FRINGE Bosses: ‘We Definitely Know Where the Series is Going to End’
May 2, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
Fresh off the news that FRINGE is returning for a fifth and final season, executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman hopped on the phone with reporters to discuss that, where they were when they found out the show was coming back, 2036, the status of Over There and more…
On the rumored alternate ending: “We did not shoot an alternate ending,” Wyman insisted. “We thought about it, but we did not.” (My theory — and please know this is really just a guess — is if the show ended this year, potentially they were looking to cut something from the final version of the episode to make it less cliffhanger-y versus actually shooting a different ending. But it’s just a guess and that quote was as far as they elaborated on the subject.)
Instead, Wyman pointed to how this season ends as “I understand how the show can end, but I’m interested in going further [with the story],” much like Peter’s disappearance served to propel the story last year.
On Seth Gabel (Lincoln)’s status with the show and the future of Over There: “We sort of have a ‘no spoilers’ policy because we’re just of the mind that the entertainment value of watching the stories unfold is diminished if you already know what’s coming,” Pinkner said. “We love all those characters from the red-verse, the door is closed because of the problems David Robert Jones is causing. If our team can somehow dispense with Jones, there’s absolutely the possibility of that door being open again. But we can’t definitively say anything, but Seth is spectacular and awesome and has been such a phenomenal addition to the cast. As far as his standing going forward, to say anything about that would also to reveal what is coming ahead.”
“And like we said, nobody is really dead on FRINGE,” Wyman added.
Speaking of MIA characters…
On the potential of a Sam Weiss return: Given what a pivotal role Sam played in pushing our characters forward in seasons 2 and 3 (and his utter absence in this new timeline), I was curious if there were plans in place for him to return before the series ended. Alas, the news isn’t great.
“There are no plans right now,” Wyman said. “We loved him as a character and he did such a great job for us and we know a lot of people are huge fans of his. I think that in this moment, he’s served his purpose.”
2036 and what that means for next season: While Wyman would concede, “I think it’s safe to say you will” see 2036 at some point before the series ends, the producers were mum on specifics.
“We can tell you nothing,” Pinkner laughed.
Well, not entirely nothing.
“Part of our storytelling has been reveals and recontextualizing what you think you know and what you’ve seen and putting that into a different mind frame for the viewer,” Wyman reiterated. “We’ll just say that future is important to our storytelling, but it’s not the be all and end all.”
“There’s always a reason, there’s always a reason to do [jumps forward or backward in time],” Wyman continued. “We’re going to put you in the past so we can put you in that headspace so you can understand where the characters are coming from or has been in order for you to get the full experience of what you’re watching today in the present. And that’s how we feel about ‘Letters of Transit’…there was a reason. 19 is traditionally the one [episode] we go off the beaten path and that was no different — it was off the beaten path. So, does it have further implications? It does. You’re going to definitely need to understand what ‘Letters of Transit’ is or was in order to fully grasp things we want to tell this year.”
On those final 13 episodes: Since the showrunners have been so adamant about knowing where they want to take this show, now that the end is near, I was curious about whether they had given any thought into how they’d fit their final arc into 13 episodes.
“Traditionally, we finish the chapter and close it and start a new one, and we definitely know — when we’re thinking about the end of a season, we’re always thinking about the beginning of the next one and where that’s going to to take us and what kind of doors that’s going to open for us,” Wyman told me. “That’s basically how it’s been from the get-go, and that’s no different this year. We definitely know where the series is going to end and how it’s going to end and what we’re saying with the final season.”
Wyman added later, “It’s the perfect amount of time to be done right and doled out in the right pace. We feel really confident we can have a satisfying ending for us and also for our fans and supporters in those 13 episodes. That’s really what we were hoping for — Fox was so great to deliver and continues to demonstrate their incredible support. We are very content.”
And yes, they really are happy to have 13 final episodes to play with.
