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Fringe‘s Jasika Nicole Talks Sci-Fi, Drawing, and More: Part I

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We are nearing the end of the eight week back-to-back Fringe marathon ending its amazing second season run. Filming wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and since then, the cast and crew have been taking the time to talk to the media. Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call interview with Fringe's executive producers, Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman; this week I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Jasika Nicole.

And don't worry, Fringies: there are no spoilers in this piece.

I caught Jasika on the phone, and thankfully we are not in the same time zone as she is back in New York City for the summer. And you know what? She really is as nice as she seems. She spent almost an hour patiently and enthusiastically answering my many questions (some of which I’m certain she has heard many times before), making it obvious that she loves her job portraying Astrid Farnsworth in Fringe.

This enthusiasm spills into other aspects of her life, including her passion for drawing (check out her awesome drawings) and a cause dear to her, the environment. And it’s not one of those fake enthusiasms for a cause célébre; rather it was the informed opinion of someone who has done her homework and is contributing to the betterment of society in whatever way she can. We both puzzled over the fact that the mounting interest and concern about the state of the environment didn't correlate with a subsequent change in people's consumption habits.

In an effort to help increase awareness and encourage such a change in behaviour, Jasika is using her talents as one of the contributing designers for Eco Art Productions, a line of eco-friendly products made from organic materials. More specifically, Jasika has been designing purses for them in a project that has been in the works for a little over two and a half years, well before Fringe happened. Based on the success of the current run, Jasika is hoping to design much more than purses in the near future. It's like Peter Weller said during a Fringe conference call a couple of weeks ago — one can use the visibility one gets from working in the film industry to either ask for a better table at a restaurant or to raise awareness about issues that one feels strongly about.

Speaking of drawing, there is something Jasika mentioned during the interview that made my ears perk up. Well actually, it’s a couple of somethings, some I knew, some she mentioned, and one that is common knowledge. And so, I have decided to take my theory-making from the fictional worlds of Fringe to our own world. Let’s do some detective work, shall we?

First we have the fact that, as mentioned above, Jasika is very good at drawing. Second we have the fact that she loves comics. Interestingly enough, her partner started feeding her a steady diet of her preferred comics in the year before she started working on Fringe. And now, Jasika loves comics so much she is spending her summer taking comic book illustration courses at a studio in New York City.

Third we have the fact that Jasika has been a sci-fi fan since well before her involvement with Fringe. One of her favourite shows growing up was Alien Nation, which she watched with her father every single night (awww!). Jasika admits that she didn’t understand all of it, but even at a young age, she found it incredibly entertaining. Long time readers of my Fringe feature know that, as an a X-Files fans, something like this was bound to make me quite happy. I should have asked her what she thinks of Supernatural

Fourth we have the fact that Jasika loves Fringe not only as something she is part of, but also as a fan of the show. She spoke of the show in a way only a fan could, delighting over the evolving relationships between the characters and wondering at some of the same questions we at The Fringe Report have been asking lately. Which makes me wonder: could we get Jasika to attend a Twitter Fringe party?

Based on all of the above, could we one day perhaps be treated to a Fringe comic written and illustrated by none other than Jasika Nicole? Come to think of it, it really wouldn't be that out there, as it would be the logical continuation of the story of Jasika's involvement with Fringe.

I would say that this involvement started before her auditions for the role of Astrid Farnsworth. These auditions came straight on the heels of a rather depressing heartbreak for Jasika. Her previous audition had been for a part she believed would be her big break. After all, it was a lead role she had successfully auditioned for and had had numerous call backs for. She had met the director as well as John Krazinski, who was to be — she thought — her costar. Jasika had basically gotten to the end of the audition process; it was down to her and another actress, both of whom were asked to come in for one last audition.

That's when Jasika found out that the 'other actress' was none other than Maya Rudolph. And her heart sank; after all, it was Maya Rudolph, whom in Jasika's words is an extremely talented actress. She knew right then and there that she wasn't going to get the part. And so she became really depressed in the following weeks. It was actually the first time since she had come to New York and had started the whole auditioning process that she seriously questioned herself: did she have the heart to restart the entire audition process? Could she handle more heartbreak inherent to the process?

The first audition she got right after losing the part to Maya Rudolph was the one for Fringe. Funnily enough, Jasika was really pessimistic about it! She felt she wasn't your typical sci-fi, FBI agent type. Thankfully, despite this, she still auditioned – after all, you don't say no to an audition.

We know how this story finishes, but it's still quite amusing to find out that the first audition didn't go well – at all. On top of that, Jasika was in an "I can't believe I'm putting myself through this again" mood. It didn't help that this was one of the most secretive and therefore confusing auditions she ever had to do. The only thing Jasika knew was that this would be a JJ Abrams sci-fi show — which is akin to knowing nothing. The level of secrecy was such that there was no script for Fringe at the auditions. Rather they were being done using sci-fi scripts from shows that never made it. Each time she went for a callback, Jasika would be handed a different script and would audition for yet another character. Because of this lack of consistency, she had no idea what show she was auditioning for: was it going to be a good show or a crappy one?

Despite what seemed like the worst odds as well as a negative outlook, Jasika had landed the part of Astrid Farnsworth and was flying to Toronto to shoot the pilot a mere two weeks later. She had never even met either JJ Abrams or Fringe's executive producers! She got her first glimpse of the script while on the plane and had the best of surprises: this was not only a part, but a part in what was going to be a really good show.

Since then, Jasika has come to appreciate everything about the show and most of all, the effort poured into it at every level of its production. It's a joy for her to come in to work every day, as she not only loves sci-fi, acting, and her coworkers, but she loves everything that has to do with special effects. Coming to the set thus becomes the end of a waiting game that starts when she reads the script and wonders how certain special effects are going to be carried out.

We talked about the Fringe sets a little bit, particularly about Walter's lab. As a Fringie, I find the set pretty fascinating to look at, so I can only imagine how much fun it is for a Fringe fan to actually work in that environment. What Jasika finds great about that set is that it’s filled with medical and science equipment that actually works. There are so many levers and buttons that sometimes she just can't help but wonder what they do; and she admits that she just might have reached over a couple of times in the past to push a button or pull on a lever and, lo and behold, something would start beeping. Unfortunately, these urges would sometimes happen right in the middle of a take… and knowing she can't touch these things is akin to telling a child not to press a red button. Poor Jasika; doesn't she know that resistance is futile?

Perhaps then it's a good thing Jasika found herself a safe go-to prop on that set: the numerous notebooks sprinkled throughout. An important part of any lab, these notebooks serve not only to keep Jasika away from the levers and buttons she isn't supposed to play with, but also serve as an outlet for her creativity. Whether taking notes as Astrid or bored between takes, Jasika has drawn at least once in every single notebook on the set. Maybe next time I get the opportunity to talk to her I’ll ask her what she has been drawing.

Until then, Fringies, I challenge you to hone your screencapping skills and try to catch a glimpse of one of these drawings. To your laptops!

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