Carrie Preston Discusses Her 'True Blood' Role And More
Hey Carrie, what's going on?
I'm going to a film festival in North Carolina with a movie that I produced and was in with my husband Michael Emerson ("Lost.")
Tell us about it.
It's called "Ready? OK!" (like in cheerleading) and it is from our production company Daisy 3 Pictures. We are really excited about it. This is our tenth feature and I star in it with Michael, as well as my brother, John Preston, who plays my brother in the film. It was written and directed by James Vasquez. We have been working together for the past 5 years or so. It's done about twenty different festivals and we are getting a DVD deal here soon.
How is it doing?
It's doing great. We won a couple of awards at our first festival FilmOut in San Diego. It won Best U.S. Feature, and I won best actress and the James won for Outstanding Emerging Talent. It's his first feature.
That's great! Send us a copy when it comes out.
I definitely will.
Film festivals are fun.
They are, because everybody is there to celebrate filmmaking for each other. There is this great energy. Nowadays, indies have become more accessible to filmmakers because there is so much new technology that we are able to pick up cameras and do things that would have cost a fortune in the past. We can tell a whole story for a specific market. I think it's very exciting. It kind of demystifies the whole Hollywood thing.
Are you the cheerleader in it?
No, I play a mother of a little boy who's 10 who wants to be. She is struggling with the fact that her son is different. He likes girls' cheerleading, he likes dolls, he likes to wear dresses. She is dealing with the fact that he might be gay although it's never even discussed in the movie, which is why I like it so much.
It's not about sexuality because I don't think kids should be sexualized that early. It's about accepting your child for who they are and letting them find their own way in the world. It's a real, beautiful message and a family-friendly film. People have found it very heartwarming and affirming.
It sounds very interesting.
Yeah. Check out the website! You can see a trailer and a lot more information about it.
Tell us about "True Blood."
Okay! It's a vampire series, based on 7 books by Charlaine Harris. They're really fun, sexy, violent, and should have a lot of pop culture appeal. I think that is why Alan Ball was attracted to them. He always wanted to do something different than the more serious stuff he has done before ("Six Feet Under.") He seems to be obsessed with evil. (laughs)
It's set in a fictitious Southern town in rural Louisiana. Anna Paquin plays a waitress at a Bar & Grill and I play one of her friends who also works there. In this world, vampires are "out of the coffin" and trying to infiltrate themselves into society and get vampire rights. It's almost as if a whole new race of people has been invented. As you can imagine, there is a great deal of skepticism about it and racism in a lot of ways. My character (Arlene Fowler) is on the racist side of things.
So you don't get to be a vampire?
No. I'm very trepidacious about the Vampires walking amongst us. I definitely offer a little conflict and resistance to the fact that they are there.
How many episodes have you shot?
We shot the whole season of 12 and they start airing on September 7th on HBO. Then we will see how it goes. HBO is doing a big old push for it. They are really behind it. They give you a little time to find an audience.
Where did you shoot?
Most of it was done in LA in studios or on location. There were some exteriors done in Shreveport (Louisiana.)
It's pretty down there.
Yeah. Very pretty and very hot. I grew up in Macon, Georgia so I am sort of built for that temperature. That's why it was really great being in Knoxville these past few weeks. It's like being back in the Southern womb, so to speak. My parents are still there and I get down there periodically.
You have no accent.
Wow. A lot of people say they can hear it, but Julliard trains it out of you. You can't do Shakespeare with a Southern accent. (laughs)
My character on the show couldn't be more different than me. I don't even look like myself. They have me in this redheaded wig. It's unusual to have the ability to transform because in the books they are very specific about what the characters look like. Because I worked with Alan before, he said he would give me a wig to look like her. So many would never do that, but he took a chance to make the actor into the character instead of the other way around. I will be very curious to see how that plays out. People on the set don't know who I am before I get into hair and makeup.
I assume you are nothing like Arlene.
Not at all, but I play her very easily, growing up in Georgia. I'll definitely draw from my past.
I'll bet your accent will come back.
Oh, it's bigtime and in the other movie that I am doing in Knoxville as well.
We heard your first role was in The Tempest. Is that true?
Well, that was my Broadway debut. I have been doing plays my whole life. As a kid I always knew that I wanted to be an actor. I had been doing Shakespeare during the summer at festivals all over the country. Not many people get the opportunity to walk out of Julliard and get to do Shakespeare on Broadway, at least not in this country. That was the first time I worked with Patrick Stewart. I played his daughter Miranda.
A few years later I did "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" with him and Mercedes Ruhl at The Guthrie in Minneapolis. It was another phenomenal theater experience. I've done a lot of back and forth from theater, film, and TV. I've been really fortunate.
What was it like working with Patrick Stewart?
He's a pretty great guy. He's really funny and kind of a cut-up at times. You wouldn't think that with his being so serious. We had a lot of good laughs. I hope that I will get to work with him again.
And sexy, don't you think?
Yeah, I do, but for me he is sort of like a father figure. But certainly a lot of people who came to our shows did. He has quite a large fan base of women.
I didn't realize before I did my research that you were married to Michael. He's the reason I started watching "Lost."
Well, that's nice!
He is so clever...and scary.
He's very scary, mysterious, and intriguing. Just when you think you have a handle on his character (Ben Linus,) he turns around and does something that you didn't expect. I know that is why Michael likes playing him. He's very good at keeping things to himself so that there is an air of mystery. You know I played his mother. (laughs)
(laughs) I read that, too.
