Once, while hanging out with her husband, actor Michael Emerson of the hit TV series "Lost," Carrie Preston joked that a good part for her would be playing his character's mother.
The Macon-born actress got her chance and will appear in Wednesday's episode.
Emerson said Preston's "Lost" appearance came from an off-the-cuff suggestion.
"Carrie sent a wish to the universe, and like so many of her wishes, it came true," Emerson said. "She joked that she wanted to play the part of my mother in a flashback. There was never a formal pitch or anything. I might have mentioned it at a party or something, and maybe a keen producer heard it, and lo and behold, it was something they already had on their mind."
Because of the nature of "Lost," which features episodes full of plot twists and big revelations, Preston is close-mouthed about details of her appearance.
"I'm sworn to secrecy," she said.
Wednesday's episode revolves around Emerson's character, Ben, the leader of the mysterious "Others" who live on the island with the show's castaways. One of the series' hallmarks is flashback sequences that provide background information about the show's characters. Preston appears as Ben's mother, Emily, but didn't have scenes with her husband. Instead, she's in scenes with another actor who is playing the part of the young Ben.
Preston said although they don't share any scenes in next week's "Lost" episode, they've shared them before.
"We shot a movie called 'Journey' and one called 'Straight-Jacket,' we did a commercial, we've done two productions of 'Hamlet,' " she said. "It's fun being on the same call sheet as him."
It was playing Ophelia in "Hamlet" 12 years ago at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival where Preston, a Central High School graduate, met Emerson, who was playing Guildenstern. Preston went to work with the festival after attending Juilliard because her brother, actor John Preston, also was in the cast.
Since then, Preston has worked on a wide range of theater shows and television series, including guest-star roles on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Arrested Development" and "Numb3rs." She also has worked in movies such as "The Stepford Wives," "Transamerica" and "The Legend of Bagger Vance."
For an actor, the difference between a guest-star role and a regular role in a TV series can be a mixed bag. On one hand, as a guest-star, Preston can work on a variety of projects. But being a series regular means steady work, which is what Emerson now enjoys with his "Lost" role that grew out of a guest appearance.
"We're gypsies," Preston said. "We go where the work is."
Emerson won an Emmy in 2001 for his guest-starring work on "The Practice." That led to his work on "Lost."
Emerson's character initially was only supposed to appear in a few episodes, but he grew to be very popular among "Lost" fans, and his contract was extended. Finally, Emerson became a cast regular this season.
Preston spends a lot of time at airports these days, commuting among three residences in New York, Los Angeles and Hawaii.
She's currently at the Miami Film Festival, where she will show her short film "Feet of Clay."
Preston said she's been living in Los Angeles to be closer to Emerson, even though she considers New York her home.
"We see each other every two or three weeks," she said.
During the next few months, Preston is preparing to shoot a movie in San Diego called "Ready? OK" about a boy who wants to become a cheerleader, and she has a part in a still-untitled Woody Allen film to be shot in Barcelona this summer. Preston said she visits her family in Macon on a regular basis, including her parents, Pam and Ray Preston.
When she isn't acting, Preston also works as a director. Her film "29th & Gay" was shown at the Macon Film Festival last year, and she is hoping to adapt a play called "Girl Talk" into a movie.
Preston remains coy about whether she will have another "Lost" appearance.
"Anything's possible on that show," she said with a chuckle. "It'd be really fun if I could."