything. I think there’s something very righteous about Nora.
I have to say, throwing a rock through a window was kind of amazing. You shouldn’t do it, obviously, but there’s something really gratifying about it.
What’s Nora’s response to seeing Erika throw the rock through her window?
Touché. Tit for tat. She’s met a worthy adversary; her adversary is also real in the world, unlike her husband’s. She got what was coming to her; she deserves it. She respects the equality in a way.
Why does Nora feel compelled to steal the DSD questionnaire?
We have to remember where Nora comes from—she must have an answer. That is something she cannot control. It’s the same for someone whose family member was in a plane that disappeared or in a shooting, where five minutes on this end or that end of their day would have changed the whole trajectory of their path and they wouldn’t have been killed—you obsess over those details. If you have an opportunity to have some answer to this trauma, you have to have it.
Nora tells Erika she brought her the questionnaire to quell her fears. Do you buy that?
That’s complete and utter bulls**t. Nora wants to prove that these girls didn’t depart and that she’s the expert. Furthermore, Nora doesn’t want Erika to get to claim that grief for herself. There’s something very selfish about all that I think.
It feels possessive, too.
Yeah, remember, that’s who Nora was in Mapleton—she was the woman who lost her family. Yes, she escaped from all that, but in this episode, she starts rubbing up against that identity again, and it’s very uncomfortable. It’s like putting on a wet bathing suit. It’s not who she is anymore, but she can’t escape it.
Is Matt correct when he calls Nora hostile towards the Murphys?
Sure, I think we see her playing that out a little bit in the episode. I think in particular, a woman’s rage is really interesting. In our society we are taught not to express rage from a very young age. Women are not supposed to be angry. Sometimes it’s hard not to recognize it in ourselves. Female anger is different than male anger. In some ways it’s deeper and more myriad. It can’t come out the way men’s anger does, out of other avenues and pores. I think it’s interesting to see Erika and Nora occupying that anger. In media, we don’t often see women acting out anger that’s not about a man, and I think that’s a shame.
How much of that scene is about anger?
You see some of that going on. At the heart of their interaction is something compassionate; Nora doesn’t want anyone to go through what she went through. There’s nothing vindictive about it. She wants there to be another explanation for Erika’s sake because an explanation is something Nora never got. She’s been robbed of any real truth. In some ways, what she’s doing is actually compassionate and deeply protective.
To do that scene was a joy because when you’re acting with someone like Regina [King, who plays Erika Murphy], we were so thrilled to get a chance to work together on the show because we didn’t know how our stories would intersect. As an actor, that was a wonderful day because to share time with someone of her caliber was deeply satisfying.
Nora claims she’s “evolved” from questioning her family’s Departure. Is she trying to convince herself?
She protests too much, it seems. Grief is a long and personal process. Nora’s only three and a half years out from this event that changed her life. I don’t think she could possibly know, understand or evolve out of that grief. I don’t doubt that she’s been doing some of that work; she had to in order to even be in the world. That evolution is important to her, but she’s not there yet.
What’s Nora’s take on Kevin’s admission? Is this news more shattering than Kevin’s confession about his involvement in Patti’s death?
Yes. There’s something concrete about the suicide and tangible about what happened with Patti in the past: There was a body; an event; an accomplice. But this thing now is so amorphous. Kevin could be descending into some kind of madness like his father. There could also be something in the universe that we don’t understand, which is distressing, especially for someone who is as practical and as grounded in reality as Nora is.
But I think the most disturbing part is that in violation of their agreement, Kevin did not share with her what’s going on with him. That’s the whole premise of their relationship—this idea of being honest with each other and putting all their cards on the table. Without that agreement being honored, she doesn’t really know where they are in their relationship. That’s scary.
What’s next for Nora the rest of this season?
A lot of babysitting. A lot of Mary-sitting going on. Grocery shopping. Taking care of the family. [Laughs.] Her limits will be tested. I’ll let everyone enjoy watching that unfold.