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By Suzanne

J.H. Wyman

Interview with J.H. Wyman of "Fringe" on FOX 9/26/12

Final Transcript
FBC PUBLICITY: The Fringe Conference Call
September 26, 2012/10:00 a.m. PDT

SPEAKERS
Josh Governale
J.H. Wyman

PRESENTATION

Moderator: Welcome to the Fringe, Season Five 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 would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Josh Governale. Please go ahead.

J. Governale: Thank you, Kimber. Good morning and afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on the Fringe, Season Five conference call with Executive Producer and Show Runner, J.H. Wyman. As a reminder, this Friday, September 28th marks the fifth and final season premiere of Fringe at 9:00/8:00 central on FOX. We have a lot of journalists on this call, so please be limited to just one question and without further delay, letís proceed and please welcome J.H. Wyman. First question please.

J. Wyman: Before we start, Josh, I want to thank everybody for coming and obviously, even hearing you say ďfifth season,Ē it never ceases to amaze me or blow my mind that weíve made it here. Iíve said it so many times, but it just cannot be overstated. Thank you, all, so much for your ongoing support of this little show and everybody involved in it wanted me especially to thank you because we all know that we would not be here without you guys. So, thank you so much again.

J. Governale: Okay. Letís proceed with the first question.

Moderator: We have a question from Kyle Nolan. Please state your media outlet.

K. Nolan: Noreruns.net. Hello. Thanks for taking time to talk to us today.

J. Wyman: Thank you, Kyle. How are you doing?

K. Nolan: So, when you were working on ďLetters of TransitĒ last season, did you already know that 2036 was going to be the focus of this season, or was that originally just a stand-alone story?

J. Wyman: Well, we knew that traditionally in the 19th episode spot of each season, we always sort of went off the beaten path and we were kind of throwing around a whole bunch of very interesting ideas on what to do last season. When we didnít really know the entire fate of what the program was going to be concretely, we thought, well, it would be terrible if we sort of ended without some form of an ending that I could either pick up by comic book or other sort of media that would finish the story for the dedicated fans.

That got us thinking; well, what if we sort of us the 19 spot as sort of like a backdoor pilot? Weíve always been interested in going back and forth in time and we thought it would be such an interesting idea to maybe tell the story in the future, but one way or the other, we were kind of like, ďHmm, letís see how that goes.í

So, we used that slot 19 to be sort of like a test, sort of backdoor pilot to see, ďWell, letís see how that goes.Ē I think when the result of it came in, it was pretty clear and to be honest, me personally I feel in love with the possibilities of telling the story in the future and married that quickly.

K. Nolan: Great, thanks.

J. Wyman: Thank you.

Moderator: The next question is from the Vancouver Room. Go ahead.

M. Rothman: Hello, itís Marisa Rothman from Give Me My Remote.

J. Wyman: Hello.

M. Rothman: Hello. You talked a lot about Peter and Olivia being a fractured fairytale in Season 5. So, what can you say about their journey this year?

J. Wyman: Well, I said a lot, that no love story worth telling is easy, like is an easy love story and itís the sort of hills and the valleys that make a relationship in my opinion really dynamic and worth watching. The harder the tale, the more worthy the payoff.

So, this is what I can say about this year. Everything that came before, the four years before, Iím really trying to give the characters a specific odyssey this year that are singular odysseys, meaning like for each character, but also sort of relationship dynamic odysseys, that things are just sort of growing and shifting and shaping. Peter and Olivia are going to be part of that. Their relationship will shift and grow and evolve, but I think that itís safe to say that weíll be there for every step of the way. Everything will be sort of logical.

One of the things that we get to do this year that I sort of found was great for telling authentic, real emotional stories is that the 13 episodes, as I said before, Iím treating them as a saga, the 13 episodes, sort of feature films. So, youíll get to track their emotional growth pattern and their relationship very carefully. So, more in store is to really get in underneath the hood and investigate those relationships.

Moderator: Our next question is from Joshua Maloni. Please state your media outlet.

J. Maloni: Yes, Niagara Frontier Publication. J.H., before I ask you my question, I just want to say thank you for giving us this amazing series that weíve all enjoyed for these four-plus seasons.

