Carrie Preston has been everywhere this TV season. She’ll be back on The Good Wife tonight as the quirky but brilliant lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni. She plays Grace on Person of Interest, which stars her husband Michael Emerson. And she’ll be back in Bon Temps this June as Arlene on True Blood.
Paste recently caught up with the Georgia native to chat about her eclectic career.
Paste: How did you get the part of Elsbeth Tascioni on The Good Wife? It’s such a fun role.
Carrie Preston: I felt so honored I was trusted for that role since I didn’t even audition. It was just offered to me, so I was very excited but it also made me very nervous because I was hoping that I wouldn’t disappoint because I knew what a delicious role it was.
Paste: Elsbeth is such a unique character. How did you approach the role?
Preston: I just started thinking of her in terms of someone whose brain is working way faster than the rest of her. So she’s trying to always keep up with the thoughts that are running around her head—all of which are getting equal attention.
Paste: This Sunday is the last time we will see Elsbeth this season. What can we expect?
Preston: There was a bit of a spark flying between Kyle MacLachlan’s character and my character, and those sparks will continue to fly. There’s one scene in particular that I’m looking forward to in a restaurant.
Paste: Your roles are so varied. What do you think has allowed you to play so many different types of characters?
Preston: We’re in this world that’s all about branding, and my brand seems to be versatility, which is a very odd brand to have and certainly one that is not easy to sell. I guess I just feel like I’ve been given an opportunity to audition for various things and I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of theater, and I have a lot of theater training, so I do think that that comes into the room as well. And it’s that thing that they say—a blend of hard work and opportunity that kind of come together.
Paste: Has being able to disappear into so many different roles ever been a problem?
Preston: In some ways I wish I was a little more recognizable; at the same time there’s a real joy in the anonymity as well. When I first started on True Blood I was wearing a wig, and the character is and still continues to be so different from who I am that no one even knew I was on the show. And so I thought, “This needs to change because I would like to parlay this into other work.” I got so tired of that wig and took it off and ended up getting my own hair colored, and that certainly connected the dots for people.
Paste: Speaking of True Blood, you’re back at work for the show’s sixth season, which begins in June. Anything you can tell us?
Preston: It’s True Blood, so I think it’s best to keep things mysterious for the viewers because I know that’s what keeps them coming back.
Paste: How has Arlene changed for you since the show’s first season?
Preston: It’s great that the writers started trusting me with more dramatic material. At first it seems that she was designed to give the show some comic relief, and I was very happy to play that role. They started giving her more emotional situations to tackle, and that was something that I didn’t expect. I’ve really enjoyed being able to dig deeper and get under her skin even deeper.
Paste: You’ve also recurred this season on your husband’s show Person of Interest as his character’s ex-fiancée. What’s that been like?
Preston: It’s been such a wonderful experience, and also we’ve gotten to be kind of silly about watching ourselves together on screen. There’s something very strange about sitting in your living room with your husband watching yourself on television playing somebody else kissing your husband who is playing someone else. There’s a lot of strange sort of leaps there that you have to make to make sense of that moment.That’s his world, so for me to come in a visit and be there as a guest is quite lovely and just to see how much that crew loves him and what an amazing job he does day in and day out, which is not easy. I’m very proud of him, so it feels wonderful to be able to share a little bit of that with him.
Paste: That’s What She Said, a movie which you directed and produced is now out on DVD and all digital platforms. Your production company Daisy 3 Pictures is also producing a new web series, Darwin, about a life coach. What made you want to get into directing and producing?
Preston: I’m a creative person. I’m that kid who started her own theater company when I was in 7th grade. There’s nothing that can compare to building something from the ground up. It’s just something that you don’t really get when you’re an actor. When you’re an actor, you’re part of the whole. When you are producer/director you are creating the whole. That’s a real exciting and scary thing. I think all artists have to jump off the cliff at some point.