Carrie Preston's signature flame-red hair is about the only thing her True Blood and The Good Wife characters have in common. The versatile actor's talent for shapeshifting roles not only won her an Emmy last year for her portrayal of quirky attorney Elsbeth Tascioni on The Good Wife, but has also helped her believably transform her True Blood character, Arlene, in subtle — and major — ways over the course of that show's seven seasons. With True Blood's final episode just a few short weeks away, Carrie stopped by our LA studios to talk about what fans should have in mind as they experience the last installment of the HBO series and to spill some behind-the-scenes details about some of the season's most intense moments so far. We also chatted about her return to The Good Wife, which premieres Sept. 21 on CBS, and her predictions on how the abrupt exit of Josh Charles as Will Gardner will impact the show's future. Read on for our full interview with Carrie, and if you missed her appearance on POPSUGAR Now, scroll to the end to give it a watch.
POPSUGAR: Let's start talking True Blood, because there are just a few episodes left, which has to feel kind of bittersweet for you.
Carrie Preston: It is so sad. I mean, it's over. We are done shooting. Sets are gone, we are all scattered to the wind. We were at Comic-Con last weekend and that was sort of our last hurrah as a cast.
PS: Tell me a little about that near-death scene you had. How many emotions that came up when you were with Anna Paquin and Todd Lowe, who played Terry, were really about how you were feeling about the show itself?
CP: Well, there's something wonderful working with people for that long, because [when] you do emotional scenes like that, you already have this wealth of feelings about a person. Then you throw into the mix that the show is ending and those scenes are not hard to play. I mean, the tears were just flowing for 14 hours that day. It was pretty intense, and Anna Paquin is a genius with that. She is so connected with what's going on inside of her. It's like, you just put a quarter in and it all comes out. I don't know how she does it; we are all in awe of her. So she's holding me and we decided that the character dies. That Arlene actually dies and that when she see's Terry he's crossed over. So that was intense to think about that, and when Todd came in — we all love Todd and miss him — to have him there that day, and looking so dapper, and giving Arlene permission to move on with her life; it was moving.
PS: I've spoken with some of your costars, and they've said they think the end of the show really brings every character closure in some sense. Did you feel like that was really the thing Arlene was holding out for?
CP: I think it was. Terry's death was so violent. To have this moment of moving on and resolution between the two characters, I think, was satisfying for us but definitely for the audience. They really needed to see that. Plus, I don't think they could produce this mysterious vampire into Arlene's world without paying some respect to Terry, because he was such a part of the whole journey of Arlene's life and of the show.
PS: Yeah, I really don't think fans would be too happy about that.
CP: I think they'd be like, "What do you mean, girl? Why you movin' on? You got to still be mourning."
PS: You said you think Arlene became a lot more complicated in the last couple of seasons. So, even though you have been with this character for years, were there new things you discovered about her in that time?
CP: Yes, and you know the evolution of her has been, I think, one of the best evolutions on the show. Because you think of her at the beginning; she's so narrow-minded. She was designed to represent the more narrow-minded part of the South, and as the series has gone on, she has become very tolerant, very accepting, very open. She's seen ghosts. She knows there're vampires. She finds out that Sam is a shapeshifter and is now entertaining the idea of hanging out with a vampire. This is a big change for her.
PS: Tell me a little bit about the final episode. I have been asking people to sum it up in maybe an adjective or a word that describes how the show ends.
CP: It's a story about Sookie, in the end, and it's about her evolution. Her growth. So, I feel like it's about coming full circle, in a way. It comes back down to her relationship with herself, and I think it's important that the audience remember that.
PS: With this show, you don't expect everyone to have a happy ending, but it sounds like we will kind of see each character come to a place where the audience feels like, "OK. I'm satisfied with that."
CP: Yes. Well, [show creator] Alan Ball at the beginning said that the show was about the terrors of intimacy, and I thought that was a really great way to look at the show when you consider how scared people are, just in general, to be vulnerable with other people and how terrifying [it is] to be intimate. So, Sookie goes from girlhood to womanhood and has become less terrified of that.
PS: People have seen the show as an allegory for social issues. Was that something you recognized when you signed on? That that would be an undercurrent of the show?
