Exclusive: TRUE BLOOD’s Carrie Preston Interview

Carrie Preston

TRUE BLOOD returns to HBO June 26 after what seems like an eternity and with witches taking center stage, there’s no telling what could happen this season. As single mom and Merlotte’s waitress Arlene Fowler, Carrie Preston is often the calm at the center of the storm, but when we last left Arlene, she was struggling with being pregnant by her serial killer ex Rene. It doesn’t look like her life is any less complicated when we return.

Preston is also very busy away from True Blood. She recently finished directing her second film, That’s What She Said, a comedy about three women having a very bad day in New York City, she plays over-burdened single mom Lynette in the indie comedy-drama Bag of Hammers which has been well-received at film festivals, and she even found time to do two episodes of CBS’ The Good Wife this past season.

Daemon’s TV talked to Carrie Preston about playing a mortal in the very supernatural Bon Temps, Arlene’s anxiety over her baby, and how directing films makes her a better actor.

Like the ads say, the waiting has sucked, but now season four of ‘True Blood’ is coming up fast.

Carrie Preston: It sure is. It doesn’t feel fast to us because we’ve been working on it since November, but, yeah, all of a sudden it’s almost here.

Why do I have the feeling that Arlene’s life is going to be even more complicated this season?

Carrie Preston: Well, your instincts are right, but when is it not complicated on ‘True Blood’?

When does season four pick up in terms of where season three left off? Is there a time jump?

Carrie Preston: We’re not allowed to talk about that, but I will say that the problems Arlene was having when we left her have only gotten bigger. She had just unsuccessfully tried to find a way to let the baby go using some witchcraft which was a pretty drastic choice on her part, but Arlene felt like she needed to address the problem. It’s that the sins of the father might be visited upon this child that’s inside of her. Things are pretty black and white with Arlene and in her mind she’s carrying an evil baby. So when that didn’t work it really did make things even more complicated for her, and frankly, scary for her. But I think she had to accept that the baby was definitely on board and seems to want to stay. I think the conflict in her is going to continue to grow.

There was such a sense of desperation in Arlene at the end of the season that I’m very worried about Arlene and Terry.

Carrie Preston: I know. Arlene and Terry are such a good couple, and I think it’s exciting that people root for them, particularly Arlene because she’s been in such a horrible situation before him with this man that she thought she knew, Rene, who turned out to be absolutely horrible. It really made her question her judgment in men and made it hard for her to trust anybody. So, when Terry keeps showing up and keeps being present for her it really meant a lot to her. I think she didn’t want to do anything that would mess up the best thing that she ever had.

My favorite scene from season three was the one that I had with Holly [Cleary], Lauren Bowles, in Merlottes. When Arlene was crying and was so upset and scared about telling Terry about this baby, and also the shame that she felt, admitting that she didn’t want the baby. Now, this is a woman who comes from a world where abortion is not accepted. It’s not something that she believes in. I think it was a really, really brave thing for her to do, to try and engage something alternative. But the minute that didn’t work I think that was it. She’s not somebody who’s going to walk into a clinic.

How is it playing a mortal when almost all the other characters around are something else entirely?

Carrie Preston: I know. Well, sometimes I think all the supernaturals have more fun, but at the same time I think it’s extremely important for the show to have the characters like Arlene and Terry and Hoyt and Jason even, who are a reminder that this is a real world and a present day world, albeit a fictitious world. It’s contemporary. They are people and they’re southern and they’re small town and they’re American. They’re dealing with these previously inconceivable creatures that they’re surrounded with. I think if the show didn’t have the mortals it wouldn’t be as effective because there would be nothing to contrast the supernaturals.

I think Arlene not only helps ground the show, but also sometimes stands in for the audience–

Carrie Preston: I think so, too, yeah. I think that they rely on that, and then she also grounds the show with some humor which I think is important because otherwise I think the show would take itself too seriously. I think what is successful about the show is the alchemy of drama and comedy and horror and sex. It’s this very interesting blend of all those things that make people continue to watch it because it’s pretty singular. There’s not anything else that’s quite like that. The humor sets it apart from the ‘Twilights’ or ‘Vampire Diaries’ or those other things.

