True to the End: Carrie Preston on the End of ‘True Blood’ And What She’ll Miss Most about Arlene
“I wanna do bad things with you…” Come Sunday night, that’ll be the last time you’ll hear that iconic line from Jace Everett’s catchy country tune “Bad Things” kick off the opening credits of a new episode of True Blood, which it has done so for 79 episodes.
Since its premiere in 2008, the popular and campy HBO vampire drama, set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, has made fans laugh, cry, gasp and fawn over sexy supernatural beings for the past seven seasons that it has been on air. Originally based off Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mystery novels, the show became an instant pop culture phenomenon, introducing us to a universe where humans try to live peacefully amongst supernatural creatures, including vampires, werewolves, faeries, shapeshifters and more. Let’s just say that doing so has been a bit complicated in this Southern gothic soap opera. What started off as a love triangle drama between waitress and telepath Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), the gentlemanly Southern vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and the drop-dead gorgeous, albeit slightly terrifying Viking vamp Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), turned into a series with multiple storylines that gave life to many other Bon Temps residents.
Actress Carrie Preston has been around for it all, portraying Arlene Fowler — one of the few humans on the show — since the pilot. Originally introduced as Sookie’s opinionated, judgmental red-headed best friend and co-worker, Arlene came into her own as a major character on the show, who went through as much drama as Sookie, Bill, Eric, Pam, Sam, Tara, Lafayette, Jason, Jessica and the rest of True Blood’s memorable characters. Throughout the series’ run, Arlene has dealt with the death of two husbands, held her own against a vengeful smoke monster and a baby-snatching ghost, and almost met her end this season at the fangs of crazed, infected vampires in the dungeon of a vampire bar.
With only one episode left, it seems that Arlene is going to get a much-deserved happy ending with her new love interest Keith (Riley Smith), the hunky punk-rock vampire who saved her life. But this being True Blood, you can expect there to be a number of twists in the final hour. Preston, who’s also had recent roles on Person of Interest, The Following and The Good Wife (which earned her an Emmy award for Outstanding Guest Actress last year), talked to GALO about Arlene’s growth as a character, the final day of shooting, some of her favorite scenes, and more.
GALO: You’ve portrayed Arlene for seven seasons. How does it feel to have grown with Arlene as a character for that long?
Carrie Preston: Well, for me, it’s been such a great experience because I’ve never played anything this long before, [and just] to see the evolution of the character from season one, where she was this narrow-minded Southern woman, who was a bit judgmental and designed by the writers to be the comedic relief. Now, I’m a much more well-rounded, tolerant, open-hearted, compassionate person, who has really grown because of her experiences. So playing that has been a real treat and I feel very blessed that I got to remain with the show the entire time. We lost many characters along the way, so I feel blessed that I have made it to the end.
GALO: Did you ever, in a million years, think that Arlene would end up romantically involved with a vampire?
CP: No, I didn’t, which goes back to the previous question about the growth and the evolution of the character. She finally got to the point where this thing that she feared so much is now something she’s going to be able to love, and will maybe be with her for the rest of her life.
GALO: Do you think fans who have stuck with the show since the beginning will be satisfied with how the story ends on Sunday?
CP: I think it’s impossible to satisfy everybody. But the fans have obviously trusted our writers for seven years, and I hope they continue to trust them, and know that the writers are creating a big picture and servicing a big story. I think they’re telling Sookie’s story.
GALO: What will you miss most about playing Arlene and working on the show in general?
CP: I’m going to miss Arlene’s passion. I’m going to miss working with the people on the show, the cast and crew. It’s those people that really make the experience of going to work every day so special and satisfying. In combination with the role, it’s going to be a big loss. I already feel the loss really greatly right now.
GALO: The final day of shooting had to be very emotional for everyone.
CP: Yes, it was very emotional. A lot of us have been crying for weeks, if not months. If you call Kristin Bauer [van Straten] (Pam) right now, she would probably still be crying. It started in the read through of the final episode, and the tears were already flowing then. So you can imagine what it was like on the set when it was a series wrap on the entire show. It was pretty profound. It was almost like we couldn’t even take it all in.
GALO: In seven years, what was the most memorable scene for you to shoot?
CP: Wow, that’s tough! I mean I have memories of so many scenes. I’ll never forget doing the pilot and doing the scene in the service alley at Merlotte’s with Lafayette, Sookie and Dawn. There was all that banter back and forth, all the way up to this season. I had a scene with Sam (Sam Trammell) where we’re sitting in the bar talking in episode seven. It was just this beautiful moment between Arlene and Sam where they’re talking about life. To go from the craziness of a scene in season two where we’re doing an orgy, to a scene like that with Sam — the gamut of the work we’ve gotten to do is priceless. It’s very hard to single out one scene.
GALO: The hilarious pilot scene with you, Sookie, Dawn and Lafayette is one of my favorite moments in the series. I was going to ask you what your favorite moment of the entire series was, but you probably have a ton.
CP: Yeah, there are so many great moments. I was watching the latest episode and laughing so hard at the scene between Ginger and Eric. They finally have sex [laughs]. Of course, I wasn’t on set when they shot that, so I’m seeing it for the first time with the audience. I’m just loving it. It was so hilarious and perfect. And then you think about the scene when Terry (Todd Lowe) died [in season six]. That was a big moment for me and Todd and for the show. That was a pretty emotional day of shooting. The scene this season, when I was dying and Terry came back — that was a big moment. I could go on forever.
GALO: Did you end up keeping any props from the set? I read that Nelsan Ellis took some of Lafayette’s hats and accessories.
CP: Well, Nelsan stole stuff and he’ll admit it. I’m a little more of a rule-follower, and unfortunately, I got burned for following the rules and didn’t steal anything. Now they’re auctioning it off, everything down to the napkins — gone! But I did get to keep my Merlotte’s costume, and I do have a Merlotte’s T-shirt that everyone signed.
GALO: You also play Elsbeth Tascioni, another fan-favorite character, on The Good Wife. She’s a polar opposite of Arlene. If Elsbeth happened to be passing through Bon Temps and stopped at Bellefleur’s for a meal, how do you think her and Arlene’s interaction would go down?
CP: [Laughs] Well, I think Arlene wouldn’t know what to do with Elsbeth and her unorthodox way of speaking and approaching life in general. And I think Elsbeth would probably be completely fascinated with Arlene and all of her bling, the way she spoke and the way she did her hair. I think she’d be completely fascinated with her.
GALO: Now there has been talk of a True Blood musical that could possibly be in the works. If it were to happen, would you be up for reprising your role as Arlene?
CP: Um, no. I don’t sing well enough to do a musical. I sing OK, but I would think they would want to have somebody who had a great country vibe; somebody who could really wail on some Melissa Etheridge-type songs, Reba McEntire, something like that. So I would be happy to see somebody take that on. I would come to the opening night, sit in the front row and clap.
The series finale of “True Blood” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO. Check out a preview for the episode below.
Video courtesy of True Blood.
Featured image: Actress Carrie Preston. Photo Credit: Shawn Flint Blair.