Is there anything that Carrie Preston can't do?
Whether she's playing Arlene in the hyper-crazy world of True Blood... the frenetic Elsbeth Tascioni on The Good Wife (for which she's received an Emmy Award)... or Grace Hendricks on Person of Interest, the answer would seem to be a definitive NO.
But when talking with the actress, I did ask her what she thought about being called a chameleon type of actress.
We also chatted about this True Blood Season 7 Episode 2, as well as if she'd like to see Elsbeth get a chance to react to Will Gardner's death and why she loves shows like Nashville and Scandal...
TV Fanatic: So is it kind of getting to the point where there are a lot of last scenes you’re having with people and things like that?
Carrie Preston: Oh, yeah. It’s definitely happening, so it’s starting to get sad and also very crazy with everybody wanting to make sure that everybody says their goodbyes and the wrap gifts and the wrap parties. It’s definitely feeling celebratory and sad. It’s not taking a break.
TVF: I won’t ask you what actually happens in the end because I know that’s very hush-hush but are you personally a fan of happy endings when a series or character wraps up?
CP: Well, I don’t like being prescriptive about it. I feel like there’s no such thing as a happy ending if you want to have a good conflict and all those ingredients that create good tension. I wouldn’t say that Breaking Bad had a happy ending. However, I was very satisfied with it. There was a lot of controversy about that ending and I thought that was great because I feel like if people aren’t talking about something and they’re passionate about it and there’s good, healthy, excited conversation about it, then we have done our jobs and so I’m hoping that that will be the case with True Blood, that people will be invested in it and have a dialogue about it and feel passionate about it.
TVF: What have you learned from Arlene these last seven seasons?
CP: I guess Arlene has taught me a lot about strength and being able to overcome huge seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She has definitely had many an obstacle thrown in her way and has continued to somehow make it through and continue to persevere. So I really admire her for that.
TVF: I never think of Arlene as a quitter, even with all this stuff they’ve thrown at her. I don’t think she’d quit.
CP: No, she’s definitely too strong to quit.
TVF: How would you tease Arlene’s journey in this week’s episode? Because things are definitely not looking good as she’s in the basement with the other women.
CP: You’re going to see Arlene rise to the challenge that’s created in that situation.
TVF: Have you gotten used to all the gore and the blood that you’ve had to work with for the last seven years?
CP: Well, I’m on a very tame show compared to all of my other colleagues. I really haven’t had to encounter that much of that since I don’t traffic in the world of the vampires. That said, you know the season’s not over yet. So you can talk to me about it at the end of the season and I’ll probably have a little more to say.
TVF: I saw somewhere where you were referred to as a chameleon actress. Do you see yourself that way, as a chameleon?
CP: I definitely take that as a compliment. I have been referred to as illusionist before and that was the highest compliment I’ve ever received because that’s the goal. I really like to transform and create an illusion. And so if I’m able to make you believe that I’m somebody different than the other characters I’ve played, then I think I’ve done a good job and I take that as a compliment. And that’s what I love doing.
You know, just in the last couple of years I’ve really had the great joy of playing three totally different women when you consider Arlene on True Blood and Elsbeth Tascioni on The Good Wife and Grace Hendricks on Person of Interest. I mean, these women are pretty vastly different. And that’s a testament to their writers and their belief in me and trusting me with those roles. I guess I do strive to be a chameleon and I’m happy when people consider me that.
TVF: Being a chameleon, you’d think you could do anything but maybe you don’t feel that way. In terms of roles you choose, what do you look for in terms of challenging yourself?
CP: There’s several things that I feel like, ‘You know what? I’m not the right person for that.’ You know? I’ve auditioned for several things where I’d go in and I’d do everything that I know how to do and building the scene and bringing what I can to it and then it’s just not a good fit.
So I definitely look for the writing. It starts with the writing because we have a saying that’s, ‘If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.’ I believe that. I mean, there’s only so much as an actor that you can do to elevate the material. But if the material is not strong to begin with, there’s a limit with what you can do with it. If the material is strong, then it is kind of limitless.
TVF: I want to ask you about Elsbeth a little bit because, if my memory serves, we have not seen her react to Will Gardner’s death on The Good Wife, right?
CP: That’s correct, yeah.
TVF: So I know my wish list for [creators Robert and Michelle] King would be to write a scene or scenes where we get to see Elsbeth react in the new season. Is that something you’ve thought about or…?
CP: It was a shock for everybody and I don’t know how much time passage we’re going to have between seasons five and six. They’ve been talking to my agent about bringing me back for a couple of episodes sometime in their season six but they haven’t told me specifically what I will be doing there.
But it would be nice to have at least just a moment where Elsbeth acknowledges the loss of Will because I know she really got along with him and admired him and he her. And they had a really good working relationship and I think she probably appreciated his acceptance of her and all of her unorthodox ways of thinking and of her, the works.
So I can imagine that Elsbeth was very upset. She’s one to feel things very strongly in the moment when they happen. You know, she’s a very present person even though her mind appears to be in 50 different places. She gives them all equal attention. So I would imagine that that would be really cool to see her have a somber moment on the show. She’s so frenetic. So it would be kind of great to see that.
TVF: I’m curious if you have guilty pleasures as far as TV.
CP: I don’t consider any of them guilty. I have no guilt. I have many television shows that I enjoy. I watch them at home or I put them on my iPad and watch them at the gym or on the airplane. So that’s my go-to pleasure, actually. I will pick a TV series over a movie almost always.
Currently, I’m making my way through Orphan Black. It’s perfect. I love it. I think Tatiana Maslany, she’s wonderful. I loved watching her in what has got to be a dream role for any actor, to be able to do things with yourself. It’s pretty exciting to be able to play all those different people and she does that brilliantly, I think. So, I’m loving that.
Obviously, I watch Person of Interest as a show. I watch almost all the shows on HBO and as far as like the network shows, I’m really into Scandal. I think that’s super-fun. I watch Nashville. I’m a huge fan of Connie Britton. I try to watch the shows that have strong female characters. Revenge, Scandal, all those things. Yeah, I like to support the shows that really highlight strong women, smart women, women that are in professional jobs and that are not always just attached to a man. So I’m definitely into those shows.
True Blood Season 7 airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO. New seasons of The Good Wife and Person Of Interest will air this fall on CBS.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.