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Anna Torv’s Life on the “Fringe”

With Fringe about to enter its final season tonight, we find ourselves wishing for an alternate reality in which good things never end. Alas, in this one, no great sci-fi series lasts forever, but if we gotta let it go, doing so while talking to the lovely Anna Torv, who plays Olivia, is not a bad way to go.

Nerdist: So what can we expect from Olivia on this last season of Fringe?

Anna Torv: (laughing) That’s a tough question to answer without getting my wrists slapped! What we can expect from Fringe is that we are entering a brand-new kind of world. The writers sort of do that at the beginning of our seasons; we sort of end up with a massive reboot which sort of injects the show with a whole new energy and a bunch of new faces. So we are in the future, in an Observer-ruled world.

N: This may be a premature question, but once the series ends is there talk of doing a movie, or is there going to be a real finality to the season, as far as you know?

AT: I think that this is the end. I think that all of the creative guys who are writing it and who have invested so much of their time and imagination are very determined to end it, as well. I think that’s fair to the audience, too.

N: Do you have any input into the spin-off comic books, as far as how your character goes?

AT: No! We’re so in the dark with all that sort of stuff. I didn’t even know there were comic books until someone asked me to sign one, and I said “Oh my goodness, what is this?” No, we don’t have any input. I think Josh wrote one, but I think that was during season 3 or 4 when he was sort of doing half-duty.

N: What was it like when you were playing multiple versions of Olivia? Was it confusing to do that, or did having a different hairstyle help you keep it straight?

AT: It would have helped except when we first met them, one was pretending to be the other and the other thought she was the other, so it didn’t really matter what hair I was in, I was not really that character.  I think that when you’re really focused and you have to keep things really neat in your mind, you tend to be a lot more engaged. I loved all of that!

N: Did you have any idea when you started this show that it was going to get as weird as it was going to get later on?

AT: No. (laughs) I don’t think they did either. It’s like an evolution for us all.

N: How has that been, that process of getting stranger and stranger? Does it feel good, or is it more of “Oh, God! Here’s another thing that I have to remember that’s going to be difficult!”

AT: We keep sort of flipping; we flip timelines and now I think, “I don’t really know what cases we’ve solved and what ones Walter knows about.” At some point you just have to take a leap of faith.

N: Are you into the real science that is a jumping-off point for all of this? Are you a science geek of any sort?

AT: That’s John [Noble]’s domain, really, and he’s really good at it, too! He’ll check it all out and make sure he knows exactly where something is coming from. I have the luxury of being the character who doesn’t really understand all of that stuff, so I get to ask questions, genuinely.

N: How close is John to his character in real life?

AT: I think there are elements of us all in our characters, simply because we’re in them all day. But John’s not crazy. (laughs)

N: When you are in your character all day, do you slip in and out of your natural accent between scenes?

AT: For me, you slip in-and-out, in-and-out. In 5 years, you’re working with people who have an accent and you’re speaking in it all the time, so what happened is my “natural” accent is a mish-mash; all over the place. I should have been more disciplined about slipping right in and right out. I wish it had stayed, but now it’s very neutralized, trans-Atlantic kind of thing. You do a role long enough and you slip in and out of character, too. We’re all pretty loose.

N: With Fringe and Heavenly Sword and even ITV’s Frankenstein, you’re gaining a real geek culture pedigree. Do you see yourself as part of the geek culture? Is there a part of you that relates to that, or is it kind of strange to you?

AT: I can’t believe you referenced Frankenstein! That was one of my first jobs, I had just moved to London, I was so excited to have one little job! I said, “This way, please!” I don’t even know how to answer that. With this show, particularly, we’ve been so loved and supported by our fans, and without them we wouldn’t be on air. The only sort of massive interaction that we get with them is going to Comic-Con, and it’s always just a really lovely bunch, so I’m happy. Thank you!

N: So is the interaction with the fans always good, or do they ask you really high-level questions that you can’t answer, because they’ve memorized the show so well?

AT:  Sometimes, yeah. But it’s always been like that with Fringe. If anybody ever stops you on the street, they always want to know about the show. It’s been lovely to be in a show where the show is the star. It’s always Fringe-centric, and sometimes I can answer, and sometimes I can’t. (laughs)

N: What sort of projects are you looking to in your future? Is it going to be genre stuff that our nerdy crowd would be into, or are you looking for more traditional drama?

AT: I think that Fringe IS traditional drama, except maybe a little science-fictiony. I still think it’s rooted in reality and I think all those genre shows have to be in order for the audience to buy it, too. I think we have a lot of drama in our show. I don’t know. We’re only half-way through shooting the final season, and it’s been a really long time, so I’m just focused on wanting to finish. I don’t know what comes next; I really don’t know. I’m not tunnel-visioned, one way or the other.

N: Are you looking forward to trying new things, or is it scary to have this come to an end and not knowing what to do next?

