‘Claws’ Star Carrie Preston Talks the Drama of Playing Polly and Her Twin
[Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Sunday’s episode of Claws. Major storyline spoilers ahead.]
What’s better than one Carrie Preston in an episode of TNT’s dramedy, Claws? TWO Carrie Prestons!
As fans of the hit series, currently in its second season, know, Preston plays identity thief Polly Marks, whose eccentricity and ability to jump into other personas is typically played for laughs. But in tonight’s episode of the series, entitled “Til Death”, it’s more drama than comedy as Polly comes face-to-face with her sister, Lillian, also played by Preston.
Fun as all that may sound, it’s a dark period for Polly as she has to face up to a tragic moment in her past involving the part she played in her twin sister’s death.
Preston talked to TV Insider to get a deeper look into what makes Polly tick and why this episode was challenging and fun for the Emmy-winning actress.
I’ve been a little worried as Polly has been making these attachments to Marnie (Morgan Lily) and to Ken (Jason Antoon) knowing if these relationships go south, it could break her.
Carrie Preston: Polly’s definitely having a bit of a breakdown here. In Episode 8, we see Polly kick Ken out. She felt very betrayed by Ken for wearing the wire. She says directly to him, ‘You don’t know the first thing about loyalty.’ Loyalty is such a big thing for Polly. And we’ve also seen Polly have a rather unhealthy attachment to this young woman, Marnie. It’s not appropriate and you can tell it’s not reciprocated fully. Although Marnie is very grateful for Polly rescuing her from a really dire and horrible situation, she’s also got some teenage issues of her own. When Polly kicks Ken out and then she has a full on emotional breakdown and says to Marnie, ‘At least I have you.’ That’s just too much to put on a child, especially one that’s not really yours.
We’ve talked since the show premiered about Polly as an identity thief. Sometimes it’s fun and played for laughs, but in this episode, you really see the disturbed woman she is in a lot of ways and how those different identities play into that.
Yes, there is a true mental illness here that stems from a very, very real trauma. Sometimes it’s easy to make fun of or laugh at people who aren’t like the other kids. It’s also fun, I think, as artists or the writers and the creators of the show and all of us actors to make the audience go from laughter to tears within one episode. That’s what keeps people on their toes and coming back to the show, because they don’t know what’s coming next. We’ve established this world where it’s very elevated, it’s very heightened, and it’s also very sincere at the same time. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I think for the most part it does. I think that’s what makes it special. And it certainly makes me proud to be a part of it.
How would you describe what Lillian represents to Polly?
Lillian definitely represents a dark side of her past, that she’s been working very hard her whole life to avoid facing. And now she has to face it.
How did you approach playing Lillian? Because she is very different, not just her look but everything about her. How did you work that in?
I definitely wanted her to be somebody that was so foreign and so different from Polly and yet they are twins and they share the same DNA. I thought it was also interesting playing her so differently makes the audience realize how much of a character Polly is. Polly herself is a character. She’s totally curated. To be able to play somebody that Polly could have turned into was really fun. And it was a great way to illuminate the character Polly even more. Seeing her opposite in a way.
That scene where Polly tells Desna (Niecy Nash) everything, it’s such a powerful scene for you. Did you feel challenged at all in some of the scenes playing both roles?
Yes, definitely. It was one of the more exciting things I’ve ever been asked to do and challenging in a great way, in a really truly artistic way. It’s one thing to just be responsible for one role, but then to be responsible for two roles and those roles play opposite each other was just technically something I had never done before. Luckily, they gave me a wonderful actress to play with. Her name is Valerie Jane Parker. You’ll never see her because she’s playing me.
I said from the beginning when I found out about it, I said to everybody in the show, ‘I hope that you’ll give me an actor. I need somebody who can not just read the lines but somebody who can really play with me.’ And she did, and she had a unique challenge because she had to learn those parts and do both sides of it. And she had to mirror back to me what I was giving her as the other character.
I had a lot of respect for her and also technically our director Jamie Travis was just sensational in how he chose to shoot it. We have an amazing DP, director of photography, who was able to make all of this a split screen and green screen and just all the technical types of it work. And it made me have a great amount of respect for Tatiana Maslany (who played multiples roles — often in the same scene — in Orphan Black).
And of course you get to dance with yourself in the episode, which is pretty amazing. Have you ever danced with yourself before?
Not like that, no! That was interesting because that wasn’t in the original draft of the episode. When I found out that I was going to be playing a twin early on in the season, I had pitched it to the creator of our show. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be so great if we saw Polly and her twin dancing together, or skating together, or something.’ For whatever reason, they didn’t have it in there but then I mentioned it to the director and the conversation was opened back up thankfully and we ended up doing it.
Claws, Sundays, 9/8c, TNT