'Fringe': Joshua Jackson answers your burning questions about The First People, possible fatherhood, and the show's future -- EXCLUSIVE
Image Credit: Liane Hentscher/FoxThere is absolutely nothing new we can tell you about tonight’s episode of Fringe. Not because we don’t know anything. It’s because we happen to know everything, as we were lucky enough to see “Immortality” in advance. We can confirm as accurate the one thing you probably already know (that the story is set in the “over there” world, home to war-mongering mastermind Walternate and secret agent Fauxlivia) and the one thing that’s been gossiped about all week (that something game-changingish does indeed go down) — and we’re going to leave it like that.
So let’s cut to the chase: Last week, we said that if you sent us questions for Joshua Jackson, we would get on the phone with him and get answers for you. This week, we deliver. Fringe’s Peter Bishop spoke to us this past Monday during a break from shooting the 18th episode of the current season, and our conversation began with Jackson politely taking exception to something I wrote last week: My perception that the first half of the season was all about Olivia and the second half is all about Peter. “I don’t think that’s actually the case,” says the actor. “Our show goes season-by-season-by-themes. I’ve heard [Fringe exec producer] Jeff Pinkner describe the first season as the prologue. I think the second season was all about Walter — his guilt over kidnapping his child, having created the rift between the two universes and the moral consequences of his action. The third season, no matter what is happening on screen, is about exploring the duality of people in general and all about exploring Olivia in particular and offering insight into what makes her tick. I think that continues. It’s the season of Olivia.” I stand corrected.
Moving into your questions, Jackson wants to make one thing clear: “All of these answers are just my opinion, because I could get in trouble with the writers for looking like I’m giving things away.” That said, he offers some teases for what lies ahead. For example: “We have a couple more ‘over there’ episodes this year – the one [tonight], and one a little bit later. I don’t know what the season finale is yet, but it seems like an inevitability that we’ll be dealing with the ‘over there’ world at the end, too. We started the season with the two universes; it seems like we have to finish with the two universes.” As it happened, the most-asked question that we received from readers was answered by last week’s episode: Does Peter still have romantic feelings for Fauxlivia? According to the telepath that we met in “Concentrate and Ask Again,” the answer is yes. So we begin the Q&A proper with this follow-up question: Does Jackson think mind-scanning Simon had an accurate read on Peter’s heart?
JOSHUA JACKSON: I do think Peter genuinely harbors feelings for Fauxlivia. The difficulty for Peter is that he’s deeply, deeply conflicted over who it was he really fell in love with. And that continues to play itself out. He’s dealing with it the best he can. If he was being really honest, he’d have to say he’s not really sure how or what to feel. No human on Earth has ever experienced this before, so he’s trying to parse out what his feelings are and where his loyalties lie. He and Olivia have always had a complicated relationship that has only gotten more complicated this year. So I don’t think he knows where he stands.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We know that Olivia was really hurt that Peter so easily mistook Fauxlivia for her, that he couldn’t glean an essential, perhaps spiritual difference between these look-alike women. So reader “TQB” asks: Do you think Peter is constantly flagellating himself for failing to notice the differences between the two Olivias?
Of course he does. He definitely beats himself up on a vanity level. He’s a guy who has lived by his wits and been a conman for most of his life before he became a hero in Fringe-ville; I think it annoys him to no end that someone was able to pull the wool over his eyes. And I think from an honest, emotional standpoint, he’s upset as well, because the reason he decided at the end of last year to come back to our universe – the reason he gave up his mother and his world and his family — was because of Olivia. So to have all of that thrown out the window because he couldn’t see what was right in front of his eyes – yeah, I think he’s very upset by all that.
Several readers (including Heidi and Bill in New York) asked: Do you think Peter at all wonders if he was always meant to be with Fauxlivia? Does he believe that he has a destiny and that destiny lies in the ‘”over there” world?
I think that’s being a little bit overly romantic. I don’t feel like Peter and Olivia — be she the one “over here” or the one “over there” — are Romeo and Juliet. I don’t think their destiny is to be together. I think circumstances threw them together on our side, and other circumstances put him in the presence of the Olivia of the other side. But it was interesting that after two years of being with “over here” Olivia, getting to know her and appreciating her, the one he physically responded to was the other one. That says something. If our Olivia is the one you take home to Mom, and their Olivia is… well, the one you actually enjoy yourself with. That’s the crass version of it. But I think that’s the problem Peter is having. He knows that our Olivia is — at the core — the more decent of the two human beings. But he’s much more compelled by the one over there because she’s more like him and more of a challenge and much more interesting to him. So I think he’s conflicted about it. But I don’t think Peter is a particularly romantic person. I don’t think he goes in for an idea like “fate.” I think he plays the skeptic on the show, so I don’t think he has that “Romeo and Juliet” idea about he and Olivia. I don’t think he thinks that they are supposed to be together. In fact, I would say that one of the ideas this season has brought into sharp relief is the idea that none of us are consigned to fate. You make a couple different decisions over the course of your life and you become radically different people. Olivia and Olivia made a couple different decisions and circumstances, and they became radically different people. Walter and Walternate, ditto. That doesn’t speak to me of fate; that speaks to me of self-determination, and I think Peter believes much more in self-determination.
