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'True Blood's' Carrie Preston on Arlene's Love Interest: 'She's Got Somebody to Lean On' (Q&A)

The actress tells THR about her character's new relationship (it's "only going to get deeper") and her favorite moments.

True Blood Carrie Preston - H 2014
HBO
Carrie Preston in "True Blood"

[Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's episode of True Blood, "May Be the Last Time."]

It's Arlene (Carrie Preston) who had this True Blood episode's vampire-blood sex-dream, but the outcome was much different than Jason's (Ryan Kwanten) memorable fantasy of Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) earlier this season.

"It's a dream, but it shakes her up a little bit," Preston tells The Hollywood Reporter. In a reprise of the dream, later in the episode, Keith (Riley Smith) comes to visit her at Bellefleur's — but instead of having sex, the vampire and the hep V-positive Arlene share a dance.

Their relationship will deepen in the HBO drama's final episodes, the actress says. It defies Arlene's previous discomfort with vampires, completing a serieslong character arc Preston feels is one of the show's strongest. "It was a great build. It builds up over the seasons, as opposed to breaking down or kind of fizzling out — it was the opposite," she tells THR. "I feel like I had a great climb, and where it ended up was perfect."

The actress chats with THR about Arlene and Keith, sex scene advice and playing her character drunk.

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Arlene doesn't have the greatest luck with romance. Is she concerned about starting something with Keith?

I think that's part of what she's feeling when he shows up at the bar after she talks with Sam. She hasn't ever been able to have a relationship that worked out. She thought that Terry was it, and he was just too damaged and too hurt and gave in to his own pain. We all have the potential to give in to our own pain if it gets too great.

But at the same time, Arlene is a survivor. She's certainly someone who people now turn to for advice for how to get through these tough times, because she's living to tell it. I think she becomes someone to look up to, an example of someone who can overcome even the greatest of obstacles.

Where is their relationship headed this season?

She's so relieved that there's somebody there for her, that just wants to be there. It's really the start of their relationship. You feel a sense of real relief from Arlene that she's got somebody to lean on. I think you're going to get the sense in this episode that this relationship definitely has roots and that those roots are only going to get deeper.

Will her time as a prisoner in Fangtasia affect them?

Not in any obvious way — it's more in a PTSD kind of way. I think all the characters are really shaken up and feeling displaced and looking for a touchstone, looking for comfort from others. In a way, it's very much about relationships in the end.

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You shot this sex scene with an actor you'd hardly ever worked with. How was filming?

Luckily Riley had never done anything quite like that either, so we were in it together. He is a really sweet, open, wonderful person and actor, and so we immediately connected and got along. That was very helpful. And Simon Jayes, who directed the episode, was a camera operator for the entire series; this was his first time directing. So he was just as eager as we were to get it right, and Craig Chester is our newest writer, so you have a lot of first-time in this situation. We were all very careful to work out all the details ahead of time, to talk about it and in essence choreograph it so everyone was completely comfortable. That's pretty much par for the course for True Blood, but it definitely helped to have the director be someone that has been photographing me since day one of the show.

When you sort of break it down like a dance, then you don't think about anything being awkward or strange. You treat it as part of your job, and it's certainly something that all my costars have been doing for seven years. I drew my strength from them, and everybody always has stories and tips about how to get through it. I won't discuss those details, but it was another day in the True Blood office.

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What are your favorite Arlene moments?

I'm pretty partial to drunk Arlene. Even from day one — in the pilot, she's in the back of the bar, saying something like "It's that vampire." Then you jump ahead to when she sees Bill [Stephen Moyer] walking in daylight, that line "Y'all, I'm wasted," and then in just episode five when she sees Keith and says, "I have to go make tinkle because I am a human." She's pretty funny. I'm partial to Arlene drunk. I do this thing where I spin around and around in place, and then they say "action" and I'm having a hard time standing.

How has her character changed over seven seasons?

She's much more open-minded. At the beginning of the series, she was representative of that narrow-minded part of our culture, not very tolerant toward things that are different. Throughout the seasons, she's become much more tolerant of people and of supernaturals that are not like her, and that is a huge, huge thing. It takes a lot to change a person's mind, and her mind has been completely changed. I really think she's got one of the strongest arcs on the series. She has really grown more than a lot of the characters — to have her at the beginning be so terrified of vampires and at the end actually starting a relationship with one, that's a remarkable thing.

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com
Twitter: @Asiegemundbroka