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Carrie Preston: She works hard for the money

carrie preston san diego lgbt weeklyTrue Blood actress Carrie Preston, who plays waitress Arlene Fowler on HBO’s hit series, is enjoying her third time in the catbird’s seat, serving as director on That’s What She Said.

The cinematic lovechild, whose movie screens at FilmOut Saturday evening at 7 p.m., was most definitely a labor of love, as she explained to San Diego LGBT Weekly.

“My dear friend Kellie Overbey wrote the script several years ago, and it took us almost 8 years to finally put it on the screen,” Preston said.

The comedy features a tale of three women, there’s BFF’s Bebe (Marcia DeBonis) and Dee Dee (played to comic perfection by Anne Heche), who flee their respective disastrous dating dilemmas by escaping to New York, with newfound companion Clementine (Alia Shawkat) in tow.

Preston is forgoing the usual terminology associated with an all-female cast being a chick flick.

“I like to call it a wo-mance,” she explained. “It’s the female answer to all of the ubiquitous bro-mance films that have dominated the comedic landscape for a long time now.

“I think in general, film provides us with a profound escape and yet holds up a mirror to us at the same time.”

Her goal with the film is for “the audience to get lost in these women, up close and personal, flaws and all.”

That’s What She Said marks the third time that Preston has yelled “action” on the set. She had previously brought audiences other “family-friendly” fare, in the celluloid guises of 29th and Gay and the short film Feet of Clay.

She said that she’s “addicted to the rush” that directing provides her with. But on the downside is “the biggest challenge with directing anything is time.”

“In the case of That’s What She Said, it was almost 8 years off and on. And then we shot it in 20 days,” she recanted. “I liken it to pushing a huge boulder up a mountain. Once you get it to the top, then it’s all about running down the hill without the boulder catching up to you. But to see it all come together in front of an audience is the ultimate reward.”

Even with a degree in acting, which includes her first film role as a sassy bridesmaid in My Best Friend’s Wedding, a supporting role in Transamerica and small screen time spent on Wisteria Lane and with Carrie Bradshaw; Preston said that “directing and producing allows me to exercise all of my creative muscles, not just the acting muscle.” But, she doesn’t keep that well-trained muscle in the shadows when she’s onset in either capacity.

“I find that it enhances my acting career, because it teaches me so much about all aspects of filmmaking,” she explained. “And I carry that knowledge with me when I’m in an acting role.”

Preston also served as executive producer and starred as Andy Dowd, a mother learning to deal with her son’s penchant for cheerleading and “how his mother deals with the idea that he may grow up to be gay” in 2008’s Ready?OK!

She has assembled a dream team of production partners-in-crime from her days at Julliard – including classmate, and native San Diegan, James Vasquez and his partner Mark Holmes – to showcase “films for audiences that we felt were underserved by more traditional films.”

“We like to say we make ‘gay films that you can take your mother to and women’s films with a broad appeal,’ ” she said of their production company’s slogan.

“Even in our films for the gay audience, we are providing an alternative within that genre,” she stated. “Our films are lighter in tone and not so much about sex and romance, but about identity.”

As a child growing up in Macon, Ga., Preston found great solace in embodying many different identities in her front yard theater. Her biggest influence in her creative activities encouraged that passion.

“My mother is a visual artist and an art therapist, and she taught me about passion and art,” she said. “She never discouraged me when I asked her if I could be a professional actor. In fact, she said “Well, honey, somebody’s got to do it. I don’t know why it can’t be you!”

Of the many parts that flesh out the character actress’ body of work, Preston reflected that she will “carry a little bit of all of them inside me. But none are really ‘me.’”

One of her favorite roles is that of her almost 14-year marriage to fellow actor Michael Emerson, who audiences will recognize from his role as Benjamin Linus on Lost and his present gig on the CBS series Person of Interest.

The union, which has seen the couple sharing screen time in the aforementioned Ready?Ok! 29th & Gay and the 2004 gay-themed romcom Straight-Jacket, is a success for one big reason, as Preston explained about its longevity.

“We respect each other and support each other. We try to keep our work separate from our married life,” she said. “We only offer constructive advice when it is solicited. Otherwise, we just give positive encouragement, which is easy for me because Michael’s brilliant.”

And he would most definitely return that compliment to his spouse with her hilarious characterization of a certain spitfire waitress. True Blood, which is about to launch its fifth season  June 10, sees Arlene contending with her husband Terry’s erratic behavior.

“We have not seen the last of Patrick, the character played by Scott Foley, that has come back to cast a shadow on Terry’s past,” Preston said of the upcoming season.

Even though she has had a serial killer former husband and a demon baby to contend with in past seasons, she knows why her character manages to deal with these peculiar situations-at-hand.

“Arlene is strong, opinionated, maternal, histrionic and hilarious,” she said. “What I like about playing her is being able to ground her in some kind of truth, while still honoring that humor and the fact that she is designed by the writers of our show to represent the more narrow-minded aspects of society.”

And she views her co-stars, and their palpable onscreen chemistry, as something akin to being a supernatural occurrence in the world of Hollywood.

“We all get along quite well, which is amazing considering True Blood seems to employ the entire population of the Screen Actors Guild,” she said of the tight-knit cast.

“But we all feel like we are on different shows because we don’t all work together,” she explained. “For example, I am on a show about a small town bar. I rarely deal with the vampires or werewolves.

“We all come together before every episode to do a read-through of the script, and that’s really the only time we are all together,” she recanted. “So I really enjoy those. If someone is absent, one of the other actors steps in to read their role. Sam Trammell does an amazing Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) imitation!”

Preston understands why audiences love the series, without any hint of the show’s vampires glamouring techniques being employed to keep them tuning in every week.

“People have such voracious appetites for True Blood, and I love being a part of something like that.”

And Preston shows no signs of slowing down her multi-faceted career trajectory anytime soon.

“I will be doing a few more episodes of The Good Wife, continuing to play the brilliantly nutty lawyer Elsbeth Tascion,” she explained.

“I also hope to return soon to Person of Interest as Mr. Finch’s –  played by my real life husband Michael – ex-fiancé.

“I have two indie films out in theaters right now: A Bag of Hammers and Virginia.

And a film I did last summer called Vino Veritas will be making the festival rounds soon.”

To keep tabs on Carrie Preston, log onto.carriepreston.com.



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on May 31, 2012. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Online Only. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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