This week I had the absolutely wonderful pleasure of interviewing Carrie Preston (Arlene Fowler) about many things chiefly among them, the success of her movie That’s What She Said. Shot in New York last summer, the independent film debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival to very positive reviews. Written by Kellie Overbey, the movie started out as a play that Preston directed and then the two set out to make a film!
In part one of this thoughtful and rich interview, I spoke with Carrie about the success of the film, her reaction to it, and what the difference between directing a play and shooting the film are. Of course, being a former thespian and aspiring director myself, I couldn’t resist asking her how being an actor influences her approach as an actor. This portion ends with a great discussion of Carrie’s most recent acting stint outside of True Blood on the Good Wife playing Elsbeth Tascioni!
You’ve had a very busy last few weeks filled with good news! That’s What She Said went to Sundance, will be appearing at several film festivals in the coming weeks and it got picked up by Phase 4 films for distribution! How does it feel seeing all of the things happen for your film?
“I’ve had a very busy year so far! It’s very exciting! We were hoping this was the path it was going to take. But you never know with independent films where they’re going to go or what journey they’re going to be on. It’s always an adventure. So we feel very blessed that Sundance happened because that then put us on a really good trajectory to other festivals and also distribution. All of the hard work definitely led there but the journey there was really the destination. The creation of it, the making of the film, seeing it come together into a definitive piece was really the big reward. But it was a big, delicious icing on the cake to have premiered at Sundance! And that was really quite a highlight of the whole experience of making the film.”
You’ve been with the film since it was [Kellie Overbey’s] play. What are the differences and challenges between directing a play on stage and then directing a movie?
“Well obviously [stage and film] are two completely different mediums. However they’re both storytelling. So they’re about telling a story. On stage you’re just doing it with actors and sets, it’s [also] very linear. Movie making is all done piecemeal in a way. If there’s one thing they have in common, both of these pieces are about characters and they’re about dialogue and they’re about performances. Films a lot of times are action-based and this film is not. It’s definitely character based. And so in that way the play and this film are similar because they both had their genesis in theatre.”
Being an actor yourself how does that influence the way you approach directing?
“If there’s one thing I feel very comfortable with it’s that I know how to talk to actors. I am an actor, I understand the language of actors. From what I have experienced working with so many different directors as an actor in so many different projects is that I’ve been able to learn from them and take from all the good directors I’ve worked with. I’ve been able to take a lot of advice from them or have been able to observe them and sort of borrow from them. That has been very helpful in both my directing for theatre and film. ”
Speaking of acting, you’ve been on the Good Wife for several episodes this year and I’ve really enjoyed seeing you play Elsbeth Tascioni. She seems completely scatterbrained but then she surprises the audience by coming up with these ingenious strategies! What’s the process like to go from playing her to someone like Arlene on True Blood?
“They’re both very different women but as an actor our job is to take whatever the writers give us and flesh it out and make it into a full human being. So it’s really fun for me to be able to go from one character to another completely different character. But it doesn’t feel any different, I’m not approaching the acting any differently than I approach True Blood with the Good Wife. I have the same approach which is figure out why the character is saying, what they’re doing, what their backstory is, what they want with the other characters. All of these things you apply to every project that you do. And because the writing is so strong in both cases, I feel very confident with that and I’m able to trust it and really see what that marriage would bring. It’s really fun to play. [Elsbeth] especially is very exciting. She’s unpredictable and that’s really fun to play and she turns on a dime, that’s also exciting!”
Stick with True Blood Fan Source tomorrow as I post the second half of my chat with Carrie. We get down to brass tacks and discuss True Blood. She has some very nice things to say about Todd Lowe (Terry Bellefleur) and Chris Bauer (Andy Bellefleur)!
Update: Our second half can be found here.