It was my crazy, sick idea. I go over there (Hawaii) quite a bit to visit him, so the producers all know me and my work and they wanted to do something for me. I casually mentioned to Michael, "Wouldn't it be so perfect if I played your mother in a flashback?"
We were laughing and he mentioned it to the producers and the next thing I know I get a call from my agent telling me, "They want you to play Ben's Mom." Three days later, I ended up giving birth to him in a jungle.
That's almost creepy. (laughs)
(laughs) I wanted to do something that was somehow affiliated with his character because I thought the fans would love it. The whole Oedipal thing seemed right. "Lost" always has these inside jokes and clues for the fans and they really seemed to like it.
Not to mention the free trip to Hawaii.
Exactly. I go there quite a bit. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to see each other. But it was nice to get a free one.
You also worked with Felicity Huffman.
I sure did. I worked with her a few times. I was cast as her sister in "Transamerica." While we were shooting that, she had done the pilot for "Desperate Housewives" but it hadn't aired yet. All the women in Hollywood had auditioned for that show. So I asked her how it went and she said, "I don't know. I don't think it's going to get picked up." (laughs)
So they both came out and it was this convergence of things for her and that was very helpful for me because "Transamerica" did so well. Then Marc Cherry (the creator of "DH") had seen the movie so it was easy for him to see me as Felicity's sister. Maybe I'll have a career of being Felicity Huffman's sister. (laugh)
You do resemble her.
We look like we could be related. In the original "Transamerica" script, my character was adopted. When they cast me, the director (Duncan Tucker) changed it so that we were biological siblings. That was quite a compliment.
And a wise move on his part. You also were in a couple of scary movies, like "Stepford Wives" and "The Cradle Will Rock."
I had a little part in "Stepford Wives" at the beginning where Nicole Kidman is this Sex Network executive who unveils a series of reality shows, one of which is "I Can Do Better." A husband and wife are put on an island and given the choice between choosing each other or porn stars and of course my character chose the porn star. Then Nicole moves to Stepford. It was a fun little cameo. "The Cradle Will Rock" was done in New York, a long time ago!
I've been doing a lot of little things here and there. I just played a role in the movie "Doubt" that was a play, directed by John Patrick Shanley with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. I also have a little part in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," the Woody Allen movie. I got a free trip to Barcelona which was very nice. When you are a character actor, you get these little parts here and there, and also get to see the world.
What was it like working with Woody?
It was amazing. And even more amazing, I didn't audition. He cast people from their reels and I was so nervous to meet him. I only had a couple of scenes, but showing up on a Woody Allen set having never met him, my heart was beating so fast. We were shooting on this big street in Barcelona and there must have been 500 people watching because they wanted to see him.
When you walk on his set, they are ready to go. There is no rehearsal. It was awesome. It was thrilling. It was also like what you think Woody Allen movies are about, that everyone is just standing around talking. He literally came up to us and said, "Forget about the script. Say whatever you want. Just make the event happen."
I was like, "What?" It was incredible. It was like being shot out of a cannon.
I take it you liked doing improv.
It's what we actors dream of, to stand on a Woody Allen set and create something with him, even if it is just a tiny scene.
I did a bit in Tony Gilroy's "Duplicity." He did "Michael Clayton." I got to work with Julia Roberts again, who I worked with in "My Best Friend's Wedding." I also got to work with Clive Owen; that made it tremendous in every way.
What's your fave genre and medium to work in?
I guess I really like doing comedy. There's nothing like making people laugh. And I love the theater, but right now I love doing a lot of camera work and learning more about that. I've been on the stage my whole life but there is always something to be challenged by and something to learn in camera work. I tend to get cast comedically. In "True Blood" I am definitely the comic relief. I like to think that is something that people like me doing and that makes me happy.
What's on your playlist?
Right now I am listening to Bon Iver. I was introduced to his stuff by some of the people I was working with. He came to Knoxville the other night and he and his band were great. This other folk singer opened for him, AA Bondy. I have differing tastes. I also like upbeat music and alternative. I listen to a lot of indie stations.
What do you have coming up after this?
The show is coming out at the same time as "Towelhead." That was directed by Alan Ball and stars Aaron Eckhart ("The Dark Knight") and Toni Collette. It will be a fun week of Alan Ball premieres for me. And then we are going to the Emmys because Michael was nominated as Best Supporting Actor.
Hopefully, by the end of October or early November we will know whether "True Blood" will get another season. Until then, I am finishing up this movie in
Knoxville and then I am going to visit Michael in Hawaii.
It must be tough having a long distance relationship.
Thank you for saying that. Most people say, "It's so sad that you have to go to Hawaii all the time" and I say, "Well, I think Hawaii is beautiful but it does kind of throw a wrench in things when you husband is in the middle of the Pacific all the time."
We have figured out a way to make it work and the "True Blood" job is a great one for me because I'm a supporting player and not required to be there the whole shoot. I go there for a couple of days and then I am free to visit him. His schedule is much more erratic and it's harder for him to travel. We spent the whole summer together when he was on hiatus and he went wherever I was working. You have to be kind of flexible.
Sometimes a little separation is a good thing.
You know, it is. Because when you are together, you only have a certain amount of time together. So you better make the best of it and we really do.
Where do you live when you are not traveling around?
We live in New York. We also have a little place in LA because I work there a lot and it's easier to visit Michael from there. It's still a 5 1/2 hour plane ride but it's better than 11 or 13 from New York. We like to say we are "tri-coastal." (laughs)
(laughs) It's been great talking to you, Carrie. Thanks and say congrats to Michael for us.
I definitely will. It's been nice talking to you, too.
Interview by Sheila Franklin
Starpulse contributing writer
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