Carrie Preston cut her teeth in Hollywood guest-starring on a number of sitcoms at the turn of the millennium. When the multi-cam shows began to disappear, Preston landed roles that still showcased her comedic quirks, but in a more dramatic setting.
In NBC's "Crowded," Preston not only gets to play straight comedy, but she also gets to do it in a leading role opposite Patrick Warburton, who plays her husband. The opposites-attract nature of their relationship was the first sign for Preston that NBC would pick up the show.
"We're good complements to each other. His style of acting, it's very droll and dry and my style of acting is definitely more animated and kinetic plus he's super tall and I'm short. So just the picture of it looks right and everybody felt it," Preston told Headlines & Global News in an exclusive interview.
Preston and Warburton play empty-nest parents Martina and Mike Moore, who finally have the house to themselves until their two grown daughters Stella (Mia Serafino) and Shea (Miranda Cosgrove) decide to move back home, a growing trend among the Millennial generation. To make matters worse, Mike's father (Stacy Keach) and step-mother (Carlease Burke) also decide to postpone their move to Florida and remain living next door.
"It's definitely something a lot of people can relate to whether you're the parents or the 20-somethings and everyone in between," the 48-year-old actress said. "It hits on three different demographics so there's a little something for everyone. It's also a little edgy, some of the situation. It makes a little more contemporary."
Continue reading HNGN's interview with Preston and tune in for the premiere of "Crowded" on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
Can you tell me a little about "Crowded?"
It's definitely a story that's very probable, what with a lot of the Millennials living at home with their parents. There's no longer a stigma attached to that. It's basically one and five, I read, people in their 20s are living with their parents and nobody seems to feel like that's a bad idea and parents are for the most part okay with it. But it does make it hard for the parents to continue to have their own personal life in every way. The show creates a lot of fun situations around that, not to mention the fact that the in-laws live next door. What they thought was going to be finally the two of them has turned into six people. It's fun and really clever in a way the show handles the situations. It's a fresh spin on the traditional family sitcom.
Recently, you've acted mostly on dramas. How was it transitioning to a traditional comedy?
I did a lot of multi-cam shows when I first started coming out to LA. For me, it was fun to get back to that because for whatever reason they stopped making so many of them. I also got involved with some shows that had some longevity to them, which I was grateful for, but even in the dramas that I was in, I'm always pretty much the comic relief in a way, especially in the two more visible projects I'm involved with, "True Blood" and "The Good Wife." My characters in both of those shows add a little spice and a little levity to the scenes. So it was fun to join a project that was all focused on comedy, and also I'm a theater baby and I just haven't done anything on stage in a while so it's a great way to get that side of me going again. It's really fun to have that feedback from the crowd and that's very different than doing a single-camera show. You don't have the benefit of getting that reaction.
How did you and Patrick Warburton develop your on-screen chemistry?
He had signed on and they were looking for someone to play opposite him. My agent sent me the script and they were like, "We're not sure if you want to do a half-hour." I said, "That depends on what it is." I read the script and I just thought, "This is going to be good." I've been looking for a lead. I've been the supporting player on these great shows and I was looking for a little more responsibility. So I was like, "Yeah, this one I think is a good fit for me. I think I can do something with this." So I went out to L.A. and they brought me right in to test with Patrick and we just hit it off great.
It was one of those situations when you do a pilot, which I've done many of those over the years, I remember on the tape night and my agents were there, I was like, "You do know this is gonna get picked up, right?" And they were like, nobody wanted to say anything. They were like, "Don't get your hopes up." But I was like, "Nope, nope." You could just feel it. It just felt like a synergy.
Your TV daughters, played by Miranda Cosgrove and Mia Serafino, appear to be polar opposites.
Yes, definitely. They definitely fall into those stereotypes [Cosgrove's character is buttoned-up while Serafino plays a free spirit]. In a lot of way, it's like commedia dell'arte - everybody fits into a type and the writers, they dance around that and they embellish on that. In this situation you've got the braniac daughter [Cosgrove] and, to put it nicely, [Serafino is] the free-spirited daughter and that does create some fun conflicts.
Mia and Miranda are just delightful young women and I was very happy to have them in the cast. We really did bond quickly. We were a little girl pack and I was very grateful that they wanted to include me. After run-throughs, we'd go have our little lunch. It was such a good group to have to feel familial and more than just colleagues. That was great. They're great girls and so talented. They have such great heads on their shoulders, which isn't always the case. We got lucky. And they hit off. They were sisterly from day one.
The shooting schedule for "Crowded" allowed you to fly home to New York often. Does that flexibility help you maintain a strong relationship with your husband, Michael Emerson?
I think for sure. Plus, we enjoy each other's company, that's number one. We've been together for 21 years. We've been married for 17 and we just keep growing and learning from each other and enjoying each other. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, I think, so we enjoy our time together because we know inevitably we're going to have some time apart. It really does make you take advantage of the time that you have at hand. So we've gotten really good at that. We also don't have children so it's made it easier for us to move between things. I think that is helpful to the relationship for us. We have a little dog that we share and we love and he completes our little family.
A few of the shows your husband starred on have cast you as his wife. Is that casting natural?
Yeah, it does come up. For example, in "Person of Interest," they asked Michael first, "Hey, do you mind if we offer this role to your wife." Michael was like, "Go ahead. See if her schedule will allow it." We kind of stay out of each other's business in a way, so it was fun to work with him on that and we've had other times where people have wanted us to work together on something and we've gone, "You know what, no. I think I'm just going to let that be yours." And other times we're like, "No, let's do that! That sounds fun." It really does depend on many factors. It definitely works. I don't know if they would have thought of me for that role if I wasn't married to him, but I know they thought it would be something that the fans would enjoy and they definitely have. And so have we.
For more with Preston, click here to find out what the actress imagines a "Good Wife" spinoff starring her character, Elsbeth Tascioni, would look like.