Carrie Preston Talks Claws' Final Season, True Blood, & Her Future Projects - Exclusive Interview

Rarely does an actor showcase such talent, charm, and brilliance as Carrie Preston. This southern actor stays true to herself and puts her all into each role she lands, which, in turn, makes audiences immediately adore her no matter the part. For the last several years, Preston has portrayed Polly on TNT's "Claws," which also features Niecy Nash, Karrueche Tran, and Judy Reyes, among other talented actors (via IMDb).

Before landing her role on "Claws," Preston was perhaps best known for her roles as Arlene Fowler on HBO's "True Blood" and as Elsbeth Tascioni on the CBS show "The Good Wife." Now, "Claws" has elevated her name and career once more; however, the series is heading toward its end, per Deadline. The series' cast and writers knew going into Season 4 that it was their last, though, so they could wrap up the series' story and character arcs, which is at least a nice consolation for fans. 

"Claws" follows manicurists, led by Nash, as they lean into criminal activities to elevate their bank accounts and status. Still, each character has their own ideas as to how matters should go. "She has more confidence. She's still going to con her way through things but at least she's got the support of her friends," Preston said of her character's arc in Season 4 during a panel. 

Luckily, we at The List got the chance to sit down and chat with Preston about all things "Claws," "True Blood," and more.

Carrie Preston on the 'tension' in the final season of Claws

What can you tell us about the final season of "Claws"?

Well, we just started airing on the 19th [of December], so we had the 19th and the 26th. We had two-hour evenings, so we've already aired four episodes and in a very short amount of time. We're back to the races. There's a little trouble in paradise right now because at the end of Season 3, Quiet Ann, her wife died and she blames Desna for it. And so she burned down the casino. Desna's furious with her. So there's lots of tension between the two of them, which is creating a whole rift amongst all the ladies, which is tough. It was tough to shoot, and I think the audience is finding it a little tough to watch because they're so used to seeing these women as a team and as a real squad, you know? And so I think this season though is really about these women looking for a way up and a way out one last time. And the question is at what cost?

Absolutely. You mentioned the tensions — are you able to tease how those tensions continue to grow or unfurl throughout the season?

Well, Quiet Ann has aligned herself with Uncle Daddy, and he's sort of has always been the great opposition to the ladies. So she's definitely gone over to the dark side and we're just going to follow that and we're going to see how that plays out and why that alliance is happening, and you're going to see, my character, she's definitely taken on another con this season, a bigger con than we've seen her take on before. Certainly one that lasts longer. But we're going to see her go deeper into that and what the consequences are for that. So, I mean, the show is going to continue with its same blend of comedy and drama and melodrama and violence and all of that rolled up into one very unusual, very singular type of a show. So that will definitely continue to unfold. Never a dull moment in Palmetto.

Definitely. Sounds like it's going to be a fun season, for sure.

Yes. Yes.

Specifically with your character, what can you tease about her arc this season?

Well, she had her heart broken at the end of Season 3. She found who she thought was her soulmate and then it turns out whoops, married. So, like you do, she answers that with just a little bit of arson.

Yeah. [Laughs]

Just like you do. [Laughs] Like you do. And so now she's rebounding in a way and is on a bit of a personality bender. And so she meets this baron and he's very wealthy. And so she's going to figure out how she can turn that to her and her best friend's advantage.

Production stopped after five episodes because of COVID-19

What was the hardest part about filming this final season?

Definitely COVID. We did five episodes before COVID, which we were very lucky. We got to do all those. I directed the third episode. So, I got to direct when the world was still, as we used to know it, and then COVID hit. And, of course, the whole world and our production shut down for six, seven months or whatever. And then we went back to work. We were one of the first shows to go back to work. We shot in New Orleans and that town got hit pretty hard with COVID, but all the unions did such a great job coming up with protocols to get us around that and get us back to work.

So, we were all learning these protocols together, but we got up and running, but then we did have some positive cases. Luckily, no one got sick, but that early on with no vaccines, when you got a positive test result, really had to isolate. So we had a couple of times where we had to shut down for two weeks and then towards the end, people were coming up with positive tests. And even though they weren't symptomatic or ill in any way, they had to contact trace, and actors had to be pulled out because we were the ones without the masks. So we had to start rewriting scenes. They had to start figuring out how can we tell this story if these actors can't be in the same room? And I know all the shows were dealing with that, but luckily, we do have these things. And so, characters — we do as a society, we communicate this way. So the characters started communicating that way. And so, it did force the writing to kind of minimize itself a little bit. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

I think it really sometimes — shows can just get too big for their own good, you know what I mean? And then they forget that it's about human connection and it's about relationships. And so, in a way, maybe the limitations allowed us to be more creative and more free with how we could tell our stories within the limitations, if that makes sense.

