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Interview with John Noble of "Fringe"
on FOX 4/21/11
FBC PUBLICITY: Fringe Conference Call
April 21, 2011/10:30 a.m. PDT
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to
the Fringe Conference call with John Noble. During today’s conference,
all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a
question and answer session. Instructions will be given at that time.
And as a reminder, today’s conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Josh Governale.
Please go ahead.
J. Governale: Thank you very much, and good morning and afternoon,
everyone. Thank you for joining us on the Fringe conference call with
series star John Noble. As a reminder, tomorrow night marks the first of
three Fringe finale episodes that will air uninterrupted leading up to
the season finale on Friday, May 6th.
So, without further delay, I’d like to turn the call over to John Noble.
J. Noble: Thanks, Josh. Listen guys, thank you again for coming on to do
these calls. You’re such regular supporters and reporters on our show,
and it’s greatly appreciated. We know that we live by the fact that
people talk about it on the net and the paper, and basically you guys
have been amazing. And so it’s a pleasure to be talking to you again.
And I know Shannon’s going to moderate. But I just wanted to say that to
you as we reach the end of Season 3, that from myself and from the rest
of the guys at Fringe, thank you very much. Shannon?
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, we will now begin the question and
answer session. The first question is from the line of Joshua Maloney
from Niagara Frontier. Please go ahead.
J. Maloney: Hi, John. Thanks for your time today.
J. Noble: Good day, Joshua, how are you?
J. Maloney: Good. So as you said, we’re getting down to sort of the
nitty-gritty here on the season, and obviously there are only certain
things you can tell us about it. But what excites you about these final
three episodes of the season?
J. Noble: It’s like an epic trilogy, Josh. All year we’ve been heading
towards the fact that there seems to be inevitable conflict between the
two universes, and we’ve gotten to know the people on both sides now. So
we now bring it to a conclusion starting with “602,” Friday night’s
episode. We start to deal with the issue because our Earth starts to
deteriorate. Events start to happen here which indicate that our world
And so everyone has to move into another year and say, “Well, this
problem is not going to go away. It’s now affecting our side. We do have
a machine which we believe can assist in the resolution of this
problem.” And so the episode basically deals with the lead up in the
first part of that trilogy leading up to the use of the machine.
J. Maloney: All right. Now, you know, John, I think it’s really awesome
that we’re talking about the season finale and not the series finale.
And as you said, you’ve got a lot of fans out there. You’ve got a lot of
dedicated Fringe fans. A lot of them are TV writers. Talk a little bit
more, if you would, please, about what it feels like to know you have
another season to look forward to.
J. Noble: I was thinking about that this morning. I thought about how
hard it would be not to have another season, actually. I thought it the
other way around. Because we’ve really just finished Season 3, which was
just a whirlwind. I mean, I can hardly remember the last three or four
weeks, it was that busy.
But I was thinking this morning, imagine if there was no more? Because
we have so many stories to tell, you know, that it would be a strange,
empty feeling—that’s for me, personally, and certainly judging from when
I talk to fans and to journalists. And I just—in fact, went across to
Paris for the weekend to talk to some fans, and the response across the
world, not only in North America, is the same. So there’s a great sense
of jubilation. And Jeff Pinkner tells me—he was talking to me on the
phone last night—that he has so many stories to tell, he could go
forever. So there’s a real sense of excitement.
J. Maloney: Great. Well, it’s a great show. You’re fantastic on it. I
appreciate your time today.
J. Noble: Thanks so much, Josh.
Moderator: The next question comes from the line of Matt Mitovich with
TVLine.com. Please go ahead.
M. Mitovich: Hey, John, how are you today?
J. Noble: Good, mate, good.
M. Mitovich: So the synopsis for this Friday’s episode, “602,” says,
“Walternet’s thirst for revenge drives him to cause trouble in the other
universe.” I’m curious; what sort of tools does Walternet have at his
disposal to make anything happen over here?
J. Noble: You could make an assumption based on what’s happened so far
with both these men gathering pieces of the machine that they both have
the same tool. And so what happens, in fact—which will be no surprise to
anyone—is that he finds a way to activate his machine. And as a result
of which, our world starts to break down. I mean seriously break down as
we’ve witnessed in the alternate universe, which of course then prompts
panic on our side, “What do we do?”