This is being called the ‘Season of the Witch’. Is Arlene involved in that aspect of things?

Carrie Preston: She’s going to be dealing with some things that she never expected, and actually, the audience hasn’t seen yet on the show. So that’s exciting. The show likes to keep upping the game which is what I think makes the show so creative and the writers so brilliant, that they continue to keep the audience on their toes. They keep throwing curveballs and Arlene is definitely dealing with one of those curveballs this season.

What do you like the most about the way that Arlene has been developed over the show’s four seasons?

Carrie Preston: Well, it’s interesting, I feel like the writers continue to give me the comedic stuff, but they also have started to give me more serious issues to deal with. I’ve found that very satisfying as an actor. That started, I would say, at the end of season one and then it kept going. So it’s been a nice thing, for me, to find the balance between the comedy and the drama. That’s been really exciting. I am honored that they trust me with that.

True Blood’ isn’t the only thing you’ve got going on. I understand you just finished directing a film.

Carrie Preston: I did. I just directed my second feature film. It’s called ‘That’s What She Said’. It’s a comedy. I have a production company called Daisy 3 Pictures and I did this one with my production company and one my best friends, Kellie Overbey, who wrote this script. Anne Heche is the star as well Marcia DeBonis and Alia Shawkat who was on ‘Arrested Development’. It’s a wonderful cast. It takes the chick flick genre and it mashes it with the balls to the wall silliness of a good bro-mance, but the girls come out on top. So it’s really fun. It’s three raunchy chicks and one disastrous day in New York City. A lot of stuff goes down, but it’s ultimately a movie about friendship.

I’m very, very proud of it and we just literally finished it. It’s being submitted to festivals and we’re hoping that ‘Bridesmaids’ does well this weekend because it’s definitely in that same genre. I’m just proud that I have a female-centric film that I’ve been working on for the better part of seven years, just getting it off the ground and it’s finally here.

I love that there will be more female-centric films.

Carrie Preston: I agree. I think unfortunately the studio heads think that movies like that won’t have any traction and I don’t know why they keep thinking that because of like ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and all those things just keep continuing to do well. Then they’re always just so shocked. It’s very frustrating as a female filmmaker, but I’m very proud of it. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we’re able to get it out into the world so that people can see it because I think people are really going to enjoy it.

Does working as a director change the way that you act in something?

Carrie Preston: Yes, it does. I’ve been directing now for a while and it does help me understand things. Being behind the camera and certainly sitting in an editing room for weeks and weeks on end and watching performances, you learn a lot that way. You learn as a performer the things that really do count in the editing room, these basic things like continuity. Like there’s some take that I would want to use and I can’t because continuity doesn’t work and that’s because the actor wasn’t paying attention to that at that moment. So it’s stuff like that I’m again reminded of when I’m in front of the camera to be more mindful of.

It’s also just cool, being an actor I have the advantage of working with many directors. So I get to watch how other directors work and learn from them. Whereas if it’s a director who that’s all he or she does, just direct, then they sort of only know their method. They don’t have the advantage of being able to watch other directors work. So I try to take advantage of that. We have a stable of directors on our show and they all have different styles and they’re all equally great. That’s fun and then I’ve acted in numerous films, and just being able to beg, borrow and steal from other people has been very helpful for me.

A friend of mine saw ‘Bag of Hammers’ at SXSW and loved it. What was making that movie like for you?

Carrie Preston: It was a really great experience. It’s a totally different character than, like, Arlene. So it was refreshing for me. Although, the woman was southern it was a much more serious role and she was dealing with much bigger life and death kinds of situations. I really threw myself into it and was very challenged and also I was pleased with the way that it turned out. It was emotionally challenging.

The fourth season of True Blood premieres on HBO Sunday, June 26 at 9pm eastern/8 central.

You can check out the trailer for the new season here and read the rest of our True Blood coverage here.

Carrie Preston