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Interview with John Noble of
"Fringe" on FOX 1/10/13
FBC PUBLICITY: The Fringe Conference Call
January 10, 2013/12:00 p.m. PST
Moderator Welcome to The Fringe Conference Call with John
Noble. For the conference, all the participants are in a
listen-only mode. As a reminder, this call is being
recorded. For brief opening remarks Iíll turn it now to Mr.
Josh Governale from Fox. Please go ahead.
J. Governale Thank you very much. Good morning and good
afternoon everyone. Welcome to The Fringe conference call
with series start John Noble, whoís calling us from
Australia. So please be aware that there might be a delay.
In addition, I want to remind you that the series finale of
Fringe will air on Friday, January 18th. So now without
further delay, Iíll turn the call over to John Noble.
J. Noble Thanks, Josh.
J. Governale John, did you have some opening remarks or do
you want to just go right into question and answer?
J. Noble We havenít got much time, but obviously this is a
wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the support that all
the people listening have given us over the last five years,
which is really terribly impressive and probably the reason
weíre still on the air. So I say thank you to everyone for
that and simply say I think we finished the series off as
well as I could possibly have dreamed of, as I hope will be
evident in the next couple of weeks.
J. Governale Okay, letís turn it over to our first question
Moderator Weíll go to the line of Jamie Ruby with Sci-Fi
J. Ruby I love the show and Walter. It seems like itíd be
really fun to play him. He does so many crazy things and has
so many idiosyncrasies. Whatís your favorite Walter moment?
J. Noble Which is my favorite, Walter really, because Iíve
played a bunch of different versions of him. Gee, I donít
know. I loved it when he was being random, which was
probably the original version of him more than anyone else.
I loved doing Walter then and all of the different mental
states that weíve played in during the time, but when he was
being completely random and had very poor social skills.
I loved the scenes that he played with Peter, the connecting
stuff that I played with Josh Jackson over the five years.
Both of us really loved doing that work. There were so many
different aspects of Walter, the comedy and drama and
emotion and so forth. He was a fully-fledged character. So
itís hard for me to say what my favorite one was, but
probablyóFringe is essentially a love story and so the
scenes where he had close connection with Peter, but also
with Annaís character or Jasikaís character were very
special to me.
J. Ruby You made me think, was it hard keeping the different
Walters separate in your mind?
J. Noble Not really, no. I think the writing was there for
me to play and the situations were such thatóLook, at times
it was tricky. I had to be a Ö. IĒll be honest with you,
that I didnít drop into the mannerisms of another version of
the character, but I guess I was pretty alert to that. I
used to have people on set saying, ďCan you keep an eye open
for me to make sure I donít do Walter version Ö or
something?Ē And sometimes particularly my camera operators
would take five and say, ďJohn, thatís the wrong one.Ē
Moderator Next weíll go to Joshua Maloney with Niagara
J. Maloney John, what do you take away from the Fringe
experience this past five seasons?
J. Noble Doing something of this nature was new to me. Iíd
never done anything that required a five-year commitment. To
build a show that seems to have kept the imagination of the
world so much was a bit other worldly to be honest with you.
I would go to anywhere in the world really and people would
stop me in the street and talk about Fringe and how much
they adored it and asked questions about it.
The international reach of Fringe, I think, still catches me
by surprise a bit at times. Also, I was given the gift of a
character that is every actorís dream. So you combine those
two factors and itís been an incredibly memorable five
J. Maloney What are going to miss about working with Josh
and Anna and Jasika and the whole cast?
J. Noble I guess because Iím the older fellow there I kind
of think of them all as my kids in a way. I have a very
special love for all of those actors and Iíll miss them.
Over the five years we were given the change to develop some
pretty close bonds, both with our characters and personally,
and we did. I donít really know how to explain it any other
way than that. Itís something that we earned over five
years. It probably wouldnít have been there with two years,
but with five years it was definitely and is definitely
there. Itís probably a life-long bond, I imagine.
Moderator Weíll go to Marisa Rothman with GiveMeMyRemote.com.
M. Rothman Walter has, it seems like, a big sacrifice coming
his way in these final couple of hours. How is he handling
the potential threat to his life and what that might mean
for Peter in his absence?
