Carrie Preston is beloved by The Good Fight fans for her work in front of the camera, and she’s about to impress them with her talent behind the camera, too. Carrie directed this week’s episode, “And the Fight Had a Detente,” which takes on the topic of police brutality simultaneously with the nail-biting conflict between Diane Lockhart and Liz Reddick (Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald).
Viewers may not know that Carrie has been directing for years on various films and on her TNT series Claws. Here she talks about how she went from performer to director on The Good Fight, all the preparation she did not only for this episode but for directing as a whole, and what it was like for her to handle a timely main story as well as a great second plot featuring Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele) in Judge Wackner’s court. Read what Carrie had to say before streaming The Good Fight today on Paramount Plus.
Brittany Frederick: You’ve been directing for some time. How did you get to directing on The Good Fight? Did they approach you or was this a show that had been on your radar?
Carrie Preston: I’ve been directing a lot of my own projects over the last 15-20 years, and I knew I wanted to get into episodic television. When I was on True Blood I shadowed one of the directors, and when I was on The Good Wife I asked Brooke Kennedy, who’s one of their main executive producers and directors, if I could shadow her. So I shadowed her on The Good Wife and then on Claws, I directed. I’ve been kind of working my way up.
Once I got a couple of episodes under my belt on Claws, I had some experience [in TV directing] and The Good Fight was willing to give me a shot. They were very gracious and accepting, and they trusted me with this rather large episode.
BF: The Good Fight has a very unique tone and style that’s very different from anything else on TV. How did you preserve that as a director?
CP: Luckily they’re a very well-oiled machine, and they also have systems in place where they can bring guest directors up to speed. Because I’m somebody who really wants to make sure I don’t drop the baby on its head, so to speak, I shadowed Brooke again in the episode right before mine. She directed the sixth episode [of season 5] and mine was the seventh. I followed her around for a couple of weeks before I started, just to refamiliarize myself with the set and with the crew and to get a better idea of how things go there, because it was a long time since I’ve been there as an actor.
Then they also give the directors a look book. We have an actual book that talks through the types of shots they want, the tone of the show. And when you have your tone meeting—which is something that all television shows do—the executive producers and everyone really help you, scene by scene, to know what the tone is. I felt very well equipped when I went into my first day of shooting. I’m not saying it wasn’t harrowing and scary and exciting; it was all that. But I did feel very prepared, with the amount of time I had spent with the show before I said “Action.”
BF: You have a great plot in this episode as Diane and Liz work together on a police brutality case. Can you talk about directing Christine and Audra, and doing it with a storyline that’s one of the most timely subjects right now?
CP: It was truly exciting to be trusted with this episode in particular, because it’s a culmination of a buildup in [Diane and Liz’s] relationship for the season. I wanted to make sure that I handled that in the right way.
Of course Christine and Audra are consummate professionals. I’ve known Audra since school; we were at Julliard together. I was in the drama division, she was studying voice, and it wasn’t like we kept up over the years, but we have that history together. And so working with her, it was wonderful to draw on that history. And then of course, Christine and I have acted together over the years in The Good Wife and The Good Fight. So I think there was a shorthand amongst the three of us.
There were a couple of very intense scenes and we were all trying to make sure that we honored it and that we handled the subject matter with care. I think that we did. I’m very proud of the work that we all did together. And working with that caliber of actor, you’re already ahead of the game at the beginning.
BF: In contrast to that, there’s another story with Marissa in Judge Wackner’s (Mandy Patinkin) court. How fun was that to direct, given how Wackner’s court is definitely not normal?
CP: It’s a great episode for Sarah Steele, who plays Marissa. We get to see a lot of new colors from her. We get to see a deepening of her character, even more than what she has already done, which is extraordinary. I really loved being in that alternative environment with her; it’s not your typical court, and there was a nice contrast between those court cases and the state court cases.
There was a lot going on in the courtroom in this episode. We had three court cases over two different courts. That’s a lot of challenging shooting, but we had a great time. Sarah really was such the anchor in those scenes in the court with Mandy, and he was really game.
BF: Is there anything else that particularly stands out to you about this The Good Fight episode?
CP: I just love how the episode doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter. It really asks the viewer to look at things a little bit differently than maybe they go into it. I think it’s really great writing in that it does challenge the viewer. As far as what I did with it, the directors capture the footage, they work on their cut four days and then they turn it over. And so I will be curious as well to see what of my cut they kept in and what they tweaked. I know that the feedback was great and I’m very proud of what we were able to do in such a short amount of time.
BF: How much did your familiarity with The Good Fight‘s crew from your work as an actor help you in directing the episode? Does it help to direct a show you’ve performed on?
CP: It helps a great deal, because there’s not a get to know you phase. But there’s also a bit of, I don’t want to disappoint them. In some ways I felt more nervous, because I didn’t want to let them down. I wanted to make sure that they could trust me as a director and that I would make the shift in how they were thinking of me as seamless as possible. They’re used to thinking of me as a performer. I wanted to make sure that they understood that they were going to be in good hands as a director. They were all rooting for me, and you couldn’t get a more collaborative crew than on that show.
BF: You mentioned earlier how your last The Good Fight appearance was a few years ago. As you were directing this episode, did you think at all about how Elsbeth Tascioni might react in these situations, or do you have your thoughts on where she’s been since season 2?
CP: I leave that to the writers. I certainly had enough on my plate. I was very glad to not have to think about acting. I’ve had to direct myself as an actor before and that’s challenging. I don’t relish that in the way some other actor-directors do. I really like to either wear one hat or the other. So I was very happy just to be there as a director, working with that incredible cast and crew. Of course, I will always go there and play Elsbeth, when and if they will have me.
BF: Between The Good Fight, The Good Wife, and Claws, you’ve been part of three series that feature female-driven ensembles and have really pushed female characters forward over the last decade. What does that mean to you?
CP: I feel just really lucky that I’ve been a part of those things, because they’re not the norm. I think it’s important to keep deepening those stories, to keep representing different types of women in society and in our country, and diverse types of women. And I always try to honor that with my work as an actor and certainly with my work as a director.
The feature film that I directed was called That’s What She Said and it had all women in it. And it was important to me to tell a story that was kind of like a bromance, but make it into a wo-mance. I liked taking Hollywood’s idea of what female protagonists are and making people see things in a different way. That’s kind of my mission as an artist, and I just feel grateful that I’ve had these opportunities to express that.
The Carrie Preston-directed episode of The Good Fight is now streaming on Paramount Plus.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.