I have a theory, one that many others are speculating, as well. We’ve been told that Peter will use the doomsday machine created by The First People to destroy one of the two parallel universes, and his choice will hinge on which Olivia he chooses. But do you think it’s possible there can be a third choice – like, say, choosing to not make a choice, or even creating a new universe that synthesizes the two worlds into one?
My personal opinion is exactly that. The “this girl” or “that girl”, “this world” or “that world” is a Hobson’s Choice. My personal opinion is that the doomsday machine and the scheme behind it are far too complicated for this “doomsday machine” to really be a “doomsday” machine. It seems really, really overly complicated for it to be just a fancy nuclear bomb. There are easier ways to destroy the universe. If The First People had that kind of power – if that’s what they wanted to do – why didn’t they just do it? My personal opinion, then, is that it’s at least three options: my side, your side, and both sides. One of the things we’ve left unanswered – something that seems linked to this question — is this: Where did The First People go? And if they were this advanced, what was their end? Did they choose to end? Did they screw up somehow? Did they evaporate into the ether? Are they The Observers? What the machine represents, and what Peter represents to the machine, has to be more interesting than just “I choose here or I choose there.” Otherwise, it’s a Rube Goldberg weapon: Why go through all the hassle?
Many readers like Ames asked variations of this question: What’s it like to work a scene with John Noble? What’s he like in real life? Is he as quirky as Walter? How many of your scenes with him are the result of improvisation?
He’s not nearly as quirky as Walter. I mean that in a positive way, and I hope I’m not disappointing anyone. He is crazy-intelligent like Walter. He is constantly inventive and he made that character what he is. As good as the writers are, they couldn’t have planned for the magic he was going to bring to Walter. What he has been able to do with that character and the working relationship we have – which is great – and the time and attention he’s willing to spend on developing the father-son relationship between these two guys is great. From an acting standpoint, the greatest joy I get from working on this show is working in those scenes and that relationship with John. There isn’t a lot of improv on Fringe. The writers aren’t big fans of improvisation. The show is so tightly wound, they want to keep it very much by the book.
Anne from France notes that when we first got to know Peter, we were told he had a very shady past, and a couple episodes early on seemed to suggest that he was being followed or that his past was chasing after him. Will that ever come back into play, or have we moved beyond it?
Personally, I would love to explore more of Peter’s past. I think there’s a ton of interesting stuff about Peter that we haven’t yet dealt with. That being said, it certainly won’t be this season. Hopefully — knock on wood — if there’s a fourth season, we’ll focus more on Peter. But the theme of this season is Olivia, so everything is going to go through Olivia. So we won’t be getting to know more about Peter this year, unless it’s to reflect back on Olivia.
Cliff brings us to the burning question of the moment. A couple episodes ago, The Observer seemed to intimate that Peter was a daddy – or about to become one.
The good news is that I can answer that one freely, because we haven’t addressed that yet on the show. So I won’t be giving anything away.
Do you think Fauxlivia is pregnant with Peter’s child?
My theory is that – like all things Fringe – it has to mean multiple things at the same time. I think it’s possible that she could be pregnant; that’s one big cliffhanger-y thing we could do at the end of the season. But I think it also has to do with the fact that fatherhood is about responsibility and thinking outside of yourself. Remember, The Observer’s comment was aimed at both Walter and Peter. So it could deal with Walter needing to let go of the son if he needs to – which is what that whole episode was about. But I think it also meant that Peter will have a father-like responsibility – that he will make a choice that will impact the people around him. But we’ll see if Peter becomes a daddy.
Now here’s a Fringe theory for you. What if Peter is pregnant?
Only on our show is that completely a possibility.
Lots of fans have been sweating the future of Fringe, due to the move to Friday. How are you feeling about it? Are you hopeful about the future?
Having worked in television for awhile, I, like everyone else, went “Ooo, that’s not good” when they moved us to Friday. But my opinion on this is this: If all the people who watch Fringe – on the day and date and on DVR – tune in on Fridays for the next five or six weeks, then the show will be fine. The way to save the show is very simple: If you’re a hardcore fan of the show – and in particular, if you’re a hardcore fan of the show with a Nielsen box – you have to give us an hour of your time on Friday night. To its credit, [Fox] has given us every shot. We stumbled out of the gate the first year, but Fox stuck with us. In the second season, they may have had expectations that we didn’t meet when they moved us to Thursday night, but we held our own. And now, while we have lost something of the casual viewer, we retain a solid base of hardcore viewers. If the hardcores come with us to Friday night and stick with us for the rest of the season, we’ll be able to tell next year’s story.
Coming next week: Jackson answers more of your questions. Will there be another musical-noir “Brown Betty” episode? What’s his theory about The First People? And why doesn’t he Twitter? Revelation awaits. And remember to come back tomorrow for Ken Tucker’s recap of “Immortality.”