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Fringe‘s John Noble Talks About “Peter” and the End of Season Two: Part II

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John Noble’s conference call interview last Friday gave us insights and information not only about upcoming episodes of Fringe, but also on playing Walter, his favourite moments during the last year and a half, and  some great answers to questions that are solidifying his status as my favourite Fringe actor.

There was just so much extra awesomeness during Friday’s conference call with Noble that I couldn’t live with myself if I weren’t to share more of it with Fringe fans. And so, here are some more things John Noble had to say. You will probably recognize some of it from part one of the interview I already posted here, but I thought it would be interesting to mention some things again in the context of the question that was asked as well as the entire answer that John Noble gave.

On his theatre background:

“In the early days I certainly did some music theatre and even dropped into a couple of operas in small acting roles. […] I suggest that probably [my co-stars] are much better singers than me. Lance Reddick is a superb singer and musician; we realise now that Anna Torv has got a beautiful voice and that’s just the starting point. Jasika Nicole is also from a musical background. So it was quite a reveal to us how much talent there was within the company. As I said, I was certainly not the A-lister in that group of people.”

On going back to 1985:

“I can remember exactly what I was doing in 1985. I was still working in the theatre. I had just directed a very successful play which we had finished up in London. That was ’85 for me, but it seems like a lifetime ago. Our children were babies, oh God, I could reminisce, but ’85… it was the year before Chernobyl? It was an interesting time. We were in Britain at the time when Chernobyl blew up, you know, and that seems like history, but that was ’85 for us, it was… going back… I mean physically, you’re probably in better shape 25 years earlier than you are now, but I worked pretty hard on that aspect myself. Mentally … I think as you get older you lose your arrogance, to be honest with you. I think  … at 21 you know everything, and then little by little you lose, or you realise you know very little. So I think we have a more compassionate, humane man now than we had 25 years ago. But he was a determined and brilliant man, and he believed in himself entirely. He believed that he could achieve things, he believed that he could save his son. And that’s the difference from this indecisive man we see now.”

On past experiences playing such emotionally charged episodes:

“I have done a couple of one-man shows which means you’re on stage by yourself for anything from one and a half to two hours. That’s a fairly good preparation for this type of material. But I knew ahead of time that it was going to be a strain so I was in really good condition physically and mentally about the time we got to it. And in fact I wasn’t wading in. And it was an episode we shot just before Christmas so it meant that we were looking at having a break immediately afterward so it was really tough but totally enjoyable. And the whole company… not only me, the whole company put in tremendous effort to give the quality that I hope, I certainly believe is there.”

On playing Walter:

“You’ve accurately described Walter as a man that is capable of incredible laser-like thought processes and also is childish and haphazard and random. The joy of it is really that I’m free to make those choices, that sometimes Walter will hide, I think, behind his childishness and at times he will substitute a rage for a childlike episode … He’s an incredibly complex character … However I think that there is a little bit of Walter in all of us, and certainly I’ve observed in my life the extremes that we see in Walter, I’ve observed in other people. The joy for me is that every day is a challenge, is to make those choices to which way I’ll go. And I work quite closely with the writers on this material as well.”

“It was wonderful to go back and visit the man before he became this damaged creature that we know now. It was probably in some ways closer to myself than the Walter we see now. And so, in some ways it was quite comfortable to go back to that place. It was an easier ride than doing the Walter you know and that the audiences know. And it was kind of nice to have that, to be able to play with a more youthful energy. But bear in mind as we speak about this, that that’s two versions of Walter, but you are also introduced to another, briefly, who will play a major part coming forward in the series, and that’s Walternate. So you’ve got three quite distinct version of Walter to look at here … [Walternate is] quite different from Walter in many ways. It’s great fun; it’s a great challenge, but it’s great fun.”