J. Noble Gee, Marisa, you know something I donít know.
Youíre a cheeky one arenít you? You always are. Marisa,
Walter isówhere are we? Episode 11. We know that something
radical has to happen in order to beat the Observers. I
think by now weíve built up to the fact that possibly maybe
Walter has to do something pretty outstanding to make this
More importantly, I think, what youíll find is the way that
his relationship with Peter plays out over the next two
episodes, and in particular, the finale is really quite
remarkable. Thatís something we had to do because we spent
so much time and I know that the fans love the relationship
between Peter and Walter so much and we certainly paid
homage to that and brought it home, I believe, really
I would love to have had an episode with each of the
characters. I do have some beautiful moments with Jasika and
Anna as well. Itís good story writing in the sense that
theyíve built this great big arch and theyíre going to pan
out. Iím not going to tell you exactly what happens,
obviously, but we do get the payout. And itís also wonderful
to have Mike Cerveris back into the equation again. Heís
also beenóaside from the fact that heís an amazing actor and
a friend of mine; he really does add another element to our
Moderator Next weíll go to Scott Hoover with NBC.
S. Hoover I wonder if you could take me to two specific
moments. First, your gut reaction once you read that final
script and saw every little nuance of how the story ended.
And then your last moment of production, that last day that
you spent on set in this character.
J. Noble For the first one, I was naturally, I think we were
all apprehensive to see what would happen in the finale. We
didnít know until really quite late in the piece how Joel
would finish it off. I can honestly say that it was
everything that I had hoped it could possibly be. When I
read it I thought that he had done a masterly job in writing
in, tied up our character lines, tied up the great story
arch. I couldnít imagine a better job, to be honest with
you. So I was extremely elated when I read the final
The last day on set was really quite fun. We were all kind
of buoyed up. It was one of those nights that go forever. I
think we finished at 9:00 in the morning or something, but
we had a lot of fun. I can remember we all got a fit of the
giggles halfway through the night, which is probably really
inappropriate. All of us were doing a scene together. I
donít know. It was just hilarious. I couldnít get my lines
out, which is very unusual for me. I just kept getting it
wrong and we were all laughing a lot. But it was good fun.
We had a wonderful time.
The last scene I did was a beautiful scene with Michael
Cerveris, but backstage all the rest of the Ö were on set as
well, as we do in most scenes. You give your speech
afterwards and so forth. I felt really buoyed up afterwards.
I didnít feel depressed. I thought that weíd really had a
great finale. The last day was so much fun.
S. Hoover Does a job this good make it tricky to pick the
J. Noble Yes, absolutely. I think following up withóI
suppose my last two characters have been Denethor and Walter
Bishop. Both will be hard acts to follow. So I donít know
really, that sort of sits in the hands of my managers at
present. I just have no idea whatís going to be offered to
me. Iím looking forward to it though. Iíve had a month off
now so Iím ready to start work again.
Moderator Weíll go to Tara Bennett with SFX Magazine.
T. Bennett Now that itís all finished and the show has had
so many interesting narrative spreads that itís gone with
and some that have been shorter and some that have been
longer. Just Ö playing Walter and the different versions of
it where there any other storylines that you wished you
couldíve lingered on or gong a little deeper with because
you just enjoyed or were intrigued by the story and where it
J. Noble No really I think the main story lines are what
always intrigued me, with those that were the relationships
between the characters against whatever backdrop, whether it
was in an ordinary universe or a universe in the future. I
think the glue that held Fringe together was the
I know the other characters feel the same. They were the
things that we really looked forward to doing. Despite what
was happening was around us we would have these tenuous,
sort of incredibly real and deep relationships with the
other characters. Whatever situation we were in, those
relationships, I believe, still carried the day. They were
the things that made Fringe work.
So I think we have played those storylines out. I could look
back and think, ďGee, I wonder what every happened to Ö or
something of that nature, back in season two,Ē but it
doesnít really concern me because what we, the body of
actors, the body of characters, did was continue them
What about you? Do you miss anything?
T. Bennett No. I mean I always love seeing you and Bell.
Those were always really great. So it always felt like
whenever we got those moments, whether it was just their
friendship, Anna played him, it was still really wonderful
to see that relationship between the two of you.
Moderator Our next question is from Jim Slotek with Sun
J. Slotek I have two questions. One is this show has taken
such 90 degree turns narratively, almost by surprise, Iím
wondering if the cast is surprised or has been in the past?
You know, at what point do you find out? Do you see a script
and say, ďOh gosh, Iíve got another Walter to play?Ē Or do
they apprise you ahead of time that this is where itís
And the other question has to do with the final episode. I
know in general terms you canít say anything much, but
referencing T.S. Eliot, is it a bang or a whimper?
J. Noble Certainly we were surprised. I supposed an example
that would encapsulate that surprise is the time that, I
think in season two, when we were told to go into a sound
studio and record our voices for singing. We didnít know
why. We said, ďWhy are we doing this? I donít understand.Ē
And of course it was for the musical episode, but we didnít
know until we got the script really what we were doing.
Suddenly we found out we were in this bizarre musical, which
was huge fun to play, but we didnít know ahead of time.
