EXCLUSIVE - FRINGE FINALE: Cast & Producers On Show's Greatest Achievements
Tonight Fringe - a series that has proven itself to be an innovative entry in the sci-fi genre - concludes its five year run with a two-hour finale. In this exclusive, the show's entire cast and executive producers reflect on Fringe's greatest achievements.
In many ways, Fringe has made a significant contribution to not only the sci-fi genre, but television in general by bucking convention and remaining true to itself no matter what audience trends were over the past five years.
“We came about in the wake of The X-Files and Battlestar Galactica, and each of them redefined science fiction television in a completely different way,” notes Lance Reddick, who plays Broyles. “At the same time, Fringe is a completely different kind of show from those two. I feel that science fiction is an exploration of human relationships, and that’s something we’ve done more than any other show.”
Points out Jasika Nicole, who plays Astrid, “Fringe is a scifi show that’s not really a scifi show. I think that’s the world it’s based in, but it is just about people who love each other and want to be happy and satisfied. A lot of people are, like, ‘I’m not into sci-fi, so I’m not going to watch that.’ I just think they would be shocked to see how well we’ve been able to integrate these overwhelming themes about technology and corporations and medicine and how that’s affecting our lives, and also how it affects the lives of these very real people who have these intimate relationships with each other.”
Those relationships are certainly at the heart of the series as far as both John Noble (Walter Bishop) and Joshua Jackson (Peter Bishop) are concerned. “The show has gone on this amazing path on this world of alternate science and alternate universes and so forth,” says Noble, “but the one thing I think we do differently is that we have these intense relationships and certainly the big surprise for everyone was the relationship between Walter and Peter, especially early in the piece. And then the devastation when that went away and now what we want to do is get that back again. I know that resonated with audiences probably more than anything else. This love affair between Peter and Olivia, it’s so sad and yet you can understand how hard it is for them. That they want to be together and keep being pulled apart. That’s a great love story. So you have these incredible friendships, even the friendship my character has with Astrid is so beautiful. That’s what makes Fringe different from other shows.”
It’s Jackson’s opinion that good science fiction, particularly in television, has human characters at the center of an epic storyline. “Having a believable heroine and a beautiful father/son dynamic is a very rare thing to put into a story. I think that’s our greatest accomplishment. I’m a huge, huge fan of science fiction, but the place that I think science fiction loses the audience is when you get too far into the geek and you lose the emotional, human core. I think John Noble, God love him, even as our show in the first year was floundering a little bit and trying to figure out what it was and what it was going to become, created this beautiful, human, broken, tortured, funny, witty, scary character that is totally unique and instantly relatable, which is, like, the hardest thing to do in the world.”
Executive Producer Jeff Pinkner (who left the show after the fourth season, but not before helping to plot out season five) points out that the thing that attracts him to a television show is the opportunity to tell a family drama, but one that is masquerading as something else, and do it in the context of building an interesting world from which to tell stories that explore what it means to be a person and the different challenges that human beings face, including matters of the heart, the mind and the spirit.
“At a moment in time on network television where the networks were wary, were loathe, to do serialized storytelling against a really big canvas, Fringe proved that it can be done in a way that is character-centric,” he says. “In the aftermath of Lost, a lot of people were chasing the idea ‘What’s a big, high-concept show?’ And many of them were plot driven. Things like FlashForward were largely plot driven. The shows that were character driven were expected to remain relatively static as well as the condition of the world they lived in. We from the beginning were telling a story which, not unlike Lost, had to change and grow season to season and to expand outward. We were worrying initially how quickly we could expand outward. If we made one drastic mistake, I think it was that we didn’t acknowledge much earlier, to the audience, that Peter was from an alternate universe. That's what we referred to as our hatch and we just didn’t acknowledge or go into the hatch soon enough. In our opinion. Or my opinion at least.
“Our show,” Pinkner continues, “and the devotion of the audience, I believed proved to the networks that as long as the storytellers know what they’re doing and can tell their story with the confidence of knowing where they’re going, and not making it up as they go along, and the audience understands and feels that they’re in good, competent hands, the audience will follow characters they fall in love with into really big and complicated plots. Television is expected to, or has become, really about standalone episodes that are far easier to digest. I think that Fringe proved that there is an audience for larger scale storytelling.”
And it’s the audience – whether it be the fans who follow the show religiously or the critics that have lined up behind it – that Executive Producer J.H. Wyman feels has represented one of Fringe’s most potent achievements.
“On a nuts and bolts level, Fringe has shown how important media is,” he opines. “It’s shown how important social networks are. It’s shown how important grass roots campaigns to keep shows on the air are. Fans are relevant; they’re really important, and I love that because it puts the power in their hands. Fringe is a quintessential example of how something that should not be here is still here, because of the fans and the support of the media. It’s not a business about losing money. How many shows have we all loved that have been cancelled? So on that level it’s a really important time for social media to show the influence that it has and that people can unite. Some of the things our fans came up with are absolutely astounding. I’ve sat in my office saying, ‘They did what?’ At first the execs were saying, ‘We don’t care about DVRs, it means nothing.’ But it’s not true. It means a lot. They’re having focus groups about DVR and things like it, so it’s going there. I think Fringe is important in that benchmark step.”
For Anna Torv (Olivia Dunham), the ultimate power of Fringe is the fact that everyone behind it simply believed. “When we ended season two and began season three,” she smiles, “and when our production team, our showrunners, our writers, our network and our studio embraced – whole-heartedly embraced – the fact that we were going to spend half the season of the third year of a show that wasn’t doing that great in an alternate universe was kind of one of the bravest things that people could do. At that point I was, like, ‘I’m damn proud to be part of this.’ I think that that was just unbelievable that they did this and committed to it. Didn’t just give you a little taste, but went, ‘We’re going to go here, so come… or don’t.’”
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