Carrie Preston Talks ‘True Blood’ & Revolutionizing Chick Flicks – Exclusive

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It’s a no-brainer when a celebrity as versatile as Carrie Preston is being put in the spotlight this summer for some well deserved attention. As an actress of television (True Blood), film & theater, the possibilities are endless for this undeniably talented Georgia-born star.

Celebuzz had a chance to catch up with the sassy, down-to-earth star about everything from her new independent film, what it’s like to produce alongside Anne Heche, and the upcoming premier of the Golden Globe-nominated, hit show, True Blood, which premieres Sunday, June 26th.

This seems like it’s been an unbelievable summer for you, ending with the release of A Bag of Hammers. Are you satisfied with the way all of your projects are panning out this summer?

I’m very excited! It’s wonderful when all the fruits of your labor start to flower, grow and get out into the world. These projects I’ve been working on have incubated for a long time so it’s fun when they start seeing the light of day. In this case, I happen to have a bunch of fun things that are coming into fruition at the same time.

I have the premiere of True Blood followed by A Bag of Hammers. I also just directed a film that we just finished shooting so we are starting to submit it to festivals. Hopefully we’ll get into some in the Fall, so it’s a very exciting time.

You’ve done a lot of roles in the past as a single woman or a woman whose just having a good time and light spirited; how is your role in Bag of Hammers different from, say, Mandy from My Best Friends Wedding?

That’s so funny; Mandy was basically the original role for me because that was my first film. That character was all about the surface-ike things and she was such a socialite and such a fun-loving girl.

In contrast, Lynette, the character in Bag of Hammers, probably wishes that she could have a life that has such levity to it and instead she’s faced with much higher stakes and much dire circumstances. She’s also in over her head in trying to raise this child while being a single mother who doesn’t really have the skills to get a decent job and doesn’t get support from the father of the child.  It just all comes crashing down on her shoulders and she is really ill-equipped to handle it and as a result she makes a decision that effects everyone around her.  

She really is a catalyst for the growth of the two leads of the film.  You couldn’t have picked two more opposite characters, that’s funny!

Despite having a Golden Globe-nominated series coming out this month, you have had your hand on the other side of the camera, as a producer and director for the new film That’s What She Said. Do you ever slow down or are you constantly either in front of or behind the camera?

I am one of those people that just prefers to be busy creatively. I don’t have children so I do have more time to do things and I try to take advantage of that and in a way, creating a film from the ground up is kind of like having a child and raising it. That was really exciting for me for this particular project because I was trying to get off the ground for seven years and it was so nice to have it finally happen and I told myself if I didn’t take the opportunity while I could I would regret it for the rest of my life.

It’s so satisfying to see a project grow from nothing and then to get someone like Anne Heche to be the star was really such a gift. The fact that she believed in the script as much as I did made it really special as well. The script was written by Kelly Overbee who is also an actress and one of my closest friends so it was a real labor of love for everyone involved.

We’re hoping we get into some great festivals and find a place for it in the world. I think there is a place for it somewhere; it’s a chick flick that’s not for p***ies, you know. It’s what I like to call a “wo-mance”, not a “bro-mance”. It is kind of similar to what Bridesmaids did, which would be that sort of re-defining the whole chick flick persona. We had great timing because our film was doing that whole redefinition independently of Bridesmaids and it’s clear that there is definitely an audience for these new types of chick flicks. People want to see films that are a little more “edgey” and not just the 27 Dresses of the world…

Lost, Desperate Housewives, Sex & the City, True Blood…. you’ve done some of the biggest names in the TV world. How does an already massively popular show like True Blood square up with a fresh new film like A Bag of Hammers in terms of anticipation? Do you anticipate Bag of Hammer’s release more because it’s new or are they the same?

I get excited about material in general and I also get excited about roles. They might be seen by five people or five million and in some ways it doesn’t really matter. As long as I believe in it and feel proud, it is all the same.  

