Carrie Preston returns to the popular drama series as attorney Elsbeth Tascioni this Sunday, November 6th, only on CBS
She may be best known as Arlene Fowler on True Blood, where, for the last four seasons she has served as Merlotte's top waitress and best friend to Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin). But Carrie Preston is also gaining quite a following as attorney Elsbeth Tascioni on CBS' hit drama series The Good Wife, now in its third season. Carrie, who has been absent for a spell, returns this Sunday, November 6th, for Episode 3.07: Executive Order 13224. On the show, Elsbeth will help Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) out of a tough spot with an expected terrorist that she's taken on as a client.
We recently caught up with Carrie Preston to chat about her time spent on the set of The Good Wife, as well as her return as Arlene Fowler in Season 5 of True Blood.
Here is our conversation.
How excited were you to get asked back to The Good Wife?
Carrie Preston: I was so excited. They had told me after the first season they were going to bring me back. Then they didn't. I started getting paranoid. I must suck! (Laughs) Then, when they called, they were liked, "Oh, no, no, we just needed to find the right time!" I was so thrilled. Then, when I read the script, I was even more thrilled. The character has ripened. The amount of time away has not hurt things at all.
What were some of the surprising things you learned about Elsbeth this time around, that maybe you didn't know when you first started developing her?
Carrie Preston: In essence, she is the same. This woman, this scatterbrained genius...There was just something a little more specific about her this time around. We see her struggle a little more. We see a little more of her vulnerability. It's always a rare thing, when you are playing a lawyer who is serving the bigger storyline, to have a character that is so unique and specific. Instead of just a talking head, which happens in a lot of procedurals.
What is the story arch we are going to see Elsbeth run through this time? And how many episodes are you doing this season?
Carrie Preston: I only just shot the one episode. Although they have mentioned that they want to bring me back. That hasn't come to fruition yet. I'm hoping it will. This time around, my character has been hired by Alicia Florrick to come in and help her with a very difficult case. She is in a catch 22 with a suspected terrorist that she is defending. If she tells the state department something her client told her, he will go to jail. If she doesn't tell the state, she will go to jail. She is caught between a rock and a hard place. So she brings in my character, who is known for that type of problem solving. So, its fun to come in on the white horse and try and save the day.
Does it become easier the second and third time you come back to the set? Is it a little less stressful now that you know your way around the set and the rest of the cast?
Carrie Preston: Yes, yes it is. It is a little bit easier. Still, you are a guest in someone else's house. You are still trying to figure out the house rules. You want to be the best that you can be. So, it's always a little more stressful playing a guest role because of that. But I tend to enjoy those types of challenges.
How long do you think it takes a recurring character to appear on a show before they are really grounded within that show's particular universe?
Carrie Preston: I'd say in half or more of the episodes, to be an integral part of the thing. However, The Good Wife has a wonderful revolving stable of characters that they continue to bring back. I think the audience has gotten to know a lot about them, and they get excited when they return. even if its just for an episode or two. I think they stick with people on that show. I thought what Martha Plimpton did with her role was so great. Now Parker Posey is on. They tend to want to give everybody that comes on the show a real, fleshed out character.
That aspect keeps the show fresh for fans who are watching it every week. This ensures, if you come back maybe once or twice in a season, that your character never gets stale. You never have to worry about that aspect of it. People will always be anxious and super excited to see you...
Carrie Preston: Well, let's hope so. Yeah. I hope I am leaving them wanting more, not less...
Are you kidding? You've been leaving fans wanting a lot more. Now, once they hire you for the role, do the writers take what you bring to the table, and sort of incorporate that into the further adventures of Elsbeth? Do you feel they look to your performance as a point of guidance?
Carrie Preston: I would like to think that happens once a writer gets in a room, and once they know what an actor is like, and what they are capable of. That they would write to those strengths. I think it's a real collaboration. The writer doesn't exist without the actor, and the actor doesn't exist without the writer. It's a real connected relationship. I think that's what makes things really exciting. When the chemistry works between those two. I felt there was a good chemistry between the writers and myself on The Good Wife.
Do you watch the show when you're not on it. Just to keep up with what's happening from week to week?
Carrie Preston: Oh, yeah. I am a huge fan. I have watched it from the very beginning. Julianna Margulies is a good friend of mine. We did a Broadway show together about five years ago. We got to be fiends. I initially watched it for her. I got hooked, from week to week. I have never missed it.
When you watch a show so religiously, and then you find yourself on set, is it ever hard not to call someone by their character's name?
Carrie Preston: Do I confuse a person for their character? No. Not really. Usually, there is a distinction between the two. We don't tend to do that much as actors (laughs).
Has there ever been any talk of Elsbeth getting her own spin-off? Could she headline her own series? Is that even something you'd be interested in?
Carrie Preston: There has never been any talk of such a thing. That would be the utmost compliment. I would jump at a chance to do something like that. Especially with a woman that is so unique and familiar. That doesn't really come along too often. Yeah, it would be fun to see her pop up on the show more often. Maybe have her in more episodes. Let's start with that.
