Many of us are familiar with the dreaded phone scam. Sometimes you still pick up the call, despite the sus-looking phone number at the risk that it’s that one friend from college whose number you lost. But instead, you’re greeted with the ominous voice of someone offering you a special offer, or asking you for help, as well as your credit card information. Most of us would hang up, and maybe even block the caller. Others, though, stay on the call. Those unlucky ones are usually moments away from getting scammed.
Americans fall victim to phishing scams every day — and it feels like they’re happening more and more regularly. Despite the regularity of scam phone calls, no one really stops to think about the life of the person on the other side of the phone — until now. Meet Carrie Coon’s Bridget, star of Spotify company Gimlet’s new narrative podcast, Motherhacker. Bridget’s a step above the mommy blogger, she’s a mommy scammer.
After a caller informs a distraught Bridget that her ex-husband has been in an accident and needs money as soon as possible, she hands over her credit card info. Next thing, she’s out $12,000, only to find out her former spouse is perfectly fine. Bridget realizes she’s been conned, and heads out to seek revenge. But instead of giving back her cash or taking her money and running, the phisher makes the mom an intriguing proposition: Use Bridget’s natural skills of persuasion and building a facade to phish other people, and take a commission on the money she brings in.
Bridget’s fictional scam story echoes the crimes of real-life people, like the women behind Jennifer Lopez film Hustlers, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, and Soho grifter Anna Delvey. Why are we so fascinated with women scammers? Is it because of their resourcefulness? They’re ability to one-up men? Or just the general intrigue around the question, “Would I have done the same?” Motherhacker star Coon thinks she knows the answer. Over the phone, Refinery29 spoke to Coon about her new role, that time she got phished before a breakup, and why this story is so very 2019.
Refinery29: What attracted you to the character of Bridget and this project?
Carrie Coon: “There’s an emotional arc to Bridget that’s quite humorous. I’m not always the first on people’s minds when it comes to comedy, so it was nice to do something that was outside of what people think is my range. I was alone in the studio most of the time. I got to repeat things as many times as I wanted, if it didn’t come out the way I wanted or we hadn’t hit [the right thing yet.] You don’t have to do hair or makeup, which takes that pressure away, but you also don’t have a set or props. All of that is imagination as well. It’s a very unique challenge.”
Stories of women scammers are all over pop culture right now. Why do you think the world is particularly interested in women who con others?
“Historically in literature, women’s deception is often tied to their sexuality. I think mostly because those stories are driven from a male perspective. To find women who are openly conniving and it doesn’t have anything necessarily to do with their sexuality makes some people uncomfortable because it’s not a story that gets told. It must be a strangely powerful position for [women scammers] to be in.
“We’ve got a lot of issues in this country around that particular situation. I find too, even in film — my husband [August: Osage County screenwriter Tracy Letts] for example, I think writes very complicated women characters — we’re not very comfortable seeing them depicted on film. Women who are being ugly and making poor choices, not because they’re victims but because they’re driving that narrative of decision-making. I think audiences are still very uncomfortable with those stories.”
You’ve played a character with a lot of secrets before on season 2 of The Sinner. Is there something about playing a woman who is holding back appealing to to you?
“I know so few people who don’t have secrets, to varying degrees of magnitude. I have been, in my life, a secret keeper — a very compartmentalized woman. I think that has to do with how many responsibilities women have inside the home and outside the home. I think it’s very common to see women compartmentalizing their lives and not really having time to think about what an integrated life would look like. I do relate to that. I’ve done the work in my late 20s and early 30s to integrate my many selves in therapy and through my work. I’m fortunate that I’m in a profession that allows me to take that on very openly. My baby is only 19 months old, so I’m relearning to balance my life now as a new mother.”
In Motherhacker, Bridget has a teenage daughter. Were you able to relate to this mother-daughter relationship in any way?
“I have four siblings — I’m the youngest of five — and my mom was a yeller. I don’t think she’d mind me saying that. [Laughs] I feel some of that rhythmic chastisement comes easily to me. When you have a young person in your life, who is also old enough to challenge your motivations and choices, I imagine that’s a really complicated relationship. My son [is 19 months old and] is just getting to the place where he can notice I’m gone and ask for me by name. That’s hard enough. I can’t imagine getting to a place where my child has so much free will and calls into my choices from a moral perspective, let alone a practical one. I hope it feels truthful on the podcast. I’m not at that place in my life yet, but I’ve seen a lot of my friends go through it. Children are great mirrors!”
Bridget has to do a bunch of voices as part of her phishing scam — any favourites?
“The hardest one — I’m not sure if it’s in there because I haven’t finished listening to the whole thing — was when they had me do an Indian accent. They had me do a bunch of different accents actually, and I didn’t foresee all of them so I wasn’t totally prepared. Usually when I have to do an accent, I listen to samples, I take some notes, but for Bridget I had to improvise.”
Have you ever been phished before?
“I got password phished on the internet once. I was in the throes of a breakup — it was the day before I was going to breakup with this person in my life, and I was emotionally distraught and distracted. I felt so stupid and so much shame. I think of myself as an intelligent person. You always think it’s not going to happen to you, and I remember feeling like an idiot.
“What I love about Bridget’s story is that it’s so grounded in real life. We all have times of struggle economically. There’s a time of stratification in our system right now, and there are a lot of people feeling that pinch. When you are devoting all your mental resources to survival, you don’t have a lot of bandwidth to make decisions, and those are the times when you’re vulnerable to that kind of attack. It’s no wonder to me that we’re so preoccupied with scams right now, because a lot of people could fall victim to it in the stressful time we’re in.”