CP: Yes, and I think that's what makes Alan such a genius. He was able to provide popcorn for adults, or if you wanted to, you could read social commentary into it. Just substitute any disenfranchised group of people for the vampires, and you're good to go. If you don't want to do that? There's lots of eye candy and horror and some comedy. It's wonderful when you can have that kind of layer, and that's why it continued to work that way — it was never preachy.
PS: Excited to hear that you are going to be back on The Good Wife, too. I heard definitely two episodes, but is there a possibility that we will see Elsbeth in more than two?
CP: I would love that. I mean, I would love to be full time if it were up to me, but they have many storylines to pay attention to, so I'm happy with whatever they want to give me. When they bring Elsbeth on, she has impact in the storylines and so I — in some ways — would prefer a few episodes with a lot of impact than just sort of peppered throughout. They haven't told me what going to happen, but I'm excited to see what they have in store for me. From treadmills to anti-Semitic bears to weird flirty things with Kyle MacLachlan, it's always something delicious.
PS: Elsbeth's a little bit off-kilter . . .
CP: I always start with what's on the page. They say, "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage." You have to start with that. In the case of Elsbeth, they give her such wonderful things to say and do, and then they'll write "pause." And I go, "Great. What am I going to do with that ?"
PS: So that's your space to play with?
CP: Yes — what's happening in that pause. Because her mind is so mercurial and quicksilver, she can be talking about the case and then say, "Oh. I love your blouse," then go back to the dry-cleaning, then talk about how to solve the case. She's all over the place but somehow manages to juggle it all.
PS: Talk about Josh Charles leaving the show, because I think that's one of the most talked-about TV deaths in recent history.
CP: We all felt like we lost someone. Somebody died. His character was so beloved and it was so brilliantly played and written. When I did the second episode of last season we were on set — Josh and I together — in Times Square. It was freezing and [we were] huddled up inside the AT&T Store just trying to stay warm. I was like, "So, how's the season going?" and he said, "Well, I've got some news. Next episode is going to be my last episode." I was like, "What's happening?" He said, "I've been wanting to move on. They knew it. It's not anything bad, I was just ready to move on." So I said, "How are they going to do it?" and he didn't say anything, and I said, "Oh my god. They're going to kill you." But even though I knew, when I saw the episode, I was still shocked. It was still shocking to see that, because it was so well done. But that's the way life is when you lose somebody: it is shocking no matter what. Even if you're expecting it.
PS: I think it's going to set up a really interesting dynamic for the next season. It sounds like you don't really have an idea of where the story's heading yet, but what do you think as far as how this might impact the universe of The Good Wife?
CP: Well, similarly to True Blood, it's about a woman and her journey as she grows and goes in and out of relationships, her acceptance of things, her empowerment. So this is a great obstacle for [Alicia], and it's only going to make her character grow more. I think it was a blessing in disguise. We all know higher stakes when watching the show, because we know emotionally what she's going through and what she's having to accept. And now it's just going to make for stronger storylines. More interesting things for Julianna [Margulies] to play.
PS: And I did hear that Josh is coming back to direct a couple episodes.
CP: Yes! He is a really good director, from what I hear. I haven't got to work with him, but I know he's passionate about it, and that's part of the reason he wanted to move on, so he could do it.
PS: Well, maybe you will cross paths.
CP: I would love to be directed by him. He's such a cutup. He's so fun and funny. Everybody loves him.
PS: Irecently spoke to Lauren Bowles, who's your costar on True Blood. She said you guys are kind of besties . . .
CP: Yeah, she's my girl.
PS: She said when she's reading scripts, if she sees something shocking, you're the first person she will text.
CP: She does, you're right! Usually she gets to it before me. She gets it and reads it, her husband reads it, and then she'll say, "You got to read it." It's always good to touch base with her, and we have been doing some live tweeting together.
PS: So has she spoiled some things over the years?
CP: She hasn't. She's pretty good about it, but she will set it up, like, "Something bad is going down." I read it then. But that's our show — there's always something bad about to go down. Like the theme song: "I want to do bad things to you."
PS: That's True Blood in a nutshell, right there. Thanks, Carrie.