Fringe Oral History: Dual Universes Open Up a New World Of Possibility
In the second part of our farewell to Fringe, producers and cast discuss the introduction of the parallel universe, which opened up the world of Fox's sci-fi drama to new and exciting possibilities, including a new set of characters with names like Walternate and Bolivia that fans would — gasp! — actually come to love in the end.
TVGuide.com talked to stars John Noble (Dr. Walter Bishop, Walternate), Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop), Anna Torv (Olivia Dunham, Bolivia), Jasika Nicole (Astrid Farnsworth, Kick-Astrid), Lance Reddick (Phillip Broyles, Alt-Broyles), Blair Brown (Nina Sharp, Meana), Seth Gabel (Lincoln Lee, Linc), series co-creator J.J. Abrams, executive producers J.H Wyman, Jeff Pinkner and Bryan Burk and Fox's Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly about the bumpy road to the series finale. This is the second in a four-part oral history. Check out Part 1 here.
Fringe's Season 1 finale left fans with their jaws agape: Olivia had unknowingly traveled to a parallel universe, where the World Trade Center still stood.
J.J. Abrams: The parallel universe was always part of the conceit of the show. It was something that we knew about at the very beginning when we did the pilot. Of course, you never know exactly how until you get to that section of the series when you have to actually reveal it.
Jeff Pinkner: As soon as we started up on Fringe, we came up with this idea that Peter was from an alternate universe, which we referred to as our Hatch. It was the great mystery of the show.
Bryan Burk: It was something we were going to reveal much, much, much later. This is always the balance when you do a television show. When do you reveal things and when do you not? On Lost, the Hatch was one of those conversations. J.J. was like, "And they find a hatch," but the question is, do they find the hatch in Episode 2? Do they find the hatch in Episode 10? Or do they find the hatch at the end of Season 1? The Hatch literally and figuratively opens up so many new possibilities that the whole show will take a turn when they discover that Hatch. The parallel universe is the same thing.
Pinkner: The studio, from their point of view, were really, really, really trepidatious about introducing new characters, let alone a new world. And all they constantly wanted to know was, "OK, what's happening with our characters?"
Kevin Reilly: I was like, "What are you talking about?!" Seriously. They started talking about a parallel universe in Season 1 and I was like, "No, no, no. No parallel universe. Please don't do parallel universe." And so they said, "No, no, whoa. We're going to get there down the road." So I can tell you the parallel universe was on their mind, I believe, from minute one. I think they just put it away to not scare me for a while.
Burk: Funny. If [Reilly] was nervous, you would not have known.
Pinkner: By the end of the season, when we finally had the confidence from the network and the studio, we were able to acknowledge this alternate universe, introduce William Bell, played by the spectacular Leonard Nimoy, and we can really start to delve into the mystery of The Observers, and the personal stakes that this show has for Olivia and obviously Walter and Peter. Everything started to click.
Burk: We were all sitting around and we said, "We need to go forward. We need to open up the doors and let everyone in." That was kind of the reason why we did it. As you know, it completely changed what the show was from Season 1 to Season 2.
Pinkner: Most importantly though, schematically it enabled us to tell the story about what a man, Walter in this case, was willing to do, what he was willing to risk, what lines he was willing to cross in order to do the most human, non-scientific thing of all, which was save the life of his son. This is a man who was largely, purely driven by his mind and his imagination, who had to make this choice because of his heart. And as a consequence, he destroyed the world. What was great about it was, we created this whole new world, but largely it was in order to tell this very personal story.
J.H. Wyman: It was [Arrow's] Andrew Kreisberg who thought of the image for the Twin Towers. I was sitting around and it was in my office and I said, "We need an image that's iconic. What is it? What is the image?" And we were all pitching and Andrew just said, "Hey man, what about the Twin Towers?" and everybody went "Oh, yeah," and then everybody went "Oh no, wait."
Josh Jackson: I don't know that we've ever had a better visual or a better cliff-hanger.