J. Wyman: Thank you, Josh.

J. Maloni: Let me ask you though, what do you take away from this whole experience? Obviously, thereís been some ups and downs, but what do you take away from years working on this show?

J. Wyman: Itís been the highlight of my career because when I first got on the program, I think in the first season, the show was sort of starting to kind of find what it was. I was always a science fictionóI was a fan, but I didnít really know a lot about it and J.J. had said, well, the concept of the program is that itís about a family. Thatís what itís about. Iím sort of leaning always more towards being an existentialist and so, I was saying how am I going to start to tell stories that are meaningful, not just sort of kind of crazy things from out of this world circumstances, but just like something that really people can relate to and something that I care about writing about the human condition. He said, well, itís like ... did all thoseóhe used to write these stories that are very relevant no matteróif you watch some of this stuff today, youíre like, ďWow. Thatís amazing.Ē

So, once I sort of figured that out and went, ďOh, yeah, I can see that the further science fiction gets, the more about humanity it actually is about.Ē Once I sort of picked out that it sort of changed me, my impression of science fiction and how I would attack my work on the program. So, I think I definitely became a better writer, a deeper thinking in regards to demanding more from my 43 minutes of television and itís just working with these incredible actors and the support.

I mean never in my career have I got the support for what Iím doing any more than I have on Fringe. So, I mean I got to tell you, as an artist, it makes you feel, ďWow, people are feeling things that Iím feeling in the world and weíre all sort of concerned about the same things because you guys are telling me that.Ē Thatís very satisfying.

So, on so many levels, itís really been the highlight. Iíve definitely emerged from it a much better thinker and a much better writer and a much better storyteller in general.

Moderator: Our next question is from Tara Bennett. Please state your media outlet.

T. Bennett: SFX Magazine.

J. Wyman: Hello, Tara.

T. Bennett: Hello, Joel. So, a question that we wanted to know is obviously you have a limitation of budget. Itís not a film. You guys have always kind of written stories for the fences and with this season and being in the future and having a whole new reality to show, is there any way that youíve learned how to constrain your ideas just in terms of being able to tell the story within what you have to tell it? Has there become a way that you guys have figured out doing the show for several years on how to do that the best way and is there anything that youíve had to kind of sacrifice because you just couldnít do it on a television budget?

J. Wyman: Well, weíre really fortunate because technology is so advanced. Like right now, I can do thingsómy special effects vendors can do things that feature films couldnít do just a few years ago. I mean itís unbelievable. So, costs have come down for all these great effects that people have come to sort of expect from Fringe. My effects supervisor, Jay Worth, is outrageously talented. When I go to his office and say, ďI want to see this and this and this. Is this possible?Ē Heís like, ďYesĒ and Iím like, ďGreat. Letís do this.Ē

You just have to learn to get really good at choosing your moments and making sure that your story isnít sort of overwhelmed by the effects, but actually vice versa, that your emotional ... and your emotional storyline sort of is whatís driving a train, but itís these little sort of forces throughout the program that make you realize, ďWow, Iím in a different time and space.Ē So, you just have to get really good at moving money around. So, ... skills definitely need to be, I guess, developed in a show like this because you realize that everything is a moving budget and youíve got to borrow from Peter to pay Paul sometimes to make it happen.

When you have a team like ours and a production team like ours, it really makes it look easy and makes me look really good, but everybody does their job so well.

Moderator: The next question is from Alex Zalben. Please state your media outlet.

A. Zalben: Iím from MTV Geek. Thanks for taking the call. I just wanted to say I watch the premiere and it was fantastic.

J. Wyman: Thank you.

A. Zalben: You touched on this I think a little bit in different ways already, but the thing that I think was most interesting about the episode and potentially where you guys are going for the season is if on the surface Fringe is about people investigating weird science mysteries, you really completely blew up that premise while still keeping that emotional core of family. So, I was curious; could you talk about a bit and whether there was any reticence of changing the show so dramatically for the season?

J. Wyman: Well, itís funny because, well, the answer is yes. I think itís all part of the grand design in that when I was sitting down thinking, okay, how am I going to tell this story, over the last season my biggest concern, of course, was telling an authentic, honest story that I could stand behind and that I would feel that I was giving the fans a love letter that I think they deserve. Thereís so many things to pull from because we had four seasons of things.

