The lead actress in the hit freshman series talks about the end of this first season
Anna Torv is one of the many reasons that Fringe is one of the hottest shows on TV right now. The series is back with its second episode after its two-month hiatus, Inner Child, which airs on Tuesday, April 7 at 9 PM ET on Fox. I was in on a conference call with Torv to talk about the end of this successful first season, and here's what she had to say.
Anna, I really enjoyed seeing the soft side of "Olivia" in this first episode coming back. Kind of tell us as you prepared for that with these two kids you were acting with here, the niece and then the boy that was found. Did you do anything special like talk to the kids ahead of time or anything like that to kind of get to that side of her?
Anna Torv: Particularly with Spencer, who plays the younger guy in Inner Child, he was just like a dream of a kid to work with, and you kind of, I mean, I don't know. I hate it when people talk down to children, and he certainly, I don't know. I just loved him, actually. I think we got on really well, and I think it kind of shows in that episode. Apart from hanging out, like you would with a normal actor, or being there when they call "action"....
Roughly how old is he?
Anna Torv: I think he's 10, 10 or 11.
What will we discover about Olivia's past?
Anna Torv: We slowly start to discover some - I never know what I can and what I can't say - but we start to discover some things that sort of happened to her when she was really little that she doesn't really remember, but they start to kind of - you start to see the stories or the lives of "Peter" and "Walter" and "Olivia" kind of begin to interlace a little bit, and you sort of see how their paths have crossed before.
Do you think that they could be related?
Anna Torv: At this point, no, I don't think so.
Do you know who or what "The Observers" are and what the motivations behind them are?
Anna Torv: Do I know who "The Observers" are?
Anna Torv: Meaning, where they're from or what their function...?
Yes, anything about them.
Anna Torv: No, but we're shooting at the moment the final episode, and we're sort of starting to get a little bit. We're sort of starting to more of a glimpse into what their function is.
At my softball game last night, I think I saw "The Observer" milling around the concession stand, and I was very concerned.
Anna Torv: He was at a football game, wasn't he, not so long ago.
See, he's everywhere.
Anna Torv: Yes.
Which do you enjoy more as an actor, and even as a viewer, when you get to an episode in which "Olivia" gets lots of action, fighting, gunplay and so on, or when the crazy science elements of the show take center stage?
Anna Torv: I love it when I'm in motion. I love doing sort of the rough and tumble, running and gunning. I know that when we're in the Lab, I just get to be the question machine. I get to watch the boys sort of have fun at "The Walter and Peter Show," so that's, I don't know, both for different reasons. I don't know which would be my favorite.
Do you like doing scenes with the cow?
Anna Torv: Yes. I don't get to do that many scenes with Gene, unfortunately. Usually it's "Walter" of milking her or "Peter" getting him in trouble for having her in the Lab.
Is it just hysterical when this cow is on the set?
Anna Torv: Usually when we have the cow on the set, we also have a whole lot of other animals because we're in some laboratory, so there's always the wranglers that bring her on, you know, sometimes ... we'll have monkeys or little hairless rats, so it just becomes a menagerie.
I was wondering how is it that your husband is not on the show anymore? Did he distract you while he was on the show or boost your performance?
Anna Torv: All the scenes that we had together were kind of like odd anyway. We were always in dreamscape, so we were always sort of, you know ... not quite sure what reality we were in, so I don't really feel like we actually got a chance to really feel opposite each other. I was always saying, "You're a ghost," and he was always saying, "No, I'm not."
Are you happy that he's not on the show anymore, or would you rather him stay?
Anna Torv: I don't know. I don't know really. I don't know. I guess we'll see what they decide to do.
I have two questions for you. The first one is now that Fringe is being broadcast in Australia, and I know that you kind of bounce back and forth between New York and your homeland, how is the reaction there?
Anna Torv: Well, it was sort of on for a little while, and then it went off, and I actually didn't know that it had gone on again, but I haven't been back since we started shooting the show, so I don't know. I know that my mom is thrilled.
And what are some of your favorite characteristics about the character of "Olivia"? What about her do you really kind of like to explore?
Anna Torv: I'm trying to think ... that she just kind of ... her sense of duty. I like that I play a character where I kind of go to work and I sort of put her armor on, her dark suits and her badge and her gun, and I like that ... God, I don't know what my favorite bits are. I don't know, I guess her sense of duty, her absolute ability to honor her word, and I'm not sure.
The show, from a viewer's perspective, it's been interrupted a few times, and it can be kind of hard to catch up, but what has it been like production-wise? Have you had stops and starts, or have you been constantly filming?
Anna Torv: No, we've been constantly filming. We shot the pilot in Toronto at the beginning of last year, and then we had like a month where we waited to see if it was going to be picked up, and then when it was, we've shot, with the exception of like a ten-day break over Christmas, we've been shooting nonstop. Yes.
