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By Suzanne

Leonard Nimoy in "Fringe"

Interview with Leonard Nimoy of "Fringe" from FOX 10/7/09

I somehow managed to miss the email that invited me to this monumental conference call, and I'm still kicking myself in the head for it. I am a long-time Star Trek fan, and I also love "Fringe" and have watched every episode.  I sure hope that one day I will get another chance to speak with Leonard Nimoy, but in the meantime, here is the transcript of the call, for your enjoyment.


Josh Governale
Leonard Nimoy


Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Fringe Interview Call with Leonard Nimoy. Due to the large volume of callers, we ask that you please limit yourself to one question. You may then re-queue, and additional questions will be taken as time permits. Iíd also like to remind you that todayís conference is being recorded. Iíll now turn the conference over to Josh Governale for opening remarks.

J. Governale Thank you, Kathy. Good morning, everyone, or good afternoon. Just as a reminder, before we get started, Iíd like to remind everybody that tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. the Fringe episode ďMomentum DeferredĒ will air. And thank you, Mr. Leonard Nimoy, Iíll turn it over to you now, at this time, for questions and answers.

Moderator Thank you, and our first question will come from Andrew Hanson with the L.A. Times. Go ahead, please.

A. Hanson Oh, good morning, Mr. Nimoy.

L. Nimoy Good morning.

A. Hanson I was wondering, did you have any reservations on taking another role with the potential of such a fanatic following?

L. Nimoy I love this question. I canít help but laugh because youíre absolutely right. Itís an interesting set of circumstances. What attracted me to it was several things. J.J. Abrams, Bob Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, who I worked with on the Star Trek movie, I admire their talent and the work that they do. The series is at the very least to say intriguing. The character was somewhat of a blank slate, but we began talking about it and, therefore, attracted because thereís an opportunity to build an interesting and unpredictable character. Iím enjoying it a lot.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go next to Fred Topel with SCI FI Wire.

F. Topel Hello, Mr. Nimoy. I hope these are some questions you can actually answer since we know William Bell is coming back on tomorrowís episode.

L. Nimoy Right.

F. Topel When will William Bell and Walter Bishop face off?

L. Nimoy When will they face off?

F. Topel Yes.

L. Nimoy Unpredictable at the moment. In the episode tomorrow night, the scene in between myself and Olivia, I think we will learn a lot more than we have known in the past about what their relationship is all about and what William Bellís intentions are, or at least we will be told what his intentions are. Weíre not really quite sure that everything that he says is accurate or true.

F. Topel Well, to follow up, I wonder, what does William Bell do when heís over there? Who is he spending time with?

L. Nimoy William Bell is sort of a ďmaster of the universe,Ē a brilliant man, very wealthy man, very powerful. Weíll find out a lot more about him in future episodes.

F. Topel Wow, those are very good answers. Thank you.

Moderator Thank you, and next we have Dave Martindale with the Hearst Newspaper.

D. Martindale Hello, Leonard.

L. Nimoy Hello.

D. Martindale We talked once in 1995, so itís nice to get to visit with youó

L. Nimoy Weíve been around a long time, havenít we?

D. Martindale Yes, so itíll be another 14 years, then weíll check back in again. Donít you find it remarkable how what is science fiction today can become science?

L. Nimoy It is remarkable. I was thinking as we began this conference call about the technology involved here. It is quite remarkable and so terribly useful. Itís a very convenient way to put out a lot of information, and this is the kind of thing that was only dreamed about 10, 15 years ago. And youíre right, science fiction very often leads the way for the scientists.

Scientists watch science fiction, see an idea being presented, and say, ďWell, gee, I wonder if thatís really possible.Ē They go to work at it on the drawing board, and a lot of it comes to fruition.

D. Martindale Yes, and Iím only trying to be slightly funny, but are you a techie?

L. Nimoy Am I a techie? Is that what youíre asking?

D. Martindale Yes, instead of Trekkie.

L. Nimoy Well, I use a computer.

D. Martindale Yes? Thatís as far as youíll go?

L. Nimoy I donít know if that qualifies me as a techie, but Iím pretty good on the computer.

D. Martindale Okay, fair enough.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

D. Martindale Ö much.

Moderator Thank you. Next we have Joshua Maloni with Niagara Frontier Publications.

J. Maloni Hello, Mr. Nimoy. Thank youó

L. Nimoy Hello.

J. Maloni óÖtoday.

L. Nimoy Hello.

J. Maloni So lately it seems as if youíre J.J. Abramsí muse of sorts. Can you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with him?

