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Elizabeth Durand

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Director’s Cut: Carrie Preston on ‘That’s What She Said’

Carrie Preston has officially (well, according to us) crossed into the category of TV royalty thanks to her roles on “True Blood” and “The Good Wife.” Most actresses would kill to have her career, but, like so many talented souls before her, what Carrie really wants to do is direct—not that this means she no longer wants to act. She just wants to do both. And why shouldn’t she?

Her upcoming comedy, “That’s What She Said,” follows two BFFs, Bebe (Marcia DeBonis) and Dee Dee (Anne Heche) as they excitedly prepare for Bebe’s “big date.” Which doesn’t happen. What does happen is a misadventure of sorts as these grown women with lots of emotional baggage get tangled up with Clementine (Alia Shawkat)… a nymphomaniac — not like “Ha ha, I’m a nympho,” but a real, certified sex addict. We sat down with Preston to discuss community theater, non-traditionally attractive guys and why Anne Heche is chowing down on bagels in a church basement.

We all know you as an actress, but was directing always a dream of yours?
I grew up in Georgia, and I started acting in plays when I was like eight years old, and I always memorized everyone’s parts, not just my own, and I always memorized everyone’s blocking. Whenever anyone wasn’t there, I would always jump in. I was very hands-on. So I was already thinking like a director, but I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing.

Did that ever rub any of the real directors the wrong way?
No, because this was community theater in Georgia; it’s, you know… not L.A.

It sounds like you always knew you wanted to direct.
By the time I was twelve, I had started my own theater company and was doing plays in the backyard and the front yard and all over the neighborhood, so, you know, I was definitely a lifer even back when I was 10. I remember asking my mom if this could really be my living, back when I was still a child, and she said, “Well, I don’t know, honey. Someone’s gotta do it, might as well be you.”

What about this movie in particular grabbed you?
Kellie Overbey showed me her play called “Girltalk.” I read it and I was like, “Holy crap, this is so refreshing.” It was so funny and dark and raunchy, and this was nine years ago. I said, “You’ve got to let me direct it and put Marcia [DeBonis] in it.” And we did. Marcia was amazing, and then I thought, “I’ve got to put that woman onscreen. I’ve got to get that woman a movie because Hollywood’s never going to do that.”

There’s been a push toward these female leads that are somewhat raunchier—

But I hear people complain that it’s more difficult to get the audience on board with raunchy female characters rather than their raunchy male counterparts. Do you think that’s true?
I think the audience is conditioned to want their women to be beautiful and klutzy and “dorkable” and all that stuff, and I’ve certainly played a million characters like that and will continue to do that, but the way I see it, if I enjoy watching Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill and all these non-traditionally attractive guys, then we’ve gotta have that for women too.

That's What She SaidThe women in your movie are funny, but they’re also very dark. Do you identify with any of these characters?
I do identify in some ways, but this is a comedy so no one wants to watch people who are nice and normal. I go to the movies to see someone go through something tough and messy, but Kellie always says that all three of them are her.

Which of you smokes and brushes your teeth at the same time?
I know, right! Umm. That was pure Kellie. But I don’t think she really does that.

How was it working with Anne Heche and Alia Shawkat?
Well, being able to recreate Bebe with Marcia was amazing, but what was even more exciting was being able to add these two flavors to the mix. And Anne is just this powerhouse; working with her is like working with a bolt of lightening, and she just brings it all to the table. She never let up on playing this part. And I was so impressed with the fact that she wanted to play this role even though it was completely unglamorous.

How so?
I stuck them in church basements. Nobody had a trailer. I basically threw a bagel at them and said, “Here. Now you have to be here for twelve hours.”

At any point during the process of casting this, were you tempted to cast yourself?

Would you ever direct something you starred in?
I might, and I certainly admire people who can do that. What Lena Dunham is doing is just extraordinary to me, and I feel excited that there’s a world now where a Lena Dunham or a Mindy Kaling is able to do that.

At this point, you are obviously so well known for “True Blood.” Is that ever a double-edged sword?
One time someone gave me the biggest compliment by calling me an illusionist because when you look at the work I’ve done on-camera and behind the camera, it’s very diverse, and that’s what I like about what I do, but I don’t feel like I’m typecast. I do play a lot of Southerners because I grew up in the South, but they’re still diverse.

That's What She SaidHow is the set of “The Good Wife” different than, you know, the vampire show?
[Laughs.] Completely different. It really is, especially the pace of things. “True Blood” is shot on film. It’s more like a movie, and they take more days to shoot it, plus it has an hour of content. “The Good Wife” is network. They’re shooting on HD. It moves quicker and they only have forty minutes of content instead of a full hour. Not to mention the difference of shooting, you know, rated-R stuff!

If you can remember back to getting your first Hollywood paycheck, what did you buy?
I got my first big paycheck for “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” This was in the days when you actually did get paid to have a supporting role. It just doesn’t happen like that anymore, but this was in the ’90s. It was the golden age! We were shooting in Chicago for 10 weeks, and I was living in some crazy apartment with this amazing view, and, I mean, I would have done the movie for the $100/ day per diem. But the first things I bought were just nice clothes, because I had been walking around in college clothes, and I really needed to, you know, not do that. But I always tell my husband how lucky he is that I don’t like $5,000 handbags.

This movie definitely has a point-of-view and has these strong female leads. What does your husband think about it? Does he think it’s a little scary?
[Laughs.] He loves it. He loves it. He’s so into it. He still laughs at the movie — and God knows I’ve made him sit through a lot of cuts of this movie.

So, he’s not running away.
Let’s just say he knew what he was getting into, and that was eighteen years ago.

Categories: Interviews

Tags: Alia Shawkat, Anne Heche, Carrie Preston, Director's cut, Interview, Marcia DeBonis, That's what She Said, The good wife, True blood

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