After seven seasons on the air, the end is drawing ever closer for HBO’s hit series True Blood.
The vampire drama has been a key fixture on FOX UK (previously FX) for almost as long and one of the standouts on that show has been Carrie Preston as Arlene Fowler.
Preston is a well-known actress who last year finally scored an Emmy win for her very recognisable role as quirky attorney Elsbeth Tascioni on the CBS legal drama The Good Wife.
In addition to her roles on True Blood and The Good Wife, the Emmy winner’s other television credits include The Following and Person Of Interest.
Carrie Preston was kind enough to spare some time from her busy schedule to talk to TVWise about her role on True Blood, the end of the show, The Good Wife, The Following and much more.
Spoiler Warning – The following interview contains spoilers from True Blood season seven which some readers may wish to avoid.
TVWise: Your character Arlene has definitely gone through her ups and downs over the seasons, have you enjoyed playing this rollercoaster ride?
Carrie Preston: One of the things that we love as actors is having some kind of journey. The writers have given me a very interesting, complicated, funny and sometimes tragic evolution. It’s been a wonderful experience to be able to play a role for seven years and see her grow and experience her in many different situations. It has been extremely rewarding.
TVWise: Looking back at Arlene from the very beginning to where she is now, what do you think has been her biggest transformation?
Carrie Preston: Well, she certainly has become more tolerant and accepting of things that are indefinable or things that are challenging or different than her. I think she was pretty narrow-minded at the beginning of the series. I think she has become more open to differences so to me, that would be the biggest change.
TVWise: True Blood is one of those shows were any character could die at any time; were you nervous every time you read a script?
Carrie Preston: I certainly was nervous before each season began. They usually knew who they were going to be letting go at the beginning of the season. Most people were told at the beginning of the season that their character was going to go. Luckily Arlene remains one of the last humans standing and I don’t think the show works unless you have humans to contextualize all the supernatural elements. I felt like I was relatively safe, but no one was ever safe on the show.
TVWise: How does it feel now that True Blood is coming to an end?
Carrie Preston: We’ve already shot the final episode, so we are done and all the sets have been taken down. It’s really very profound to experience a loss of not only great storylines and great characters, but great friendships. Of course, we will all probably run into each other again during the course of our careers, that’s just the nature of the business. This particular chemistry is now in our memories and that is really sad. There were a lot of tears that were shed as we were all saying goodbye to this show and to each other. Especially the crew who are there sometimes eighteen hours a day and that’s a really shocking thing to be the new kid at school again on the next gig or looking for the next gig. It’s a big dose of reality but we are all gypsies and we understand that is the nature of the business. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t still painful.
TVWise: Arlene had an amazing near death scene in tonight’s episode, how did you prepare for that emotional scene?
Carrie Preston: I start with the words and the script and what the writer is asking me to do. Then there is a great amount of collaboration with the director and other actors. In that case, we had a lot of actors in that scene and we also had stunts. There was a lot that went into that five or six minutes which took us around fourteen hours to shoot. Luckily, I have a great amount of trust and chemistry with all the other actors in the scene with me. It was wonderful having Todd Lowe back because I love him and love working with him. I love the connection between Terry and Arlene. That particular moment, when she pretty much dies and sees Terry, was not that difficult to tap into. The same goes with the scene with Anna Paquin, who is just a consummate professional and a brilliant actor, who has an amazing ability to tap into emotions. So, looking at her and connecting with her really fueled me in that scene.
TVWise: Did that scene give Arlene closure with Terry?
Carrie Preston: Yes, I think that is what was so lovely about it because his death was so violent and sudden. They really didn’t have a moment to connect and for him to bless her and tell her to live her life. So, she hasn’t really been able to move on.
TVWise: Why do you think True Blood has connected so much with the fans?
Carrie Preston: I think it has an unprecedented alchemy of drama, comedy and horror. So, you have those all melded together and I think there is a little something for everyone. Also, it’s a very attractive cast which doesn’t hurt and also it’s a very adult show, so the envelope can be pushed and I think our audience relishes that.
TVWise: Do you think it was time for True Blood to end? Were you pleased it was able to go out on its own terms?
Carrie Preston: I think that is always a good idea because if the writers don’t know when they are going to end, then they don’t know how to tell the long story. They end up having to tread water through several episodes because they don’t want to reach the conclusion before it’s time. The fact that they knew that had this one season to really wrap up all the storylines; they were blessed to know that they had ten episodes in which to do that. I think they were able to execute that in a very satisfying way.
TVWise: What will you miss most about playing Arlene Fowler?
Carrie Preston: I feel so comfortable now playing her that I am going to miss that sense of ease that I have playing a role like that. Many times you don’t get that much time with a character so you always feel like you are trying to catch up or you’re not quite getting into that sweet spot. I’m really going to miss the regularity of it and I will also miss her spirit; she has a great spirit.