We start to resort to ... ourselves. We have to find a solution—Walter
has to really come to his very best—has to get his best faculties back
together again, do exactly what Bill told him he could do and that is
resolve these problems with everything he needs to do it. He has to
allow Peter the freedom to be a hero instead of being a protective
It’s very dramatic in that sense, and we finish the episode—I will say
it’s a trilogy, these three, but we finish in a very dramatic place as
we begin to activate our machine. I don’t really want to say anymore
than that, because it will just take the sting out of it. But it’s a
very powerful episode, and the beginning of three extraordinary
M. Mitovich: I was just curious; the title “602” is that a deadline that
Walternet is aiming for, or is it just the time that something happens
J. Noble: Yes, it’s the time that something happens to happen, which is
critical. And that timeframe plays through the three episodes. It’s very
important to remember as we get to the finale; that timeframe.
Moderator: The next question is from the line of Mike Hughes with
TVAmerica. Please go ahead.
M. Hughes: Hi. I want to ask something different, but first I want to
follow up on that point about as you were filming this at the end.
Because sometimes people will be filming something and they won’t know
if it’s the series finale or the season finale. But you were filming
right to the end, so how long—did you still have several episodes to go
when you got word that you’d be back for next season?
J. Noble: We did, Mike, absolutely. In the world of television, a good
writer will prepare a series and a season finale. We were given good
reason to believe that we’d be going on by FOX and Warner Brothers. We
were given very good reason to keep optimistic. But we certainly knew we
were writing a season finale for the last few episodes, and indeed, the
writers have come up with actually blockbuster.
M. Hughes: Okay, good. And now what I was going to ask you is we’ve got
some episodes where you were only Walter, and some episodes where you
were only Walternet during that hour. But I get a feeling you’re both in
this coming Friday episode, right?
J. Noble: Yes, you will see that happen.
M. Hughes: Okay. So I wanted to ask you, as you play them, because they
are such different people and there’s such a lovability to Walter and
increasing vengeance in Walternet. As you play them, do you feel
different that day? Do you feel different afterwards? Is it a different
kind of day for you when you’re playing one than other?
J. Noble: Mike, sometimes it’s in the same day.
M. Hughes: Yes, yes.
J. Noble: And sometimes it’s twice in the same day with two makeover
changes. So normally, probably, end of most days I just feel exhausted,
one way or the other.
M. Hughes: But while you’re playing one, does one affect your mood in a
J. Noble: No, no. No, not really. There’s a variation that you’ll see in
the finale—and I’m not going to say anymore. But there’s a variation
that did affect my concentration, my mood. But we’ll save that one for
But playing Walter and Walternet as they are present, no. I mean, I take
that under my wing and just fly with it.
M. Hughes: Okay, good. Okay, thanks.
J. Noble: Okay, mate.
Moderator: The next question is from the line of Kathie Huddleston with
Blastr.com. Please go ahead.
K. Huddleston: Hi, John.
J. Noble: Hi, Kathie.
K. Huddleston: Good to talk to you again, and congratulations on another
J. Noble: Hey, congratulations to all of us.
K. Huddleston: I’m excited. What kind of a journey, this year, would you
say has Walternet been on? And what kind of a journey has Walter been
J. Noble: Well, the writers said to me at the beginning of the year that
Walter’s journey is a journey towards redemption. And I understood that.
In fact, I had thought from the beginning of Season 1 that that was a
sort of great arc.
Walter had a really tough season in the sense that he was most of the
season alienated from his beloved son. And he found that very difficult
because he had become so attached to Peter. And obviously Astrid stepped
in and helped him out a lot, but he had to battle a lot of it out by
So that was a tough 40 days in the desert for Walter, and towards the
end of it you’ll see that there’ll be some resolution between Peter and
Walter; a much more grown up relationship will establish. That same
beautiful trust that they had until the end of Season 2, I think it was,
when Peter finally realized that he wasn’t the son; that isn’t back.
There’s a different type of respect and love in there now, so it’s been
a huge sort of arc for Walter in terms of spending a lot of the time
really very, very lost and having to come to grips with the fact
that—and it’s been told by Bell and by Nina, you are everything you need
to be to do what you have to do. So he’s had to accept himself and his
limitations and know that that’s perfectly adequate. It’s a wonderful
K. Huddleston: Yes, it is. And as an actor, what kind of a journey have
you been on this season?
J. Noble: Well, the actor as against the character?
K. Huddleston: Yes, you.
J. Noble: Thank you. I don’t believe I ever get asked that. When I’m
shooting 22 episodes, my life really revolves around the 14 or 18 hours
a day that I do on set. And so apart from maintaining good health, which
I do—I do a lot of that. Any time off that I get I make sure that I’m
doing a Bikram yoga class, or something, because really we’ve found that
we have to remain incredibly fit.
