Joshua Jackson plays Peter Bishop on the hit FOX television show Fringe and took some time out of his busy shooting schedule for season two to chat with us about the new season and answer a number of questions from a variety of sites and publications. The season two opener aired on Thursday, September 17, the same day we spoke with Jackson.
The season opener starts with one heck of an entry and I have to say I was definitely engaged. Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is in one heck of an odd car crash and recovers in a hospital bed throughout most of the episode. We spend a good deal of time learning about new FBI team member Agent Jessup (Meghan Markle) and her perceptions of Fringe Division even as Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick) is fighting to keep Fringe Division open. The biggest surprise was with agent Charlie Francis (Kirk Acevedo) meeting an untimely end. I read elsewhere that Acevedo may be leaving the series this year. I think his calm demeanor and sense of humor will be missed on the show.
While speaking with Jackson, he seemed genuinely engaged by the questions and happy to talk about the show. His enthusiasm provided a great backdrop to the interview and rubbed off on many of the people on the call.
When asked what he enjoyed more — when an episode has a lot of action, fighting, or racing around; when there are crazy science elements involved; or when he's doing a scene with the cow — Jackson replied that what he really enjoys is keeping the dynamic between Peter and Walter (John Noble) growing:
"The cow’s a diva; it’s a little known fact. She’s not very giving. I don’t know that I have a particular favorite. I think if I did any one of those things too much each one would become boring in their way. The hope is to try and balance those things out as much as possible, if not in every episode, in every couple of episodes. I would tell you that the thing I spend the time thinking about is trying to keep the dynamic between Peter and Walter truthful and growing, but the beauty of being on a television show is that you get to do a little bit of everything all the time."
He also seems very aware of the craziness of the series from one episode to the next. Fringe science deals with some very intriguing, but not mainstream concepts.
"That’s the beauty of our show; if we don’t have a new crazy thing, something’s gone horribly wrong so I take it always as a positive thing. Each week it’s a little bit of a science lesson for the class, it’s a little bit of a vocabulary lesson for the class and it always presents you with some other kooky thing."
"As a fan, the things that I like most about our show, the genre that our show is in is the bigger story rather than the individual creepy, gooey stuff. What we’ve done pretty well is to make each one of the creepy, gooey things add up into a much bigger story. That’s the thing that I peak out on that I think is so cool."
Jackson also seems fascinated (as are most fans) with the realization at the end of last season that Peter is from the alternate universe and was snatched as a child by Walter and brought back as a youngster.
Said Jackson, "The Peter story line, what I love so much about that beyond the 'ain’t-it-cool' factor is now the audience knows something about Peter that he doesn’t know about himself, something crucial about him that he doesn’t know about himself. We come to find out that this is a large part of the guilt that Walter carries around is that he baby-snatched Peter as a young boy. Inevitably that information had to come out so while I don’t know the particulars much further than the episode that I’m shooting right now I do think eventually that has to come to a head and it will lead to a conflict between the two guys."
"The entire first season for Peter and Walter was about this father and son reconnecting through the craziness of their circumstances and actually becoming something of a family, a very dysfunctional family, but something of a family. And season two has carried that forth. In the beginning Peter is really invested now in being part of this team and actually belonging to this fringe family, but eventually he’s going to find out that this horrible thing happened to him as a child and that’s going to blow up his relationship with Walter and probably with Olivia I would imagine. To me, that’s the great thing hanging over Peter the entire season and it gives me something to move toward as they go forward."
My own question was about the sarcasm of Jackson's character. It was one of the reasons my wife and I were attracted to the show (beyond the "gee-whiz" factor). When asked how much of the sarcastic interplay between Walter and Peter was improvised vs. scripted, Jackson gave a lot of credit to the screenwriters and Noble.
He replied, "I’ll give the writers credit. I’d say most of those lines are written, though there is, particularly in the scenes with John, John and I have a very strong working rapport and he’s a very playful actor. I mean that in a good way that he likes to keep things live and so you keep on testing and trying. Just to toot my own horn, I feel like I’m a bit that way myself. So I think a lot of the humor of those moments comes out of the two of us just playing around until we figure out something that pops out of it, though the scenarios are definitely written. I would say that Peter’s a much more cynical man than Josh is; his sarcasm has a tendency to be a lot darker than my sense of humor."
It also sounds like we'll be diving more into Peter's dark past this season, which also seemed to please Jackson.
"It’s the thing that drew me into the character in the very beginning, the idea that he has, not even gray, a very black past that he was in a way running from and in another way wants to run back to. Oddly, being an arms dealer and being generally not a very good person is probably simpler for him emotionally than having to deal with his father and to confront all these things from his childhood."
Jackson also professed a love for science fiction and fantasy, which definitely is a plus when working on a sci-fi show like Fringe. "It is a ton of fun for a guy who loves science fiction to be working on a science fiction show. Like I said to the guy before you, none of the concepts that are raised on this show are entirely foreign to me or do they seem that far out there, but I’ve never worked on a show before where we get to actually explore those ideas."
It seems that this season will continue the amazing run that Fringe had during its inaugural season last year. Count me among the throngs of fan interested to see where the cases take the team and wanting to learn more!
Be sure to tune into Fringe every Thursday night on FOX.