Fringe’s John Noble has answers for you
BY FRED TOPEL
Fringe returns for eight all new episodes after its recent hiatus. The April 1 episode “Peter” is no joke. It reveals a lot of answers about Walter Bishop (John Noble)’s antics. Looking back to 1985, when he first discovered a window to the alternate universe, Walter reveals the truth about his son Peter. We knew that our Peter came from that alternate universe, but now Walter admits how and why he took him. We even meet the Walter from the other universe, dubbed Walternate by the show.
“The ultimate reveal I think which is so critical to this episode of Peter, that Walter really did intend to take the child back, that he only went over because the Walternate had missed the cure, that was a surprise and a wonderful surprise to me,” Noble said in a conference call today. “I hadn’t realized that he’d only gone across there because he had to, because otherwise the boy would die. That was major reveal to me and I think adds a whole new light to the relationship between Peter and Elizabeth and Walter going forward.”
It may look like Walter crossed universes to save the alternate Peter’s life, but Peter still won’t be happy about that. Noble promises that Peter will find out the truth in the next eight episodes.
“We have this fabulous eight coming home and during the course of that there will be a build over several of those episodes to Peter finding out and then in fact he does find out and that really dictates what happens in the last few episodes,” Noble said. “We already know from the episode before that Olivia knows he’s from somewhere else. There’s this buildup towards Peter finding out. It’s strangulating. Really the tension is enormous because Peter doesn’t know, Olivia does know and she’s pushing Walter to tell him. Then finally he finds out and we literally tumble into these extraordinary last two or three episodes, particularly the finale which is the great promised confrontation we’ve been promising for two years. We have Peter away from them trying to cope by himself. All the things that people have been asking for, I think we’re delivering in this final eight.
Before the finale comes the musical episode of Fringe. Shows like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Scrubs have gone there too, but expect Fringe to do a musical like no other show. “The one before [the finale] is exceptional in the sense that it is a mind trip of Walter’s and that’s when we go into this musical episode that’s been talked about. Walter trying to grapple with the fact that his son is gone, he doesn’t know where he is at that point. So we have this mind trip of Walter’s which is an amazing episode to be honest with you.”
Noble has some musical training in his theater background, but he said he’s got nothing on his costars. “I suggest that probably they’re much better singers than me. Lance Reddick is a superb singer and musician. We realize now that Anna Torv has got a beautiful voice. That’s just the starting point. Jasika Nicole is also from a musical background. It was quite a reveal to us how much talent there was in the company. I was certainly not the A lister in that group of people. I did some. In the early days, I certainly did some music theater, even dropped into a couple of Operas in small acting roles. Not the highlight but it was very interesting. It was good fun to do them.”
While Peter is away from the group, Joshua Jackson gets to do some of his best acting, Noble said. “When Peter finds out, he is extremely wounded and outraged and bewildered and humiliated, having just finally found some trust in his life and given a little of himself to these two people. He finds out that he’s been duped yet again. Joshua Jackson plays this beautifully actually. We see him as this lost man really who’s lost this new family of his and is just in the wilderness really. We see that for a couple of episodes.”
And just when Peter and Walter were starting to get along. “What’s going to happen, and it won’t happen this year necessarily, there’ll be a hint of it in the finale, is that a relationship will be rekindled between Peter and Walter. It will be different but I think there is sufficient richness and sufficient texture in what they have already to get them past this hurdle. That’s my belief and similarly with Olivia. The relationship that’s been created over the two season is stronger. It will survive this breach of trust. It will. I think there’s a fantastic relationship between Peter and Olivia. It’s not a love relationship in terms of the sexual, romantic kind. I think the three are locked together in some sort of interdependency and that will survive this terrific challenge.”
Back in this week’s episode, Noble spends the bulk of the episode as his 1985 self. This is a more focused Walter Bishop, without the eccentric random tangents that make him a favorite character now, but it’s equally important to his background.
“It was wonderful to go back and visit the man before he became this damaged creature we know now. It was probably in some ways closer to myself than the Walter we see now. In some ways it was quite comfortable to go back to that place. It was an easier ride than doing the Walter the audience knows and it was nice to be able to play with that more youthful energy. Bear in mind, that’s two versions of Walter but you’re also introduced briefly to another, and that’s Walternate. So you’ve got three quite distinct versions of Walter. I’m playing Walternate this morning who’s quite different from Walter in many ways.”
Making Noble look 25 years younger might have been the easy part. “In the sense in my preparation to find the Walter that we all know now, I had to go back to him right at the beginning to see where he came from. That process was started before the pilot really, what was this man like before he deteriorated. Physically of course what I had to do was capture the energy, to capture physicality of the man, the vocal physicality. This is my task. I was aided enormously by my hair and makeup and special effects people here in terms of getting the overall look, and indeed wardrobe helped a lot too. The DP shot it through these beautiful lenses to give it a different feel to the episode than we have now. All of those elements worked together to create this version that you see in the episode.”
Fringe is picked up for a third season, so the season finale of this year will set up what you’re going to see in the fall. “I do know that there will be substantial time spent on the other universe and when you get to the finale, you’ll see why we have to do that. So we’ll have this whole other universe playing at least for the first third of the season. That’s all I can tell you at this stage.”
Fringe airs Thursdays at 9 on Fox.
JOHN NOBLE ON “FRINGE”
Photo courtesy of FOX.