FRINGE’s Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman: ‘Answers Are Coming Very Soon!’ Plus, Teases For the Astrid-Centric Hour, Episode 19, and More
February 2, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
FRINGE fans, if you’ve been wondering when the heck answers would be coming, executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman have this to say: “Answers are coming very soon.”
I talked with Pinkner and Wyman earlier this week and they were game to tease this Friday’s big Astrid-centric hour, balancing Peter’s journey with cases and these new characters, alt-Broyles, the status of a few returns, episode 19, a few crazy theories and more…
How are you guys feeling about FRINGE season 4 so far?
J.H. Wyman: We’re really excited, because we’re at the end of the season [in terms of writing] and we feel really good about where we’ve been and where we’re going. We’re excited. We’ve got a lot of great things coming up that we feel people will be really excited about.
Speaking of exciting, we’re finally getting an Astrid-centric episode! What made the timing right for the hour to happen now?
Jeff Pinkner: I don’t know if it was so much what made the timing right, right now, but it was something that — Jasika [Nicole (Astrid)] is spectacular. She’s a spectacular actor, she has been from day one. The role, as designed, was never meant to carry the show. She was written very much as the support system for Walter. But truly every single thing we give her, she just crushes. And we constantly look for more and more ways to give her more to do. And Joel, I, and [executive producer] Akiva [Goldsman] were sitting around saying, “What do we want to do with this story?” And it was a story about grief and we thought, “Oh, here’s an idea — why don’t we write a story for alt-Astrid and Astrid together?” And, as always, one of the major themes in our show is the dopplegangers and coming face-to-face with another version of yourself. And by design, unlike the other characters, alt-Astrid is not just a matter of choices [in her differences from the original Astrid]. With that character, it’s a matter of chromosomes. So we thought the best way to highlight that was to have alt-Astrid come over and seek out Astrid to see how her life might have gone in a different direction.
In the past, we’ve really seen our characters go Over There, versus the alts coming over here. Does them coming to our side change the power dynamic of these relationships? Or is there really not an issue of an “upper hand” in this case?
JP: It’s not an episode about power and it’s not an episode about upper hands. The two teams are very much working together. But alt-Astrid is taking very much a personal journey of discovery and questioning. That’s playing against the backdrop of the case, but her trip is not case-related.
As a consequence of alt-Astrid coming over here, Fauxlivia follows because she’s come to retrieve her agent and colleague. Which makes for a really fun dynamics in our lab among our characters, because Walter, of course, is no great fan of Fauxlivia, who even in this time[line] spent a few months in his lab posing as Olivia. So I think that, to your question, it’s really not a matter of power games or the two sides working against each other. They’re very much working together.
And how will this big meeting change the two Astrids going forward?
JW: I think emotionally, it’s going to affect Astrid over here because she realizes the situation she’s in in her life is actually really, really good. Jeff and I use it as a mirror to highlight a bit of the theme of what impact do you have on others and what impact do others have on you? I think that basically, her seeing the alternate version of herself and the deviation of that version of fate and destiny really opens up her eyes to how great her own existence is and she’s really appreciative of everything that she’s experiencing. And it’ll be very emotional.
Given how strong of an Astrid episode this is set to be, how much of a struggle is it for you guys to try and balance Peter and his journey back to his timeline versus the need to have standalone, case of the week elements, while also satisfying these other new characters we’ve been introduced to?
JW: When Jeff and I came up with the idea of “mythalones,” it was a big breakthrough for us. You can tell the entire episode thematically through the A-story and the B-story. They have great characters that have a lot of pathos and guest stars that can deepen our own characters through their own interactions. So we really love to tell stories in that manner, so it’s not really a task. We look for great guest stars in great roles that we can bring on so we can highlight our own characters and what they’re going through at that minute.
As far as balance goes, you know, we’re always very careful to make sure we’re tending to everybody’s emotional arc in the best way possible at a paced rate that seems to be logical for the unfolding of their story.
JP: When we expanded the show to include two universes, we’re insanely fortunate that we have great actors, all of whom can carry a story, all of whom we’re interested in telling stories about. If anything, the challenge is to service the stories we want to tell and not get too excited about any person. It’s to constantly remind ourselves and obviously our staff and everybody involved that we can’t get caught up in any one. We’re trying to find the right balance and trying to service all the characters is a very, very, very wonderful problem to have. There’s more stories that we want to tell than we have time for.
This may be FRINGE for Dummies-type question, but as we dive deeper into Peter trying to return to his timeline, does the old timeline co-exist with the new one in different locations like a quasi-universe? Is it actually a location he can go to?
JP: Well, certainly, Peter is under the belief and his drive has been — he is under the belief that his timeline exists and he’s trying to get back to it. Now, the idea of the timeline, it’s not the same as a [new] universe, but it’s sort of synonymous.
JW: In this version of history, he does not exist. Are there are other versions? You’ll have to wait to find out.
