An Interview with Carrie Preston – By Kirsten Walsh

Emmy Nominated Carrie Preston is not just a talented, sassy, unique actress, although she probably could make it in Hollywood on her looks alone! But she has a knack for success- from her TV shows (“True Blood”, “Person of Interest” and “The Good Wife”) to her Emmy nomination for “The Good Wife” to her independent film, which she directed- “That’s What She Said”. A slice of life with a vodka twist- “That’s What She Said” hit the festival circuit in 2012. Starring Anne Heche, Marcia DeBonis, and Alia Shawkat, the film is based on a play written by Preston’s friend, Kelly Overby. “A quirky, honest look at friendship in the face of adversity, it asks one of life’s great questions: why does it always have to be so hard? (That’s what she said)”. The film is now viewable on Showtime as well as on DVD. Emmy nominated Preston took a moment from her busy schedule- 3 TV shows, and a slough of upcoming films to fill us in about her response to the Bromances of Hollywood!

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KW: “That’s What She Said” is your second comedic narrative film, what made you get so passionate about this script?

CP: Well, it started as a play I directed about nine years ago. I originally met the writer, Kelly Overby, doing a play at the Long Wharf theater in New Haven. We were both in the play, portraying sisters. Mia Sara was playing our mother, and also in the cast was Marcia DeBonis. Marcia, Kelly, and I were all doing other things in our career; Kelly had started to write, and I was directing and producing, and Marcia was also a casting director. So we started bonding over the fact that we were hyphenates and then Kelly said, “Well I’ve written this play, why don’t you have a look at it.” So I looked at it and just fell in love with the characters and with Kelly’s writing and how fresh, challenging, funny and raw it was. I just said to her, “Well, we’ve got to do this as a play and we have to put Marcia in it.” Thats what we did, and I directed it with a small theater company that Marcia was involved with. We put it onstage and it went so well that I thought, “Let’s take this and turn it into a film.”

I wanted to capture Marcia’s performance on film, because everything that she is and everything that she stands for doesn’t normally get an opportunity to show itself on the big screen in Hollywood, so I made it my mission to do that. And it took a while to get all of the logistics figured out, but once we did, and we got Anne Heche to join, as well as Alia Shawkat, then we really took off. Its the one decent film that I am most proud of.

KW: I’ve heard you say before that its definitely a chick flick, not for pussies.

CP: Yes. That’s true, its definitely not for pussies. I think that that is an important thing- there are so many “bromances” in the world that are ubiquitous, and they tend to dominate the Hollywood landscape, so I wanted to create the female answer to that! We shot it before “Bridesmaids”, but that film came out first, and we were actually very happy about that, because it definitely proved that there was an audience for that kind of film. We like to say that our film was the East Village cousin to “Bridesmaids”! The slightly older, slighty crustier version!

KW: Now, of course, it showed at Sundance as well as many other festivals, and it showed at a couple of theaters doing a limited theatrical release last year, so what’s next?

CP: Well, it did its theatrical release in New York and L.A., and then from there, around the same time, it went on all digital platforms- Movies on Demand, and iTunes, and Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Any place where you can get content, so it went that way. Its final stop, which happened about a month ago, was its premiere on Showtime. It still has heavy rotation on Showtime, which is great exposure for the film, and for us, and then we also have many other little foreign sales that will continue from territory to territory. Those always take a little longer to work out, so we have some deals with HBO Europe and with some smaller territories in Europe. Its definitely getting a lot of exposure, which is more than a lot of indies, so I’m very excited and proud about that.

KW: That is excellent. Now, as a female director in a primarily male dominated field, what experiences do you use to make your directing different from everything we see out there today?

