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Michael Emerson and Carrie Preston

He plays mysterious billionaire Finch on CBS’ ”Person of Interest.” She does double duty as Arlene on HBO’s ”True Blood” and scatterbrained lawyer Elsbeth on CBS’ ”The Good Wife,” where she’ll return on Jan. 8. Oh, and they’ve been married for 13 years. We talked to the couple about what it’s like to live with your favorite TV character

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How did you two meet?
Michael Emerson Seventeen years ago, during a production of Hamlet at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. I was studying at the conservatory and playing Guildenstern. Carrie came down from New York to play Ophelia.
Carrie Preston Before I knew it, there were little vases of fresh flowers and baskets of peaches waiting outside my door. Michael had a peach tree. He was very romantic.

Your relationship was long-distance for a long time when Michael was in Hawaii shooting Lost. Was that hard?
Emerson They didn’t tell me how long I would be there. It was like working for the CIA. I left with only a suitcase. At one point they let me come home to New York, and when I got to JFK Airport, I got a text saying, ”You must turn around and come back.”
Preston The Island stole my husband for four and a half years! But it was fun to see him wearing Billabong shorts. [Laughs]

What was your policy on sharing Lost spoilers with your better half?
Preston I didn’t want them! I was a fan. Michael didn’t even watch the show! I had to tell him what it was about. But sometimes when I visited him, I couldn’t help getting the spoilers.

When you watch each other’s shows, do you see a different person from the one you’re married to?
Preston Yeah, when he did The Practice, he was playing a horrible character who cut off women’s heads. The first time I saw that, I turned to him and said, ”Please do not look at me like you looked at that woman. Ever.” It was terrifying! I get caught in his stories, and he’s so good as Finch that he makes it easy.
Emerson I watch her play Elsbeth and I think, ”My wife is a comic genius? What the hell?” I cannot stop laughing. She’s dizzy like a fox. [Turns to Carrie] It’s almost like it isn’t you!

Have you ever given each other acting advice?
Emerson When she was auditioning for Antony and Cleopatra, she was supposed to bring a monologue from the play, but there were no good women’s monologues. So I said, ”Do Octavius.”
Preston I cut off all my hair and played it totally in drag. People thought I was a boy! I got the part.

What pop culture have you introduced each other to?
Emerson Carrie is a forward-looking person and I am backward-looking, so she will bring me new shows and new movies, and I’ll say, ”Watch this old black-and-white British thing.”
Preston I’ll listen to indie music like Au Revoir Simone, and he’ll put on Lord Buckley. Do you know who that is? [Silence] Exactly!

Are there any plans for you to appear on each other’s shows?
Preston No, not right now. But we’ve worked together before [in movies like 2008’s Ready? Ok!], and it’s fun. We didn’t have to worry about trust or establishing a history because that was already there.

If you were in a sitcom together, what would it be about?
Emerson A couple of completely self-involved, over-the-top actors in the 1920s, or two actors who have decided to give it all up and move to a quiet life in a small town. But they just. Can’t. Stop. Being. Fantastic!

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