Yeah, definitely. What was your experience like being in one of the first shows to go back to filming?

It was scary. I had to leave the New York City and then not see my husband or my dog for three months because we were really trying to be good and not travel or not have anyone travel to New Orleans to see us. So a core group of the cast, we rented apartments in the same building on the same floor.

Filming in the pandemic proved 'very strange' for her

[On renting an apartment near the rest of the core cast]

So we were like "Three's Company" or something. It was like a dorm. It was like we were in college again. And because we couldn't go out and experience that great city in the way that we had before, we would have meals together a lot of the times, and then for fun, we would have these craft nights where we would sit around my apartment. My apartment became like the campground. And we would sit around and needle point and do puzzles and paint and listen to music and watch TV and just kind of have a good, wholesome, fun time together.

That's amazing.

It was.

Yeah, like that human connection, like you were saying, not only got you all through, but also was the heart of the show, too. That's really beautiful.

Yeah. It was nice. And luckily, we get along really well. We love each other, we live to make each other laugh. So we got each other through it, even through some tough times, like when we all had to quarantine and you know, all that stuff when cases would happen. We would get each other through it, and it was good that we had that little pod. And I mean, not a hour goes by basically that I don't get some kind of text from our little "Claws" thread. We have a 24/7 thread going, which is wonderful, because it's been a year since we finished shooting.

That's amazing. And now to see it airing too, that's wonderful.

Yeah. Yeah. I know, finally. I mean, the first five episodes, we started shooting those two years ago. So watching them air the last two weeks has been really exciting because we honestly [had] sort of forgotten a lot of it, you know? We're like, "Oh my God, I forgot about that scene." So it's almost like we're watching it with the same fresh eyes that we hope the audience is.

Was it weird to transition back into filming mid-season?

Yes. Yes, it was. It was very strange, but we were all so grateful to finally be back. We didn't know if we were going to finish, and we knew it was our last season. We knew that. And we were like, oh gosh, I hope they don't just because of the pandemic and finances and everything, I hope they don't just stop. So they did let us finish out telling the story about these women and that we're forever grateful for.

On directing during Claws' final season

And like you said, you got to direct an episode of this season too, and luckily before the pandemic started.

Yeah, if my episode had come after the pandemic, I don't think I could have done it because I'm also on camera. So I would've had to be taking the mask on and off and we just wouldn't have been [able] to do the protocols the way they were meant to be done.

So yeah, my experience directing is always great, and I've been directing for a really long time, my own projects, you know, features and web series and shorts, et cetera. But "Claws" gave me my first episodic directing in Season 3. So I'm so grateful to them for trusting me with that, giving me the experience, supporting me in that, and taking my directing to the next level.

So I did what turned out to be a huge episode in Season 3, and luckily that went well. So they gave me the opportunity to do another one in Season 4. And as episodes are earlier, if they're earlier in the season, they aren't quite as epic. So it wasn't quite as stressful as the first time out, probably because I also had the experience of having done the first one. But nonetheless, you're racing against the clock. It's insane. I have more on-camera work in the one I directed this season than I did last. So that was more challenging because the days that I was having to act and direct ... I shouldn't say "having." On the days where I did act and direct, I loved it, but it's harder, because you're taking on and [off] different hats all day long. And that can be really, a little bit — [it can] make your head spin.

But it went really well, and I was very happy with the final cut. As the director, you do the show. I don't know if you know this, but you direct the show, the editor does their cut, you do your cut, and you turn it in. And then that's it. ... they don't consult you anymore because then the producers do their cut. The studio does their cut, and the network does their cut.

Oh wow.

So there's many, many fine-tuning [improvements] along the way. But I was very pleased with the final cut. I felt like they kept a lot of my cut and then they also, if they did change my cut, they made it better. So I was very, very happy about it.

That's wonderful.

Very proud. Yeah. Very proud.

True Blood took Carrie Preston's career up 'another level'

What has the fan reception been like for "Claws"?

Oh, it's so great. I mean, the fans are devoted and we were worried because it had been so long since the show had been on the air, but we do live on Hulu. The first three seasons live on Hulu, so people were discovering us during the pandemic, which was nice, and getting to know the characters, even though the show's been on the air for a minute. So that's been great to live in the streaming world. And it's really fun on airing nights because we get on Twitter and we live-tweet and we get all the response back from the fans. And it's so great to get the real-time response of them. "What? She did what? Oh, no, she didn't!" Posting all the little memes and the GIFs and stuff, and it's just great because it makes you feel like, oh, okay, all this hard work that we did for the fans is being received and they're having it, which is good.

