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On Emmy Nods and the Importance of Being Human

Now nominated for her work on The Good Wife, Carrie Preston looks forward to September and back on that one True Blood episode

For a few million fans of Sunday night vampire antics, Carrie Preston is beloved as Arlene Fowler, a fiery redheaded waitress and one of True Blood‘s longest surviving humans. If fangs aren’t quite your thing, Preston might be familiar for her role as scattered but brilliant lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni on The Good Wife—a role that recently garnered Preston an Emmy nomination.

We caught up with Preston to talk about the sixth season of True Blood, awards-show dresses and whether she’ll reprise her nominated role.

First things first: Your character on True Blood just lost her husband in an episode that some of us found completely gutting.

The turn of events for last Sunday was all very surprising to us as a cast, and certainly to me and to Todd Lowe, who plays Terry. But [the writers] took care of how they let us know about it and then how they went about doing it. I found it to be a very poignant and interesting and devastating way to do something that I think is necessary for the show, which is to bring it back to its original roots. It’s a show about a small town and these supernatural characters are in it. If you go back to the beginning of the show, the worst character of the first season was human, and it’s very interesting this season to be coming back to the core part of this show, which is relationships, no matter if you’re human or supernatural.

For being the only character that’s never really tangled up with the supernatural, your Arlene has more than her share of trouble.

I don’t know if people realize it, but the show would not work if there weren’t a human element. This is a show in which the vampires and supernatural need to be contextualized, and if you don’t have storylines [with humans], we would be in a different world. I think we should be very careful as a show to not turn everybody into supernatural characters. Even though that’s what I think everybody thinks they want—because it’s hot and sexy and there’s a lot of wonderful drama and all of that—the longer I‘m able to be there as a human, the more special my character gets.

Speaking of special, you were just nominated for an Emmy for your work on The Good Wife. Were you expecting that?

I was not expecting it. As a matter of fact, I had made my peace with the fact that it was not going to happen. Last year, there had been an equal amount of buzz of the possibility of me getting a nomination and then it didn’t happen and I thought, Alright, well I’m not going to do that again.

Well, talk about a pleasant surprise.

I didn’t even realize until the day before that the announcements were coming—I had sort of tried to block it out of my mind. Somebody sent me an email the day before that said, “Good luck tomorrow!” and I thought, Oh no, I don’t want to think about that. So I just woke up and went about my day. I was walking my dog and I started getting texts from people saying congratulations, and then my best friend since 7th grade texted me a photo of herself weeping. That’s when I knew something was up.

Are you already preparing for the September 22 awards?

Luckily, I live with a multi-nominated, multi-Emmy-winning husband, Michael Emerson, so we’ve been through the Emmy thing before. But it feels different being nominated than being the spouse of someone who’s nominated. For me, I just have an added spring in my step. As far as the things that happen chronologically, I have a designer friend who I’ve worked with on Emmy gowns since 2007 or 2008, and he has designed four gowns for me for the Emmys. I immediately sent him an email that day and said, “OK, I’m up. It’s me this time, are you in?” Within three days I was at his studio and he had sketches for the dress.

As far as the speech, I’m sure I’ll put in thought of what I would need to say if it happens. I don’t want to get up there and do that I-don’t-even-know-what-to-say thing. We’re actors and we should learn some lines in case we need to say them.

The character for which you’re nominated has been a recurring one on The Good Wife. Will you be back soon?

I’m hoping that I’ll be doing another episode of The Good Wife, so we’re waiting to hear the specifics on that. It’s not official yet, but I’m hoping.