Interview with Carrie Preston

Carrie Preston is known best for her role of Arlene Fowler in HBO’s “True Blood”.  The show has been such a big hit and season four is getting ready to premier this summer.  Carrie also recently completed directing her second feature film “That’s What She Said”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Carrie about “True Blood” and also her upcoming film.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved originally with the show “True Blood”?
Carrie Preston: Originally, I first met Alan Ball in the feature film he wrote and directed called “Towelhead”. When we were shooting that, I was playing a Texas wife of Aaron Eckhart’s character. I was playing this Southern narrow minded women, which was very different from Arlene but it made Alan think of me for “True Blood”. We were talking and I asked him what he was doing next and he said “Well, I’ve got the pilot about vampires for HBO”. I just couldn’t think of anything more different than what he has done before. He said “I think I might have a part for you in that”. My agents got a hold of the script and I actually didn’t know what character he was talking about. Arlene on the page is really nothing like me in real life [laughs]. He thought I could bring something to it, so I auditioned and I got the part.

MG: What is the best part for you playing Arlene Fowler?
CP: I like to find an interesting and complicated alchemy between the drama and the comedy. It is a challenge because I know that what the task I have been given on the show is to serve up some of the more comedic moments. But as an actor I like to find the reality behind the moments and it is has been a really interesting journey in making her character more than just meets the eye. On the page, she is something designed to be easily ridiculed as a racist or a redneck. Being a Southern woman myself, I try to honor the truth of what the woman is going through, which is quite a lot. She is a single woman with two kids, trying to support them with a waitress job and surrounded with an entire breed of what she perceives as killers are now infiltrated into society. So it is a lot of deal with [laughs]. Yes, there could be comedy from that but there is also a lot of dramatic truth for Arlene and that is really fun for me.

MG: How do you feel that you character has changed since season one?
CP: Well she has certain deepened and the writers have given her more conflict in each season. Certainly our show has a lot of conflict. So I think that her dealing with these new things every season has made her more complicated and interesting.

MG: What has been the most challenging episode to shoot to date?
CP: Well it was certain challenging during the orgy scene in season two [laughs]. When we were all wearing our black contact lenses, which you could see really well out of them. They couldn’t put your full prescription in them if you use contacts, which I do. So everything was kind of blurry and it was also like 40 degrees at 4am in the valley. There are bunch a naked people around you and you are having simulated sex [laughs]. So we were able to find the humor in that but it was definitely one of the more challenging days for me on “True Blood”. I don’t have it bad at all though compared to the others with all the blood and the combat. I am lucky I haven’t had to deal with the blood much.

MG: What can you tell us about the upcoming season four?
CP: As far as Arlene, we left off season three with the baby on board. Arlene has a lot of conflict about that and has really ambiguous feelings because the father of that child is an evil serial killer [laughs]. Even though he is not in the world anymore, it is still a great concern to her that the sense of the father will be passed on. She doesn’t know how she feels about bringing the baby into the world that might carry some of that. So that problem definitely grows exponentially as we get to season four. I can’t tell you exactly what happens but it will continue to be a great concern and issue for her. Things are definitely not right in the baby arena.

MG: What can you tell us about the latest film you are directing?
CP: Yes,  I directed a feature film called “That’s What She Said”. We shot it in NYC in October for 20 days…it was a quick shoot. It stars Anne Heche, Marcia DeBonis and Alia Shawkat. We have a great cast and it was written by my dear friend who is also an actor, Kellie Overbey. It is comedy about three women in the city, two best friends and a women they just meet. One of them is getting ready for a date and everything goes wrong. We like to call it “a chick flick that is not for pussies” [laughs]. So I am very happy with that and I am in the final stages of post production. We should have it ready to start submitting to film festival and sales reps around April, so we are almost ready.

MG: How do enjoying directing versus acting?
CP: Certainly what I have done as an actor my whole life has been very helpful for me getting an eye on the camera. One of my strengths I have is I know how to communicate with actors and I certainly speak their language. I tend to pick people to direct that are character based and focus on actor driven pieces. I would certainly like to learn how to direct a big action film but that might take a lot more time for me. I like to play to my strengths. I am also find that directing for me is a wonderful enhancement to my acting career. I like to be creatively challenged, I like to be busy and I like to have projects that I can pour myself into. With directing you have your hand in everything. Acting, which will always be my first love, you have only have part of that picture. With directing or producing, you have to give attention to all aspects of the creative process. I find that I am very humbled by that and I am also inspired by the collaborative process. I try to surround myself with people that are really great at their job, so we can create something really special. It is really fulfilling when something completes from inception to birth.

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