In fact, Anna Torv said to me the other night—it was about five o’clock
on a Saturday morning and we still had two hours to go, and she said,
“Isn’t it remarkable how fit we are, and that we haven’t had one day off
in three years?” And I think that struck me as, Wow, that is pretty
So a lot of it is just staying focused on the task at hand. I do find
time to play music and do some painting. But most of it is to do with
Moderator: The next question comes from Alexa March with
PopCultureMadness.com. Please go ahead.
A. March: Hi John. Thank you for speaking with us today.
J. Noble: My pleasure.
A. March: Okay, where do you hope this series heads in the long run?
J. Noble: That’s a really difficult question, and I don’t have even a
hint of an answer. What our writers have done is opened up all
potential. By saying the different choices—by making different choices
in life you can change the direction of your life, or events around your
life. Using that plot device, that’s opened up something that could run
forever, really, by different choices. By opening up the fact that we
have one identical universe in pure science indicates there could be
thousands of them should we wish to go down that way.
Where they’ll go, I don’t know. What I do know is that they’ll remain
constant to the central characters that they’ve created from Season 1.
So somewhere within that wonderful journey, you will still have Olivia,
and Peter, and Astrid, and Walter, and Broyles, and Nina. Those
characters will still somehow meander through whatever wonderful
journeys we take, but ... out at night. And the writers, themselves,
actually, which way we’ll go next.
A. March: Okay. And I’m sure fans are just dying to know; is William Bell
really gone? Is there anything you can tell us about that?
J. Noble: William Bell will never go. Oh, you’re talking about the ...
A. March: Yes.
J. Noble: Oh, that was a kind of very sad ending, wasn’t it? I got the
sense while I was playing that that felt to me like the end of Belly.
The remorse that Walter felt at the end of that scene felt like that was
the end of it. But I don’t know that for sure, and I know that Leonard
loves doing the show. So, goodness sakes, he could come back. But it did
feel like a departing to me.
Moderator: The next question is from the line of Clint Wichert with The
Fringe Podcast. Please go ahead.
C. Wichert: Hi John. Thank you so much for joining us, and
congratulations again on the renewal of the show.
J. Noble: Thanks, Clint.
C. Wichert: One of the themes that we’ve seen kind of play out, which I
imagine will come to a head in the next three episodes, has been kind of
this balance or symbiosis between fate and destiny. What is your take on
where Walter and Walternet fall? Are they both on the destiny side or
the fate side? Is there a balance there, I guess is my question.
J. Noble: Well, the very fundamental nature of science, and in fact
Walternet points this out during the season, is that the universe will
seek balance, and that’s, in fact, true. So what we’ll find through some
awfully precarious events, we’ll find that everything will attempt to
find balance. And this man, Walter/Walternet, because they are the same
man, will hopefully find a balance as back as one human being again, as
it were to find a fully fledged. Because at this stage neither of them
are complete human being by any means.
So, I mean, I think it would be delightful. We won’t see it happen this
season, but I think it would be delightful to see a human life completed
sometime along the line where one reconciles oneself with everything
about oneself. I don’t know; that might be just my dream, but I think
it’s a possibility. But, there are other universes, and there are other
Walters, and there are other issues. I just have a sense that all will
come back to balance somewhere, somehow, because that’s what the
C. Wichert: That’s great. Were you interested in science at all before
taking this role? And having watched you now for three seasons, you’re
incredibly proficient at delivering these almost abstract scientific
concepts at the level that can explain it to the general audience. What
kind of ... do you do there?
J. Noble: Well, yes. Science was not my major at school, at all. In fact,
I studied law. But I think my deep fascination—my deepest fascination
from a young man was with science. And I guess what I’ve done over the
last 20 years is been constantly drawn to books of the scientific bent.
And there’s so many fine ones around now that are available to the
layman. I mean they’re still quite complicated, but if you take the time
to read them, and I have, it’s just to me it’s an amazing journey of the
And I do read science books, yes I do. I’m not saying that I understand
all of the intricate math and chemistry that goes on. But I do find it
C. Wichert: Thank you very much, John.
J. Noble: You’re very welcome.
Moderator: The next question is from the line of Lena Lamoray with
LenaLamoray.com. Please go ahead.