TVWise: What can fans look forward to with the final episodes of True Blood?
Carrie Preston: We’ve aired half of the season so far, so there are five episodes left. The writers really took great care to pay attention to all the characters, so all the characters get their proper due and attention. I think the fans will feel like they’ve been able to touch down with all the characters at the end.
TVWise: If we could turn to The Good Wife, you’ve been recurring as the wonderful Elsbeth Tascioni since the end of the first season. She’s this wonderfully off-beat yet brilliant character, whose somehow always ahead of the opposition. How much input have you had in the character? Did the King’s give you much direction when you joined the series?
Carrie Preston: The initial offer came in at the end of their first season and I was already a fan of the show. I was very excited when they wanted to bring me on for a couple of episodes. I read the script and saw what this character was on the page and I got very excited because I saw the potential of what she could be. I had a conversation with Robert King and they were thinking of her as a female Colombo. I didn’t really ever watch Colombo, but I kind of knew what he was talking about. I told him my impressions of what I thought the character was and we had a great dialogue about that. I just started trying things and seeing how far I could go with the character. If you watch, you’ll see I become more comfortable when I come back in the third season. I had that first season and then wasn’t on in the second season and then when I came back I knew that I could start flying with this character. I become more comfortable with her as the episodes go on.
TVWise: After that first episode with “the youngest judge in Illinois history”, Tascioni became an almost instant favorite with both fans and critics, why do you think the character “clicked” so quickly with the audience?
Carrie Preston: I would never presume to know what other people are thinking, but I don’t think she’s like the other kids. I don’t think people are used to seeing characters like that on television. I think that what makes her compelling because she is unpredictable. That’s what I love doing when I am playing her; enjoying her twists and turns and the nimble, quicksilver mind of hers. Also, the show is a drama but adds some levity to the proceedings which I hope delights the audience as well.
TVWise: After your much deserved Emmy win, you did one episode during season 5 where you were defending Josh Charles’ character Will against a pending grand jury investigation. The very next episode was the controversial shooting that killed of his character; did you have any idea about what was coming?
Carrie Preston: I did. The day we were shooting the scene with the bear in Times Square, Josh and I were hanging out between takes and he said that the following episode was going to be his last. So, I asked him what was up and he swore me to secrecy. He said that he was leaving the show and I asked how it was going to happen and he didn’t say anything. I said oh my god, they are going to kill your character and he nodded. Asking me to keep it a secret of course. It was amazing how they were able to keep it under wraps. It was so fascinating to see how all the fans of the show were mourning the loss of the person who really doesn’t exist except on television. It was a really wonderful tribute to Josh, the writers, the creators and really the whole show.
TVWise: There’s also been some talk about a possible Good Wife spin-off revolving around Elsbeth, would you like to see that happen?
Carrie Preston: Well of course I would love to do that! I am flattered that people are even wishing for something like that. No one who has the authority to make that happen has said anything to me about it, but it is a real complement that people are dreaming about that. I would certainly not say no.
TVWise: You had a great 3 episode arc on The Following. How did you get involved with that project and what was it like working on the series?
Carrie Preston: Well, when you get offered a role on The Following, you need to expect that you are going to die; it is the show about serial killers after all. So, I knew that was the case, plus I couldn’t do any more that that because I was on True Blood. I had watched the first season and was gripped by it and terrified by it as well. I was really excited when the offer came in to join the show for several episodes. I also had the chance to work with one of my classmates from Julliard, C.J. Wilson, who played Reverend Glenn. It was also great working with James Purefoy who is a wonderful actor as well as Tiffany Boone who played my daughter. It was like we had our own little one act play and it was a lot of fun.
TVWise: Can you talk about Darwin the Series which you are directing?
Carrie Preston: This is a web series that some friends of mine from college created. They asked me if I would direct it because I am also a director. My production company has done three feature films, two of which I directed, and we also do shorts and music videos. I read the script and just fell in love with these quirky characters. We just have a ball doing the series. We shot the first three episodes and posted them. We used those episodes to start a Kickstarter program to finance the rest of the season which is in the can now. Episodes four through twelve will be out in about six weeks or so. We’ve won a couple of awards and gone to festivals. It’s really fun to be in the web world; it’s what I like to think of as independent films from the 80s or 90s. It’s like independent television that is what’s happening on the web.
TVWise: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Carrie Preston: I am doing a guest spot on the HBO’s half hour comedy Getting On, which stars Laurie Metcalf. I’ll be shooting that at the end of this month in Los Angeles. It will be a different kind of role for me because I’ll be playing a woman who is dying of cancer and is in hospice care.
Carrie Preston stars as Arlene Fowler in True Blood’s Final Season, which airs on Monday nights at 9pm on FOX UK.