The Good Wife‘s quirky-genius lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni is “not like the other kids — that’s for sure,” says her portrayer Carrie Preston, which is why the character is among the all-time favorites in her repertoire.
Add Thursday morning’s 2013 Emmy nomination as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series to the mix, and Preston says the accolade is simply icing on the cake. “I feel really lucky I was trusted with this part, and to bring this very specific creature to life,” she explains. “It is a delight to get inside the mechanics of Elsbeth’s brain and body — and to see how she ticks — whenever they give me the opportunity.”
Not that it’s an easy job. Preston says she maps out ahead of time Elsbeth’s peculiar speaking cadence, her unexpected pauses and the way you can see the woman’s thought processes sometimes play out on her face. “I try to have some kind of blue print, so I know where this twist is gonna happen, where that turn is gonna happen, and then I show up on the set and just let that work I’ve already done settle in,” Preston says. “Elsbeth surprises people; I let her surprise me as well. And the other actors on the show are extraordinary and give me wonderful things to play off of, too. It starts with the writing, though, and I go from there.”
And while The Good Wife writing team certainly gave Preston a number of great moments during her Season 4 guest arc, Elsbeth’s lunch at an Indian restaurant opposite courtroom rival-turned-unexpected flirting partner Josh Perotti (Kyle MacLachlan) ranks as her favorite. “There were so many layers going on during that scene,” Preston recalls with a chuckle. “To see Elsbeth in that situation with someone she’s attracted to, and she’s also being distracted by this incredible food in front of her, and yet she’s right on track with what business needs to be taken care of at that moment. It was really fun to have all of the obstacles to overcome and run right into. Working with Kyle was such a treat, too, because he jumped right on the same train as me, and we had a great ride.”
For all the character’s peculiarities, though, Preston argues that what defines Elsbeth is the way “she’s really fiercely, fiercely good at her job.” Her quirks, on the other hand, simply make her human.
“Usually on television in these lawyer roles, we sort of see a talking head,” Preston continues. “But what the writers have done on The Good Wife — not just with Elsbeth but with all the characters — is given them really specific traits.”
Preston adds that she considers the role a gift, and she’s very conscious of what she does with it. “I’ll say to the director, ‘Look, I’m gonna go for some things: Please let me know if it’s too much,’ because I always wanna make sure that Elsbeth is a real person. Even though I understand she’s supposed to be funny — and I’m brought on to the show to bring a bit of levity to the proceedings — I still wanna make sure that she’s a full human being. That’s where it’s fun and challenging as an actor: Making sure it comes from an organic place.”
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