'Fringe' Star John Noble Teases Season Four
September 23, 2011
With parallel universes, grotesque cases of the week and science-heavy intellectualizing, Fringe has long been one of the most challenging shows on television. But this has also made it one of the most rewarding for long-time fans. Now, the cast, crew and audience are about to embark upon the series' most audacious logic leap yet: a series reboot like only Fringe can do.
In last year's astounding season finale, Peter Bishop (played by Joshua Jackson) evaporated into the ether after uniting two-warring worlds and a pair of doppelgangers. Now, Olivia, Walter, Bolivia, Walternate and the Fringe Divisions in both universes are leading their lives as if Peter never survived his childhood illness.
A development that has been confusing yet ever so rewarding for series star John Noble, whose Emmy is sorely overdue. Year four once again sees him playing a drastically different Walter -- one that has been lacking any semblance of love for the majority of his life. I caught up with John this afternoon in Los Angeles for a chat on this season's direction, what it's been like to create another version of his character and when the show might solve its final case.
TheInsider.com: How are you feeling headed into season four?
John Noble: A little but anxious. How do we re-launch our show when we've taken one of the major players out and resolved the A-story of the two universes? At the same time, how do we let a new audience in on what’s happened before? It's really complicated. And then, from an acting perspective, how do I now set Walter up? He still got out of St. Claire's, still tried to save the boy, but this time he didn't and now he's out of St. Claire's because of his intellectual power but doesn't have his son to help him on the journey. It's daunting.
Insider: You've now created three major versions of Walter -- was this one the hardest?
John: It's been really hard [laughs]. I can not tell a lie. It's not just the hardest one to create but also to know how long to sustain. Particularly after playing Walter for so long, it's easy to forget in the midst of doing an experiment scene, that this is a slightly different person. I had sentinels on the set who would tell me if I played the wrong Walter [laughs]."Psst, John ... wrong one."
Insider: That said, do you think we've seen the last of season 1-3 Walter?
John: No, I don't think so. We haven't finished his journey to redemption. He's come so close but we have not seen him take the step towards self-actualization. We haven't gone all the way and I think that can only happen in the series finale, so we're not done with him yet.
Insider: So what's different about Walter this year?
John: He's missing hope. When he was in St. Claire's and saw Peter in the hallway he did this [grabs his face]. In that moment, we created hope for the audience. Now, this Walter never had that. You'll see Walter try to find that very moment in the ensuing episodes and for those who watched the pilot, it will be a lovely callback. All he has now is a life where he can practice his science. I mean ... he's got a cow, but that's it. It's a bleak depressing place to be. Especially once he starts seeing this man's face appear, who the audience will know to be Peter, but Walter is very concerned that he's losing his mind. Especially since he's under constant review now and analyzed by a psychologist to make sure he's capable. He's worried that he's going mad. And we go down that road in the first few episodes.
Insider: But I would imagine not having Peter around allows for totally new relationships to form?
John: Absolutely. The greatest thing that's evolved out of it is that Walter and Olivia have this incredible relationship. She becomes the only one with power over Walter. He can be raging and all she has to say is, "Walter, stop." And he stops. No one else can do that. It's a very bizarre relationship these two have, and we play that out at length in episode four. That's been one of my favorite things about this season because Olivia and Walter never really had much to do with each other. Now, they're forced together and Anna [Torv] and I have loved that opportunity.
Insider: What about Astrid?
John: Walter needs Astrid in a very different way this season. He needs her more, but it's in the field – she's his eyes in a lot of ways this season.
Insider: OK, but does he still screw up her name?
John: Sometimes. We were heading down that road anyway, as clarity came to him. And there's still a few new names up my sleeve, but in one of the scripts, I was given a line that said "Astrid." And I had to call the writers and ask if that was deliberate. And they said yes, so I did it. It's a major point that we have to ping. Astrid has to respond otherwise three years of names were wasted.
Insider: Fox has been very vocally behind Fringe recently. That said, do you feel like there's an endgame the creators are working towards?
John: I don't expect this show to go for 10 years. We are contracted for 6 and could close at any time. I wouldn't be surprised if we end after five. I think that would allow us a marvelous final season. but I know Fox and Warner Brothers are very happy to have us around – we’re like the precocious child that's locked in the cupboard [laughs].
Fringe premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on FOX.