Fringe: Joshua Jackson on the "Super Cool" Turn of Events with Peter
Jackson on why he's so excited by what happened to Peter last season.
August 15, 2011 August 16, 2011 August 15, 2011
Level 8.by Eric Goldman
Joshua Jackson knows better than to reveal any of the secrets about what's to come on Fringe this season and how the show will deal with last season's jaw-dropping finale, in which it seemed his character, Peter Bishop, ceased to exist. Of course we do know that Jackson is still considered a cast member on Fringe, and is promoting the series – and when I was among a group of journalists to speak to him recently, Jackson spoke about the oddity of his current situation on the show.
Moments before we began our conversation at a FOX party, I'd seen Jackson encounter his co-star, John Noble, and give him a warm embrace – a far more "How have you been?!" reaction than you'd normally have with someone you were working day-to-day with, considering Fringe is now back in production for Season 4 in Vancouver.
And that's where our conversation begins…
Question: If I was going to hyper-analyze, I'd say you and Mr. Noble had a very nice hug just now, almost as if you hadn't seen him in a while…
Joshua Jackson: Yeah, I think that's a fair analysis. It's been odd for the beginning of this season. I enjoy working with John so much. So to have that all going on and to have me here [in Los Angeles] is a strange feeling.
- FOXQ: How much of a heads up did they give you at the end of last season on what was going to happen?
Jackson: Well, the broader script, none at all. But the cliffhanger, what was going to happen, we actually kind of built that together. There was a lot of debate about what degree to take it to, and I was a huge proponent of that cliffhanger. I just thought it was a great thing to do because the stakes are so high. When we look back on Fringe, I think probably the iconic image of Fringe is going to be the Season 1 cliffhanger when you pull back from the Twin Towers. But my hope is that the iconic, dramatic cliffhanger that we're going to have had will be the last three months - of everybody going, "What does that mean, he didn't exist? Where did this guy go? If he wasn't there, then how does everybody know each other? And why is the bridge still there? And what does the machine mean?" So, I was a part of building that, and I just think it's great that Fringe has the cojones to go after something like that. Instead of doing it halfway and then having me be in the first scene of the next episode go, "Don't worry, it's all okay!" or wake up in the shower like, "Woo! That was a crazy dream." I just think it's good that we still are still creatively ballsy enough to go after things like that.
Q: You showed up at Comic-Con dressed as an observer. You must be well aware of the theories that the fans are floating that Peter has been transformed into an Observer…
Jackson: Well, I was pro-Observer theory. The guys told me that that was wrong, so I guess that was my one chance to get all Observer dressed up and try it out.
Q: So we can at least say that Peter is not an Observer?
Jackson: [Laughs] You can say whatever you like, and I can say whatever I like. They don't tell me those things. So as far as I know today, I'm not an Observer. But who knows tomorrow? I thought it would have been really cool. I had a whole theory. Everybody has their theories. I had a whole theory that the Observers became Observers because they had messed with the timeline and got themselves basically stuck outside of time. The Fringe world was kind of working on a time loop, and each of the Observers was Peter from a different time the loop had gone around... But that was wrong!
Q: But we do know that you are going to be a cast member on Fringe this season...
Jackson: I will at least be a cast member on some Warner Brothers show on FOX. [Laughs] That's all I know right now.
Q: [Laughs] Right, so maybe Alcatraz, or...?
Jackson: That could work! That's Bad Robot. Maybe, we'll see.
Q: Last season, you were only in about half the episodes.
Jackson: Clearly, somebody likes me!
Q: And this season, you don't exist.
Jackson: Or somebody hates me. [Laughs] Either they're telling me a message in a very unsubtle way, or somebody's being very kind to me and leaving me inside the Bad Robot world.
Q: Are you in more episodes than last season or less episodes?
Jackson: Currently? That would be less. But I don't make those decisions. Our show is not a star-driven show, it's a character-driven show. I mean, I'm assuming since they want me here, I'm going to be a part of Fringe. In fact, I know they want me to be a part of Fringe, but I know they also want to tell the story in the best possible way to tell the story. That's why I think it's ballsy, precisely because it's so unusual to take one of the three leads in your show and to break them out of the show. And then show what it's like when he's not there. It's just something that you don't really do that often. Particularly on network television where a lot of it really is personality-driven. There's a lot of nervousness about upsetting the apple cart. To have, like I said, the balls to really honor that… That cliffhanger was so big that if they half-assed it in the beginning of Season 4, I think our audience, who has been so good with that, would kind of smell the suck on that. They'd be kind of disappointed that we gave them this big thing, and then we didn't actually go after it. And we went after it. I think that's super cool.
