June 20th, 2010 by thetvchick
The third season of True Blood is officially upon us and it’s off to a fantastic start. Tonight’s episode picks up the steam even more (wolves!) in what is sure to be an amazing season. Vampires are certainly the focal point of the show, but it’s the people in Bon Temps that make the show interesting. One of those people is Arlene, the take-no-prisoners waitress at Merlottes who loves her kids, hates vampires and just realized she is pregnant with Terry Bellefleur’s child. I recently had the chance to talk to Carrie Preston (who plays Arlene) about how she relates to her character, her favorite moment from filming the show and working with Alan Ball. I also had to throw in a question about her husband Michael Emerson as well now that Lost has just ended.
What originally drew you to the project?
I had the great fortune of working with Alan Ball on his feature film “Towelhead”, and he’s the one who told me about “True Blood.” He said he had a part for me in it, but when I read the script I didn’t know what he was talking about. Arlene was so different from me, and I didn’t think I was physically right for the role. But when the offered me the part, I couldn’t resist it. It was a chance to play a real character and to transform, which is something you don’t usually get to do on television.
How do you relate to Arlene? Are you anything like her?
I’m not as outspoken as she is. I’m also not narrow minded like she is. But I can understand where she is coming from. I grew up with women like Arlene, and I take it as a responsibility to find the humanity in her. On the page sometimes, Arlene runs the risk of being ridiculed by the audience by coming off as a stereotypically racist, ignorant southerner. Yet I think she expresses a much needed viewpoint on the show, which is this: Vampires might be seductive and mysterious and sexy, but they are also killers by nature, so maybe we shouldn’t trust our children with them!
Arlene is a heavily influenced character, as she showed last season with Marianne. However, she is strong at the same time. What has it been like playing her?
I like to find the balance between the humor and the pathos with Arlene. On the page, I get a lot of one-liners or jokes, but I try to find the truth behind them. I always try to build a three dimensional woman with responsibilities and cares and woes that are similar to the concerns of our audience. She’s grounded in the real world, which is a nice balance with the supernatural stuff going on around her.
Is there more to Arlene that we don’t know yet? Will we meet her children’s father?
The audience is going to see a deeper, more emotional side of Arlene this season. However, it’s not the familiar histrionics that she displayed in the first two seasons. I don’t know if you will ever meet the father of her first two children — I like to think they are two different fathers, actually.
Arlene has had some bad luck with men. Do you think Terry Bellefleur will be different?
Terry is by far the sweetest and most vulnerable man Arlene has ever dated. He’s the first guy who seems willing to drop everything to make her and her kids happy, so even if he’s got some emotional issues due to the war, it seems like she wants to make things work with him.
What has been your biggest challenge in filming the show so far?
The biggest challenge happened in season two, when we were “frenzied” and did crazy long night shoots wearing those really uncomfortable black contact lenses. But other than the physical demands of that season, I feel blessed with how wonderful the cast and crew are. I’m always grateful to go to work on this show.
Was it difficult to speak in an accent? Did you have any dialect training?
I grew up in Macon, GA. So although Arlene’s accent is a different, harder accent than the one I grew up with, it come very easily and naturally to me.
Do you have a favorite moment from filming the show?
I loved in Season Two doing the scene with Tara (Rutina Wesley) in the bathroom where I tell her that I can’t remember if I slept with Terry or not. It was a brilliant scene written by Raelle Tucker, and I loved playing it with Rutina. We were both totally engaged in it, and it had really high stakes, but it was also a bit humorous. That’s the alchemy of the show that makes it so appealing.
Do you have a character you would like to have more scenes with?
I wish I could have some interaction with Eric. I think seeing Arlene square off with Eric in some kind of strange debate about vampire rights would be hilarious and scary.
What has it been like working with Alan Ball? He’s quite a prolific producer/creator.
Like I said before, I worked with him on “Towelhead”, and we hit it off immediately. We are both from Georgia, and we are both theater people. So we have a lot in common. He is a real collaborator, but he also has strong vision and leadership. It’s a rare and wonderful combination. I feel so lucky that I’m a part of his acting family now.
What do you think sets True Blood apart from other vampire shows out there? Why do you think there has been such a positive response to the show?
Well, as we say on the show, it sucks you in. People love the fantasy of literally devouring, or being devoured by, the object of your desire. Also, we live in a youth obsessed culture, and vampires live forever. These vampires are young, hot and eternally sexy. They aren’t the old, scary Draculas of the past. Along those lines, the audience gets to imagine the sexy creatures they could be if they were allowed to fully let themselves go.
Can you give us a little teaser — I know you can’t spoil too much — of what’s coming up in season 3, especially for Arlene?
Arlene is grappling with something quite big and personal this season, so there will be more of an insight into how she deals with stress and pressure. She’s still serving up a lot of the humor of the show, but it was a nice change of pace for me to be asked to tap into a deeper well of emotions this season.
I loved your guest role on The Good Wife. Will you be back on that show in the fall?
I actually had the great fortune of doing two episodes. I’ve been a fan of the show since the pilot. The cast is terrific, and everyone on set was very welcoming. Their writers gave me a real gem of a character. On the page, they created a quirky, mysterious, smart and complicated woman, and I was honored that they sought me out to bring the character to life. I do hope they bring me back in the fall. I would love to continue to develop that role with them.
True Blood has taken home some awards since its debut, but the Emmys haven’t been too kind. The show is so fantastic and has such a big fan base, do you think awards matter?
We always joke that the Emmy winners can have their trophies, and we will keep our ratings and fan base! It would be nice to win awards for the show, of course, but we are more interested in continuing to please the audience and staying on the air.
Do you think there’s ever a chance that we might see your husband, Michael Emerson, appear on True Blood?
You never know in this business!!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all my questions. I’ve seen the first few episodes of season 3 and I can’t wait for more!
Thank you! I’m glad you like the show!