Double the Astrid, Double the Fun! We Preview FRINGE Season 3 with Star Jasika Nicole

This just in: Fame and fortune are not the only things that separate the acting profession from us desk jockeys and office drones. No really. Did you know that acting may in fact be the only ‘job’ where one welcomes double the work load for exactly the same amount of pay. At least that’s the impression we got on our recent visit to the set of FRINGE in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia where star Jasika Nicole could barely contain her excitement when it came to getting the opportunity to pull double duty as both Astrid and Alternate Astrid on what is shaping up to be an epic season for one of our favorite FOX shows.

Just how excited are you about the direction FRINGE seems to be headed going into its third season?
Jasika Nicole: I never saw this coming in season one, I was just happy to be cast. I had no idea we would do a musical episode, I had no idea FRINGE would be such a funny show (At least all of my scenes with John [Noble], we feel like we’re in a sitcom half the time), and I had no idea that I was going to be able to play two completely different characters in one television show. All of the crappy things that you would think go into working on a television series — where you do all the same things all the time, see the same people and don’t get to explore new things — all of those ideas have been totally knocked down with this show. I love that and never would have expected that to have happened.

Which Astrid are you enjoying playing more?
It’s like going to a new restaurant and trying some new food that you haven’t tried before and wondering if it’s going to be good, versus going for a home cooked meal that you know is going to be good. There are so many good things about both of them and it’s really really hard to say which one I like better. But, probably because this Alternate Astrid is new and so incredibly different I’m really enjoying doing scenes with her. She doesn’t make eye contact when she talks to people and that’s been so awesome because it really messes with people brains when we’re doing a scene.

Having already established one Astrid, did the writers seek any advice from you in crafting your Alternate?
No, not anything until I read the scripts and it said that Astrid has Aspergers and I was like, “Okay, I don’t know where that came from, but this is awesome.” My sister is autistic and it turns out they had no idea about her. Akiva [Goldmsan] had this ideas based on his interactions with a lot of autistic kids when he worked at a school. The really cool idea —even beyond Astrid being so different and having Aspergers — is that there is this group of people who are extremely different than the rest of society. Where in our universe I would say there are many people still pretty uncomfortable with autism and how to treat it, the alternate universe heralds these people, educates them and uses their special skills, whatever they may be for a specific purpose.

What is Alternate Astrid’s special skill?
She’s obsessed with numbers.

In other words, Alternate Astrid’s obsession is my mortal enemy: Math!
[Laughs] It’s not just numbers, it’s equations and statistics. Which is so awesome because that’s so not me. Alternate Astrid doesn’t want to interact with people she just wants to give them information, so if they ask a question about what she’s just stated, she gets really pissed off. It’s really funny because it seems like she’s angry all the time but it’s really not that. She’s so uncomfortable having to talk about other stuff. She just gave you information, all you have to do is walk away, there is no other need to be talking to her. She’s a lot like Walter in our universe, where she’s kind of missing the social cues that other people are giving her. It’s actually a really beautiful quality to have in a lot of ways just to be who you are, quirky, weird, who cares.

Also, Alternate Astrid being autistic expands so much more beyond just her. There is this whole idea of taking a community that is different, whether they’re autistic, handicapped, or whatever and celebrating them instead of not, which I would say for the most part we do in our society. This whole idea of celebrating our difference I think is really smart, which is what you get to do on a science fiction show, where else would you be able to explore that idea?

Producers Jeff Pinkner and JH Wyman have publicly stated that their goal for this season is to show both universes in an equal light. Knowing what you know thus far, will viewers be able to sympathize with the other side?
I’m saying yeah, because from what I’m hearing from fans is that they’re sensitive to the Alternate Universe. Because I’m in it, rooted in our universe having played it for two seasons and am not able to see outside I feel like ours is the most important universe and it doesn’t matter what the other universe is dealing with, which of course, is a completely idiotic way of seeing thing but I’m just being honest with you. Determining whether or not Walternate is a good or a bad guy, my first instinct is to say he’s a bad guy, he’s not warm, doesn’t seem to be caring, but that’s because I’m connecting him to the other Walter. He’s actually a completely separate person who just happen to look alike. I have to split them apart and look at them as two different people and I think the writers are doing a good job with that. They want the audience to start to build a relationship with the alternate universe. Some ways it’s better, and someways it’s worse. But it’s important to be able to understand where everybody is coming from and they’re doing a great job of that so far. Except for Astrid, which you only see a nasty side of.

Do you think there’s any chance Astrid will ever look outside the numbers and start to wonder if her actions have consequences?
It’s interesting you ask that because in Alternate Astrid’s very first scene in the season 2 finale I got talking to Akiva [Goldsman] who directed it. He told me that one of the reasons that Astrid is a “looker” is that she can look at data and make a decision in a pinch that’s based on the numbers and not based on emotions. So she knows what’s going on, that there’s an accident, that this many people have died, but is able to detach herself from it. The interesting thing when we were shooting my first scene was that Akiva said something like, “I want to see a flick in your eye.” Which was really crazy, I mean how the hell do I flick my eye? But he wanted there to be a tiny little bit of hesitation and for Broyles to notice it. Whether or not this ever plays into the future who knows, it could have been a fleeting moment of inspiration on his part. But he wanted it to seem like maybe there is a part of Astrid that was considering the reality of what has happening instead of just the numbers and what does that mean to Broyles.

Putting your writer’s cap on for a moment, what would you like to see for Astrid this season?
Okay, I have this whole idea where our FRINGE team is going to have to go back and rescue Olivia and dress up like their alternate counterparts. I know it’s never going to happen —but the premise of that in my head is wanting to find out what it would be like for this Astrid to know about the other Astrid and find out how incredibly different she is. I wonder if it would break her heart or if she thinks it’s really incredible that there’s an Astrid who looks just like her but is not like her. Does she recognize things about herself in that Astrid? Just like anybody, what if you could meet your twin in this world, would that not blow your mind?

Do you think it will really come down to “us” or “them”? Or is there a chance for both worlds to reconcile?
Such a great question and one that I feel like is something that has to be answered. At this point it certainly seems like one world has to win. If we’re in a war, they’re probably not going to call a truce. But the other idea is that we’re two universes and we’re going along on these parallel paths that are getting closer and closer because of all the crossing back and forth, eventually we’re going to have to converge. Which makes me think — and it’s totally crazy and doesn’t make any sense — but what if we eventually have to exist together? Not necessarily one “super earth”, but what if we had to be in communication with them, where visiting the other side is like visiting Japan. That’s definitely a possibility that could be cool.

I suppose only time will tell.
Yeah we will!

You can catch brand new episodes of FRINGE starting Thursday September 23 at 9PM on FOX (CityTV in Canada)

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