Emmy Watch: 'Fringe' star John Noble on slapping Joshua Jackson
John Noble is scoping out the competition.
The Fringe actor is working his way through his Emmy screeners — a collection of the best television from the past year. He’s usually too busy to watch live, but now, just before Emmy voters narrow an expansive list of talent to just a few names, he’s catching up. “I’ve seen some terrific television the last few weeks just watching the screeners,” he tells EW. “Someone said the other day, ‘It’s a golden age of television.’ And it really could be; there’s some marvelous stuff being made.” Several critics agree: Fringe included.
And as the show heads into its final 13 episodes (something that will happen without co-showrunner Jeff Pinkner, whose exit was announced Tuesday night), Noble is hoping for closure above all. “Fringe is a saga…there needs to be a resolution,” he says. “People are so devoted to Fringe and to wanting this story to be completed. And if we can complete it properly, then it goes into the annals as one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time.”
How that will happen, he’s not sure. What he does know is that “most of next season” will take place in 2036, a world fans first got a glimpse of in the 19th episode of last season, “Letters of Transit.” “Episode 4.19 didn’t just appear,” he says. “We didn’t even know we were picked up then. But what they said was, ‘If we are being picked up, this is where we’re going.'” But most of Noble’s conversation with EW was more focused on where we’ve been with Walter Bishop in the last year. So, we walked through the highlights in our Emmy Watch deep dive. First, watch a clip of one of his favorite moments:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about some of your favorites.
JOHN NOBLE: I had some favorites. I loved the “Letters of Transit” episode, which was the one where we went into the future. I thought that was really a beautiful looking episode, beautifully told. I very much liked “Return to Westfield” because it was the first time that really the old team had got back together again — Walter and Olivia (Anna Torv) and Peter (Joshua Jackson). It was a very interesting story for all sorts of reasons. Those two stand out.
Episode 20, where the two worlds were bridged was also a fan favorite.
I loved the final conversation between Walter and Walternate where they’re in the corridor together. I waited a long time to see how that would be handled, and I thought the writers really handled it beautifully and eloquently. I loved doing that scene.
Tell me what it was like filming that.
I think I was so ready for it. For me, I realized there needed to be a payoff between the fellows. And I’ve always seen them as two shades of the one man. You know, he’s the same man, but circumstances took him in a different direction. So it was like a personal reconciliation for Walter, Walternate. I was really touched by the way they were able to be so kind to each other. I found that encouraging, and it was the way that I would have wanted it to happen. There had been plenty of abuse flying around, previously. But it was just like a human being finally coming to some sort of resting point in their life and saying, “OK, let’s stop fighting.Let’s just agree on what we can agree on.” So, on a much larger scale, I thought it was beautiful. The whole sequence was beautiful. Looking back on it now, it was really sad that separation of the two worlds. No one kind of expected it to be because I have to tell you, they’re brutal to film, those doppleganger sequences. They are really demanding, and they take forever and ever and ever and ever. But I loved that scene.
Was it hard for you to say goodbye to that character?
I always had a soft spot for Walternate. I always figured that if my world was in trouble — I mean, really in trouble — he’d be the one I’d want to be in charge. And obviously he was painted as the baddie, initially. But I never personally took it that way. I took it as a man with a job to do and a huge burden and very good reason to be incredibly angry and vengeful should he choose to go that way. But he never did take that these actions; he just wanted to save his world. And then I got the chance — I think it was maybe last season– to humanize him a bit.
Look, Walter…Walternate, I don’t really think he’s gone. I think he’s just one suit away; I just need put on another $2000 dollar suit…
Well, let’s keep you away from suits, then — for the good of the universe.
Peter and Walter had an amazing scene in the finale, right after he shot Olivia and he was working to save her. Did you actually slap Josh?
There is a little story to that. When we were doing it, it was very complicated. What Josh had realized was that his girl was lying there dead — hurt — and then [Walter] had just come trying to reason with him. There was just no way he would have done anything except strangle Walter really. So I said to [Josh], “We need [him] to snap on this one.” And we’d never done it; there’d never been any physical contact between the men. So I said, “How about if I slap you?” And he said, “Yes, that’s what it needs.” So we put that in. And it did; it was very powerful. When a person’s in distress, sometimes they slap them. So we put that in, and it was terrific. It was effective. And it was dramatically right for what we needed to do.
So, in sum, how are you feeling about your chances?
I’ll put it this way: I would be more surprised to get a nomination than to not get one. It would be fantastic if that happened.