We also have to ask, what is it like working with the one, the only, Niecy Nash?

Oh, Niecy, she's a powerhouse, right? I mean, she knows what she's doing. She's a total pro. She kind of embodies that character. And there's something really magical that happened when the five of us would get in a room together. There was just something. I liken it to five fingers on the hand. It works best when all five are there. And we're revolving around her. We're orbiting around Desna's planet, and it can be pretty electric.

I think electric's a really good word to describe her.

Yeah, for sure.

I wanted to ask you, in a broader sense, what are some of your favorite projects that you've worked on?

Well, I mean, "Claws" has got to be one of the top ones just because the role was so multifaceted. I got to play 20 different characters within one because she's a con artist and always changing her personality. So that was like an actor's dream to be able to transform within one character. Also it was so elevated. A little over the top, you know? I'm always of the mind, go big or go home, you know? And so I like to make big, bold choices and keep them grounded as much as I can. And so, that really gave me, it answered a lot of the boxes that I, I was able to tick all the boxes that I look for in a project.

"True Blood" was the project that kind of took my career up to another level. That was a great long run too, seven years, and to be a part of a project like that, that really captured the imagination of a very big audience, that was pretty thrilling to be a part of something that was big in the cultural landscape. And then "The Good Wife," like that role, even though it was just recurring, periodically, it hit a nerve with people. Like people just really love that character. They love that person that the writers trusted me with. And so, that one was definitely one that brought a lot of ... it just brought a lot of joy to my life and seemingly to the audience.

Carrie Preston on being one of the last human characters on True Blood

Well, you mentioned "True Blood." Many people still adore you so much for your role in that series. What are some of your favorite memories from filming "True Blood"?

I mean, whenever I think about "True Blood," I think about Merlotte's. I think about the restaurant because my character was this waitress. And so, I was on this show about a bar, and everybody else was on this supernatural show where people did crazy stuff with supernatural characters, and my character was really kind of holding down the human fort. So, I think about all that. All the days and hours and hours and hours we spent in that restaurant and in that bar, and it felt like a real, real place. Even though it was a set on a stage, it really felt, I felt at home in there. And all the characters would ultimately end up there. So that, to me, is sort of the nucleus of the show for me from my experience. And so, I just think about all the good times that we had in there.

Would you have liked to have [had] more of a hand in the supernatural elements of the series?

Well, you know what was really fun was my character started off as such a close-minded person who was really afraid of this race of people, the vampires. But by the end, I end up with the vampires. So I got this incredible arc in storytelling. And we got to see this woman's mind opening as the season[s] went on. And so, you want to have an arc like that. You want to have a journey like that as an actor and as a character. So I feel like it would've been wrong if my character had like become a vampire or something. She really needed to embody and represent the South and the human element of the story because she was one of the last ones standing really.


So, I don't have any regrets about that. I'm actually very proud about that with the storytelling and being able to be a part of that side of that huge universe.

Carrie Preston discusses the craft of acting

And speaking on your very diverse characters and you mentioned even getting to play very diverse roles on "Claws" as well...


Even just within one character, how do you get into character for such diverse personalities?

I mean, I studied acting for a long time. I've been acting since I was a kid doing plays in my hometown in Macon, Georgia, and then I went on to study it and I have ... I'm a big — for me, training was something that was, [that] I really loved. I loved going to acting school. It's not for everyone. But I loved it, and for me, it gave me like a real toolbox upon which I could draw from my life.

So I use those tools that I learned in school, and I still use them today. And stuff that I've picked up along the way and just reaching a level of confidence and comfort with just the hours logged in, you know? I use that. I get inspired by the script. I start with what's on the page because if it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage, you know? So I start with that and build from there.

Speaking of acting school, what's one thing that you learned at acting school that you used the most and learned the most from?

I guess we did a lot of physical work. We did all the physical work that you would need to get your body ready to transform. Vocally, physically, all that stuff. And that's just kind of like going to the gym in a way, you know? You kind of need to do it to get yourself strong, right?

But what it would always come down to after all of the studying and all of the physical work and all the scene work and all the stuff, it would really come down to listening and responding. And if you forget to make the scene about the other person and you just make it about what am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? You're doing yourself a disservice. And so I'm always constantly reminding myself, okay, just if I get self-conscious, if I don't know what I'm doing with a moment, if I'm nervous about a thing, I just take all of my energy and I put it on the other person, and then that starts to flow. And usually that'll help a scene click.