One of the things about the "Harris" character, you know, when he was first brought in, it was sort of mentioned that they had a history together, he and "Olivia." It hasn't been brought up much since then. Is that something we're going to see in future episodes explored?
Anna Torv: Yes. And we just, we actually just shot an episode. We actually just finished shooting an episode last week where we do go a little bit into the "Harris" character, and we find out what side, you know, he's on and what his motivations really are. He falls back, yes. I love Michael Gaston.
I know you can't say a lot about plot points, but looking at the final scripts and filming the final episodes of the season, what sort of is your reaction? Are you surprised? Are you excited? Can you tell us a little bit about sort of, you know, your feelings reading those final scripts?
Anna Torv: Yes, I'm really excited, and things kind of like, I think because we're gearing up for the end of the season, we sort of started to, I guess, things sort of started to get a little bit more cemented. We shot an episode a little while ago, one of the last ones directed by Akiva Goldsman and I think that kind of pushes it into a different direction but not into a different world. It sort of pushes us a little bit deeper into some of the things that we've been touching on, and we're shooting the season finale at the moment, and I'm really excited. I'm excited at the prospect of where the show could go. If we're lucky enough to shoot a second season, I think it's going to be really great.
I want to follow-up on what one of my colleagues asked you a minute ago. In terms of the long pauses between the episodes, I know that personally, as a fan, that I'm going to have to go back and sort of reference the last episode before we go into next week's episode a little bit, but do you think it sort of has stunted the show's momentum, or do you think maybe it's alienated fans at all having these long breaks?
Anna Torv: I don't know. I hope not. I really, really hope not. I don't know. I think we're kind of lucky in that if you are following it, there are things to follow, but if you are just dropping in, I still think that you're going to be able to get your head around it. You'll be able to grasp where we're at. I don't know. That's the sort of decisions that are, you know, way above me. And I've been on a couple of different shows that have had really big breaks and then come back, and it hasn't affected it at all, and some that it has. So I'm really hopeful that people, you know, tune back in and go on the journey with us.
Other than meeting your husband on this thing, how different has the experience, the Fringe experience been versus whatever expectations you had heading into it?
Anna Torv: Gosh, I don't know. It's been ... I hadn't done anything quite so ambitious and so plot-driven before, and when I say that, I mean the stories and the cases that you're covering. It's not what I expected at all. It far exceeded my expectations.
[Co-creator/executive producer Alex] Kurtzman and [co-creator/executive producer Roberto] Orci have said that they're gearing up at some point to get "Olivia" and "Peter" together. How eager are you to see that happen?
Anna Torv: A couple of episodes ago, he was chatting up my sister, so I don't know how they're going to resolve that [laughs], but I certainly hope they wait until that's sort of sorted out. [Laughs.]
Is it something you're eager to play? Is that something that you're interested as an actor in playing?
Anna Torv: I think that I don't know. I think it's always - I hope that they sort of stretch it out for as long as possible. I think that's what makes it kind of fun when it's like, "Oh, are they or aren't they? What's going on?" I think there needs to be a few more close calls before they, you know, start heading down that track, because then you've got to break up and get back together again and the whole bit, right? [Laughs.]
Anna, what's been your favorite scene to shoot so far and why?
Anna Torv: What's been my favorite thing to shoot so far? See, I never know what I can say and what I can't say.... But I shot a scene ... you'd think it would be some big, explosive kind of thing, but we shot a scene recently that was just in "Walter" and "Peter's" hotel room, and in it "Olivia" has just discovered some things about her past and some things that "Walter" is connected to, and I loved shooting that because it was the first time that I felt like "Olivia" really inched her way into that dynamic of "Peter" and "Walter." She's been kind of on the outside, and they've got their things to deal with, and she's kind of wrangling them constantly. But this sort of like gave me just a little of glimpse into what could be like having everything, realizing everything is a little bit entwined. Therefore, there becomes a little bit, just that little bit more conflict, like really emotional conflict between them, and I think that's fun, particularly because these are the three, your central three. I actually loved shooting that, but I can't say anything more because I'll get into trouble or something [laughs].
Have you enjoyed shooting in New York, and what are your thoughts on the potential move to Canada?
Anna Torv: I have loved shooting in New York, and it's the same way that we felt after we had an amazing crew in Toronto that broke their backs making the pilot. I don't know. It'll be really sad to say good-bye to all these guys who have put in all of their blood and sweat for this season.
The scenes between "Olivia" and "Nina," those have been great and intense. Are we going to see more of that relationship between the two of you?