But, what became very clear is when you sort of sit down and ask yourself that question as a show runner that the only place you sort of wind up is what would move me and what would I want as a closure. I love television. Iím a huge fan of films and television obviously and if I invested four years of my life in these characters that Iíve grown to love and be interested and dedicated so much effort into paying attention ... what would I want?

Once I started asking myself those real questions, it became really clear. That answer for me was I want the truth. I want to feel The Fringe made sense. I want to feel that my characters evolved in a place that they deserved, sometimes maybe unexpected, but I would like feel satiated that logically they have come to a conclusion that makes me feel satisfied. Most importantly, I wanted to sit down. After I finished watching the season finale of my favorite show, I would want to feel like, ďWow, that was an experience.Ē I just cannot believe that that ... is over.

I can imagine where my characters are going in the future, that whole ... Iím very interested in. I feel that thatís what we need as a society is a feeling like, wow, itís really messy out there. But you know what? The truth is that thereís a lot of things to be celebrated and we have to focus on hope. So, I just wanted people to kind of feel like, ďWow, that was satisfying.Ē

So, of course, right from there, I went into the key to that for me is the emotional relationships and sort of always has been. Thereís times, you said it very well, that Fringe, sometimes we did great things and sometimes we took missteps and, hey, thatís the nature of the beast. With the missteps, I have personally learned that usually they revolve around things that arenít involving real character, but plot rather.

So, now that I know the people of the characters as much as I do then it became clear that I would say, okay, I want to tell these real odyssey stories about these people and really watch them and give them a little bit more sense this year of continuity and the ability for the viewer to sort of go through things at ground level with the characters, not like in the past. I think sometimes weíve made the mistake of watching the characters from above and sort of, I guess, disconnecting from them to a certain degree, but I really wanted to get the viewer for this final season down on the floor with them and go through the things that theyíre going through because you said it also very well, that it is; itís a family show. Itís about disparate people that are trying very hard to hold together a family in a very difficult time to hold together families. I think people really relate to that.

So, it wasnít really a risk at all. I just sort of went with what my heart said and what my gut said and here we are, but thatís how it sort of went. I mean I have to say the actors and the way that theyíre receiving the material and the way that theyíre performing, I mean I really am enthusiastic. I cannot wait for you guys to see some of the performances that are being pulled off this year. I mean to me, itís mind blowing. So, Iím exciting to show you guys that and theyíre doing it because they too feel like itís the end and they want to bring their best and examining their characters that theyíve sort of created for four years allowed them the opportunity to do that.

Moderator: Our next question is from Jamie Ruby. Please state your media outlet.

J. Ruby: SciFi Vision. Hello. Thanks so much for doing the call.

J. Wyman: Hello, Jamie.

J. Ruby: I love, love, love Fringe and I really enjoyed the premiere. Now, youíve obviously talked about like how you decided on stuff this season and everything, but as a whole, did you knowólike five years ago, did you expect to be here? What changed from your original plan the most?

J. Wyman: Well, itís been such a long road, twists and turns and thereís so many times when youíre coming into work and all of sudden like the parking attendant says, ďHey, I thought of something. What about this?Ē Youíre like, ďOh, my gosh. Thatís the greatest idea ever, man, for sure.Ē

So, ideas come from all over and sometimes like something you thought wouldnít really be as big as it did, blows up into something else. There are certain episodes that all of a sudden like just really touched people. Like ďWhite TulipĒ came from a dream. It was a dream of mine, this image and I thought, well, why did that episode touch people? You sort of start to go and you start to figure things out.

We like to be clever and say, ďWell, we knew a lot of stuff,Ē because we did. But, the truth is we didnít know a lot of stuff either. We did not know at the beginning on the bus that the amber was amber from the alternate universe. It was re-contextualized, but itís like it just sort of fits like a little bit of a puzzle and you go, ďWow, thatís really interesting.Ē

So, you sort of find the things that work and the things that donít work and you kind of go from there, but itís like a living, breathing organism that you listen to. Sometimes we donít hear so well, but if you listen to it, it sort of indicates where you should go naturally. So, that idea has changed where weíre going to end up to a lot and even up until the last episode. My thinking on the episode was fluctuating and vacillating between several different ideas.

