A highly respected actress, Carrie Preston enjoyed a prolific career in film, television and on the stage. After gaining recognition in an acclaimed Broadway production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" in 1995, Preston quickly began acquiring credits on television and in hit films like the Julia Roberts smash, "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997). A regular cast role on the celebrity chef sitcom "Emeril" (NBC, 2001) only added to her credibility as the ambitious actress divided her time between work on the screen and in vaunted stage productions. A number of guest spots on the long-running police procedural "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001-2011) and a substantial role in writer-director Alan Ball's culture-clash drama "Towelhead" (2007) were only a smattering of the credits Preston had accumulated prior to her being brought on board Ball's sexy vampire series "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-2014) as the much put-upon waitress Arlene Fowler. During breaks from the hit show, the ambitious Preston also produced and starred with her husband, actor Michael Emerson, in the indie-comedy "Ready? OK!" (2008) and took on a recurring role as a quirky attorney on the legal drama "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009-2016). Always on the lookout for interesting roles in independent productions, she garnered strong reviews opposite Hal Holbrook in the Southern gothic drama "That Evening Sun" (2010), but also starred in the mainstream sitcom "Crowded" (NBC 2016- ). One of the hardest-working character actresses of her day, Preston maintained a laser focus on her craft.
Born on June 21, 1967 in Macon, GA, Carrie Preston was raised by her mother, an artist and art therapist, and her father, a geotechnical engineer. Inheriting her artistic inclinations from her mother, Preston was bitten by the acting bug at a young age. As an eight-year-old, she formed her own local theater troupe and was soon mounting productions - as writer, director, actor and costumer - with her young neighborhood friends. It was little surprise then that following high school graduation, Preston went on to earn her BFA from the University of Evansville before studying acting at the famed Julliard School in New York. Not long after graduating from Julliard in 1994, Preston landed one of her first professional acting jobs as Miranda in a Broadway revival of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" (1995) opposite Patrick Stewart as Prospero. Art and life intersected for Preston that same year, when she played Ophelia in a production of "Hamlet" for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. It was there that she met fellow actor, Michael Emerson - who would later become a star himself as Ben Linus/Henry Gale on "Lost (ABC, 2004-2010) - who she would perform with several more times throughout the years to come.
Preston continued to make progress on the stage, racking up such credits as the traditionally male role of Octavius Caesar opposite Vanessa Redgrave's Cleopatra in an off-Broadway revival of "Antony and Cleopatra" at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in 1997. Also that year, she made her feature film debut in the hugely successful romantic-comedy "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997), alongside cinema superstar Julia Roberts. Less memorable was that year's comedy "For Richer or Poorer" (1997), a box-office dud starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley. Preston's on and off-screen good fortunes continued unabated when she married Emerson and was seen alongside Bruce Willis in the thriller "Mercury Rising" (1998) that same year. Following substantial roles in the romantic dramas "Guinevere" (1999) and "Woman Wanted" (2000), Preston appeared in director Robert Redford's golf-themed fable "The Legend of Bagger Vance" (2000) with such marquee names as Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron.
The new millennium presented Preston with a multitude of career opportunities, which the exceptionally driven performer attacked with gusto. In addition to a slew of stage performances, both off-Broadway and in Los Angeles, Preston landed her first regular cast role on celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's short-lived sitcom, "Emeril" (NBC, 2001). Forging on, Preston continued to chalk up credits in virtually every entertainment medium, with mid-decade guest turns on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001- ), a return to Broadway in "The Rivals" (2004-05), and a supporting role in the high-profile comedy-thriller, "The Stepford Wives" (2004), starring Nicole Kidman. She and her husband occasionally worked together on the same project, such as on "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010), in which she played the mother of the Machiavellian Ben Linus (Emerson) for several flashback scenes. They were given the chance to perform opposite each other - this time in the same scenes - in "Straight-Jacket" (2004), a 1950s-set romantic spoof about a studio secretary (Preston) who marries a closeted Rock Hudson-like movie star (Matt Letscher) in an effort to mask his sexuality.
Preston later had the opportunity to play Felicity Huffman's sister in the award-winning, independent adventure-comedy "Transamerica (2005), prior to returning to Broadway once more for a 2006 production of the Danish satire "Festen." After taking on the lead role in the indie festival hit, "Lovely by Surprise" (2007) and an appearance in writer-director Alan Ball's culture-clash drama "Towelhead" (2007), Preston produced and starred in "Ready? OK!" (2008), a dramedy also featuring Emerson as a gay neighbor trying to help a single mother (Preston) cope with the emerging sexuality of her young son, who wants to become a cheerleader. Going from indie features to working with some of the most respected names in cinema, she went on to land roles in Woody Allen's acclaimed romantic drama "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008) and the controversial "Doubt" (2008), a drama about perceptions of guilt and propriety at a 1960s Catholic school, starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
With her next project, Preston landed one of biggest roles of her already impressive career when she was a cast in Alan Ball's "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-2014), the hit series in which vampires live openly in the world after the invention of a synthetic blood eliminates their need to prey on humanity for sustenance. Alongside series stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, Preston played waitress Arlene Fowler, a well-meaning, albeit somewhat bigoted (against vampires) single mother with an exceptionally poor romantic track record. Enjoying the notoriety that came with the success of "True Blood," the actress still found time to take on side projects, like a supporting role in the acclaimed Southern drama "That Evening Sun" (2009), starring Hal Holbrook. Preston also scored a semi-recurring role on the Emmy Award-winning legal drama, "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009-2016), playing the brilliant but forgetful attorney Elsbeth Tascioni.
As "True Blood" continued its journey from hit series to bona fide pop culture phenomenon, the indefatigable Preston worked harder than ever with appearances in the films "Virginia" (2010) - an ensemble drama starring Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris - and the indie comedy "A Bag of Hammers" (2011), starring Jason Ritter and Rebecca Hall. She also found time to collaborate with her husband again for a recurring role on his science-fiction-tinged crime drama "Person of Interest" (CBS, 2011-16), on which he played one-half of a covert team attempting to stop violent crimes before they transpire in New York City. Preston next starred opposite Patrick Warburton in the family sitcom "Crowded" (NBC 2016) as one-half of a married couple whose adult children return home.
By Bryce Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Made her Broadway debut starring as Miranda in "The Tempest"
Made her feature debut as one of the Southern bridesmaid sisters in "My Best Friend's Wedding"
Appeared opposite Vanessa Redgrave in "Antony and Cleopatra" at the Joseph Papp Public Theater
Had a small role in "Mercury Rising," starring Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin
First TV appearance on an episode of "Sex and the City" (HBO)
Landed a starring role in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at the Guthrie Theater
Co-starred with her husband Michael Emerson in "Straight-Jacket"
Returned to the Broadway stage for "The Rivals"
Played Felicity Huffman's sister in "Transamerica"
Directed first feature, "29th and Gay"
Acted in "Festen" on Broadway
Was once again cast as Felicity Huffman's sister on an episode of "Desperate Housewives" (ABC)
Played Ben Linus's (played by husband Michael Emerson) mother in a flashback on "Lost" (ABC)
Had a small role in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Cast in the recurring role of Arlene Fowler on the HBO series, "True Blood"
Produced and starred in "Ready? OK!"
Began playing Elsbeth Tascioni on the drama "The Good Wife"
Took on the recurring role of Grace on the series "Person of Interest"
Was cast on the series "Crowded"