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Interview with J.H. Wyman of "Fringe" on
FBC PUBLICITY: The Fringe Conference Call
September 26, 2012/10:00 a.m. PDT
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, let’s 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 “fifth
season,” it never ceases to amaze me or blow my mind that
we’ve made it here. I’ve 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
J. Governale: Okay. Let’s 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 “Letters of Transit”
last season, did you already know that 2036 was going to be
the focus of this season, or was that originally just a
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 didn’t 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
That got us thinking; well, what if we sort of us the 19
spot as sort of like a backdoor pilot? We’ve 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,
“Hmm, let’s see how that goes.’
So, we used that slot 19 to be sort of like a test, sort of
backdoor pilot to see, “Well, let’s see how that goes.” 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
K. Nolan: Great, thanks.
J. Wyman: Thank you.
Moderator: The next question is from the Vancouver Room. Go
M. Rothman: Hello, it’s Marisa Rothman from Give Me My
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 it’s 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, I’m 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 it’s safe to say that
we’ll 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, I’m
treating them as a saga, the 13 episodes, sort of feature
films. So, you’ll 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 we’ve all enjoyed for these
J. Wyman: Thank you, Josh.
J. Maloni: Let me ask you though, what do you take away from
this whole experience? Obviously, there’s been some ups and
downs, but what do you take away from years working on this
J. Wyman: It’s 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 fiction—I was a fan, but I didn’t really
know a lot about it and J.J. had said, well, the concept of
the program is that it’s about a family. That’s what it’s
about. I’m 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, it’s like ... did all those—he
used to write these stories that are very relevant no
matter—if you watch some of this stuff today, you’re like,
“Wow. That’s amazing.”
So, once I sort of figured that out and went, “Oh, yeah, I
can see that the further science fiction gets, the more
about humanity it actually is about.” 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 it’s just working with these incredible
actors and the support.
I mean never in my career have I got the support for what
I’m doing any more than I have on Fringe. So, I mean I got
to tell you, as an artist, it makes you feel, “Wow, people
are feeling things that I’m feeling in the world and we’re
all sort of concerned about the same things because you guys
are telling me that.” That’s very satisfying.
So, on so many levels, it’s really been the highlight. I’ve
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. It’s 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
you’ve 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 you’ve had to kind of
sacrifice because you just couldn’t do it on a television
J. Wyman: Well, we’re really fortunate because technology is
so advanced. Like right now, I can do things—my special
effects vendors can do things that feature films couldn’t do
just a few years ago. I mean it’s 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, “I want to see this and this and this. Is this
possible?” He’s like, “Yes” and I’m like, “Great. Let’s do
You just have to learn to get really good at choosing your
moments and making sure that your story isn’t sort of
overwhelmed by the effects, but actually vice versa, that
your emotional ... and your emotional storyline sort of is
what’s driving a train, but it’s these little sort of forces
throughout the program that make you realize, “Wow, I’m in a
different time and space.” 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 you’ve 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: I’m from MTV Geek. Thanks for taking the call. I
just wanted to say I watch the premiere and it was
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, it’s funny because, well, the answer is yes.
I think it’s 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. There’s 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. I’m a huge fan
of films and television obviously and if I invested four
years of my life in these characters that I’ve 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, “Wow, that was an experience.” I
just cannot believe that that ... is over.
I can imagine where my characters are going in the future,
that whole ... I’m very interested in. I feel that that’s
what we need as a society is a feeling like, wow, it’s
really messy out there. But you know what? The truth is that
there’s a lot of things to be celebrated and we have to
focus on hope. So, I just wanted people to kind of feel
like, “Wow, that was satisfying.”
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. There’s times, you said it very well, that Fringe,
sometimes we did great things and sometimes we took missteps
and, hey, that’s the nature of the beast. With the missteps,
I have personally learned that usually they revolve around
things that aren’t involving real character, but plot
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 we’ve 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 they’re going
through because you said it also very well, that it is; it’s
a family show. It’s 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
So, it wasn’t 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
that’s how it sort of went. I mean I have to say the actors
and the way that they’re receiving the material and the way
that they’re 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, it’s mind
blowing. So, I’m exciting to show you guys that and they’re
doing it because they too feel like it’s the end and they
want to bring their best and examining their characters that
they’ve 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
J. Wyman: Hello, Jamie.
J. Ruby: I love, love, love Fringe and I really enjoyed the
premiere. Now, you’ve obviously talked about like how you
decided on stuff this season and everything, but as a whole,
did you know—like five years ago, did you expect to be here?
What changed from your original plan the most?
J. Wyman: Well, it’s been such a long road, twists and turns
and there’s so many times when you’re coming into work and
all of sudden like the parking attendant says, “Hey, I
thought of something. What about this?” You’re like, “Oh, my
gosh. That’s the greatest idea ever, man, for sure.”
So, ideas come from all over and sometimes like something
you thought wouldn’t 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 “White Tulip”
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, “Well, we knew a lot of
stuff,” because we did. But, the truth is we didn’t 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 it’s like it just sort of fits
like a little bit of a puzzle and you go, “Wow, that’s
So, you sort of find the things that work and the things
that don’t work and you kind of go from there, but it’s like
a living, breathing organism that you listen to. Sometimes
we don’t hear so well, but if you listen to it, it sort of
indicates where you should go naturally. So, that idea has
changed where we’re 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. I’m 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
J. Wyman: Yes, good question, Steve, because like I said
today, I adore the fans and I feel like they—or I guess I
should say everybody who supports the program. In my
opinion, it’s 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, it’s 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 they’re not
here to see how a flux capacitor works. They’re 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, “Look, it’s all
about that. It’s all about the people. Yes, the narrative is
incredibly important and yes, there are many things to ...
at,” but really, it’s 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 they’ve invested so much
So, I kind of just went, “All right, I got to go with my
heart and my gut and tell the story this way.”
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 I’m constantly telling is that the heart
is an organ of fire and that you can’t stop it from feeling
or connecting. That’s what our job is as human beings and
how wonderful to sort of have this Observer “September” 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 didn’t really fully understand
either, he fell in love with us. So, that’s why he seems
very cuddly. When you get episodes like “August;” I mean
when I was writing “August,” 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 “A Cautionary Tale for an
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,
Moderator: Our next question is from Natasha Hoover. Please
state your media outlet.
N. Hoover: Hello. I’m fringebloggers.com and its partner
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, we’re
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 it’s probably not the
best term for it? I mean I’m probably guilty of saying it
myself, but it’s not really that. It’s sort of like
more—there’s more of a continuity of emotion and story, but
it’s not like you’re going to get Walter finishes a sentence
and it’s dan-dan-dan and then you come back and the next
week he’s sort of talking about the same thing. I mean
there’s still sort of capsulated episode, but they’re all
about one thing. So, those 13 stories are about one story.
What I’ve and the staff have really enjoyed is that
continuity of emotions, like to be able to sit down and say,
“Okay, I have to devise an odyssey.” What is Walter’s
odyssey, what is Olivia’s odyssey, what is Peter’s 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 you’ll
have like Olivia very concerned about something that Peter
did to her and then the next week, she’s upset because she
has a blemish on her hand; she doesn’t know what it is.
There’s 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 it’s 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 they’re going
through. These are real issues and how are they going to
deal with them and what’s going to happen. So, it’s 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 don’t want to spoil anything and
traditionally, I’m very tight lipped; at least, I’m always
accused of that, but I feel that this one is really tough
because there’s only 13. There’s only 13 episodes and I
really don’t 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
that—it’s no mistake, it’s not secret in 19 we saw that
they’re around. They’re 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 that’s all I can really say. They’re 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
J. Wyman: The truth is I’ve got something that’s sort of
really special planned, but I don’t want to talk about it. I
think it will be memorable, but it’s not traditionally that,
but it’s the same sport. Let’s just say that, but it’s
definitely a breadth of a difference, a step in a different
direction. Is that fair?
Moderator: (Operator’s instructions) We now have a question
from Jamie Ruby. Please state your medial outlet.
J. Ruby: SciFi Vision. Hello, again. I’m 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 it’s sort of like
what’s 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 he’s
missing a part. Let’s just say that.
J. Wyman: Oh, yes. Well, in 19 you mean; what happened in 19?
J. Ruby: Yes. Is that going to affect—because I know before
whenever he removed or added memory his kind of personality
J. Wyman: Yes, I think in different ways, ways that you
haven’t seen because like John Noble, he’s such a fantastic
actor. One of the consistent challenges is to give him
things that he’s never played before because he’ll do the
work. He just is outrageous. So, it just wouldn’t sit with
him. I mean I’d 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
I’m sure that aren’t things we’ve seen before. Look, when
you’re dealing with the brain, when you’re dealing with
taking tissue out, putting things in, I mean this is Fringe;
anything can happen. It’s definitely I think of a concern to
him that has never been before. That’s 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,
Fringe’s 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: You’re 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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