So often it was the case that we wouldnít know which way it
was going to go. Thatís okay. As actors, you donít actually
need to know the future of the character. You just need to
know the backgrounds. Those major shifts into the alternate
universe and so forth, which were really challenging, I
always found the flashbacks really interesting.
When I had to do a few episodes of flashback with the full
prosthetic makeup and so forth and flash forwards and flash
sideways, but the good thing about those things is they keep
you very alert. Thereís no room for boredom or getting
empathetic in there. I always loved the challenge. When
something new happened I always used to get quite excited.
J. Slotek And the finale?
J. Noble Well itís certainly going with a bang. As I
mentioned just a moment ago, I think itís one of the bestóI
couldnít have imagined a better finale to be honest with
you. I read it and I was like, ďOh my goodness me, heís done
it. Heís done it.Ē Heís answered all these questions and
heís tied off all these things that were that I had to ask.
So I think heís done anówell I hope history will judge it as
one of the great finales of all time. I really believe they
Moderator Our next question is from Sheldon Wiebe with
S. Wiebe Youíve played probably dozens of variations of
Walter, if you get down into really, really picky areas, but
I find thereís like four major ones from which they all
spring. Thereís Walter, Walternate, Post Machine Walter, and
Post Peterís Return Walter. Iím just wondering which one was
easiest to find, in terms of the characterís voice, and
which was the hardest and which one was really the most pure
J. Noble Going backwards, the pure fun was the original
Walter, who was just released from a mental institution and
probably shouldnít have been. He was just fun because he
could basically say and do anteing and get away with it. The
most difficult Walter was the one that I had to play when
there was no Peter in the world. That was really tricky. I
think it was the beginning of season four. It was really
tricky to play that same character but without the
relationship with the son redeeming himself. He was really
quite aóhe wasnít a well fellow. I mean I played him with a
lot of OCD attributes. He really wasnít a very pleasant man.
I found that one the most difficult to play.
I loved playing Walternate because he was the same character
actually, completely the same character, version 1985 and
then it developed in such a different way physically and
mentally. So to be able to play that in the same television
series as playing the other ones was a fantastic gift to me.
Moderator Weíll go to Kyle Nolan with NoReruns.net.
K. Nolan So youíre also hosting the Science Channelís ďDark
MatterĒ series. Have you always had an interest in science
or what that somewhat inspirited by working on Fringe?
J. Noble Over the last letís say 25 years, since a lot of
science writing became accessible to layman, Iíve become
quite a consumer of science. As a child, I wasnít streamed
into science as I went into the amenities and I regret that
now. I regret that that situation exists because to be
honest with you I find science really sexy and at the time
that I was a school kid it certainly wasnít.
So probably the last 25 years, with science becoming far
more accessible to all of us, Iíve become a pretty avid
reader and devourer of it. One of the objectives that I have
working with Fringe channel is to get more people talking
about it because itís such fun. Thatís something that I
discuss with Fringe channel people quite often.
K. Nolan And after playing Walter for five years has any of
his quirkiness crept into your personality?
J. Noble I donít know, probably. I donít know where the line
is. I donít know how much of myself is in Walter. Thereís
got to be a bit of him there. But no, I donít have any food
fetishes or anything of that nature. But I love having
played Walter because I suppose any actor brings a certain
aspect of their own personality to their work and so I was
able toóI had a fairly broad canvas to paint on there with
the different versions. I guess thereís a lot of me in there
Moderator Our next question is from Melissa Hayer with The
M. Hayer You are absolutely fantastic as Walter. I was just
wondering if there was anything in general you could share
about working on Fringe that may surprise fans? Something
they may not know.
J. Noble Thatís a hard one because weíve had such a close
relationship with the fans. This has been made possibly
through social networking and the Internet now. We have much
more contact and we do go off to things like Comic-Con. So I
think people know most of our secrets, the day-to-day run
ins of things.
Working in television is very hard. I think people know
that. Just the pure demand of it can really take it out of
you physically and mentally, but I think our fans are pretty
aware of that anyway. So noóis there something specific you
have in mind, an example?
M. Hayer Just maybe if there was anything thatís been more
difficult to play than others oró
J. Noble These characters are complex. Walter, letís talk
about my character, is incredibly complex. I look at every
scene working outóI do a lot of thinking about the work I do
and trying to get the rhythms into scenes. Youíre always
working with the relationships and trying to trail along
another one or two or three or four or five years of
relationships in behind them with different mental states.
Itís pretty demanding, but then again I love that so I
wouldnít say it was Ö. It was just doing the job or trying
to do the job properly. It was never a job that you could
sit on our laurels or rest on your laurels, which I didnít
M. Hayer It seems like it would be very challenging but a
lot of fun at theó
J. Noble Could youóyouíre just breaking up a little bit.
Could you say that again please?