L. Nimoy Well, I first met him I guess about three years ago when he first contacted me about the possibility of working together, and I went to a meeting with he and Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman and some of his production staff. They told me a very good and strong and touching story about their feelings about Star Trek and specifically the Spock character.

It gave me a sense of validation after all these years. I had been out of it for some time, as youíre probably aware. There were several Star Trek series in which I was not involved and Star Trek movies in which I was not involved. This was a re-validation of the work that I had done, the work that we had done on the original Star Trek. I felt very good about it and went to work for them.

I had a great time working on the movie. I think they did a brilliant job, and I think the audience response shows that that was the case and has reinvigorated the franchise. And when they contacted me about working on Fringeóthe same people, the same attitude, the same creativity, the same creative teamóit was very enticing.

J. Maloni Had you seen the show? Had you been a fan of the show prior to that?

L. Nimoy I watched it periodically. I think itís extremely well done. Itís very nuanced. Itís complex. Itís a mixture of science and science fiction in a very interesting and intelligent way. And I think it has a long way to go in story-telling. It tells a terribly interesting story, and the character that I was offered was potentially a very intriguing and controversial and fascinating character, very inviting for an actor.

J. Maloni Great, thank you very much.

L. Nimoy Youíre welcome.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Sharla Cowles with Sling.

S. Cowlesi Hello, Mr. Nimoy. How are you?

L. Nimoy Hello. Hello.

S. Cowlesi I was wondering how you felt about the current state of science fiction on TV and film.

L. Nimoy Well, Iím concerned about the positioning of story in terms of importance. When I see a lot of explosions and a lot of chases, Iím not terribly impressed. I think there are three terribly important elements that must be given a priority position in science fiction as well as in any other kind of drama. The first is story, the second is story, and the third is story. Story, story, story, story, story. If the story is compelling and interesting, I think all the rest will find its place.

We have great technology in our industry, and that technology can be overused at the expense of story. And thatís a problem for me, but when the story is in place, I think the special effects can find their proper place. I think Fringe uses the technology brilliantly, but in the service of excellent story-telling.

S. Cowlesi And are there any other projects, other than your current collaborationó

L. Nimoy Iím doing a lot of photography work. Thatís one of my major creative outlets right now. I have an exhibition which is opening in Massachusetts at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art next year. Iím really excited about that.

S. Cowlesi Oh. What do you photograph?

L. Nimoy Iím sorry?

S. Cowlesi What are your subjects?

L. Nimoy Check out my Web site, Isnít that an amazing title for a Web site?

S. Cowlesi Itís great. And is there anything that youíre really interested in, any current science fiction things on TV or film?

L. Nimoy Fringe, Fringe, Fringe, Fringe, Fringe.

Moderator Okay, thank you. Weíll move on to Abbie Bernstein with iF Magazine.

A. Bernstein Hello, Mr. Nimoy.

L. Nimoy Hello.

A. Bernstein Thank you for doing the call. You had not been acting for awhile, and then youíve done Star Trek and Fringe pretty recently together. Having stepped away for awhile and then returned, are your feelings about acting what they were, or have they changed, do you find?

L. Nimoy Well, Iím enjoying it. Iím very comfortable in the two offers that Iíve accepted. The Star Trek movie was a joy to do. I admire the production team that made the film. I admire the new cast. Zachary Quinto I thought was a great choice for the new Spock, and it was a pleasure to work with him and with all the other people on the project.

The Fringe character was intriguing because, as Iíve mentioned, it was kind of a blank slate and we had some very interesting and intense conversations about who and what he could be and how we should perceive him, what we might or might not learn about him, what we might or might not trust about him. These are intriguing opportunities for an actor, and they came at a time when I Ö and from a group of people that I had respect for. They piqued my interest and I went back to work. I did not expect to, frankly, be acting so much at this time in my life. My concentration was on my photography, but Iím having a wonderful time doing it.

A. Bernstein Thank you.

L. Nimoy Youíre welcome.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Christy Kohrs with Geek Sugar and Buzz Sugar.

C. Kohrs Hello, Mr. Nimoy. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

C. Kohrs I was taking a look back at your career this morning, and it seems that, after your role on Star Trek, your projects weighed heavily towards the sci-fi genre. Were you always a big fan of sci-fi, or was that aó

L. Nimoy Well, itís a good thing if you can find your niche as an actor and be able to support a family. Very early onóIím talking about many, many years ago, probably 1950 or Ď51óI acted in my first science fiction project, and I have acted in science fiction over the years ever since.

