Elsbeth’s Carrie Preston Talks ‘Vulnerable’ Season Finale, Pitches Role for Husband Michael Emerson

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Elsbeth‘s Season 1 finale. Proceed at your own risk!

CBS’ hit drama Elsbeth wrapped up its first season with good news for the titular lawyer.

More from TVLine

Elsbeth was, initially, so upset by Captain Wagner’s decision to send her back to Chicago that she was thrown off her game in regards to the Murder of the Week and wasn’t able to immediately come up with an accurate theory.

Elsbeth argued to Wagner that there was reason to suspect him, and she was just doing her job. In the end, her opinion of him was correct: He is a good man. After an emotional Elsbeth left the room, Officer Kaya Blanke spoke up for her new friend.

“What was she supposed to do?” Kaya asked Wagner.

Wagner, eventually, had a change of heart and showed up at Elsbeth’s fashion show. Even better, he arranged for Elsbeth to have a bigger office and a permanent position with the NYPD, rooting out corruption and helping solve cases. Kaya’s good work was rewarded, too, when Wagner announced that he was putting her on the fast track to becoming a detective.

Below, star Carrie Preston talks about playing a new side of Elsbeth in the finale, her hopes for Season 2 and the character she’d like her husband Michael Emerson to portray.

TVLINE | It was really refreshing to see Elsbeth not immediately have an accurate hunch about the killer this time. Did you worry that she was becoming too infallible?
Yes, that is something I’ve been concerned about, making sure that we give her some humanity and some flaws and things that she can maybe not do as well. We know that she’s an unconventional person. She doesn’t approach things in the same way that other people do, but I always find it interesting to find vulnerabilities in characters. So when the thought of her not being able to come back to this job becomes very real at the end of Episode 9, it really throws her off her game. It’s like being punched in the gut, and she becomes really hijacked by those emotions. When you’re hijacked by emotions like that, you just can’t think clearly. The thing I love about the writing in the finale — Jonathan Tolins wrote it — is she articulates that. She says, “I don’t know. I think it’s because I’m upset about what’s going on.” She allows herself to be vulnerable enough to say, “I’m upset,” which so many people don’t, but it’s right in line with Elsbeth. She’s such a person who wears her heart and her guts and everything on her sleeve, and it was a really wonderful gift as an actor to have those things to play and for us to deepen the character in a way that we haven’t really seen her in the 14 years that I’ve been playing her.

TVLINE | I don’t think we’ve ever seen her so emotional before in all her time on The Good Wife, Good Fight and then this show. Especially in those scenes with Elsbeth and Wagner, they really took her on an emotional rollercoaster.
Yeah. It fleshed the character out in a way that I think was necessary since she’s at the center of the show. She doesn’t have the screen time to be able to flex her emotional muscles, really, in that way and to really open herself up to things like that. She’s usually just kind of on task, whether it be as a lawyer or now as a detective. That was a really smart thing to do with the storytelling and with the writing, and Wendell [Pierce] is an incredible actor. So to play those scenes with him, although painful, as an actor was really fulfilling.

Elsbeth Season Finale
Elsbeth Season Finale

TVLINE | Are Elsbeth and Wagner in a good place now? Are they truly past their issues and are able to trust one another moving forward?
Well, I hope so, but I think Wagner felt extremely betrayed, and I don’t know how easily he’s going to be able to let that go. That said, he’s a really good man and a good person, and I think he sees that Elsbeth was really doing the best that she could under those very difficult circumstances. So we’ll see how that plays out. Conflict in storytelling is always what makes it interesting. So if that sense of distrust rears its head again, I don’t think it would be wrong at all for that to happen. It could make it somewhat interesting if that happened again.

TVLINE | The fact that Kaya speaks up for Elsbeth with Wagner, even though he’s her superior, really says a lot about that friendship between Kaya and Elsbeth. Do you have a favorite moment from the season with the two of them?
Carra [Patterson], she’s such a beautiful actor, a really wonderful person with such a big heart, and she brings that to the character. I’ve had so many moments with her, but the scene in the finale where we don’t even have any dialogue, but we’re taking down the caricatures and we’re in the office together… I haven’t seen the finale. I don’t know if it made the cut. But just looking at Carra, and also not knowing if we’re going to get a Season 2 — at that point, we didn’t know — and bringing that into the work just made it really resonate. Carra has, like, a real earthy kind of subtle tone to her work that is a great contrast to the character Elsbeth… Those two different energies together, I think, is what makes it so interesting.

