If you want to talk to actress and director Carrie Preston about her work, you'll have to be specific; not only is the "True Blood" star about to begin filming her sixth season as Merlotte's waitress Arlene Fowler, but she's also returning to "The Good Wife" as quirky fan-favorite attorney Elsbeth Tascioni early next year, and she just directed her first film, the New York City-set comedy "That's What She Said."
And this week, Preston returns to the CBS drama "Person of Interest," playing the love interest of her real-life husband, "Person" star Michael Emerson. Preston's Grace appeared in an episode earlier this month as the show began to unfold the story of Grace and Finch's courtship, and the very in-demand actress talked to Yahoo! TV about what's ahead for Grace and Finch, Elsbeth and Arlene, and, of course, Michael and Carrie.
How did the role on "Person of Interest" come about? When you guest-starred on "Lost" with your husband, that sparked from a suggestion you made about his Ben Linus character, right?
Yes. In that case, we were literally joking around. I said to Michael, "I know they're going to do your flashback at some point. Wouldn't it be hilarious if I played your mother?" Michael just jokingly mentioned it to the ("Lost") producers, and then the next thing I knew, I was in a jungle giving birth to him! (Laughing.) That came about very quickly, just out of some kind of light joke that I made.
For "Person of Interest," I had no idea that they were even considering doing something like that … the producers just presented it as an opportunity, and luckily I was available to do it, so that was really fun. Then, this season we got to play scenes together. That has been really fun for us, because obviously on "Lost," I couldn't play scenes with him, playing his mother. Just doing these flashbacks with him playing Mr. Finch has been really fun.
More flashbacks! Did you know when you first signed on last season that you would eventually be in flashback scenes with Finch?
I didn't. I didn't know, because last season they just had me in the one episode, where Reese finds out that Finch had this woman in his life, and she thinks that he is dead. So that was a big moment, a revelation about a very private man. I wasn't sure if they were going to continue to keep Finch very private or … if he was going to catch up with her in the present day somehow. So no, I had no idea that it was going to be these flashbacks, (revealing) how their relationship started.
In this week's episode, "'Til Death," we find out more about Grace's relationship with Finch. Is it going to be a heartbreaking episode? Is this the last time we'll see Grace?
No, there's still at least one more episode (after "'Til Death") that I haven't shot yet. And I think fans are going to be very interested in what happens in ["'Til Death"]. I wouldn't say it's heartbreaking. I would say it's more touching.
There are definitely some surprises in there, and then I think that the [next] episode that I'm going to do will be even more surprising. I would assume they haven't really told me what is happening there -- but I know that they're building up to something interesting.
Playing the romantic interest of a character played by your real-life husband might initially sound like a pretty easy gig, but is it more complicated than playing opposite a stranger?
It's a very interesting alchemy there. I'm very comfortable, obviously, with Michael, as a person; I'm very trusting of him and he of me. That is something that you definitely have to have when you're acting with someone. Sometimes, when you're acting with a stranger, you are taking a leap of faith that this is going to be a trustworthy person to work with. So that was all taken care of. What was really interesting for me, in this particular case, was I was stepping into a show that he'd been living with for one and a half seasons. So he's very comfortable in that character, in that role, and in that world, and on that set. I was very much a visitor to that, as an actor.
I'd gone maybe one or two times just to say hi to him while he's on set. We try to stay out of each other's way. It takes a lot of concentration to do what we do, so we don't visit each other much on set, because it can be distracting. So I was stepping on set as a guest. Then, when we started to rehearse the first scene that we had together we didn't rehearse at home or anything like that -- but I walked in and I saw him. I realized that I was not in the room with Michael Emerson. I was in the room with Mr. Finch.
It was a very interesting thing because, as you know, Mr. Finch is a pretty intense guy. He definitely has a different energy than Michael. So it was kind of a moment like, "Ohhhh, right. OK." It made me behave differently, which I think was very helpful.
Now you've played your husband's mom and his wife to be. It seems only fair that he should come on your show, on "True Blood," and play some role, don't you think?(Laughing.) I know! Wouldn't that be funny? I mean, it would be fun if he came on and did some scenes with Arlene. It would be cool to see him come into Merlotte's. I don't know what he would play. I don't think he's interested in playing any of the supernaturals, but if he came on in some way connected to Arlene, that would be very interesting.
Do the two of you have a dream project that you would want to do together, a movie or a show on Broadway?
People ask us that a lot, and if we were to pick something from the canon, we're both fans of classical theater, and so it would be fun to do some Shakespeare together. We definitely mesh. We've done a production of "Hamlet," and we have done other classics together … "Measure for Measure." We actually did a second production of "Hamlet" together, too. But we're also big fans of Ibsen, so I think it would be really fun to do something like that with him -- "A Doll's House" or some kind of Ibsen. We're eager to get back on the stage at some point.