L. Lamoray: Hey, John.
J. Noble: Hey, Lena.
L. Lamoray: Walter is my favorite character.
J. Noble: Thank you.
L. Lamoray: You’re welcome. Now Walter has grown so much over the season,
so what are your thoughts on your character’s development and being able
to ... several versions of him, including animated ones?
J. Noble: They keep presenting me with new challenges, don’t they, Lena?
There’s another. Somewhere in the next few weeks you’ll see another
challenge coming up, too, for Walter—or for me, playing Walter.
Yes, I don’t know. The writers are endlessly inventors, and the man is
endlessly complex. So I guess there are all sorts of issues that he
could deal with. He’s already been through a lot. He’s already been
through mental illness and physical illness. He’s been through loss,
he’s been through madness. So there are other issues he can deal with.
But the one thing that Walter, that I’ve been able to develop with him,
is he’s a man of very deep love. The love that he feels for people is
very, very deep. And I now would include with that Peter, but also with
Olivia, and Astrid, and also Nina. And that sort of depths of commitment
opens all sorts of dramatic possibilities. Do you know what I mean by
L. Lamoray: Yes.
J. Noble: If you care that much about somebody, what would you do to look
after them, to protect them? And I hope that comes across when you see
the performance. For example, Walter adores Olivia. Not in the same
gushy way he can hug Peter or that he can joke with Astrid. But he
adores her. So there’s all sorts of possibilities to play within that
really deep emotional pond there of close personal relationships.
L. Lamoray: And what was it like being animated?
J. Noble: It was great fun. It’s bizarre, isn’t it?
L. Lamoray: Yes.
J. Noble: It’s a bizarre thing to look at. And what we did was we shot
the scenes against the white background to give the artist some
guidelines, and we did the dialogue. And then they went away and they
created that extraordinary act of television. It’s very cool.
Moderator: Our next question is from the line of Adam Harris with
SpoilerTV. Please go ahead.
A. Harris: Hi, John. Thanks very much for taking the time.
J. Noble: Pleasure, Adam.
A. Harris: I was going to talk about the last episode. I was wondering
about why the writers decided to bring William Bell back. And the
conclusion I came to was that he wasn’t trying to cheat death, but that
he realized that Olivia needed to change her way and to eliminate the
fears that she had inside her mind. Is that how you view it? Do you
think William Bell was a man of good?
J. Noble: Yes, I think we do dip into the role of metaphysics here, and
you had asked the question that we often do; what happens to the human
soul after death? Does it—being an energy, does it—it has to be
somewhere, it can’t just disappear. So that’s all a metaphysical
And we kind of covered it by saying, “Well, Bell is there somewhere, and
felt the impulse to come back to correct an ill.” That’s kind of a cool
thought, isn’t it? Like having a guardian angel, or something, looking
A. Harris: Yes.
J. Noble: I do go down the path of thinking those things sometimes. I
also think sometimes, I think, well, who are the observers? Are they
also like some sort of guardian angel? But all of that metaphysical
stuff is—I find it quite easy to accept a lot of that stuff. I don’t
understand it, but just on the basis of the physics of what the
displacement of energy, it’s got to go somewhere. So, yes, I thought it
was very cool that Bell came back and did that thing for Olivia.
A. Harris: And my other question is, in previous interviews you stated
that “Peter” was your favorite episode, the one that you were most proud
of. And I was wondering now that “Subject 13” is banding and it’s a
similar tone, is “Peter” still your favorite episode? And why does that
one still hold true the most?
J. Noble: Probably “Peter.” Probably “Peter” because it was the first
time we did it. It was such a risky thing to do to take a character back
that far. “Subject 13” was more complex in that I had to create two
versions of the character, but in a sense I’ve been there before. And I
think “Subject 13” was incredibly important in the sense that we got to
understand the history between Walter and young Olivia in the
Cortexiphan trial. That was critically important for the ongoing journey
of the story.
I think “Peter” is—of personally involved ones, I think “Peter” was
probably my favorite. I have other favorites. I thought “The Firefly,”
which I did with Christopher Lloyd was a wonderful episode. I thoroughly
enjoyed doing that. I thought “White Shore” last year, too, was a
terrific episode, too.
And what else do I love? Golly, I just thought of one—one called,
“Snakehead” which I had a wonderful time with Astrid down in Chinatown.
There are probably about a half a dozen episodes that I think of with
incredible fondness, but certainly the two flashback episodes would be
high on the list.
Moderator: The next question is from the line of Scott Hoover with
PopcornBiz. Please go ahead.
