FRINGE: J.H. Wyman on ‘An Origin Story,’ Olivia’s Memories, Bell, Donald, and More
November 1, 2012 by Marisa Roffman
We’re approaching another FRINGE Friday, but this one may be a little more bittersweet than most: following the death of Etta, it sure seems like Peter and Olivia will (understandably) be taking this loss incredibly hard. But there’s still a war to fight and nine more episodes to do it in.
To get a little more insight into what’s to come, I sought out FRINGE showrunner J.H. Wyman. The interview was conducted before Etta’s death, so there aren’t any questions specifically relating to that. However, in hindsight, his answers on the topic of Simon’s fate could shed some light into some of the (possible) reasoning for Etta’s death: “…that’s what we really wanted to get across: that the Observers are not messing around.”
Take a look at more from Wyman, including his teases about “An Origin Story,” Olivia’s memories, Bell, Donald, and more…
Episode 5 is called “An Origin Story” and given the shift that comes at the end of episode 4 —
J.H. Wyman: [Laughs] And [episode] 5 and 6.
Okay, so we have a lot of shifts to look forward to! Let’s talk about “An Origin Story”…
JW: I can’t give away anything, obviously, but it’s called “An Origin Story” and I think it will become clear why. It could be the inception of an idea. It could be anything. I don’t want to give away too much, but I also don’t want to make too big a deal of it. I think the episode speaks for itself.
Interesting. We’ve been seeing a lot of questionable memories from Olivia this season. Is something going on with her beyond having a little amber haze? Her recollection of the day Etta was taken seemed to be fairly different than Peter’s, for instance.
JW: Well, not drastically different.
We did see Peter wearing a different outfit, there was a different blanket, and differences in how it went down. You guys pay attention to details, so it felt like there was no way that wasn’t intentional.
JW: It was intentional.
We also saw in Olivia’s memory of the “missing” posters saying the year 2033 in the background…
And there were also the wrong coordinates in “The Recordist.”
JW: Right. Let’s just say, there’s lots of things… [Laughs] Let’s just say, we’re always of thinking of things that are fun for the fans, and…that’s all I’m going to say. There’s a reason [for it]. I don’t want to give the wrong impression it’s a huge Olivia reveal, because that’s not the direction we’re going. But I do want to say there’s things we are planning that will remain a mystery until they’re not. I don’t want to mislead anybody.
But with the wrong coordinates, they still ended up in a place that seems like it will help them along in this tape journey —
JW: Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s an anomaly. That’s just a little blip and will be recognized.
So it’s not like there’s something in the coordinates Walter recited on the tape that everyone is missing because they went to the wrong place?
JW: Well, we’re going to comment on it, but it’s all part of the idea. It’s little anomalies.
What can you say about when Donald will reappear?
JW: Let’s just say…I can’t say. There’s only a few episodes left and I don’t want to spoil anything, but obviously he plays a part.
Have we met Donald before?
JW: One way or the other, I wouldn’t be able to say.
I figured you wouldn’t, but I had to try.
JW: That’s OK. I get you!
Will we have actual flashbacks versus dreams or memories at any point?
JW: Hmm. [Pause] I would say what the future is is what it is. They’re in the present and they’re going to be dealing with what they’re dealing with. You may get more information in various different ways, but we’ll be spending the time going forward.
We haven’t seen Nina yet. What can you say about her return?
JW: You will. Nina is such an important part of our team. She’s Nina. We want to make sure that every single character has their reason and their journey examined and finished in a way that is worthy of them. And Nina is no different.
I have to ask about Simon, given that his decapitated head did some rather creepy blinking. Whether Henry Ian Cusick (Simon) is there or not, what can you say about the role Simon will play in this final arc?
JW: That’s pretty funny, because literally with any other show, if you cut someone’s head off and you make them an experiment by the bad guys, that pretty much means the end of them. [Laughs] Except for FRINGE.
Look, you guys have done some creepy stuff. Nina has her advanced tech arm, Simon was talking about having his eye replaced, etc. He was blinking, so you figure he might kind of be alive. It’s not completely out there.
JW: Yeah, let’s just say — the truth is, is anyone ever really dead on FRINGE? You never really know. I don’t want to say yes or no, one way or the other, but I also don’t want to mislead. It’s not going to be probably what you think. Or probably what some are hoping for. But he was a great character, and absolutely a terrific actor and an amazing person. That’s all I can really say about it.
If there were like 22 [episodes] or two seasons left and there was a character like him, I could totally understand people saying, “Oh my God!” But this is the end. These are very bad people. [Laughs] And you have to realize — I’m just kind of shocked…well, not really shocked, but we knew everybody loved him, we all knew everybody loved him, but what he is and what he stands for — which is the revolution and the fight — was really depicted in that fact that anything can happen. And that’s what we really wanted to get across: that the Observers are not messing around.
Well, it says something about the show that so many people got so attached to this guy in the span of one episode and were then traumatized by his decapitation.
JW: Yeah, it brings me back to the whole, “I hate the alternate universe why are you guys doing this?” [initial fan outcry]…I think I owe it to all these amazing actors who make everything sound so good. Like I said, anything is possible on FRINGE. But as I said from the beginning, this is the last saga. It’s the end of the saga. Anything can happen, and there is a reason for everything and there always has been.
William Bell was ambered with Simon, and I know you won’t answer whether Leonard Nimoy (William) is returning, but there’s no denying the presence that character has had. What can you say about the role Bell’s presence and knowledge will play on Walter and the team as they try to defeat the Observers going forward?
JW: I think that William Bell always towers over Walter as some sort of dark ghost. I think you’ll be able to come to some realizations about that dark ghost, and I think you’ll be able to understand how Walter feels in a deeper context about Bell. Yes, he was there [in amber] for a reason, you will find out why he was there. These things are coming up.
Will we find out what happened the day they were actually ambered and where that location was?
JW: Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty much they were in New York and there’s a reason why they were there. You will find that out…There definitely is a reason.
On a different note, what can you say about Jill Scott’s guest spot on the show?
JW: I’m so excited Jill Scott is going to grace us with her incredible talent. I adore her. I met her — she was actually recommended by Shana Waterman from Fox to me, because she had a meeting with [Scott] and she just went on and on about FRINGE. Shana said, “I could talk with Joel [about you getting involved with the show]” and she said, “I would love to come in and talk with them.”
And she came in, and I was so impressed, and she’s such a lady, such an incredible talent, that we sort of instantly agreed she had to be on the show. And now she’s out there doing her thing. We couldn’t be happier.
Is she just going to be in one episode?
JW: Yeah, it’s a one episode kind of thing.
For the show as a whole, has it felt different for you guys as a writing staff this year? Not only do you have significantly fewer writers, but you’re also seemingly writing in different combinations, as well.
JW: Well, not really. We break all the stories together, so it’s not like somebody goes off and writes a script. I think that’s one of the big misconceptions of TV writing rooms, at least the ones I understand and the way we’ve been doing it since day one. What happens is we break a story as a group and beat it out as a group and everybody’s working hard on scripts. Yes, one person takes the credit, ultimately, but the truth is it’s a group [effort]. We really haven’t changed that. Some are more specific. We’re having a blast.
A smaller writing room, you become a little more hyper-focused and aware and everybody’s in the same rhythm. Whereas when you have a larger writing room, it’s really tough because so many people are on different tangents.
Fair. Will we have any other title sequences before the series ends?
JW: Um, maybe. [Laughs]
FRINGE airs Fridays at 9 PM on Fox.