There is power in saying no. Being able to use your voice to shut something down that makes you uncomfortable or unchallenged is a huge step in feeling professionally fulfilled, and being able to do the best work you can.
For actress Carrie Coon, she's made a point to say no when she needs to. We've seen her play deeply compelling characters, like Nora Durst in HBO's The Leftovers, and editor Meg Greenfield in Steven Spielberg's anticipated movie The Post, both women who declare their agency. Coon says she first realized this power from her grandmother.
"[My grandmother] confessed that she'd just said no to somebody, which she normally didn’t do. 'My God! I’m in my mid-seventies,' she told me. 'If you can learn to say no now, you will be so far ahead of me,'" she said in Glamour. Coon wrote a guest essay for the magazine about how she picks her parts, and for her, it's about seeking out those most complex, interesting roles.
"I’ve made it my mission to only pick characters who act like the irreverent women I know. If I don’t think a woman will look at a character and say, 'That feels truthful to me,' I won’t do it," she said. Coon was cast in her debut film role in Gone Girl as Margo Dunne — which was a hugely consequential role. We remember Margo doubled over crying with Nick (Ben Affleck) at the end of the movie, and it's because that character was so memorable.
Coon talks more about how she finds success in demanding more complexity from the scripts she reads. "But in saying no to those deeply unsatisfying parts, we start to reach for material that is interesting to us. In saying no to the idea that women shouldn’t make waves or ruffle feathers, lest we be deemed 'hysterical' or 'bitchy,' we’re honoring the women we know, the deeply complicated, ice-cream-and-wine-loving women who may not have realized their own power until far too late," she writes.
This advice to budding actresses — and professional women at large —is about expecting more from the things we're given. It's about standing up and saying no when something doesn't feel right to us. As women, it's not something we are encouraged to do, but Coon's words remind us that it is one of the few ways that things will improve.