Is there any particular curveball thrown in this upcoming episode, or moment that you are really excited for fans to see this Sunday?
Carrie Preston: Let me think...I am really excited about the scene I have with Bob Balaban, who plays my Treasury Department guy. Bob Balaban is such the straight man to my character's daffiness. We have this great scene outdoors, where I approach him. I throw him off-kilter a little bit. I am excited to see how that all came together. I loved doing that scene.
I hate to throw in the improv question, but when you are working against someone like Bob Balaban, who is a remarkable improvisationalist, do you ever find him going off script on a show like this, that is so heavily scripted? Does he ever throw you a left chop that you don't see coming?
Carrie Preston: Its not so much that he will depart from the words. He was very honorably when it came to the script. He didn't go off script at all. Though, he did have some moments I wasn't expecting in the way he played them. That was quite fun. I can say that for all the other actors on that show, too. They are all so good, and they really elevate what is on the page. It's a really exciting acting experience with them.
They really are one of the best ensembles in a drama that are currently working. It's exciting to sit down and watch them every week. Do you have an update for us on True Blood Season 5 yet?
Carrie Preston: As you know, I am not allowed to say anything. I will say, I have read the first script. It is very exciting. It's up to the usual True Blood standards with epic proportions of new characters and drama, and comedy. You know, romance and everything else you've come to expect. I am excited to see where it will go myself. We start shooting right after Thanksgiving.
I know you can't offer up any story details in terms of the script. But having read that first episode of Season 5, how pleased will fans be with the resolution from Season 4's crazy finale?
Carrie Preston: You will definitely get some questions answered right off the bat. Then, of course, a million more questions will come up, and those will propel us through the rest of the season, I am sure. But yes, the fans will definitely be satiated almost immediately.
How do you personally hope to see you character evolve throughout this upcoming season?
Carrie Preston: Well, you know...We left it off where there was this mysterious guy that has come back into Terri's life. That is being played by Scott Foley. It will be interesting to see how that will start to impact the home life. I trust that the writers and Alan Ball will take the role to places that I can't even imagine. I try not to speculate. Because I would never have though that I would have gotten pregnant, and that I would have a demon baby. But it's not a demon baby, its possessed by a ghost. If I tried to dream that up? I couldn't have. I just put myself in their very capable hands. And I enjoy the ride.
Do you know any of the new cast members that are coming on in Season 5?
Carrie Preston: No, I don't. I have no idea. I am sure there will be surprises. There are new characters in the script, in just that first episode. I have no idea who will be playing them. We tend to beef up our already large cast with really wonderful guest players. I am assuming that Season 5 won't be any different than what they've done in terms of that previously.
You appeared with your Husband on Lost. Any chance you will be reteaming with him on Person of Interest in the future?
Carrie Preston: I keep asking about that. It hasn't happened yet. I would love that. His show is made up almost entirely of guest stars. I would guess somewhere down the line that I will make an appearance. I know that he wants me to. I am looking forward to that day.
The fans are really digging the show...
Carrie Preston: I know. And it's exciting. They got picked up for a full season order. That is great. They will do the whole thing. We are very excited. It is fun for Michael to be shooting in the city in which we live. New York is our home base. Though, we both live in Los Angeles as well. New York has always been our primary residence. That has always been the dream, to work on a show that shoots in New York. He is living out that dream right now. We are very happy with the way things are going right now. His role is very mysterious, and strong, and cool. He is enjoying that very much.
What can you tell us about Bag of Hammers? You star in that alongside Jason Ritter and Amanda Seyfried...
Carrie Preston: That film is quite different from some of the recent roles I have played. It is a much more serious, darker character. We are dealing with some big league issues. The stakes are really high for her. She is a single mother that is in way over her head. She can't get her head together. She has no job prospects, and no money. And this kid, that she has to provide for...We just see her struggling. It stands in contrast to these two main characters, who are two slacker con artists. Young men who are really just boys. They have no sense of responsibility in the world. By encountering my character, and my character's son, they grow up. They come to take responsibility for themselves and another human being. It is a very wonderful film. It is, in some ways, a subversive look at alternative parenting.
When will audiences be able to see that?
Carrie Preston: I'm not quite sure. I think it is slated to have a theatrical release sometime this fall. I haven't gotten an exact date. Sometime in the fall, maybe in the winter. It takes some time for these independent films to find their way out into the world. The film has been acquired, and it will be distribute within the next five or six months. I am also on an upcoming episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. That will either be on in a week or two from today. I play the aunt of a rape victim, who is questioned and the family is being questioned. About the rape. Its Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Its kind of disturbing subject matter. It's a very interesting role.
How was that experience in contrast to The Good Wife, especially when you are acting alongside quite a few guest actors as opposed to a more regular based crew?
Carrie Preston: In both cases, they were extremely welcoming. That helps. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit? I had never done that one, but I'd done Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I did three episodes of that. It's the same show runner. So, that is helpful. I knew him, and he is always wonderful. In both cases, I was a guest, but at the same time, a very welcomed one.