Moderator: Our next question is from Steve Sunu. Please state your media outlet.

S. Sunu: Spinoff Online. First of all, Jay, just really looking forward to seeing what you have in store for the rest of the season. Iím really looking forward to seeing the conclusion and on that note, I was wondering kind of what you saw as the major challenges you faced in sort of bringing this thing all to a conclusion that the fans would both appreciate and accept as a suitable ending to the series.

J. Wyman: Yes, good question, Steve, because like I said today, I adore the fans and I feel like theyóor I guess I should say everybody who supports the program. In my opinion, itís like everybody sort of owns a little brick in the building because it was sort of like a miracle and everybody sort of supported it. When I started looking at it, as I said before, itís like I realized that I think the only thing that did save the show were the reactions of the media and the fans that sort of could identify the heart in the program and the aspirational ideas in the program and they responded to that. I have to believe that theyíre not here to see how a flux capacitor works. Theyíre here to see what the human heart is about and watch these people that they love go through things and go through them with them.

So, once I sort of committed to saying, ďLook, itís all about that. Itís all about the people. Yes, the narrative is incredibly important and yes, there are many things to ... at,Ē but really, itís the characters people love. I just had to sort of go with saying, well, they love the same things I do. Like the fans, I think they love the same things I do, which is these incredible people. If I can tell the story honestly and with a degree of depth and make people think and go through things with them this last final season, that would be a great reward because theyíve invested so much time.

So, I kind of just went, ďAll right, I got to go with my heart and my gut and tell the story this way.Ē

Moderator: Our next question is from TJ Burnside Clapp. Please state your media outlet.

T. Clapp: Screenspy.com. Hello. Thanks so much for speaking to us today.

J. Wyman: Oh, thanks for being here.

T. Clapp: I wanted to tell you I really enjoyed the Observers viral ad campaign. It was seriously creepy and really startling since the Observers used to seem so benign and even kind of cuddly. What was the thinking behind turning them into the evil bad guys, or was that something that was planned all along?

J. Wyman: Yes, this has been in the hatch for a while, but I mean the story that Iím constantly telling is that the heart is an organ of fire and that you canít stop it from feeling or connecting. Thatís what our job is as human beings and how wonderful to sort of have this Observer ďSeptemberĒ to come and understand that we are, although very messed up, very special, special people and beautiful.

So, while he was sort of pushed out on a mission as one of 12 scientists to come and sort of evaluate and to sort of watch us for reasons they didnít really fully understand either, he fell in love with us. So, thatís why he seems very cuddly. When you get episodes like ďAugust;Ē I mean when I was writing ďAugust,Ē I really did toy with the title and now in retrospect, maybe I should have call it this, but my first working title for it was ďA Cautionary Tale for an Observer.Ē

The answers to your questions lie in that, but he fell in love with us and he was cuddly because he understood that we were flawed, but special. The agenda, it was what it was. When the rest of them come, it has nothing to do with warm, cuddly feelings.

Moderator: Our next question is from Natasha Hoover. Please state your media outlet.

N. Hoover: Hello. Iím fringebloggers.com and its partner site, Seriable.com.

J. Wyman: Hello, Natasha.

N. Hoover: Hello. Thanks for having us on the call today.

J. Wyman: Thanks for being here.

N. Hoover: Well, our question to you is it has been said that this final season is going to be more serialized. So, weíre wondering what freedoms has that given you as a storyteller in constructing this final piece of the Fringe puzzle.

J. Wyman: Well, I mean do you realize itís probably not the best term for it? I mean Iím probably guilty of saying it myself, but itís not really that. Itís sort of like moreóthereís more of a continuity of emotion and story, but itís not like youíre going to get Walter finishes a sentence and itís dan-dan-dan and then you come back and the next week heís sort of talking about the same thing. I mean thereís still sort of capsulated episode, but theyíre all about one thing. So, those 13 stories are about one story.