So it’s not like technically Olivia and Walter are at the machine, somewhere, in another timeline, wondering where Peter went?
JP: It’s certainly possible. That’s what Peter believes.
JW: It’s possible. You’ll have to wait and see. It will become clear.
It will become clear in upcoming episodes or more towards the end of the season?
JW: I think in upcoming episodes, you’ll start to see the real picture of what happened and how he has to get home.
Will we be seeing any of our original characters in a non-dream capacity before the end of the season?
JP: Peter’s drive is to get back to the timeline that he left. We can tell you with great confidence and assurity and honesty that we will be tracking the story from Peter’s point of view. We’re not going to be flashing to a timeline unless it’s with Peter.
It’s fascinating to go this long without “our” characters. When you guys changed up the format last year and we explored Over There, we still flashed back to see what our guys were up to. It’s been a long drought since we saw most of the characters we spent three years with!
JW: Yeah, like everybody was missing Peter, and then he appeared again. We always had every intention of that, but people were like, “Oh my gosh, where’s Peter?” It’ll have the same — you’re going to understand a lot more in the next couple of episodes that are coming up…Jeff and I have said it before, but we would never, ever, ever want three seasons of a show to not exist anymore. That’s not fair.
JP: We’re fans. And we’re fans not only of our show, but of other shows, and of movies and of books. We understand there is a certain tolerance for frustration — for healthy frustration, for narrative frustration, for watching your characters suffer and not wanting them to suffer. But that’s what makes us, as audiences, feel things. And we also know there’s also a point where you can push that frustration too far and either lose or betray your audience. We promise not to betray our audience and as Joel has said, answers are coming very soon. And not just, “I get it,” but emotional answers.
Very glad to hear that. In terms of a possibly crazy theory, have we already seen alt-Nina on our screens and we don’t know it? Or is that just my hopeful thinking because I don’t want another person to betray Olivia?
JP: It may just be your hopeful thinking. Just stick by it and you’ll find out.
It’s sad, because I do adore this new mother-daughter relationship between her and Olivia and I don’t want Nina to be betraying it. Olivia needs something untainted!
JW: Life is tough! [Laughs] Everyone has motivations for doing things. If you remember way back, Massive Dynamic always used to have teeth in it and Nina used to have teeth in it and you’ll have to see. We’re glad you’re asking these questions because they’re exactly what you should be asking.
Are we going to be learning more about what is driving Nina?
JW: Yes, 100%.
JW: Yep, very soon.
Will we also be finding out a little more about alt-Broyles and his shadiness?
JW: You’re going to be finding out more about alt-Broyles, absolutely. Big time.
JP: Within the next couple of episodes, you’re going to be getting a lot of answers and in the episodes following that, you’re going to be getting answers on other topics, all of which you’re hitting on…I guess the overall message here is — and in no way trying to be crass about it — the overall message here is if the audience is patient and hangs through the next few episodes, a lot is going to become clear.
I don’t know how many fan theories you guys get to read, but some people are guessing that we may have a shapeshifter on one of our teams…
JW: [Laughs] We love all those people and their theories. Some of them are a little more colorful than others. Um…we couldn’t say one way or the other.
Was it a theory you were aware was floating around out there?
JP: We see the theories.
JW: We hear.
Speaking of our team being replaced by shapeshifters, now that Kirk Acevedo (Charlie) is no longer committed to PRIME SUSPECT, can we expect Charlie to return?
JP: We have been in contact with Kirk and his representatives, but beyond that, it would be unfair to say. We love Kirk.
And I’m guessing you’d be just as vague about Andre Royo’s Henry?
JW: Yep. We love Kirk, we love [the character of] Henry. We know everybody loves them, too. We’re definitely fans.
Episode 19 should be just around the corner for you guys in terms of writing and production. Is there anything you can tease about what you’ll be doing this season?
JW: We can’t really tell you what it is because we never say what they are, but usually spot 19 is reserved for something that’s a little off the beaten path, that thematically will represent what we’re doing. What sort of speaks to the thematic elements that we’re involved in and the characters are involved in. It will be entertaining for the viewer to say, oh, it’s a little respite from our regular storytelling that goes off into an area that will teach you something new, but isn’t necessarily in the narrative we’ve been following. And I think we can say that this year will be no different. It’s hard [to say more], we can’t spoil that because that’s our little fun time. When the cartoon came on [last season], everyone like, “Oh my God!” We don’t want to reduce that impact.
Hey, as long as you can confirm you’re going to do something for it, that’s a good tease.
JW: Yeah, for sure we are.
And yes, there is more to come with my chat with Pinkner and Wyman, including September’s prediction about Olivia, the Peter-Olivia-Lincoln triangle and more, so make sure to check back next week for that!
Are you excited to hear answers are coming? Excited for the Astrid episode? Have a good theory about episode 19? I want to hear all your comments below!
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