M. Hayer Iím sorry. It seems like it would be very
challenging to work on that show, but very fun at the same
J. Noble That summed it up perfectly. It was exactly that.
It was very challenging and particularlyóitís basically 43
minutes of television and we were shooting that in a week.
So the demands on our time wereówe really had to be on the
ball and we were working with an amazing crew who were
I mean I used to say, a week would go by and I would say,
ďWell thatís Ö how on earth did we shoot another episode?Ē
but we did, and particularly in the final season when we
were shooting seven-day episodes with a reduced budget and
big special effects. But the team was so polished by them
that we were able to do it and I think with incredible
Moderator Our next question is from Monique Jones with
M. Jones What do you think was the most rewarding thing
about playing Walter?
J. Noble I suppose when you start up in acting you hope to
be given challenges and you always have dreams about the
things you could do and couldnít do, but normally we get
pigeon holed a little bit as we go on in our careers. We
often get pigeon holed as a tough guy or whatever else we
get pigeon holed in. Iíve sort of been, I guess, pigeon
holed as sort of a heavy, serious, almost a baddy but not a
baddy over the years of my work in television, particularly.
It was wonderful to be able to play a character who had so
many colors, who was able to play comedy, to play incredibly
vulnerable, which he did a lot of the time, to play the love
story, to play the relationship with the son, which is quite
unusual, particularlyóI think itís one of the strengths that
fringed the relationship between the man and his son that
makes it unusual and special. Thatís a gift to me, as an
actor. It was like everything you could possibly hope for
and not only that but to play it out over five years. So I
was a very lucky actor.
M. Jones You probably answered this already earlier, but how
do you hope fans react to this finale?
J. Noble The finale, I believe, I think itís the best finale
Iíve ever read, just in terms of being able to tie up the
five years, five years of intense work. To be able to pull
it together as the way that Joel Wyman did is quite
remarkable to me. So I honestly think the fans will beówell
theyíll be disappointed. Thereís no question because the
series is finishing, but I think theyíll be very thrilled
and honored by the way that Joel has made that happen.
Moderator Weíll go to Jamie Ruby with Sci-Fi Vision.
J. Ruby Obviously we donít know whatís going to happen to
Walter at the end of the show, but regardless of that in
some timeline Iím sure heíll be fine. What would you like to
have seen happen to Walter that didnít, if you couldíve
written a script?
J. Noble No, nothing. I think what heís done with Walter is
absolutely perfect. If you had asked me in season one where
I thought Walter should finish up, it wouldíve been exactly
where he does. Thatís the remarkable thingówhen I say I
think itís a great finale thatís the reason why. I think
itís the perfect out for Walter.
Iím truly grateful to the writers for giving me that,
because over the years when Iíve spoken about the character
with them Iíve always felt that this would be the perfect
way to end and complete his journey, to complete the journey
of this series and they gave it to me. So Iím incredibly
grateful. I wouldnít have wanted it any other way.
J. Ruby How do you choose your roles?
J. Noble A lot of the times roles are chosen for us, to be
honest with you. Something will be offered. I donít know, it
might be different for people that are A-list actors, but a
lot of us really look at whatís offered to us and look for
something that sort of has some traction with other people.
But itís not like I read 100 scripts a week and sort of pick
and choose. Maybe some actors do. I certainly donít do that.
Iím a character actor, as against a personality actor. So as
a character actor Iím always looking for something
interesting. I remember when I read Walter, for example, and
that was now six years ago, I said, ďThis is the role for
me.Ē I said that to my family, ďThis is the role for me.Ē So
there was something there that I knew was absolutely right,
and that was just based on the Ö of the character. So thatís
when gut instinct comes into play I think. I know there are
certain things I wonít do.
Moderator Weíll go to the line of Steve Sunu with Spinoff
S. Sunu Looking to the future, one of the other projects
youíve got coming down the line is the ďSuperman: UnboundĒ
animated movie where youíre going to play the villain
Brainiac. Did you find it was easier to transition into that
role considering your experience playing sort of the mad
scientist version of Walter?
J. Noble Doing animation is great fun. Itís like a different
world. You basically go in there and itís all in the
imagination. There arenít even pictures up there to look at.
As you know, you usually go in there and create, working
with whoever the director is; you just create this voice and
this character. Later on maybe youíll have a look at the
For me, itís a totally different process than doing a film
or a stage play, but I love it. Itís incredibly intense work
but I love doing the voice work. And then at the end of the
day itís like the prize to see some huge monster with your
voice attached to it. The two to me are technically in
J. Governale Thank you, everyone, for your time this morning
and this afternoon. John, I hope your Friday is off to a
good start in Australia. We will catch up soon.
J. Noble Thanks, Josh.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, this conference is available
for replay. That does conclude your conference for today.
Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.
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