Universes collide in Bishops' world on 'Fringe'
By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
Unlike their father-son Fringe characters, actors John Noble and Joshua Jackson are hardly universes apart.
"We're best friends," Noble says as they discuss the mind-bending Fox drama and the three-part season-ending story (Part 2 Friday, 9 ET/PT).
Their mutual trust makes it easier for them to take the relationship between the Bishop boys, father Walter (Noble) and son Peter (Jackson) to some very dark places.
"We wanted to make the relationship as real and bloody and wonderful as it is," Noble, 62, says.
"To make it honest, not to knock the rough edges off it," Jackson, 32, says. "After you've gone through the ugly portions of the father-and-son relationship, then once you get to places of happiness and joy or any beauty, you've earned them."
Their connection during a recent joint interview is apparent. A conversation with the Bishops at times turns into a conversation between the Bishops as Jackson and Noble play off each other's comments, compare notes on favorite episodes and address their answers to each other.
The complicated Bishop relationship is a cornerstone of Fringe, which follows an investigative team that seeks to solve seemingly unexplainable mysteries, including those involving two universes that are nearly mirror images. Walter caused an imbalance between the two when he took the alternate universe's Peter to replace his own son, who had died.
If that sounds complex, that's just the start of it. A few weeks ago, Walter, Peter and FBI agent Olivia (Anna Torv) turned into cartoons during a journey through Olivia's mind.
"It's unusual. It's bizarre. It's Fringe," Noble says.
The show's demanding mythology may have cost the show some viewers, Noble acknowledges, but he says it also earns the series intense devotion from others. "People use it as a conversation piece to discuss all sorts of metaphysical facts of life," he says.
"The vein they tapped creatively caught on with a very specific and very rabid base who use it as a launching-off point for the rest of the conversation," Jackson says.
Fringe also doesn't make it easy to choose between universes, between Walter and Olivia in this universe and so-called Walternate and Bolivia "over there" in the other universe.
"The most difficult thing we faced was getting an audience to accept that there's no good or evil, because people want to take sides. It was our challenge to get our audience to accept those folks on the other side," Noble says. "I think we actually achieved that. We got people to kind of like the people on the other side and realize they were human beings."
The devout base helped Fringe earn an early Season 4 renewal. Even though it averages a modest 5.7million viewers a week, it scores particularly well in DVR viewing.
In last week's Fringe, the first of the three-part finale arc, the universe started to come apart after Walternate turned on a doomsday machine. Peter may be the only hope of stopping the machine, but he becomes injured in his effort to do so.
The story will "show the world what Armageddon is like," Noble says. Someone will die in next week's finale, Jackson teases: "We can tell you who, but it won't matter by the end of the episode. That's not a spoiler. That's a good tease," he says, turning to Noble. "No? That's a spoiler?"
Before next season's shooting starts, Noble will spend time in his native Australia "and learn to be an Australian again," while Jackson just landed a role in a Stephen Frears film, Lay the Favorite.
As for off-work hobbies, Noble enjoys music and painting. And Jackson says, "I drink and chase my woman (girlfriend Diane Kruger) around the world." Adds Noble, "He has a young man's version of mine."