True Blood’s Carrie Preston Discusses Her New Film, Production Company, And More
by AJ Dellinger
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Film Monthly (FM): What can you tell us about your film A Bag of Hammers?
Carrie Preston (CP): This is a film that was written and directed by Brian Crano, he co-wrote it with Jake Sandvig who is one of the stars of the film. It’s a film that you first think is going to be a buddy-buddy “bromance” kind of a film and then it takes a very sharp turn about a third of the way into it due to my character and a decision my character makes. Then the film turns into something that has a lot more consequence to it and it becomes a real “coming of age” or growing up story for these two main characters. I play a single mother who is feckless and in way over her head with her child. She’s moved to a new town to make a fresh start and she just cannot get on top of things. In this economy, she has a really hard time getting a job and the father of the child is absent and she really is drowning in the situation. Meanwhile, the two main characters are con-artists who have spent their whole like taking and treating the whole world as if it is nothing to take too seriously. When they see what is going on with this woman and her child, they start to look at their lives in a different way.
FM: This isn’t the first time you’ve played a single mother. Is there a particular mindset to playing these types of characters despite similarities or do you approach each uniquely?
CP: Each character is different depending on how it’s written. I am certainly one of those actors who really likes to trust the writer and look at the script that they have presented to me and try to bring that to life. I was trained at Juilliard, which is a classical training program so the text is king. From my training and working with the pieces from great playwrights like Shakespeare, Chekhov and Gibson and whatnot, it really did give me a wonderful foundation to apply to all pieces of material that I have the great privilege of working on. I usually just start with the text and in this situation the text was quite good and compelling. It was up to me to fill up all the negative spaces and figure out why this woman is the way she is. That’s what I love about acting; marrying your imagination and your own emotions and your own history or way of approaching the character. In this case, I really was in good hands with the script.
FM: You have plenty on your plate with film and television, but you mentioned Juilliard. You have quite a bit of theater performance experience along with the more commercial outlets of entertainment. Do you have a preference to any form of acting or do you just go where the opportunity to perform is?
CP: Theater is my first love and I don’t think that will ever go away. I’ve been doing plays since I was eight years old in the town of Macon, Georgia. I started doing community theater and definitely got bitten by the bug pretty early on. But the last several years I would say my passion and curiosity have been steered toward film and television, probably because it is something that I still have a great deal to learn about, not that I don’t in the theater. But [television and film] have definitely captured my attention. I haven’t been on stage in the run of a play in five years now, which is shocking. I never thought I would take that much time but I just keep getting seduced by all these projects that happen to be film and television. I’m really enjoying submerging myself deeper and deeper into that world. I’m also a director and producer and I create a lot of my own projects with my production company. I’m never at a loss of doing something creative and I kind of like my life that way.
FM: With your production company, are you focusing more on creating your own work or are you still bogged down in other offers?
CP: My production company I started with two others, one of which I went to Juilliard with, James Vasquez, and the three of us created Daisy 3 Pictures back in 2005. We just literally started picking up a camera and were kind of in the middle of the do-it-yourself filmmaking thing that started with the revolutionary creation of prosumer cameras and editing programs and things you can do at home and we kind of self-taught ourselves with a feature film that James wrote and I directed and he starred in. That ended up getting bought and we took the money from that and invested it in our next project that James wrote and directed called Ready? Ok! I produced and starred in it and that again did well and we sold it. We just finished our third feature which I directed. It was written by Kellie Overbey and we are submitting it to festivals. It’s a comedy called That’s What She Said. It stars Anne Heche and Alia Shawkat and Marcia DeBonis. It’s a chick flick that’s not for pussies, I don’t know what else to call it [laughs]. We hope that we’ll be able to get it out in the world in the fall or the winter.
FM: Do you prefer being behind or in front of the camera or do you treat them each like their own process to create from opposite sides?
CP: It really does exercise different muscles although they do compliment each other. I find the more work I do in front of the camera, it makes my work behind the camera stronger and vice-versa. Certainly being a director and sitting in the editing room for weeks on end and piecing together a story and different performances, I have learned a lot as an actor of what directors appreciate when the get in the editing room because that’s really where the story gets told. I find that both of them fulfill different sides of my creative needs and I enjoy wearing all of those hats.
FM: It seems like the products of Daisy 3 Pictures have a fairly strong gravitation toward gay rights themes. Is that intentional or have those just happened to have been the themes that have come up in the screen plays thus far?
CP: That is intentional, when we started with the first film I directed, 29th and Gay, we were setting out to make a film for a gay audience that they could take their parents to. What we were noticing was a lot of the films for gay audiences were a little more risqué, maybe rated R, maybe more sexual in content and we thought “that’s great, there is definitely a place for that, but where are the stories that are a little more universal and a little more inclusive of a broader audience?” So that was what our mission was. You’ll see in That’s What She Said that it’s not specifically for the gay audience but there is a gay couple in the film. We do like to include that audience. Our motto is “We make gay films you can take your mother to” and “women films with a ‘broad’ appeal.” We’re trying to make content for audiences that maybe don’t get as much as the traditional white male, 18-35 year old audience.
FM: Do you run into any difficulties playing a character who is known for her misunderstanding of the minority group in True Blood while you are clearly a vocal supporter of that same represented minority in your films?
CP: I don’t agree at all with the narrow-mindedness of Arlene. Obviously politically, I couldn’t be more opposite. But my job as an actor is not to judge the character, it’s to flesh the character out and to make her as palatable and real and complicated as any human being. Arlene, on the page, is designed to be ridiculed or made fun, of as a lot of southern characters are. It’s very easy to portray southerners as not very bright or intolerant. I can see and understand that there is a lot of opportunity for humor there and I try to serve that because I do think it fits in the story and every story needs conflict and adversaries to the heroes. Otherwise there is no drama or stakes. So I try to honor that, but at the same time I try to make the character complicated and that is challenging and because it’s challenging, I love to play her.
FM: Obviously you aren’t naturally a redhead, but are you upset with the exclusion of Arlene from the “Greatest Ginger of All Time” Poll that has made it’s rounds online?
CP: [laughs] I haven’t seen that, but I am outraged that Arlene is not on such a list. She was the original redhead on True Blood and I’m proud to carry that flag.
AJ Dellinger is a freelance writer from Madison, Wisconsin with an affinity for all forms of entertainment. He is a film and television enthusiast with an eye for the absurd.
Got a problem? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org