The first one was probably not terribly well known. I thought it was going to rocket me to stardom, if youíll pardon the expression. It didnít quite work. It was a great project called Zombies of the Stratosphere, and I was the third of a group of zombies that came to earth to take over earthís orbit. Itís funny, as I think about it now, but it was a way of making a living.

And science fiction has seemed to be a fertile ground for the kind of work that I do, the kind of presence that I offer. Iím grateful for it. Iím grateful for the niche that science fiction has given me.

C. Kohrs Well, definitely an honor to speak with you. Thank you so much.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Next we have Lauren Davis with io9.

L. Davis Hello, Mr. Nimoy. Thank youó

L. Nimoy Hello.

L. Davis ófor talking to us today. So in the season finale last season, it was very, very heavily implied that Peter Bishop came from the alternate universe, which suggested thereís a second Walteró

L. Nimoy Right.

L. Davis óBishop as well. Are we going to see a second William Bell?

L. Nimoy A second William Bell? Is that what youíre asking?

L. Davis Yes.

L. Nimoy Yes. I donít think I can really answer that question very specifically right now. I think the most important thing is that tomorrow night we will get a sense of what his relationship is with Olivia. Itís very intriguing and very intense moments that take place tomorrow night, and the rest remains to be seen.

Iím waiting to see what these terribly imaginative writers come up with for the future. Iím expecting that I probably will be going back to work for them before too much longer. Iím looking forward to what they send me on the page. But, right now, I think we go a long way tomorrow night in discovering what William Bell is all about.

L. Davis Great, thank you.

L. Nimoy Youíre welcome.

Moderator Thank you. We have Fred Topel with SCI FI Wire.

F. Topel Hello. Iím glad you said that about detailing your meeting with Olivia. I understand that theyíre sort of getting the most ďbang for their Nimoy buckĒ by doing two episodes at a time with you. Is that how theyíre working it?

L. Nimoy No, no. I donít know where that came from. My understanding is that tomorrow night is the one episode Ė I did this work a few weeks ago, and that work is in the show tomorrow night. I donít think that we did work for more than the one episode, and I will be going back to work for them in about two weeks to do one more episode. Beyond that, weíre in discussion. But no, I donít think itís true that weíre doing more than one episode at a time.

F. Topel Okay. Well, thatís good to know. Have they mentioned anything about their needs for you on an upcoming Star Trek movie?

L. Nimoy No. My understanding is theyíre working on a script right now. I expect thereís going to be some time before they really know exactly who they need and what they need. I frankly, frankly doubt that I will be called upon again.

I think I was useful in his last film to help bridge between the original characters, the original actors, and the new cast. They have a wonderful new cast in place, and Iím sure theyíll move ahead with them. I donít see, at the moment, why they would need me in the next film, although, if they called me, Iíd be happy to have a conversation about it.

F. Topel Oh, Iím sure weíd all be happy to see you againó

L. Nimoy Thank you, thank you. Thatís very flattering. Thank you.

F. Topel Youíre called ďSpock PrimeĒ nowó

L. Nimoy Thatís right. Thatís right. Iím in the prime of my life, right.

F. Topel Thank you again.

L. Nimoy Youíre welcome.

Moderator Thank you. Next we have Troy Rogers with

L. Nimoy Hello.

T. Rogers Hello, Mr. Nimoy. Thanks for taking the time.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

T. Rogers Now, your character, William Bell, believes the world has soft spots. I just wanted to know, do youó

L. Nimoy Iím sorry, can you say it again? Iím having a little trouble hearing you.

T. Rogers Sure.

L. Nimoy My character, William Bell?

T. Rogers Yes, he believes the world has soft spots. I justó

L. Nimoy Yes.

T. Rogers óÖ do you believe in this as well?

L. Nimoy Well, what the show deals with in this wonderfully intriguing way is a question of an alternate universe, through which one can slip through, from one universe to another. Iíve been involved in stories of this kind before. I did a series called In Search ofÖ some years ago in which we dealt with subject matter like this.

I think the question is one that you would, in terms of whether itís scientifically accurate, youíd have to ask people like Stephen Hawking. Iím not a scientist, and I canít really tell you whether or not there is a soft spot where you could slip through to another world, but I think the Fringe series deals with that idea in a very intriguing way.

T. Rogers Okay, and I wanted to know, howís the transition been from New York to Vancouver?

L. Nimoy Easy for me. Actually, easier because, although I love New York and spend a good deal of time there and I have a place there, but Iím based in Los Angeles, and traveling to Vancouver is easier.

T. Rogers Okay, and what do you think Vancouver gives the series?

L. Nimoy What do I think it gives? I love Vancouver. Iíve been going to Vancouver for, oh, at least 35 years that I can think of. And I look forward to going back many times.

