Now Reading
Carrie Preston on Playing Elsbeth for 14 Years

Carrie Preston on Playing Elsbeth for 14 Years

Before Carrie Preston made her TV lead debut in the procedural Elsbeth earlier this year, she’d portrayed the title character, Elsbeth Tascioni, off and on since 2010, first as a recurring character on the drama The Good Wife and then on its stand-alone sequel The Good Fight in Robert and Michelle King’s CBS legal franchise. 

“It’s been mostly off,” Preston says, laughing, of her 19 appearances as the quirky attorney-slash-detective, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding guest actress in a drama series in 2013. “The thing that’s been so great about this show is that I get to play her every day now. It’s a luxury that I haven’t really had.”

As early as season three of The Good Wife, Preston says, audiences began taking a liking to her character and seeing the potential for a spinoff. However, it wasn’t until the Kings began rewatching one of their favorite crime dramas, Columbo, during the 2020 pandemic that they started to flesh out what a series extension with Tascioni as the lead could look like. 

“Fourteen years ago, when they first offered me this delicious role, Robert King got on the phone with me and said, ‘The way we’re thinking about her is like a female Columbo,’ so it’s kind of prophetic that here we are borrowing the structure of Columbo and those great ‘howdunits,’ but with this very unexpected character at the center of it.”

Elsbeth follows Tascioni as she works with NYPD officer Kaya Blanke (Carra Patterson) to solve crimes and works the nerves of police chief C.W. Wagner (Wendell Pierce), who doesn’t take as kindly to her presence at the precinct. 

“We’re so used to seeing men [in these roles] — Sherlock, Monk, Columbo — so to have a woman who’s very decidedly unusual, not trying to blend into what’s pretty much a man’s world, makes it really fun and refreshing and a great contrast to what we usually see in a procedural,” says Preston.

Each episode opens with a crime being committed by a character played by one of the show’s impressive lineup of guest stars, which Tascioni then attempts to solve using her unorthodox methods.

“The things that I’ve gotten to do: dancing with Keegan-Michael Key. Who would’ve thought I was going to go rock climbing with Jane Krakowski, or play tennis with Blair Underwood? These are things that I couldn’t have dreamt up for myself,” Preston adds.

The show scored an early season two renewal just five episodes into season one, which came as a relief to Preston. “I was feeling a little stressed that it wouldn’t happen and then it would be like, ‘We can’t let Carrie Preston lead a show again.’ So the [renewal] was like, ‘Phew, I did my job,’ ” she says. 

See Also

“I feel like I sort of represent all the working actors who, you recognize their faces, but you might not think, ‘Oh, I know exactly who that person is,’ because they play so many different characters,” she adds. “To be trusted with a lead as somebody who’s had a career like that is such a gift.”

If Elsbeth continues to follow the trajectory of Columbo and other mainstay police procedurals, Preston could find herself portraying Tascioni for another decade to come. The actress says that would be just fine by her.

“I’ll play this character as long as people will have me play her,” says Preston. “We’re in a volatile time in our business. It’s very unpredictable, so the fact that we get this opportunity to not only do it again, but to do twice as many episodes as we did in season one, I’m grateful every day because I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to do it. Nothing lasts forever, so I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I can.”

This story first appeared in the June 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top