Q: Have you had some memorable fan encounters with this show?
Jackson: Well, the Comic-Con experience… I mean, it's not a single moment but the experience being at Comic-Con. For us, the panel discussion is the coolest moment of each Comic-Con. Just the passion and the knowledge and the general good feeling in that room is such an unbelievable thing to be a part of. It's so unusual for an actor to get to be a part of, and it doesn't really happen in film… It really doesn't happen in TV either! To get to be a part of a discussion with people who really love whatever it is your working on while you're working on it. Normally, that's something that comes afterwards. Only after everybody watches do you get to have the interaction. But Comic-Con, while the show is on the air, provides you an opportunity to go back year after year and check in with your audience to gauge their level of engagement.
Q: Right now I know it's an impossibility, but eventually are you excited to hopefully get to show Peter finding out he has a kid? That's obviously a huge reveal.
Jackson: I think Peter already knew. I think at the end of last year when we were fast-forwarding to 2026, that Peter had lived all of those years in between. He had made the decision to destroy the other universe, and it strikes me as unlikely that while he was making that decision nobody said, "And by the way, you're killing your lover [and kid] on the other side." So I actually think that he's aware of that. Because the only guy that we saw when he came back was just that glimpse, and he had to get like, "There's a bridge here. Don't kill each other while I'm gone," before he disappears. So, I think he's keenly aware of that.
- FOXQ: Early in Season 3, you theorized that perhaps the real connection was between Peter and the other Olivia, because they were from the same universe. Since then, Peter and Olivia, "our" Olivia, have gotten together. But do you still think that maybe at the core it is "Fauxlivia" that he truly loves?
Jackson: I would revise my opinion now given the story that we've told last year. I think he has a more natural attraction for the other Olivia. But the fact that he was willing not only to kill her but to sacrifice himself ultimately for his love for Walter and Olivia, I think that speaks to the depth of his commitment. So I think over the course of last year, in the way that they wrote those scenes where Peter tells Olivia and the pain that she goes through, I thought they wrote those scenes really well because he dealt with it in a very menschy way. As opposed to getting defensive or being pissed off or being self-pitying, he just sort of took it, and that, to me, was the first time I saw that Peter really cared about Olivia in a romantic way rather than just a big brotherly sort of way.
Q: How much input do you have on upcoming storylines?
Jackson: Well, sometimes a lot, and a lot of times none at all. [Laughs] The finale last year, I was intimately involved with that, but the guys are pretty tight with their information. It is a Bad Robot show. The vault is kept close at all times. So there are some things that they're open about and we get to play with together. But mostly the way that I have an influence over the character-- and John will tell you the same thing, and he and I do this a lot-- we take the things that they've written and try to figure out, particularly for that father/son relationship, how to make all that stuff real and human in the center of this really big, over-the-top, science-fiction show. So I guess on set is where I have most of my influence.
- FOXQ: Is the lack of Emmy love for a show that's so deserving frustrate you, or you tend to brush it off?
Jackson: I don't know if you can be frustrated by extension, but yeah, I think it's ridiculous that John didn't get nominated for an Emmy. I thought it was ridiculous that he didn't get nominated last year. If it wasn't for his performance in the first season of our show, I firmly believe we would have been cancelled. It took the show, like it takes a lot of shows, some time to figure out what it was going to be. We had some concepts that were great, but it just took it awhile to gain traction. And I don't know if you guys have been watching from the very beginning, but those first six episodes are bumpy. They were uneven and we couldn't tell how procedural the show was going to be. It was still trying to find its format. And TV is a cutthroat business. If you don't deliver right then and there, then you're in deep trouble.
But he was so compelling that first year, and that character was so interesting to watch, that he became the through line. While the show was trying to find its form and its footing, he was the thing that gave the thing shape episode after episode after episode. And the Emmys, they don't... Whatever, it's a sci-fi show, it's a mad scientist role. Whatever. For whatever reason, they don't give the love. Just personally, if there's an MPV award for a television show, I can't think of another actor -- maybe Hugh Laurie -- who's more valuable on a network show to his show's survival than John.
Fringe returns Friday, September 23rd.