While FRINGE fans need not be reminded of the ludicrous levels of talent actor John Noble brings to the table each and every week on the increasingly addictive Fox TV show. Non-fans (and Emmy Voters) apparently do. Which is why, on our recent visit to the set of FRINGE in beautiful Vancouver British Columbia, we were thrilled to have been given the opportunity to pick the brain of the man who has made a name for himself, well, picking other people’s brains. What we found, was a mild-mannered, soft spoken and incredibly insightful actor who had a very interesting take on what it’s like to play two versions of the same character, the plans for the third season of the show, and where he’d like to see Walter end up.
To fully embody a character like Walternate as you do, do you have to justify in your mind that his actions and motives are good?
John Noble: That’s an interesting question, because the biggest mistake you can make as an actor is to judge from the outside. I think we as human beings generally do what we think is the best thing to do in the moment and very often it’s not. As an actor, one of the biggest traps is to say, “I’m a bad guy,” because people don’t actually think of themselves as that. They’re quite justified in saying, “I’m a thief, it’s what I do.” So in that sense, No, I do not have to justify either Walter or Walternate’s action.
In the aftermath however, these characters have done things in hindsight that are horrible. In fact, Walter is responsible to some degree for the predicament we currently find ourselves in. So he’s going to deal with guilt and shame, which is so human and something he’s constantly suffering with. It erodes his self confidence, having gone from being on top of the world to being cut to pieces by a memory. So I just observe what my life is like like as an actor you observe what everyone’s life is and put that into whatever the character is going through. But I don’t judge them.
Producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. 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??
Certainly. It’s almost counter intuitive, because we all want to belong to somebody, so we want to root for our side, our country or whatever. But what we’re thinking we want to try is to present two realities. Now automatically, we know the audience is going to want our side, the old Fringe Team to win. But what happens if we meet the new Fringe Team and they’re lovely people with great senses of humor, families and justification for what they’re doing. Are they actually bad guys? It’s going to be hard, but that’s the idea. For instance, on the surface, Walternate may seem like this hard, cold man, a pig if you will. But obviously there are reasons that he is the way he is. He’s making some difficult decisions to save his world and because we don’t automatically care about that world, we’re not sure who to root for.
Is Walternate making decisions to save his world, or does it simply boil down to revenge for our Walter kidnapping Peter?
It’s either and both. But they have massive problems in that world with bridges, and they’re always having to quarantine areas because of what has happened. Whatever is driving him, it could be be revenge, or it could be both, who knows. But he’s a very powerful leader and they’re probably lucky to have him.
Working against Walternate, at least on the public relations front, is his treatment of our Olivia. Can you shed some light on that?
The point of any people in power is to have expendable commodities. You listen to the big industrial magnates talk about how they let people go and they sort of buy off companies strip the assets and all sorts of things. Well right now Walternate has something of a commodity in Olivia which is useful to him. If things change, and she loses her perceived value, she’ll become expendable. It’s harsh, horrible, and there’s no humanity in that, but sadly it’s the way many people in the world think.
And finally, putting your writer’s cap on for a moment, where would you like to see Walter end up this season?
The progress of Walter needs to be towards his self actualization. He needs to be repaired in the spiritual sense, and he is being repaired, but it’s a slow process. He needs to become a full man at peace with himself and that might happen, and as long as we keep going with that it gives me so much to play with.
FRINGE airs Thursday nights at 9PM on FOX (CityTV in Canada)