Nine times out of 10. Yeah. 

She still can't believe some of her success

Do you have any sort of ritual that you do before you go on set to film?

I do, but I can't tell you or it won't work.

Oh, that's fair. [Laughs]

Yeah. Superstitions times a million.

That's very fair. I also wanted to ask you about your appearance or your work on the 2019 music video for Saweetie. What was your experience like in the "Claws" remix of "My Type"?

Well, we didn't really have that much to do with that. They just kind of used the footage and they collaborated with her, and then we are the ones that got to see it all come together. We were super excited to see ourselves be a part of somebody like that who's really making an impact on the music culture of today. And Season 1, they did the same type of collaboration with Mary J. Blige, which was very cool as well. Although we were a part of that, they did shoot us, the footage that you see in that video was shot for that video. But that stuff never gets old. You do your work, and it kind of feels like you're in this little bubble. And then when it starts getting out in the world and the publicity starts happening and there are huge billboards in Times Square, where I live, it never gets old. It just is still like I squeal like a little girl. The dreams that you, you know, when you're little and you want to be an actor and you're in Macon, Georgia, you don't envision that. That's not part [of it]. You don't think of yourself as being in a music video with music icons, and you certainly don't picture yourself on a billboard in Times Square. These are dreams you don't allow yourself to have. You don't even know that that is a dream you could have.


So, I make sure to always pinch myself and remain grateful and humble.

I mean, that's probably also why you continue to get such great roles too. I don't know — you just exude such a confidence and respect for the craft, which I love.

Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I do respect it. I do. And I respect other people's work and I like to celebrate other people's work. And I think television has grown leaps and bounds, and it's now just where all the great storytelling is happening. Of course, it happens in films too, but there's something about being able to live with characters over a length of time.


Which I think is very appealing. It's novels in visual form.

Carrie Preston was offered her Claws role without auditioning

And on a bigger sense again, what is a dream role for Carrie Preston?

It's so funny when people ask that. It's like, well, I couldn't have dreamt up Elsbeth. I couldn't have dreamt up Polly. In a way, I kind of like the ... I guess, because we just had Christmas, but I kind of like the Christmas morning of it all. The [sense of] I don't know what this next present under the tree is going to be when I open it up. It might be something that I never even knew I could do or that existed in the world. But on a broader sense, I'd like to do something that is — I'd like to have a little more of a leadership role in a cast. Like a lead character. I've done it a few times, but I'd like to have something that like that. So I'm kind of that's the dream I'm having right now.

Yeah, I mean that's a great dream to have.

Yeah. Why not?

Absolutely. [Laughs] When it comes to "Claws" or "True Blood," or really any of your roles, what has your experience been like in the auditioning process?

Well, it's different for each one. "True Blood" was a very simple ... It was very simple, thank goodness. I had worked with Alan Ball before on a feature that he wrote and directed, so he knew my work. So I just had to go in and be put on tape with him, and then that was it. They didn't make me test or do any of the hurdles that you have to go through. They didn't. You know what? The roles that have made the most difference in my life have come to me a little easier than the ones I had to kind of really, really work for.

That's interesting.

Which is interesting because now that I'm talking this through, "The Good Wife," that was also just an offer, and so was "Claws." So I didn't have to audition for those, which is not always the case, believe me. That's not, you know, people aren't throwing things, roles at me, but sometimes they do. Sometimes people are like, that's the weirdo that we want to play this part. So, I'll take it. I'll take it.

She plays Kevin Bacon's wife in two different 2022 films

What other projects do you have going on that you can tell us about?

Well, I just, this fall and summer, I did back-to-back movies, indies. One not having anything to do with the other, where I played Kevin Bacon's wife.

Wow. That's interesting.

So weird, I know. Yeah. Zero degrees of separation now between me and Kevin Bacon. He's wonderful. The first one, his wife, Kyra, directed. Kyra Sedgwick directed, and she's wonderful. And it was a very small kind of family type movie or a movie about a family, I should say. And then we did a thriller that is set in an LGBTQIA+ gay conversion camp.

Oh, wow.

Right? Good place to set a horror film.

Yeah, definitely.

Given the horrors of conversion.


Or therapy, I should say. So anyway, it was a great script written by John Logan, who's a major, major screenwriter, and this was his first [time] directing. And so it went great. We shot it in Georgia, in my home state. So both of those things should be coming out end of next year or sometime next year. And then I directed an episode of "The Good Fight" in their Season 5 and I'll be directing an episode in Season 6 whenever they start up.

You can catch Carrie Preston in the final season of "Claws" each Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.