In other words, I’m just as proud of A Bag of Hammers, which will have a limited release and is a small film, as I am about True Blood which is a massive cult hit.  It’s exciting for me and I feel very fortunate that I get to travel in between those worlds.

I’m also very lucky to have had the opportunity to do some small films that either I helped create, foster or that I’ve just been an actor in. In some way, those are a little more exciting because they are more impossible to get done; the scale is much smaller and the resources are way fewer so when something like that does actually get made, completed and bought you feel a little like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill and then finally it rolls down the other side and you’re like “Yes!!”

You are clearly very versatile through all the roles and production titles you’ve held… Would you say your role as a struggling single mom in Bag of Hammers is among the tougher roles you’ve had to play, or has all the craziness on shows like True Blood and LOST prepped you for pretty much any type of role?

My work in the theater has prepped me for most of my film and TV. Training in the theater and doing Shakespeare has prepared me tremendously. That kind of stuff is extremely challenging, fulfilling and it really does exercise all the necessary muscles that you need to strengthen to do everything else. I’m grateful that I have a solid foundation and a training that I can go to and turn to when I need it. 

Certainly of my most recent roles the character in A Bag of Hammers was the most challenging emotionally; she’s dealing with much higher stakes than in my life so to really try to do that justice was a challenge. It was ultimately fulfilling because as actors, it’s much more fulfilling to play someone that’s facing high stakes and big problems because then you have something to play against.

It was a tough place to go to emotionally but as an actor it was a really fulfilling task to tackle.

Your Bag of Hammer’s costar, Jason Ritter and you have a pretty prominent past project in common; you’ve both done Law & Order shows (Jason did Special Victims Unit and you did Criminal Intent). Did you guys ever reminisce on set about the old Law & Order days?

It’s so funny because all of the Law & Order’s were shooting in NY so once you are established and working in the industry, you’ve done a Law & Order. Invariably it will come up in conversation from time to time.  It’s like, “so were you a victim, killer or the lawyer?”

I did three different episodes of Criminal Intent and never did the other two. I played three completely separate characters-that’s just how it worked out.

You and your husband seem to be pretty comfortable in the work place together, starring in movies like Straight Jacket and The Journey alongside one another.  Do you ever get nostalgic when you see Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin on set together, working alongside one another as you and Michael did?

I certainly know the feeling and they are a lovely couple to work with. I love working with my husband too but there’s a short hand there that you have to deal with; it’s not like working with other people because you just have this understanding with your significant other.  It’s nonverbal, all it takes is one look in their eyes and then they know where you are and vice versa. You just go from there so it’s just a real gift when I get to work with Michael and I hope that I get to again.

Your starring role of Arlene Fowler on True Blood s notorious for being sassy and full of charisma.  Does Arlene’s bubbly persona ever rub off on you in real life, or vice versa?

It’s always fun to go to work because I know that I get to put on that makeup, those nails, that bust-line and those heels and really transform into her.

I have a good time with her, I like how outspoken she is.  When I’m on set I feel like myself but a little bit of her definitely rubs off on me.  It is fun to be in the skin of someone you’ve been playing for four seasons which is something that I’ve never really had the luxury of doing before. 

With all the hype of the fourth season of True Blood and the release of Bag of Hammer’s in August, you surely have your hands full–however I wouldn’t be too surprised if you were already working on a bunch of other notable projects.  Are there any that you want to share or tell us a little about?

The movie that I directed called That’s What She Said. 

I’m also going to shoot a movie in July called Vino Veritas which means “in wine there’s truth”.  I’m looking forward to this role because its 100% different than Arlene. 

The director had seen me in Duplicity and thought that this would be a great role for me and I can see why she thought that because the character has a similar vulnerability as the character in Duplicity. 

I’m looking forward to that and I’m looking forward to just be shooting things that are so different and challenging for me.

I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that That’s What She Said gets into the festival circuit and that it really goes somewhere within that.