FRINGE: Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman on ‘Neither Here Nor There,’ Fan Support, Alt-Nina, and More
September 20, 2011 by Marisa Roffman
After having arguably the biggest cliffhanger of the season — no, seriously, where the heck did Peter Bishop go?! — FRINGE is finally back this week with new episodes! (I won’t judge you if you do a happy dance. Swear.)
And while it would be way too spoilery to do a traditional “You Ask, I Answer” for the first two hours of the season, I think I found a solution you guys will be a little happier with: teases straight from FRINGE executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman!
I talked with Pinkner and Wyman earlier today, and they spoke about about their very big premiere, the fan support, alt-Nina, season 4, and more…
What can you tease about the premiere?
J.H. Wyman: As far as teasing goes…
Jeff Pinkner: I think we can say the FRINGE world absent Peter Bishop looks very different.
JW: We’re going to set up the season arc from numerous characters’ perspectives. You’re going to get a full understanding on where the season will be going.
I don’t envy your position right now…there is very little you can say about the premiere without spoiling important elements.
JP: It’s sort of like a fun Catch-22: you want to talk about it, but everything you say in some way might spoil the viewing experience.
Which we obviously don’t want to do. I know you both have tweeted about the absolutely amazing “Where Is Peter Bishop?” video some fans made. How difficult is it for you to try and balance the desire of the fans — which, in the grand scheme of things, is to have Peter back on our screens as soon as possible — with the story you feel you need to tell?
JP: You know what’s funny? What you just said was a lot of our conversation with the network and the studio as we pitched them our season-long arc. And they, coming from a fan perspective — and also a marketing perspective — [said], “We need Peter back right away because people miss Peter and we need him back.” And our counterargument was, “To really establish his absence will take a little while.” And truly a little while, not a long while, because we know there is good audience frustration and really bad audience frustration.
So the balancing act is specifically the one you pointed to. We need to establish the condition of these characters’ lives in order to set the story, and we also need to feel a sense of loss, because otherwise his return, when it happens, would have no meaning without feeling his absence. And hopefully we’re striking the right balance. I guess we’ll see. We think we are.
JW: A lot of the fans, they’ve communicated via Twitter and things like that and letters that we’ve gotten that they trust [us] — and it’s nerve-wracking because, it’s “Oh my Gosh, what are you guys doing?” but this is a show that consistently — part of its DNA — is refiguring things in a new context for the viewer.
For instance, seeing amber in season one, no one had any idea and now it’s been recontextualized and you know what it is. There’s always a reason for everything. It’s part of our storytelling. We don’t want to frustrate people with these far-out questions that don’t get answered or bait people along. We want to give answers. And I think we’ve proven that we do that. So when we first heard the reaction of people [asking], “Where’s Peter? Where’s Peter?” we were hoping they’d say, “These guys have a plan, and I totally understand. And I care because I’m invested.” And that they would realize that — the reason they are feeling so strongly is because they are invested in the program and we wouldn’t let them down. We wouldn’t try to let them down.
And obviously the fans have shown their support in a massive way with the aforementioned “Where Is Peter Bishop?” video. How did you guys feel when you saw it?
JW: Me personally, I was so floored. And it felt so incredible to see how much the fans love the show and what they’re willing to do and their commitment. It was really moving.
JP: It’s stunning. They played it in a Fox departmental meeting yesterday. That’s not the kind of thing that happens. I’ve never heard of such a thing. And it was a surprise to both of us! Speaking about spoiling, neither one of us had any idea such a thing existed or was in the works until it was presented to us over the weekend. And as I tweeted, at the risk of sounding soft, it choked me up. It was amazing.
And what was kind of amazing about it — or what was additionally amazing about it — is it wasn’t designed as a save the show campaign. It was just a gesture of love, not for us, but for Peter and the actors and the production. It was amazing.
Well, they love you guys, too. You’re both on Twitter, you’ve seen that.
JP: Yes, and it’s incredibly flattering, but we’re not this show. We oversee it and we run it, but there are so many unbelievably talented people who participate in the production of the show, so far be it from us to take more credit than its due.
Which is 100% fair, but you two do write a fair number of episodes per season. Can you share which of the first batch you two wrote?
JP: Well, as showrunners, it’s our responsibility to oversee or to do a pass on all episodes, but our names are specifically on the first one, along with [fellow executive producer] Akiva [Goldsman], who got a story credit. And we cowrote the fourth one with him.
I know last time I asked you for an episode title, I possibly got you in trouble and it definitely ended up changing, but would you be able to share what the title is for that episode or the fifth hour of the season?
JW: You know what, Marisa, we didn’t get in trouble, it was basically Jeff and I — it was funny, because we did have a title, but when Jeff and I were working on the story a little bit, inadvertently, we said, “Neither Here Nor There” in regards to a character and then we both looked at each other and said, “That should be the title” and changed it. So it was truly creative, we weren’t trying to dupe anybody, we just found a better title that meant more to us.
JP: [Episode] four is “Subject 9” and we shouldn’t reveal episode 5 yet.
“Subject 9”? Should fans be reading into the similar title to another episode you’ve done?
JP: Fans are free to read into whatever they want!
Very good to know. Will this be the year we finally meet alt-Nina?
JW: We can’t say that. Suffice to say that… [Long pause] FRINGE is a show that we can do things that you would not expect. And I think that’s the best way to say that. Like, for instance, we’re the only show that could probably do a love triangle with two of the same people. We’re the only show that could do the quintessential kidnapping, but it’s across universes.
I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say we’re going to treat the much-anticipated understanding of Nina Sharp “over there” — we’re going to try and treat it with the same sort of, “Oh my gosh!” as we have with the other aspects [of our story].
That is a very good tease.
JP: She’s a special character and we want to make sure she gets her due.
Fair enough. And while it’s great you guys can tease alt-Nina, I will say, I do appreciate that you both have been open with the fans that it’s not a matter of “if” Peter returns, but rather a matter of “how” and “when.”
JW: We would never do that! There were two things where we were like, wow, I can’t believe people would think we would do that.
And the first thing is, obviously, getting Peter Bishop out of the program. That is insanity. He’s such a huge part of the show and people should know that. He’s just inextricably linked to the DNA. So that’s one thing we couldn’t believe people would think we were thinking of.
The second one is, that people would believe that we would do one of those things that I think is a terrible trick, is you wake up and nothing had happened. That you invest three years of your life in a show and nothing you watched was real anymore. We would never do that. Everything is real. Everything did happen. You are on Peter’s side. You are with Peter this year and you are rooting for him to get things back to normal.
JP: We’re both fans of storytelling — the stories you love are the ones that don’t betray your trust; that don’t betray your investment in them. The story doesn’t always go the way you’d hope it goes, but that’s what allows for hope and payoff. If it was always a series of happy events, by the time you got to the end, you’d be bored. There has to be struggle, there has to be disappointment along the way, but we’ve made it very clear we have no intention of betraying people.
Be honest: are you counting down the hours until the FRINGE season premiere? Make sure to tune in Friday at 9 PM on Fox!
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