CP: Well, I’m not trying to make something different from everything we see, but I am always drawn to character based pieces. I am an actor, so I like writing and scripts that are very much about the characters and actors. I tend to gravitate toward that material as a director, and I certainly feel fortunate in that I’ve been able to learn from so many different directors as an actor. so I do try to watch what all the directors I’ve worked with do, and borrow from them and take things that work, and maybe try to disregard things that don’t work. So I have the benefit of watching a lot of people. Really, taking whatever I feel inspired by from them and passing it on to the actors that I work with. I like to really get inside the skin of the character. I don’t try to do any too crazy with the camera. I really like dialogue driven films. I like to act in them and I certainly like to watch them. So that’s basically what I try to do as a director, is really just try to bring those elements to the forefront.

KW: Awesome. I know you have quite a few projects coming up as an actor, but do you have anything coming up for you as a director?

CP: I do. I directed a web series, its called “Darwin”. Some friends wrote it, and star in it, and they asked me to direct it. I directed the first three episodes, and those will be premiering soon, and they just started getting into festivals. Then we will premiere them online, and I think we will probably do a kickstarter campaign to raise a little funding so that we can finish out the series, which is already written out and ready to go. Its just a matter of getting the funding and the logistics in place to do that, so I will probably be directing that in the fall.

KW: That’s great. Of course, it would be crazy to ignore the Emmy buzz surrounding your character on “The Good Wife”. What can you tell us about your character from the development and finding that character?

CP: Yes, Elsbeth Tascioni. She is such a unique character in the television landscape and certainly in the landscape of my career. I’ve never played anyone like her, and I think that’s what maybe makes people interested in this particular person, and what makes her tick. It was a real gift being handed that gem of a role, and being trusted with it. The writing is so rich and their original vision of the character was so exciting when it was first presented to me. And then I put my own spin on it. Then everything between the writing, the context, and what I brought to it as an actor all came together. The result is this very quirky, interesting, dizzying, hilarious brilliant person. And she is not like the other kids on TV, so I feel very honored that people have singled her out as a character to get very excited about and get behind as far as wanting to watch the show and potentially wanting to give me an honor by nominating me for an award. This is not usually something that happens to me. Its pretty exciting.

KW: That’s awesome, and of course, there’s some rumors going around about a spin off?

CP: I know. I love that. I love that the fans started chanting that in the Twitter universe, and the social media universe and it seems to have caught on in the press. So I feel very honored and of course it would be a real delight to see something like that happen. To play that character on a more regular basis would be a dream come true, really.

KW: It definitely seems like unique characters are your strong suit. We can’t ignore Arlene Fowler (from “True Blood”)-

CP: Arlene will not be ignored!

KW: Right. You have been playing Arlene for six years, I know that that is a great thing to have a nice stable show like that. “True Blood” is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon. A lot is going on this season, and I know you can’t really talk too much about that, but where is Arlene going next as far as character development?

CP: The foundation of Arlene is the same. She is someone who is very committed to her family and her work. Her family is paramount and their security is paramount, and she will do anything she can to protect them. And we will see that even more this season.

KW: I know I, for one, am very excited about the developments coming up for “True Blood”. Now, for you as an actor, you have three major film titles coming up over the next year. I recently heard about your lead role in the thriller film, “Your Ass is Grass”?

CP: Yes, that film is what we like to call an “Art House” psychological thriller. It will be shooting in Asheville, North Carolina. The filmmaker lives there and they approached me to play the lead and I really got intrigued by the script and the challenges of that particular role. Its very dark and its very internal. It something that I have never played before. So once I started talking to them about playing the lead, then I ended up getting involved also as a producer and bringing my company to help them get the project off the ground. We are still waiting on a start date, we’re securing the funding and getting all of the logistics in place. But I hope to be shooting that in the fall in Asheville, and I’m very excited for the challenges it will bring.

Thank you to Carrie Preston for taking the time to talk with us, and CONGRATULATIONS on the nomination for “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series” for “The Good Wife”! Best of luck!

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More can be seen about Carrie Preston and her film “That’s What She Said” on the official film website: http://thatswhatshesaidmovie.com

More about Carrie can be found on her IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0696387/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 , and her Emmy nomination on the official website for the Emmys: http://www.emmys.com/celebrities/carrie-preston