T. Rogers Excellent. One more quick thing: do you believe William Bellís evil or good oró

L. Nimoy Thatís a really wonderful question. Time will tell.

L. Nimoy Okay. Thanks for your time.

L. Nimoy Youíre welcome.

Moderator Next we have Steve Rummel with Sci-Fi Talk.

S. Rummel Hello, Mr. Nimoy. Pleasure to speak with you today.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

S. Rummel First question I have, I wanted to find out what sort of acting challenges have you found playing the William Bell character so far, would you say?

L. Nimoy Well, the first thing was some wonderful and creative conversations that I had with J.J. Abrams and Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers, to tryóand with Jeff Pinkner, whoís the show runneróto try to create from scratch a character thatís never been seen before, only been referred to. There are certain things that were given, which is that heís a power figure and a very wealthy and obviously a terribly intelligent man with a scientific background.

But, in terms of characteristics, we started from scratch, and I think tomorrow night a lot more of those characteristics will be evident. Itís great fun to be building the character from scratch, with certain givens, but so much to be developed in terms of the way he talks, the way he walks, idiosyncracies, his tastes, is he difficult, is he gruff, is he charming, is he a nice guy, what are his real intentions. All of these are great exploration for an actor.

S. Rummel And as a follow-up, I just wanted to ask if you wouldnít mind talking a little bit about your photography and maybe where your love of photography came from, if you donít mindó

L. Nimoy Well, I became enamored with photography when I was about 13 or 14 years old. Iíve been at it ever since. I studied seriously in the Ď70s. I have a masterís degree in photography as a fine art, and I would call my work primarily conceptual. I donít carry cameras with me wherever I go. I get an idea of a subject matter I want to deal with and I pull out my cameras.

I have published two books. One was called Shekhina about the feminine aspect of God, and the second was called The Full Body Project, which deals with body image issues in our society.

S. Rummel Mr. Nimoy, once again, a pleasure. Thanks again.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go next to Andrew Hanson with the L.A. Times.

A. Hanson So you had your scene with the Olivia Ö, with Anna Torv. Did you get a chance to meet any other actors, and did you get an opinion of them?

L. Nimoy No. I have not worked with the others. Only Olivia so far. Iím looking forward to meeting and working with all the others. Theyíre very talented people, and I admire the work they do. But so far, all my work has been with the Olivia character, and I think she does a wonderful job on the show, by the way. They all do. Theyíre very good. Hello?

Moderator Is that all, Mr. Hanson?

A. Hanson That was all. Thanks.

Moderator Alright, thank you. Then weíll go to David Martindale with the Hearst Newspaper.

D. Martindale Wow, he just set me up for my follow-up question, which is what do you think of Anna Torv as an actor and as a person?

L. Nimoy I think sheís really excellent in the role. We spent a bit of time working together, and I was impressed with the way she works. Iíve seen quite a bit of her work on the screen. I think she handles a very wide range of activities, from very internalized psychological questions to very, very physical stuff, and I think she handles it very well. Sheís very competent, very interesting to watch. I think sheís terrific.

D. Martindale Thank you very much. Always a pleasure.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. We have Alice Chapman-Nugent with the Times-Courier.

L. Nimoy Hello.

A. Chapman-Nugent Hello. Itís such a pleasure talking to you.

L. Nimoy Hello. Thank you.

A. Chapman-Nugent I loved you as Mr. Spock in Star Trek.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

A. Chapman-Nugent That was my first Trekkie show, and Iíve been hooked ever since.

L. Nimoy Okay.

A. Chapman-Nugent And I know Mr. Spockís character could be kind of complex at times, I would think, and I was wondering about your character as William Bell. Is there a particular character flaw or even something good that you would like to have highlighted in future episodes?

L. Nimoy This is a wonderful question. Iím really looking forward to this character unfolding in a very interesting kind of way. I think youíll see, tomorrow night, one very strong aspect of him and certain idiosyncracies that are being developed. But I do think thereís a long way to go. I think thereís a lot to be discovered, and Iím looking forward to discovering it with the audience.

Itís really not up to me to write the scripts. I donít do the writing, but the writers are clever, inventive, creative. Theyíre very bright people. Iím counting on them to give us some really interesting character touches in the future.

A. Chapman-Nugent Well, thank you.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Abbie Bernstein with iF Magazine.

L. Nimoy Hello.

A. Bernstein Hello again. Have you found that thereís anything different in the way television is done these days or what it requires of you as an actor, or is that aspect of work still pretty much the same?