“We can only operate on what we have, so we were hoping at the minimum we could get 13 so we could tell our story and we have ways to do that,” Wyman said. “And if it was a 22 episode [season], we would have found a way to do that, too. But I think FRINGE has come such a long way, we were just more concerned to not just have a couple episodes to wrap something up, but really an arc. You know, a real final season event.”
On getting renewed: And what about actually getting renewed? FRINGE fans likely remember where they were when they first got the news the show would be returning, but where were the producers?
“I was actually getting a guitar fixed,” Wyman admitted. “I got a call and it was all these very happy voices and it was such an incredible call because it came out of nowhere. And it was really music to my ears. We were hoping for the best, but we really did not know anything. A lot of people were speculating we did know or it was a done deal or it was all business — which really isn’t the case, either — we just sort of took a a couple of days off.”
As Pinkner, he was having a similarly low-key day when he got the news.
“I had just dropped my kids off at school and I was walking back to my car, and we got a phone call where we were asked to hold for both the studio and the network, which, you figure they’re not all calling to deliver bad news, they’re calling to deliver good news,” Pinkner said. “Graciously, they told the two of us simultaneously as well as telling Bad Robot and we were all suitably overjoyed and they said, ‘Please don’t tell anybody because we have a plan to announce this’ and Joel said, ‘We have a dedicated, loyal Twitter following’…and they said, give us a second and we’ll tell you when you can tell everybody. And then the day went on a lot. [It was a while] before everybody got their act together, so we had this really awesome secret for a while.”
The duo guessed it was about four hours between them finding out about the renewal and them being allowed to discuss it, but Wyman conceded it was necessary because “you have to let everybody do their job. They had some great ideas for how they’d like to release the information and we wanted to be supportive of that, while as Jeff had mentioned, being loyal to our fans. And being the first to Twitter it, which was the case. It was the matter of coordinating it and figuring out the best way to give everybody this good news. Like Jeff said, it was very happy, [but] we had this secret where I want[ed] to tell everybody, but I [couldn't].”
But no, the time it took to get things together wasn’t for the (awesome) people at the Fox promo department to make the season 5 trailer – it had been whipped up early with the hopes that season 5 would be given a greenlight.
“You buy an engagement ring hoping she says yes,” Pinkner laughed, calling the internal support at Fox “astronomical.”
On the social media support: One thing the producers weren’t shy about gushing about? The “massive” impact social media has had on their show.
“This is actually a really cool time in television history — or it will be considered a cool time — when…social networks are starting to inform the big networks,” Wyman noted. “People are talking, people are doing things, people are moving. People are going into action for their shows, which is great. Before it used to be, ‘We’re going to send a bunch of letters.’ Which is OK, but it’s not this. What this is, what’s going on now is really empowering for the fans because they feel like they have a platform and a forum to really sort of express to people who may or may not be listening — but changes are they are — to express their deep gratitude and love for the show and their support. Our fans are so incredible they were calling the sponsors. Saying, ‘Hey, I don’t watch it live because I have a job, but here’s the thing — I love the show, I watch it on DVR and I’m going to buy your product. You must have good taste because you’re supporting FRINGE.’ So it was huge for us. There was a whole movement. And honestly, there’s not a moment where I don’t think how lucky we are to have such incredible fans.”
“I think it is absolutely fair to say that without the support of the fans and social media, there would be no season 5,” Pinkner added.
On the story of FRINGE continuing past season 5: Calling a FRINGE comic book continuation “something we would consider” under the right circumstances, the good news is the current DC comic series could potentially continue on past the show’s end if publishers want to continue on. Aside from that, it’s TBD about if the story would continue on in any other form.
“There are stories to tell that are outside of the TV universe,” Pinkner said. “But I don’t know if we have plans to…aside from things that are already in the works, some of which are still kind of secret and some of which you might know about, largely, as Joel said, the TV show will tell the story.”
FRINGE’s two-part season finale kicks off this Friday at 9 PM on Fox. Will you be tuning in?
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