Anna Torv: I really hope so. I love Blair [Brown] and I love the character "Nina," too. There's, yes, a little bit more. We actually had Blair in the FBI for an entire day, which was such a treat because usually we just shoot these scenes on top of these buildings, you know. She does all her stuff in one day and then we say good-bye, but she was hanging about a bit, and she's a joy to have on set. But, yes, things sort of start to - things are starting to fray, and "Nina's" got a lot of answers.
Also, any thoughts on the first season? We're rolling towards the season finale. Any thoughts looking back? How was the first season for you, and what are you looking forward to in the second season?
Anna Torv: I'm looking forward to - I'm really excited to come back with a little bit of perspective. You know, you're working, and so you're so in it, and your brain - you know, we're doing ADR for one episode, we're doing B Unit work for another, and starting up A Unit on another, so you constantly have your head over these four things. And it sometimes doesn't feel like anything ever gets finished or all completed. I'm excited to sort of take a step back actually and look at what we've done and sort of plot out where everybody is now at the end of it.
Any thoughts about who should play "William Bell"?
Anna Torv: I don't know. I don't know. We keep putting names in the hat. I don't know. I'm excited to see what way they end up going with that because he could kind of be - I just don't know what way they're going to go. I'm really, really, really excited ... I hope we really do get to really meet him.
I wanted to find out, first off, what were some of the initial challenges, acting-wise, you found stepping into this role? And how have you seen "Olivia" further grow and develop, as you've gone on in the series?
Anna Torv: I'm still - I still - there's an art to it that I haven't mastered yet of following the trails, you know, and yet still maintaining a sense of character, but yet having a focus so totally on: we need to find this, we need to find that. I haven't done anything with such momentum before. That's been challenging. Also, you are constantly dealing with different events and different happenings each week, keeping that in your head and knowing where you've been and where you're going, that's been kind of tough. I think, now we're getting to the end, I think that it's taken "Olivia" a little bit of time to find her place in the world too. I think that she's lived - I think she had lived a life that was very systematic, this is where we go from A to B to A to B, and everything was kind of neat and ordered and organized, and she knew who she was and where she was. And I think that's actually where you met her in the very, very first couple of scenes in the very, very first episode. I think it took her a while to kind of get herself back together. And I think, by the end of this season, that she's definitely a different person, and I think that her objectives are different. I don't know. That wasn't really very concise, was it?
One of the things that I love about watching the show is all the great computer generated effects. What's it like as an actor to be working with all these things that will be put in later?
Anna Torv: It's kind of like a half done for real, and half done later. We have amazing special effects guys that do a lot of the practically [meaning with props, make-up, prosthetics, etc.] so you'll be looking at these bodies or these guts coming out and a lot of it is actually done with prosthetics and actually looks incredible on set. And then they go and add to it and make it really, really special at the end [by adding visual effects in post-production], so you're always kind of a bit "wow." Yes, so actually, there's not that much that you don't have any visual stimulus at all for, but a lot of it is a real team effort.
Well, I have to admit that some of them, I just get really grossed out. Is it something that you have to deal with on the set that, like, "Wow, that was shocking?"
Anna Torv: Yes. Yes, some of it is awful. We have an episode coming up. I can't remember which, I'm not sure how many weeks in, but coming up. It hasn't aired yet, where there's a crash, and we end up with these bodies in the Lab. And we find these things in these bodies, and when you see that episode, they were really, I mean those bodies were revolting. I don't know how the guys actually ended up ... actually one of the funniest things [laughs], this isn't gross, but regardless of what show we'll be working on. I walk into the Lab to do a scene, and we've got these three bodies lying in these body bags that we eventually open, so there are actors in there. I walk in, and there's these three young kids lying in these body bags. One is lying with just a head and hands out reading a book, totally out of place. [Laughs.] The other has got an iPod in and blood splattered all over his apron. You're like, "What is this show?" [Laughs.]
I don't know if this has been mentioned before because I was a little late coming in, but I'm curious if you talked about, there's been hints of you possibly having like clapper superpowers. Will you be investigating yourself? Are there any more things that were done to "Olivia" that we don't know about?
Anna Torv: We do start to find out what was done to her when she was little, and we also start to figure out what - I think that the episode where she turns the light box off, that's been shown, isn't it? "The Ability" [episode] when you find out that she maybe has some special ability" And you start to delve, we do get to delve a little bit into that, to work out why she has that ability or superpower or if it's something that's been done to her. Yes, we start to. I'm terrible at these plot questions because I never know how much to give away or not, so it sounds like I'm being really shifty, but I'm not. I'm just trying to compute what's illegal. No, not illegal, but what's OK to say.
Also, sometimes it seems like there's a pushback at the FBI office against "Olivia," but yet at Massive Dynamic [the powerful company run by "William Bell" and "Nina Sharp"], it's such a more embracing place for her, especially with the female CEO ["Nina Sharp"]. Is "Olivia" struggling with gender politics at all?