S. Hoover: Hi, John.
J. Noble: Hi, Scott.
S. Hoover: This role must really be a gift to an actor, as rich as it is.
Can you talk about how Fringe has really sort of changed your life since
you got involved with the show?
J. Noble: Well, you got it right the first time when you said that it’s a
gift. I’ve been sort of acting forever, and I did 20-odd years in
theatre, where you do a lot of different things, and you get the
opportunity to play many different characters and different forms; and
mime, and dance, and comedy, and drama, and everything else. What Walter
Bishop gave me was the opportunity to basically use just about every
trick I’ve got in my book, and have such a lot of fun doing it. So it
was a gift.
And then, like the gift that keeps on giving, they also gave me
Walternet to show the other side of him. So as a reward for I guess an
actor towards the end of his career, it seriously couldn’t have been
S. Hoover: And this might be an opportunity with shows that have this
kind of very, very committed fan base. But you could revisit Walter for
years to come. Is that something that’s kind of juicy for you to think
about; that there may always be a story to tell with Walter and you can
come back and see him at different phases?
J. Noble: Well, I think within context. I suppose what will happen
somewhere down the track is they’ll make a movie. That seems to happen.
I don’t know that having created a character that you necessarily want
to keep coming back to him.
I remember when I created Denethor for Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.
I was completely happy with that, but I didn’t want to go back and try
it again. It was like that was a complete piece of work for me.
Walter is still a work in progress. A most rare thing to be able to
develop a character over four years. But when it finishes, I suspect
it’s finished and there’ll be other fish to fry, as they say.
S. Hoover: And then last question for you is I can tell you from the
evidence from my girlfriend that Walter is something of a sex symbol.
Have you experienced that?
J. Noble: Oh, mate. Tell your girlfriend, “Thank you very much.” Oh,
Lord. Is he a sex symbol, is he? Well, thank her. Oh, golly, I don’t
know. No, I haven’t experienced that.
But tell me, tell me. How would you experience that? What would happen
if you were a sex symbol? Would people sort of—what do they do?
S. Hoover: I’m wondering if they ask you to sign anything—
J. Noble: Oh, yes, to sign things. But that doesn’t make you a sex symbol
unless you’re giving them—there was a girl in New York that wanted me to
sign her midriff. She pulled her shirt up. But she was doing that to all
S. Hoover: Thanks a lot, John.
J. Noble: All right, mate.
Moderator: And our final question comes from the line of Mike Hughes with
TV America. Please go ahead.
M. Hughes: Yes, I just wanted to follow up on a couple of things real
quickly. John, you said you studied law. And then for some reason I
didn’t know that. Do you mean you went to Law School, or pre-law, or
what did you do?
J. Noble: I studied three years of Law School at ... University, yes.
M. Hughes: But never got your law degree?
J. Noble: No, I didn’t finish ....
M. Hughes: That is a fascinating thing to go that far and yet not quite
do it. What was the turning point that made you realize that you wanted
to be an actor instead?
J. Noble: Without being disparaging, I respect the law, but I didn’t want
to be a lawyer. And I have never regretted that decision. It was
something that I didn’t know—it was a different time. I went through
school, and you know if you were a bright enough kid, you could get into
law or medicine you did it. There was no real question about that.
I didn’t know you could be an actor—we didn’t know you could be an actor
or an actress. It just didn’t enter our heads. I didn’t know. And so
when the opportunity was offered to me, I was so surprised and so
thrilled and really never looked sideways again from that point on. It
was just what you did. I didn’t want to go to Law School. I just went
there because my mates were going there, really.
M. Hughes: Okay. And just really briefly, how did the opportunity arise
to be an actor, then?
J. Noble: I was doing an elective subject, and this fellow heard my voice
and he said, “Oh, you’ve got the voice of such and such and such and
such. Would you be interested in doing something?” And it was a little
play, and I thought, how exciting. It would be a great chance to meet
And look, it just really just rapid fire. And within a very short time I
was working professionally. A really, really short time. And then, of
course, having got that far I didn’t have to learn my crap, so I had to
study like crazy after that.
But I was very lucky, and I did get a very good voice coach right away
and had a wonderful ride and then finished up learning enough about it
that I then spent quite a lot—and still do when I can, teaching in the
M. Hughes: That’s great, super. Thanks a lot.
J. Noble: Thanks, Mike.
J. Governale: Thank you very much, everybody, for participating in
today’s conference call with John Noble. As a reminder, Fringe airs on
FOX at 9/8 central Friday nights.
Thank you, John. Thank you, Shannon.
J. Noble: Thanks Shannon.
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