What Iíve and the staff have really enjoyed is that continuity of emotions, like to be able to sit down and say, ďOkay, I have to devise an odyssey.Ē What is Walterís odyssey, what is Oliviaís odyssey, what is Peterís and so on, to really sort of plot whereas in the past, just by the nature of being episodic, television and the responsibilities we have to our partners at FOX is that, hey, shows should stand on their own. The one week youíll have like Olivia very concerned about something that Peter did to her and then the next week, sheís upset because she has a blemish on her hand; she doesnít know what it is. Thereís a sort of randomness to what people are going through on a week-to-week basis. That goes along with ... of episodic television usually and not cable, but on network.

So, in this season what itís allowed us to do is to not really be so concerned with that, but more concerned with, okay, how are these people going through what theyíre going through. These are real issues and how are they going to deal with them and whatís going to happen. So, itís actually been a lot of fun, very freeing.

Moderator: Our next question is from Meredith Jacob. Please state your media outlet.

M. Jacob: Gather.com.

J. Wyman: Hello, Meredith.

M. Jacob: Hello. Thanks for being here. So, I was wondering what will we see from Nina and Broyles in 2036 this season.

J. Wyman: Well, I donít want to spoil anything and traditionally, Iím very tight lipped; at least, Iím always accused of that, but I feel that this one is really tough because thereís only 13. Thereís only 13 episodes and I really donít want to give anything away. I want people to really sort of enjoy the surprises that are coming and the turn of events that are waiting for you.

So, I would say that definitely, you are going to see people thatóitís no mistake, itís not secret in 19 we saw that theyíre around. Theyíre going to continue in a capacity that you may or not expect and hopefully we have given them work that will sort of fill out their characters and be satisfying to the fans of those two particular characters as well. I mean thatís all I can really say. Theyíre around.

Moderator: The next question is from Kyle Nolan. Please state your medial outlet.

K. Nolan: Noreruns.net.

J. Wyman: Hello, Kyle.

K. Nolan: Hello, again. So, with only 13 episodes, are you planning on squeezing in one of those crazy no ... 19th episode style?

J. Wyman: The truth is Iíve got something thatís sort of really special planned, but I donít want to talk about it. I think it will be memorable, but itís not traditionally that, but itís the same sport. Letís just say that, but itís definitely a breadth of a difference, a step in a different direction. Is that fair?

Moderator: (Operatorís instructions) We now have a question from Jamie Ruby. Please state your medial outlet.

J. Ruby: SciFi Vision. Hello, again. Iím trying to figure out how to ask this without being a spoiler, more generalized, but obviously in this, Walter had something happen. I was just curious if you could say like is this something that is going to affect his personality since itís sort of like whatís happened before. Can you talk at all about that?

J. Wyman: Can you just be more specific?

J. Ruby: Yes, I was trying not to spoil it, but now that heís missing a part. Letís just say that.

J. Wyman: Oh, yes. Well, in 19 you mean; what happened in 19?

J. Ruby: Yes. Is that going to affectóbecause I know before whenever he removed or added memory his kind of personality changed....

J. Wyman: Yes, I think in different ways, ways that you havenít seen because like John Noble, heís such a fantastic actor. One of the consistent challenges is to give him things that heís never played before because heíll do the work. He just is outrageous. So, it just wouldnít sit with him. I mean Iíd get a pretty swift phone call if it was stuff he played before and rightly so, as I said, but no.

We carefully designed a journey for him this year that is entirely unique and will affect him in probably ways that Iím sure that arenít things weíve seen before. Look, when youíre dealing with the brain, when youíre dealing with taking tissue out, putting things in, I mean this is Fringe; anything can happen. Itís definitely I think of a concern to him that has never been before. Thatís spoiling it enough, but secret enough at the same time.

J. Governale: Okay. Well, thanks, everybody, for your time this morning and afternoon; we appreciate it. As a reminder, Fringeís fifth and final season premieres this Friday 9:00/8:00 central on FOX. Thanks, Joel, for your time and I will call you shortly.

J. Wyman: Okay and thank you, all, again, very much. We really appreciate it.

J. Governale: Kimber, go ahead and provide playback information and thanks again for your time too.

Moderator: Youíre welcome. Ladies and gentlemen that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference Service. You may now disconnect.

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