By Dustin Fitzharris
Early in her teens, Carrie Preston asked her mother if she thought she could act for a living. Her mother looked at her and replied, “Well, honey, somebody’s gotta do it, and I don’t know why it can’t be you.”
From that moment, Preston never looked back. Before joining the cast of HBO’s True Blood in 2008, she did a range of theater and had numerous roles on television and film, including Desperate Housewives, Duplicity, and Transamerica. In addition to acting, Preston recently directed her second feature film, That’s What She Said, which stars Anne Heche and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.
Growing up in a small town in Georgia, Preston always had pets—everything from cats and dogs to iguanas and snakes. However, when thinking back on all her animals, it’s her dog, Tess, who holds the most special place in her heart. Preston says her dog was named after “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” because she, too, was a victim of her own provocative beauty.
Today, Preston and her husband, actor Michael Emerson, live with Chumley, a Poodle/Maltese mix, named after a bar in New York City. TAILS sat down with Preston to find out more.
TAILS: Chumley is now 3 years old. How would you describe him?
Carrie Preston: When I first saw the picture of him on PetFinder.com he was really scruffy. The organization he was with, A Dog’s Life Rescue, said he was a “very handsome and serious fellow.” I liked the idea of a serious dog. That still holds true. He‘s very intelligent; he does have a playful side, of course, but he is very calm. He has a soulful gaze when you’re looking into his eyes. He likes to spend time next to you or on your lap. He’s not clingy, and—he’ll let you know when you’re getting a little too close—he’ll leave and go to his corner for some alone time.
Tell us more about adopting Chumley.
Lisa Parker, the woman who runs A Dog’s Life Rescue, has her entire family involved. They don’t have a set place; dogs just come to them one way or another. In the case of Chumley, they had seen this man with a small puppy, and it looked like he was maybe going to sell the dog. She just went right up to him, handed him her card, and said, “I know what you’re doing. If you want to do the right thing and give this dog a proper home, I run [an] organization. Call me.” Several months later, he called. Lisa and her family have that
passion and commitment that is incredibly admirable.
I’m in awe of people who spend their lives in service for creatures who can’t speak for themselves. My heart expanded a million times when we got Chumley. I feel it’s important to encourage people to adopt instead of buy.
What bedtime rituals do you go through with him?
[My husband] Michael, if he’s not on set, takes him on a nighttime walk. Then I take his clothes off—which is his halter and collar—and brush his teeth.
You brush his teeth every night?
He had some tartar build up, and we had his teeth professionally cleaned. They put him under, and it was so disturbing—I don’t want to do that again. Luckily he likes the taste of the toothpaste!
Where does he sleep?
We put his little bed with his little blanket at the foot of the bed, and he curls up and goes to sleep. Then in the morning he usually comes up to my side of the bed, and wants to get under the covers and burrow down next to me. It used to be that I would sleep on my side and he would curl beside me over the covers, but in the last three months I think he’s discovered it’s much warmer if you get under the blankets.
Is he a pillow hog?
He’s not. But he will spread out once he finds a position he likes.
Does he snore?
He does sometimes, and it’s so cute. It will happen if I take him on a big hike and he’s exhausted. He will just crash.
Is he an early riser or does he like to sleep in?
He’s pretty much on whatever schedule we’re on. He’s a very good boy. He’s our first dog as a couple, so we feel very blessed.
You said he’s independent, but does he like to cuddle?
He is big into cuddling. He will really let you love him.
Do you think he dreams?
I feel like he does! Sometimes he’ll make little tiny noises and his head will shake. I’ll think, “Something is going on in there.”
After everything you’ve accomplished, what are you the most proud of?
Directing That’s What She Said. It was such a long process, but it was something that I was passionate about from the get-go. Then to see all of it manifest is pretty extraordinary.
For more visit CarriePreston.com