Elsbeth season 1 finale cbs
Elsbeth season 1 finale cbs

TVLINE | What was it like to shoot the fashion show stuff? Did you study any real catwalks or models?And was there music playing when you were filming? Because the song in the episode, “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” is fantastic.
Yeah, we knew what the song was going to be, and they’d decided on the song and gotten the clearance to use it and all that. So I was definitely walking to that music. But yes, we had a model who was our consultant. She’s a runway model, so Laura Benanti and I worked with her, and that was great because neither one of us had ever done that before. I was nervous. We had a roomful of background actors and my castmates, not to mention the entire crew, watching me do that. So it is a vulnerable thing, and it really did make me respect what models are able to do. They make it seem so effortless.

TVLINE | Elsbeth now has this big office and a permanent position with the NYPD, and she seems very rooted in this new life. Is there anything that she misses about her old life in Chicago?
I’m sure she has friendships and colleagues and people that she misses. I’m sure she thinks of her life with even the characters from The Good Wife and The Good Fight. But for whatever reason, it was time for her to reinvent herself. She says in the pilot that she really wanted to start living her life for the truth and not defending questionable people. I think it was starting to get to her. I’m sure she has family and friends that she misses, but she’s so invigorated by this new life that that outweighs any of the sadness she might feel or homesickness.

TVLINE | Can she actually practice law in New York?
I think that she can. Elsbeth is so smart that I don’t think it would be a problem for her to get a law license in another state. But I just don’t know if she has the will to do that.

Elsbeth Season Finale
Elsbeth Season Finale

TVLINE | She’s mentioned her son several times this season. Do you think we’ll meet him?
We might. I don’t know. I, personally, think it’s fun to not. Columbo talked about his wife all the time and we never saw her, and it would be fun to leave the specificity of Teddy to the audience’s imagination. But if they find somebody that they think is wonderful and they want to write something great, I totally trust them and will be excited to meet him face-to-face. I certainly have an idea of who he is in my own mind, but I haven’t cast him.

TVLINE | Your husband, Michael Emerson, has also worked with the Kings on Evil. If you could pitch a role for him on this show, what would it be?
Look, he’s very good at playing evil people. [Laughs] He’s very good at doing that, as we have seen. So it would be fun to see him in a role that wasn’t that, where we would expect him to be the murderer, but what if he wasn’t. What if he was someone who was somehow connected to the precinct or someone who Wagner knows? I don’t know, but it would be fun. That said, I think he’d be open to pretty much anything. He loves the show, and we’ve been talking about how fun it would be if he came on and did an episode or two.

Elsbeth Season Finale
Elsbeth Season Finale

TVLINE | One of the things the Kings do really well is have this rotating ensemble of colorful recurring characters in all their shows. Who is your favorite rotating detective on the show?
Well, I’m not going to pick. I love them all! And they’re all so well drawn in the same way that the judges were and the lawyers were in The Good Wife and Good Fight universe, and we would see them again and each of them had their own very specific personality. In Elsbeth, it’s wonderful to see, because all of them pretty much give some conflict to the proceedings, and none of them are really sure why this woman gets to be there. Danny Mastrogiorgio [who plays Detective Smullen] is like a brother. I went to graduate school with him, we went to Julliard together, we were in the same class. And so, that’s been really fun, having him there to play with and play off of. Of course, Molly Price [Detective Donnelly] is just so hilarious and such a wonderful person. We’ve become good friends. And Micaela Diamond [Detective Edwards] is just such a wonderful, brilliant theater actor who’s now really busting out into the world of film and TV. She was great. We’ve gotten really lucky with those characters. So I hope that we’ll see all of them again and then they’ll bring in some more.

Elsbeth fans, what did you think of the season ender? Grade it below, then hit the comments!

Best of TVLine

Get more from TVLine.com: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter