Interview with J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner of "Fringe" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner

Interview with J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner of "Fringe" on FOX 4/14/11.

These guys were great! I'd spoken with them before, but they were SO grateful and happy that they were getting another season, that they were really jazzed. They were particularly grateful to fans and press. The show is really great and never disappoints. I would also like to say that these transcripts are not always that accurate. I said something to Wyman and Pinkner (can't remember) about their being renewed and they went on and on some more about how much they appreciate the support, and they left that part out of the transcript. Oh, well...

FBC PUBLICITY: The Fringe Conference Call
April 14, 2011/10:30 a.m. PDT
Josh Governale
J.H. Wyman
Jeff Pinkner


Moderator Welcome to the Fringe Conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I’d now turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Josh Governale.

J. Governale Good morning and good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us on the Fringe Conference call with the executive producers and show runners J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner. As a reminder, tomorrow night marks the first of four uninterrupted original episodes leading up to the Season 3 finale on Friday, May 6th.

So without further delay, let’s proceed and please welcome J.H. Wyman and Jeff Pinkner. First question, please.

J. Pinkner Hey, guys. Before we do any questions, first of all this is Jeff, but speaking on behalf of both of us, thank you guys all for making your time available to be with us today. We know that among you are several people who follow the show closely, and are huge supporters. And we recognize that a large, a large, a large extent—the fact that we’re coming back for Season 4 is due largely to you guys for your support in drumming up attention for this show. We could not possibly be more grateful.

J.H. Wyman Yes, thank you very much.

Moderator Our first question comes from Matt Mitovich of TVLine.

M. Mitovich I’m curious that given the relatively early renewal news, did that allow you to make some wholesale changes to the season finale. How deep into it were you at that point?

J.H. Wyman We didn’t really change course at all. Jeff and I had a plan for the series, for the season this year, and we just went along with that. Nothing has changed from our previous plan.

M. Mitovich Then I’m sure you don’t want to detail exactly Mr. Nimoy’s involvement in this week’s episode, but could you talk about was there a sign off required by him on however it is that you’re using him? Did he have to approve anything?

J. Pinkner Leonard retired from acting at the end of our season finale. He was very sincere about that, but Joel and I and Akiva were sitting around talking about the notion that William Bell would inhabit Olivia’s mind. We came up with what we thought was a really cool idea, and we called Leonard and pitched the idea to him and he just started laughing. He said, “Okay, I’m in. How do you want to use me?”

We talked him through that. He’s participating in the show. It’s more than just giving us license. Obviously, Anna did a spectacular job sort of like becoming William Bell, but William Bell is present in this next episode; the one that airs tomorrow night. Then in a way I guess we can safely say gives new meaning to alternate reality, but it’s very much Leonard Nimoy.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Henry Hanks of

H. Hanks So when you guys first approached Anna with the idea of becoming William Bell, how was that whole thing like? I’m sure it was an unusual thing.

J.H. Wyman It was actually—you know what? It went like this: Hey, we have this idea. This is what we’d like to do. And she said, “Oh, great.” She’s up for any challenge, as you all can see as evidenced in this season. She’s been pulled and pushed in every direction.

And Jeff and I are always really, really amazed how she just sort of hits the ground running with everything. The whole invention of the character and how she spoke and what she did; it was all her creation. I mean, it was something that she came up with on her own, and we were all just so impressed. It sort of just went like that. It was kind of like, “Wow, that’s great. Give me another challenge; I’ll take it.”

J. Pinkner Anna and John spent a weekend on their own just working out their relationship. John sort of like helping her develop her take on Leonard Nimoy. We sat and watched the dailies and we all had a degree of apprehension because it’s a high bar. Instantly we realized that she surpassed that.

H. Hanks Obviously so many season finales. The last two you guys did were ... and it’s just been one twist after another this season. So can you give us sort of a taste of what to expect in the rest, the remainder of the season?

J. Pinkner I think that we have sort of approached each end of the season as not only would it be an end to the story for the year, but would also open up the door and sort of imply, or be the very first taste of what next season’s storytelling will be. We believe that this season’s finale does just that. Hopefully it will be wholly unexpected and also re-contextualize the story of Season 3 in a really cool way, and be fun and entertaining and mind-blowing, as you say.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Sandra Gonzalez of Entertainment Weekly.

S. Gonzalez So first off I just wanted to know—it’s sort of a finale question, but as the guy before me said, you all have a history of really bold finales. A couple things have come out about what we can expect.

J. Pinkner What has come out?

S. Gonzalez Well, we know that somebody we love is going to die, someone’s going to perish. There’s talk of introducing a third world. Can you talk about any of that? Or, rather what can you say about any of that?

J. Pinkner Half of that is true. Somebody who we all love deeply will die. We’re not introducing a third world. There’s our world, and then there’s the world that Peter was taken from as a baby. We still have plenty of story ... as an eight-year-old, and we still have plenty of story to tell just in those two worlds. Maybe at some point in the future there will be a third world, but not yet.

J.H. Wyman Not yet, no.

S. Gonzalez How pissed are people going to be about who dies?

J.H. Wyman Well, at some point you have to say, “All right, they’re driving,” and you’ve got to go with it. There’s been so many things that people have assumed or thought from various sources that weren’t true. I mean, Fringe always does things the way you don’t expect. At least we try to. So it’s going to be effective, and I think it will be self-explanatory. I mean that’s really all we can say, because we don’t want to spoil anything.

But to the season finale, and thank you very much for anybody mentioning we’ve done a good job before the season finales. But we’re always trying to look for a new chapter. In the last three episodes we’re always trying to sort of finish the season off with opening a brand new chapter for next season. And sort of put the show in a new context for our viewers. So we can tell you that we’ve tried to achieve that this year, as well.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Kathie Huddleston of

K. Huddleston Now what can you tell us about tomorrow’s episode other than what we’ve read in the log line?

J. Pinkner So Olivia is in crisis. The fact that William Bell has sort of taken over her consciousness is a lot more complicated than he had imagined. The episode is a journey, a trip to retrieve Olivia before it’s too late.

K. Huddleston Anything else? Any other little teasers you want to give us?

J. Pinkner Well, as you know, Leonard is very much a presence in the episode. I think we’re going to—ultimately it’s a very sat—in the way that we try to do, hopefully it’s a very satisfying emotional journey for the characters, while at the same time being certainly something that you’ve never seen on Fringe before.

K. Huddleston What challenges did you guys face as you were putting together the end of this season?

J.H. Wyman What challenges? Well, we had so many emotional things to pay off. We’ve been really sort of cognizant of finding all the emotion that we can to logically come to a conclusion that would be satisfying, and at the same time sort of suggest things are going to go further in a different direction. We had a very good idea where we wanted to go, even from the beginning of the season. So challenging only in that we were trying to take out things, like we had too much story that we would like to tell. So making those sort of decisions on what must be seen and what can be shown and what’s going to be sort of reserved as elements of next season. That was pretty difficult from my standpoint.

K. Huddleston Jeff, what about you?

J. Pinkner I think that there were a couple of challenges. One is that the first ideas that we get to we often dismiss because we try to hold ourselves to a high bar. Ultimately, we try to write stuff that we would want to see. The season has been going along so well that we didn’t—we wanted the season finale to exceed the season, and not just—pay it off, and also sort of like elevate it and, as we mentioned earlier, make you view the entire season from a different context. Like really emotionally and sort of intellectually make you reconsider everything you had seen before. It’s one of the themes that we constantly go back to is perception, and the different natures of reality and choices and how those different choices branch off down different paths.

And hopefully—always we set ourselves in the same production challenges, which our team in Vancouver, they get scripts from us, they hear what we want to do, they vomit, they cry, and then they pull on their shoes and they get to work. This one certainly does that in a whole bunch of ways. We’re in the process of editing it now, so we haven’t seen a final product, but we’re very excited.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Jennifer Arrow of E! Online.

J. Arrow This is possibly a dumb question. I feel like I’m not as clued in to all the spoilers as I really should be considering my job. But this season has had all the over there, over here switching, and I’m kind of scared you’re going to take it away next season. I really enjoyed evil Olivia and Scarly and Linc. Is this a season long arc that will end? Or is this something that—

J.H. Wyman We’re actually—

J. Pinkner It’s not going to end.

J.H. Wyman Yes, it’s not going to end. That’s our plan to go forward. That’s a part of the language of the series now.

J. Arrow Okay. So we haven’t necessarily—you’re not guaranteeing we’ll see these people every other week for the rest of our lives, but you’re not going to murder them all in a Super Nova explosion?

J.H. Wyman No, no, no. For sure no. Look, part of the idea was to make a—and it feels very good to hear you say that for Jeff and I, because our goal was to try and make two shows about one show. Have a very compelling mythology on the other side, and hope that our viewers and fans would be as engaged as we are with those people on the other side, which, if you can imagine looking at it from our perspective back then, we didn’t know if people would really engage in it as much as we would like. So now it’s a huge success for us in that regard, because we know that everybody really has invested in the stories over there. We can promise that it’s going to be even more compelling, and we’re going to develop those characters even more, and we’re going to see more of our characters through their eyes and their characters through our eyes. It will definitely dimensionalize further.

J. Arrow Does the baby have anything to do with that?

J.H. Wyman The baby will have a—it will be part of it, but how it’s handled, it’s definitely—now remember this is Fringe—cannot be normal.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Curt Wagner of RedEye.

C. Wagner So I’ve liked the show from the very beginning, but I was curious if it seems like this season, and especially the latter half of this season, it’s really just gone, gotten bonkers good, great. I was wondering if you guys, if the ratings situation and that kind of stuff had you guys sort of going for broke in every episode, or—?

J. Pinkner I don’t think so. The story of ratings has become much more of a popular media story in this internet age of information and instant access to all kinds of information. Making a television show is very much like—we’re certainly not the first ones to say it—like steering a cruise ship out at sea. The changes are very slow. We had our sort of like the bones of our season long arc have been in place before we started the season and we’re constantly writing new episodes. We actually care very much about what our fans and you guys think about the work we do, and we respond to what we read about the show. But even so, our scripts, our production, is weeks ahead of anything getting on the air.

Thank you very much for saying that the storytelling has gone bonkers as of late. I think that we really attribute that to just we have always said that our story would constantly build upon the foundation of the episodes that have come before. And just the puzzle pieces are in place now for us to really go deep to advance the storytelling to be more adventurous. Things that we’ve always tried, but we now have the confidence that our audience is now with us and we can go a little faster and a little further.

C. Wagner Do you guys ever sort of confuse yourselves and freak yourselves out at some of the stuff?

J.H. Wyman Well, we love to get freaked out; we love to freak each other out. We like to—look, at the end of the day if we go home and we say, “Oh, man, that was a good day” then that’s all we’re looking for. Because when we feel we’re in our creative, I guess, soft spot or sweet spot, I guess that’s when we’re happiest. So we’re always trying to come up with things that make the other go, “Wow, that’s great.” That’s really exciting, because if it’s a good idea, it’s just always ends up like that. It’s just one of those things that if you have to convince somebody of something, you know that there’s some problem in it. So, yes, we’re always trying to make the other kind of swirl with anticipation and excitement.

J. Pinkner But confusion, to speak to that side of the question, no. We don’t leave confused by the science or the storytelling. I think that sometimes we—among our many faults and the things that we don’t do perfectly, sometimes we don’t—we expect the audience to bring a lot to the table. We try very hard not to spoon feed either the science or the storytelling. Maybe this is why our ratings aren’t bigger, but we really expect the audience to sort of sit forward and pay attention and follow. We have many long discussions, including with our network and studio partners, about slowing down the pace of the storytelling, or simplifying it, and we’ve said that’s just not this show. The reason people love it, we think, is because they are expected to keep up.

Moderator Our next caller is Suzanne Lanoue of TV MegaSite.

S. Lanoue What I wanted to know is have you started any work at all on the next season?

J. Pinkner We are always percolating ideas for next season, but we haven’t formally sat down and started. We’re still finishing up this season, and then we’ll dive into the next. We haven’t formally sat down and started talking stories yet.

J.H. Wyman But we have a lot of ideas that we like.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Darrell Darnell of the Fringe Podcast.

D. Darnell My question is a lot of folks have been talking, especially here on the call today, about how you keep us all guessing and it’s clear that you guys have a lot of great ideas. One of the things that we say on the podcast, some people may not know where we’re going or their confused, or maybe they didn’t like a storyline—for example, the baby, and stuff like that. I wanted to remind folks that you guys have earned our respect. You guys have done a brilliant job over the last three years, and are writing at a level that is just brilliant. So you guys have a game plan? If you were given the opportunity to give an end date, kind of like Lost was given, would you go for that? If so, how many seasons do you see the story arc of Fringe going towards?

J. Pinkner I think that we have an ending in mind. We said this before, it’s sort of like a file folder. Like there are chapters that we can tell to round out that ending, that we can drop in before we get to the ending, that will just make it richer, and at the same time aren’t necessarily required storytelling for the ending to work and be satisfying. One of the advantages to doing what Lost did is by announcing an end date, you make every episode leading up to that end date essential viewing. It sort of just like heightens the excitement and necessity of every episode. But that is not a place that we’ve gone with either the studio or the network.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Sean Daly of

S. Daly I will admit that I was among the people who wrote the stories back several months ago that, oh my God, they’re in the death slot now. Death and doom and gloom are certain to come to this show. No one ever survives Friday nights.

J.H. Wyman That was you, huh?

S. Daly It wasn’t just me. But I’m kind of curious. Were you even a little bit surprised that you were able to overcome that? That the show is still standing and you have this opportunity to go forward. Or were you completely, 100% convinced it was always all going to work out?

J.H. Wyman We didn’t doubt it for a moment, because we just kept saying—and look. We understand why you would write something like that. It’s not like we’re like, “Wow, where is this guy coming from?” We get it, but this is about communication as far as our position is. Because the network and the studio have been so up front about exactly everything that they were going to do with the program to try and sort of keep it on the air and where to do it, where to succeed, how loyal are the fans, etc.

When you’re looking at somebody and they’re telling you this, we’ve all had experiences where, you know, shows don’t work sometimes, okay? I mean, creatively, if they’re not working, Friday night, Thursday night, Tuesday night doesn’t really matter. You’re going to go away, because nobody’s a fan and there’s something wrong with it. But we had always felt that with our fans, we hit a stride. We’re very happy with the work that was coming out. They were very happy with the work that was coming out. So it was a constant communication between us and the network, that was saying, “You guys are doing great. We’re going to find the right spot, and we believe in you.”

Now I know you guys, you can’t help but sometimes be a little bit cynical, so it’s like when somebody says, “Oh, don’t worry, the show is safe” you’re like, “Yeah, right.” So that’s why we understand. But from where we were coming from on the inside, you know you don’t really hear that. When your show is faltering and your show is not doing well creatively, nobody’s calling you and saying, “Hey, don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.” They’re saying, “Look, how are we going to fix it?” We never received that phone call. So it was always a matter of just believing in them, them believing in us, and we really never doubted it.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Tara Bennett of SFX Magazine.

T. Bennett I’m so glad to have you back and looking forward to you having another season of Fringe next season. So I know we only have four episodes left before the end of this season. How do you guys plan to narratively balance over here and over there? I know you, of course, in the past have done some episodes where we had a little bit of merging per episode. Is that what we should look forward to as we come to the finale?

J. Pinkner Absolutely. The run up to the finale and the finale impacts both universes directly. We will be going back and forth within episodes.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Pam Chilton of Fringe TV.

P. Chilton I hope it’s okay if I ask you a question, two parter about Vinyl Sedan Chair and the “Seventh Suns” album.

J. Pinkner Of course.

P. Chilton First off, it sounds like there may be some of the cast singing on the album. For instance, there’s a track number eight called “Last Man in Space,” and it sure sounds like Joshua Jackson singing backup vocals. Can you confirm that? Or is this just us getting overly excited about that?

J.H. Wyman You’re getting a little overly excited. While all our cast can sing—with the exception of Josh. I think he said he couldn’t sing, but I don’t believe it, I think he can—nobody sang on that album.

J. Pinkner The album was recorded in 1970. Josh would have been just a wee little lad.

P. Chilton Okay, that’s not what my contact in Boston said. Then the last part of that was I believe there have only been eight of those albums found to date in the United States. Could you tell us if there are any more out there?

J. Pinkner Yes, there are. At last count, we’ve been able to track a couple hundred. So let’s assume that there’s more than that.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Benjamin Phillips of ... Daily.

B. Phillips I have a little bit of a Fanboy question, I guess. I was curious as to how you came up with the nickname for all the alternate versions of our characters. If that was something that came out of the writing room, or if you sort of saw what came out of it—internet reaction—and then took your favorites?

J.H. Wyman Basically we just started—when we starting ripping it, the writer’s room, we were here, we just started calling them so as not to confuse each other we would say, “A Bolivia” and “B Bolivia” I mean, it was that simple. And so we would say, “And then B Bolivia goes here, so then we just started writing it on the boards, and then it became B Olivia was Bolivia, and then we started calling her that.

Then Walternet, one of the writers, I believe it was Ethan Gross, came up with the concept of calling him Walternet, which was obviously stuck. Do everybody sort of like, you’ll be having a conversation about the character, and somebody will say something kind of great thing. Then online people will start calling themselves, and we’ll adopt those. It became really fun, actually.

B. Phillips Do you have any personal favorites?

J. Pinkner Walternet’s my favorite. Joel?

J.H. Wyman Yes. I would say Walternet is the one that it just sort of embodies who that character is, and it’s sort of like it’s inevitable. The others all feel—and the online community, too, has their own favorites; Bolivia or Altlivia. But Walternet is just the one that you hear it and you just know it’s right.

Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Anthony Furonti of Assignment Xmag.

A. Furonti I have a question about has FOX said that we’re going to keep you on Friday? If that’s the case, does it matter now what you do in Season 4? Can you just kind of do what you need to do and not worry about anchoring November?

J. Pinkner FOX has not officially told us we’re on Friday. Our assumption is we’ll remain on Friday. Our pick up implies, or indicates that they’re happy with us there. But they’ll wait, they’ll see their pilots, they’ll figure out where they’re going to put American Idol, they’ll do all their scheduling things, and they’ll let us know. Our storytelling, we’re going to plan on telling the stories we tell regardless of where we are on the schedule.

J.H. Wyman Yes.

Moderator Our last question comes from the line of Scott Hoover of PopcornBiz.

S. Hoover I was just curious, do you have any sort of Easter-eggy things that you can tease as far as things like the DC comics alternate covers that are coming up in some episodes?

J. Pinkner We’re always dropping that kind of stuff in.

J.H. Wyman Yes, there’s always something there. It’s there to be found, you know. Whenever we get a chance, we always try to put something in to make you realize those little subtle differences.

J. Pinkner There will be things like that all throughout, but if we told you what they were, they wouldn’t really be Easter eggs, would they, you know? But they’re there.

Moderator Speakers, that does end our Q&A session.

J. Governale Thank you very much everyone for your participation today. As a reminder, Fringe airs on FOX at 9/8 Central. Thank you.

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