AT: I think it will be both. I think it will be invigorating to get into somebody else’s skin. But in the same breath, there’s something that happens when you work with the same people for years and years, playing the same character. You’re so relaxed, you’re not nervous anymore. You learn a lot more stuff, especially technically, because you’re able to take more on, you’re not so nervous and focused on what you’re doing. I don’t know; it’ll be nerve-wracking but fun. Again, that’s the next chapter, and I don’t want to think about it too much because I’m still in this.

N: Final question for you: Aside from Fringe, what TV shows do you personally enjoy and get excited about?

AT: I have to watch TV on my breaks, so I’m not watching anything at the moment because we work all the time. I really did love Game of Thrones because it’s so magical. I haven’t seen the second season yet; I’ve only seen the first. I’ve promised to watch it with some friends, so I’m holding off on that. I’m excited to see that though.

Fringe‘s final season premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Fox.

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10 comments

  • I so love this woman! Olivia Dunham is my favorite FBI agent. Wonderful 5 years of Olivia Dunham and Fringe, so I’ll be really sad when the show ends.

    I have always enjoyed watching, listening and reading any of Anna’s interviews. She always comes across as a charming, down to earth, honest and very engaging person. So glad JJ gave her us.

    I’m looking forward to her next projects. Geeky or not.

  • Not since Lost have I “loved” a television show, but Fringe has surpassed each and every hope and expectation I had since watching the pilot episode when it first began. If I may be so bold, I actually think it’s better than Lost.
    I care deeply about all these characters… but namely, I care for Olivia. Anna Torv, even more than Walter, breaks my heart and makes the show for me. Too often female characters are either extremely cold trying to make it in a male dominated world, or so whiny and stuck on a guy that they’re obnoxious. Even though Olivia is an FBI agent, she isn’t cold, and even though she’s been put through the emotional ringer, she’s not a whiny mess. I love her for that. In a world that is far from realistic and believable, Olivia is just that.
    I love what the show is doing this season and I can’t wait to see how it ends!

  • I totally agree with you, Sonic Samsquanch. People stop watching b/c it makes them think. They are brain dead and complacent –too lazy or scared to think for themselves.

    This is the cause of brilliant shows and movies being overlooked, while trash entertainment runs rampant.

    We have become a bunch of sleepwalkers, to comfortable to wake up and see what’s going on around us. We’d would rather watch a bunch of mindless sitcoms, soap opera dramas, or ridiculous reality shows.

    One of Fringe’s themes has been “waking up” –once you wake up you can’t be put back to sleep. We need to wake up.

  • I loved the character Olivia Dunham from the start, and it is amazing what Anna Torv has done with that character in all the different versions.
    And with little backstory.

    A good thing that the nerds have their own Emmy, Anna is queen of the Saturn by now, nominated each year of Fringe, and winning 3 Saturn Awards in a row.
    She should have gotten Emmy nominations and win,

    The scene in which Olivia is out of amber and sees Etta for the first time, another masterclass in acting, saying everything just with eyes and expressions, like all her work.

    I am certain she will find new work soon,cable or so-called author films I think.

  • I look forward to what Anna and the rest of the cast does next. Sad to see the show end, but glad it will be doing it on a high note. Can’t wait to introduce the series to friends and rewatch it with them :)

  • Great interview! Anna, John (fellow Aussies represent!) are two members of a stand-out cast (Jasika is my personal favourite though!)
    Fringe rates as one of my favourite series of all time, & while it’s sad to see it go; after the anxiety of hoping for renewal every year, the chance to say goodbye properly & perhaps get some closure is more than enough to be grateful for!

  • @Sonic Samsquanch. I don’t think that’s truly the deepest cause for our cancellation. I mean, sure, our audience is small, but most cult shows have small audiences. The main issue here is expense. FOX has been pretty supportive over the past four years, and they should be, given what a mistake they made with Firefly, but Fringe is an expensive show to make. Almost all science fiction is expensive. It’s much cheaper to build a stage and make people sing on it, especially when there’s higher ratings. It isn’t so much that people are confused, because the original viewers have kept up just fine, but there isn’t a wide enough appeal for such a vast cost.
    I’m going to miss my show so much…

  • amazing final season opener! i’m in awe! *bows down to fringe cast and joel wyman* wasn’t sure i had faith in the 2036 jump, especially with only 13 epi’s left, but WOW i’m all in!

  • I’ve been watching Fringe since the first episode, and I am not exaggerating in the least when I say it sits on par with the best science fiction TV series we’ve ever seen. It’s completely unique, never compromises, and doesn’t shy away from going off on unsafe tangents. The fact that the show is ending because so many people have been “too confused” speaks to how stupid this country has become! People would rather watch Snooki flap her idiotic gums than stimulate their minds with brilliant science fiction!