Anna Torv: I don't know, and they never make any kind of issue about it, which I've been constantly really impressed and happy about it, to tell you the truth. The most that she'll ever say is, "Yes, I'm sorry I wear my emotions on my sleeve sometimes." But she never says, "Is this because I'm a woman?" or ever anything like that. I like that that's not an issue, actually.
Are we going to see a follow-up story on "Olivia's" stepfather?
Anna Torv: Not yet, no.
What was your favorite episode so far?
Anna Torv: My favorite episode?
Anna Torv: I really loved filming Bound when she gets kidnapped, and then she wakes up, and they're giving her a spinal tap, and she wakes up and breaks out. That was just so fun because it was so clear and concise, and it was just on the move, on the go. She gets out. Then "Harris" arrives. Then she was trying to find vials that she'd hid away. It was just bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. I found it really easy to follow, and it was kind of energetic, and I really loved filming that.
With the press release for this episode, it says there's a resurfacing serial killer. I'm just wondering. Can you tell us anything about how he displays at least one of the bodies, because it's publicly, right?
Anna Torv: Yes. He calls himself "The Artist" and he sends invitations to his artwork, which are always displayed in public places, kind of really creepy.
You also mentioned that you liked the running and gunning aspects of the thing. What parts of the science do you like?
Anna Torv: I love the stuff that delves into moral and ethical dilemmas, like what people's boundaries are, what's appropriate and what's not. How far do you go in order to find an answer. And particularly with the "Peter," "Walter" and "Olivia" dynamic, it's always changing. Each week, one will be a little bit more gun-ho about wanting to get to the bottom of it no matter what it takes. That's probably the bit that I like the most, actually.
Now also is there anything about "Olivia" you don't like or would like to see evolve over time?
Anna Torv: I would love ... and I don't know where they're going, so this is purely conjecture ... I love - and actually that ties in with your other question with the science stuff - I love it when it really is fringy science. One of my favorite little bits was really, really early on where "Peter" and "Olivia" are going, and they find this girl strapped to a gurney, and "Olivia" runs off. "Peter" is on the phone to "Walter," and he's getting phonebooks and speakers trying to pump this girl's heart back up, and using kind of what's around. And, I like "Olivia" when she becomes a little renegade, when it's kind of not by the book, and she goes, "I'm going to do it this way." I like it when she gets a little not quite as straight-laced as she is most of the time.
Going back to what you were talking about earlier about sort of the long duration and hoping people come back. Without spoiling anything, what you use as a pitch to bring people back into the show?
Anna Torv: Well, I think, particularly if you have been watching it, we really do start to pull ideas from previous episodes and things start to come together, and not necessarily the way that you would expect them to. You definitely feel the momentum of the show coming to a climax, and if you've been watching, you'll like it. And I think it only gets better.
How about if you haven't been watching, what would you say to bring someone in who just has been skipping it so far, but can they still get in now?
Anna Torv: Yes, absolutely. Now is your chance, right? Well, it's still sticking very much to the original plan for the show. I know that J.J. [Abrams, co-creator/executive producer] has been saying this for ages. This is absolutely a show that you can just start watching. You're going to catch up. Like, the first episode back, you'll catch up. You'll understand who everybody is. Usually there are a couple of different layers, there's the overarching mythology and little ongoing bits and pieces that come in. But then there's also a story that's just for that particular episode, so I don't think it's something that you have to watch all the time. If you're just tuning in, or if you're a previous viewer, I think you'll enjoy it. That's a terrible pitch [laughs].
I was just curious if there are any new guest stars we're going to be able to see in these last few episodes, and also, do you guys have any plans for Comic Con this year?
Anna Torv: We just did a Comic Con not so long ago in New York, which was great fun, and I'm not sure when the other one, when the next one is. But hopefully, if we're still on the air and we're invited. And recurring characters that pop up, well, "Harris" [played by Michael Gaston] comes back. I love "Harris." I think he's a really cool character, and we find out a little bit more about him, and also "David Robert Jones" [played by Jared Harris] kicks back in, who is the scientist that we met in the German prison who escaped. We see a little bit more of him. I'm trying to think who's recurring that has already appeared. That's all I can think of.
Lost has seemed to kind of gotten lost in itself. Is Fringe going to get so caught up in itself that you kind of feel like you're lost in a web, or is the whole storyline plotted out?
Anna Torv: I don't know how much of the storyline is plotted out, but I know, and I've said that before, and I say that because I know that the guys creating this show are adamant about it not getting totally convoluted and have been from the start. I think that was part of the game plan in the beginning is that we would manage. And I think that we are managing really well to kind of straddle that procedural and serialized drama so that if you miss an episode, you're not going to be lost.