It's like Carrie Preston is graduating from college all over again. Well, as she put it, college and graduate school since True Blood is wrapping up after seven years on HBO. It's a bittersweet moment for the Emmy winner, who admitted the word "bittersweet" is getting thrown around a lot by her costars. "It's an apt word because it really does capture what's happening," she said. "Seven years of something that has been the anchor of your life suddenly going away is a very profound thing."
For seven seasons, Preston has played Arlene Fowler Bellefleur: a mom of two, former girlfriend to a serial killer, best friend to a mind-reading fairy and waitress-turned-bar owner. A lot has happened to the spitfire redhead and for that, Preston is grateful.
"All I can say is I'm really pleased with the journey my character has gotten to take. She starts off one person and by the end of the series she really has transformed in a lot of ways. That's just a testament to the writers, they saw fit to give me that," Preston tells E! News. "I feel lucky that they trusted me with that, it's everything an actor would want, to have an arc like that instead of just playing the same character every day who is sort of the same person. That's fun and everything, but it's more fun to be thrown challenges that make your character grow and they definitely do that with me this season."
After being in Arlene's skin for seven years, Preston said she'll miss her spirit the most. "She's just got a lot of tenacity and I can relate to that. My friends call me 'Tenacious C,'" she said laughing, "because I have a tendency to grab a hold of something and not let go. She's similar to that. When she sets her mind on something, she's just going to do everything she can to make it happen and so I really enjoy getting into her skin and experiencing her passions and her emotions and her humor. Although, I don't that she's always trying to be funny, but I know the audience finds her amusing a lot of the time, which is by design. I will miss the whole chemistry of all that."
John P. Johnson/HBO
The character won't be the only thing Preston misses. "I'll remember the people that I worked with, not just the cast, but the crew and how tireless they are. I don't know how they do it," she said. At any given time, the crew is working in splinter units, shooting anywhere from two to five episodes at a time, Preston explained. "It's admirable and they're kind of my heroes," she said. And Preston's been spending more time than usual with the crew. The actress, who also has directed films, has been shadowing the director of the True Blood series finale, Scott Winant, to learn more about directing for television. Preston said she's been with Winant through various production meetings and getting to experience "all those things that we take for granted as actors." Thanks to her work with Winant, Preston said she's seeing a lot more of the series finale. "I've been around for even more of the bittersweet moments than I would've been as Arlene," she said. "That's kind of a really wonderful gift that they've been gracious enough to let me do that. I'll be there on the last day of shooting. I'm going to try and sit with him through some of his [post-production] even."
As a human on a show filled with vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, fairies and a bevy of other supernatural creatures, some viewers have been surprised Arlene has survived, but that's just what she is, a survivor. As cast members have come and gone, Preston has remained constant, a comic relief fixture of fans. A person who values routine and having "a purpose," like waking up every morning and going to work on True Blood, it's going to be a tough change for Preston. So, what happens when she says goodbye to Arlene?
"I haven't really thought ahead of what I'm going to do, I'm sure on my last day appearing as her on camera it will not go by easily. I have my own personal things that I do. They're stuff I wouldn't share with anybody because it kind of contains the magic, and sometimes it's best to keep those things to yourself," she said. "I know that as a cast we've got a couple of group scenes coming up and those are going to be celebratory. There was some talk—we have a night shoot coming up—of everyone going out to breakfast after we wrap, which we've never done before. Everybody wants to go home at dawn. We've talked about something like that just to mark the specialty of these events and not let them just go by and treat it like another day, because it's not."
Like all television lately, Preston expects the ending of the series, bittersweet for everybody involved, to ruffle some feathers. It's no easy task to wrap up a 7-year-old TV series, especially one with as many relationships and characters as True Blood.
"I mean, the audiences now are trained to think that they know best and that they own the shows, and even great shows that I thought had genius endings, like Breaking Bad, people had problems with," Preston explained. "I don't think there's going to be a way to please everybody, but I do think the writers are serving the greater good of the story. With a story like this, like life, there are going to be things you're going to love and there are going to be things you're going to hate. You're going to hate them because they're sad and they make you feel something. I think in that way, it's going to be very satisfying because it's going to serve the overall story in a great way."
True Blood's final season kicks off on Sunday, June 22 at 9 p.m. on HBO.