“When I first approached the character, I was looking for something that was kind of unique, and I just came up with – we could have done standard American, but I was looking for something a little more trans-Atlantic. Because my experience with academics, they do have a slightly different way of talking … and they mix with people from all over the world, so their accent shifts. So I guess what I settled on was something which could have been like a Boston accent but with English affectations, and that was the trans-Atlantic one. That’s what I’ve been trying to get.”

On turning off his character at the end of the day:

No, I don’t [have trouble turning him off]. I can turn him off. I mean perhaps I’m a little crazy most of the time – some people say so – but I don’t certainly get depressed with him anyway.

On the imaginary world of sci-fi being a predictor of the future:

“I grew up as a child reading Jules Verne and it all seemed to be some mysterious and otherworldly being and basically everything that he talked about has been revealed. I think that one of the great things about science fiction is that is does in fact predict the way more often than not and a lot of the things that have been discussed in science fiction and comics indeed have turned out to be the truth 30 or 40 or 50 years later. So this really is no surprise to me.”

On the science of Fringe:

“I try to know what I’m saying [about the science in the episodes]. The rule of thumb is that is it within the realm of theoretical physics, or theoretical science, that this could happen? That’s the question I would put out there. And if someone can't justify within the realms of theoretical physics, then why are we doing it? There’s no need to. There’s such rich material there, already theorised by the great minds in science and chemistry and physics. So we try to make it at least possible theoretically and that includes things like time travel and other universes and so forth, things that are theoretically possible. Sometimes you know we cross the line a little bit I think, but generally, we’re pretty – I mean, my feeling is, you don’t actually need to make up rubbish, you know. There’s so much tantalizing science out there to be found that you really don’t need to make it up, and the writers seem to agree pretty much most of the time.”

On working with awesome props:

There were none that grossed me out. There were some that – because I basically know that we are dealing with prosthetics and brilliant prosthetics at that, but I know that they are and that we’re not actually hurting real people … it’s like an incredible toy room for me, and the special effects people keep coming up with more and more gross things for me to play with and I don’t know where their imaginations will lead, but it’s astonishing some of the things – and you haven’t seen some of the ones that I believe are the best ones, they haven’t gone to air yet, to be honest with you. So nothing, really. There was one, it was a live actor, and we had maggots crawling out of his body – that was a bit hard to take, because that was a live actor that did that. So that was a bit gross. I think that was the one that really freaked out Jasika the most. But no, … I find them amusing.”

On Walter’s experiments:

“There have been so many good ones. I like the … silly one where we had the frog being ejected from the car into the net. That was kind of hilarious to do. I don’t know if you remember that one, we had a car, a frog in a car, right back at the beginning of the season I think, it was kind of hilarious. We’ve done another one coming up which is how Walter describes how we cross the universes and I think that’s coming up in an episode shortly and again it was excellent. There’s one where we built a huge sort of Lego building of a … molecule … and that was great fun. You know, what Walter manages to do is to make them look like the sort of thing that any child would want to play with, whilst intent on explaining the scientific theory.”

Would Walter have told Peter the truth had Olivia not seen him glimmer?

“I think inevitably the truth would have to have come out, simply because of the escalation of the events in the Pattern. That something has started, which was created, which was caused by the fact that Walter breached the tissue between the fabrics to get young Peter out. So eventually he would have had to find out. But it was far more interesting for us to find out through this lead character of ours, this very strange and wondrous Olivia character, a much better and dramatic way for him to find out.”

Pretty awesome, no?

I’d like to end this piece with a couple of thoughts. First, when are we going to have a series of webisodes entitled "Walter’s Lab" or even "Jasika’s Lab Moments"? Second, why don’t we have "Walter’s Notes" any more? Third, is there anyone working on a book called The Science of Fringe? And fourth, could I go for coffee with John Noble just to pick his brain a little more? I get the impression that he would get a kick out of reflecting on the various dilemmas and thoughts I love to write about.

FOX (the network, not Mulder), give me a call.

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