L. Nimoy Well, Iíd say thatís a good question. Thank you. I think itís safe to say that what an audience is seeing today on screen in the television episode is far more complex than what we were doing when we were, for example, making the original Star Trek series in the Ď60s. We were very, very heavy on pages and pages of dialogue and very little special effects, but because the technology has advanced so greatly, itís possible to do some very complex and very exciting and very useful technical stuff on the shows these days, so we donít have to rely quite so much on the story being told by the actors speaking.

On the other hand, there is a danger, as I mentioned earlier, of going too far with the special effects at the expense of story. But if the story is well done, if the storyís in place strongly, the special effects can be enormously helpful to the actors, far more so than they were years ago when we were making the original Star Trek series.

A. Bernstein But are you saying that these days youíre allowed to do a little more nuance in the acting and not have to so much deliver the exposition because tható

L. Nimoy Oh, thank you. Thank you. Exactly, exactly, exactly. Delivering the exposition is the toughest part of the job, and if it can be done visually and physically, itís a big help. Exactly.

A. Bernstein Thank you very much.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. We have Christy Kohrs with Geek Sugar. Go ahead.

C. Kohrs Hello again. I was just wondering, looking to the future, do you hope to ride this second wave as long as you can, or do you have some sort of invisible time line of where youíd like to just completely focus on your photography oró

L. Nimoy I think youíre on a speakerphone. Itís very difficult for me to understand your question. Could you try it again, please?

C. Kohrs Oh, yes. Sorry. I was just wondering, looking to the future, do you have any goals in mind, any invisible time line where you wanted to just get out of the spotlight and retire, focus on photographyó

L. Nimoy Well, thank you. I thought I had reached that point some years ago. I think about myself as like an ocean liner thatís been going full speed for a long distance and the captain pulls the throttle back all the way to ďstop,Ē but the ship doesnít stop immediately, does it? It has its own momentum and it keeps on going, and Iím very flattered that people are still finding me useful.

I try to pick my spots so that I have a balance between the work and my personal life, which I enjoy very much. I donít know that I would actually any longer say, ďNo, Iím going to stop ten, twelve, fifteen months or two years from now.Ē I donít know. I still feel strong and healthy and active, and as long as thereís interesting work to do, Iíll probably keep on doing it.

C. Kohrs Oh, we love having you around. Thank youó

L. Nimoy Thank you so much. Thank you.

Moderator Thank you, and next we have Joshua Maloni with Niagara Frontier Publications.

L. Nimoy Hello.

J. Maloni Mr. Nimoy, obviously, with Star Trek, you set the gold standard in science fiction. What do you think about the products that have come out in recent years, things like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, or even Fringe for that matter?

L. Nimoy Well, Iím really impressed. Iím impressed. I think thereís some very, very good work being done, and certainly in terms of production value. Itís head and shoulders above what we were able to do years ago.

I keep coming back to my baseline, which is the story. If the story is good and all this new technology can work to the service of the story, Iím excited about some of the work thatís being done. I look and I say, ďWow.Ē In tomorrow nightís episode, there are things being done that I wouldnít know how to do.

I directed two of the Star Trek films and I produced one. I donít know how theyíre doing some of these effects that theyíre doing now in these TV shows and on TV budgets. Iím terribly impressed. I think itís a very exciting medium to be working in today, particularly if the script is good, the storyís in place.

J. Maloni Very good. Thank you, sir.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you, and we have time for just one more question. That will come from Cynthia Boris with

L. Nimoy Okay. Hello.

C. Boris Hello, and wow, I got an appropriate question, I think, for last. What is still on your ďto doĒ list with all the things youíve done in the world?

L. Nimoy Well, Iím looking forward to developing the William Bell character further. I hope the writers are interested in working with the character. I am. I donít know how much further weíll go with it, but the character, so far, has been very intriguing and the whole Fringe company has been very good to me. Iím delighted to be involved.

I am still actively involved with my photography work. Iím working on a current project, which is called Secret Selves, which is about hidden or fantasy or private personalities that people bring for me to photograph. And there will be an exhibition of that name, Secret Selves, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art opening next summer, a solo exhibition. Iím excited about that.

C. Boris Okay, thanks so much.

L. Nimoy Thank you.

Moderator Thank you, and please go ahead with any closing remarks.

J. Governale Iíd just like to say thank you, everyone, and, as a reminder, the ďMomentum DeferredĒ episode airs tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. on Fox. And thank you very much, Mr. Nimoy, for your time this morning.

L. Nimoy Youíre welcome. Thank you. Good-bye.

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