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A Chat with Fringe‘s Mark Valley on the Art of Playing a Dead Guy

On Tuesday, February 3, FOX airs a pivotal new episode of Fringe entitled "The Transformation." In it, FBI agent Olivia Dunham(Anna Torv) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) go undercover to investigate some bizarre occurrences aboard an international jumbo jet. For fans curious about apparently dead FBI Agent John Scott (Mark Valley), who is currently part of Olivia’s memories in an as yet not fully explored fashion, "The Transformation" sheds some light on his storyline. I was recently able to take part in a conference call with Valley in which he explained the art of playing a dead guy.

John Scott’s character died in the pilot episode and to date, as we see him through his girlfriend’s Olivia’s memories, it’s not clear whether he is a bad guy or a misunderstood good guy. ValMark Valley as John Scottley fielded some questions on his own view of Scott’s morality and said, "I think he’s just a real believer. I think he’s really serious about what he does, and whoever it is that he is working for, he’s extremely loyal to them. Aside from that, I don’t really want to judge it, to be honest with you… I think that whether he’s good or bad, there’s a degree of guilt that he carries around with him." Valley did admit it was a challenge to figure out how to play someone who so far only exists in memory, saying: "I think when you’re talking about John Scott being inside Olivia’s brain, then you’re dealing with a consciousness, or the way someone remembers someone, as well as his own particular memories and his own consciousness. I like to think that his consciousness is actually in her head, so it’s actually as if he were definitely alive.

Most of the actor’s scenes to date have been with Anna Torv, and Valley said he loves to work with her "because she has such a solid idea of what’s going on in a scene and what her objective is and what she’s going to do." In general, he said the set has no off-camera drama and is a wonderful work environment.

In the interview, Valley was outed as a science and math geek, he graduated from West Point majoring in Math and Engineering. He began his acting career while in the army and he was asked how he judged Fringe’s portrayal of army bureaucracy based on his own army experience. Valley noted that he had no experience withMark Valley and Anna Torv Homeland Security procedures, but in terms of the portrayals of the characters, he found them believable. Laughing, he said, "The FBI would probably take [Anna Torv] on right now if she applied."

The coolest facts Valley has learned so far in doing the show are that LSD can actually be used for practical purposes and a virus could possibly be grown into a parallel organism. He also recalled his most personally memorable moment so far: "[It] was probably in the pilot when I was covered in an inch of goo and prosthetic muscle and veins running all over me . . . I was walking down the hallway and somebody saw me and freaked out, and I realized just how grotesque I looked."  As for whether or not Scott is really and truly dead, we'll just have to keep watching to find out.

Fringe airs on FOX at 9:00 PM ET on Tuesdays, following American Idol.

Photos courtesy of FOX/Craig Blankenhorn

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