In celebration of the recent announcement that Fox has awarded FRINGE with a fifth and final season, executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman took to the phones to talk to a gaggle of press about what’s in store for one of television’s most creatively ambitious series as it prepares to close out its season with the first of an epic two part finale starting tonight at 9PM on FOX (CityTV in Canada).
JEFF: As always, we are so entirely indebted to each and every one of you. We have publicly and now privately on the phone want to make it clear that we know the pickup of this show in season five is largely due to all of you and your support, so thank you very much.
Between who we saw there in the amber in episode 19, what Joshua has said about episode 19 in forming season five, and what’s in the promos right now with Walter saying, “He’s alive!” are you going to have to bring back Leonard Nimoy as William Bell?
JEFF: We basically erected a sign outside of Leonard’s house which said, “Please come back to Fringe,” and we are hoping that by season five he says yes.
So you’re not writing yourselves into a little bit of a corner here if you need the character?
JOEL: No, because I think that once you realize the extent of everything, that will probably all become clear, why we’re not. I know it’s hard to say. We don’t want to spoil too much.
The alternate ending in case you didn’t get the season five pickup, is that something people might get to see on the DVD release for season four?
JOEL: No, we did not shoot an alternate ending. We did not. We thought about it, but we did not.
Are we done with the alt-verse? Are we going to see the alt-verse again? In particular, What is Seth Gable’s position on the show if we don’t see the alt-verse again?
JEFF: As always, we are really, really devoted to everybody and the people asking those questions, but we sort of have a no spoilers policy because we’re just of the mind that the entertainment value of watching the stories unfold is diminished if you already know what’s coming. We love all those characters from the Redverse. The door is closed because of the problems that David Robert Jones is causing, so if our team can somehow dispense with Jones, there’s absolutely a possibility of that door being opened again. We can’t definitively say anything.
JOEL: Like we’ve always said, nobody’s ever really dead on Fringe.
What about the year 2036? Do you think we’ll be seeing any more of that either this season or in season five?
JOEL: Yes, I think it’s safe to say you will.
The character of Sam Weiss, is there any plan to bring him back towards the end of the series?
JOEL: There are no plans right now. We loved him as a character and he did such a great job for us. We know a lot of people are huge fans of his. I think that in this moment he served his purpose.
Have you given any thought as to how these final 13 will play out?
JOEL: Going down the road, the way that traditionally, as we finish the chapter, close it, and then start a new one, we definitely know. When we’re thinking about the end of the season we’re always thinking about the beginning of the next one and where that’s going to take us and what kind of doors it can open. That’s basically how it’s been since the get-go, and it’s no different this year. We definitely know where the series is going to end and how it’s going to end and what we’re saying with the final season.
George Morales’ words to Olivia in the dreamscape when he said, “Massive dynamic is hell and its founder, William Bell, is the devil.” Is it possible that David Robert Jones is not the penultimate bad guy here, that there’s someone higher on the baddie food chain, possibly like William Bell or someone else?
JOEL: That’s interesting. No bad guy really thinks that they’re a bad guy. Jones is a pretty good bad guy. Are you saying you want more?
JEFF: What’s been fun for us is there have been two David Robert Jones’s on our show Jared Harris and both largely the same person almost in every way, existing in two different timelines—but even he has a doppelganger because it’s so incredibly fun to watch the … and see Jared Harris portray this character that for all intents and purposes could be a doppelganger in a much different alternate universe to David Robert Jones. Jared is just spectacular. In the world of is there another bad guy who is pulling his strings or above him, I think we’d be wrong to say anything other than just David Robert Jones … he’s pretty compelling and he’s pretty—nefarious is probably too loaded of a word. He’s definitely a suitable opponent for our team. It’s taken all of them to deal with him.
JOEL: The ground will shift a little bit and you’ll understand him a little bit deeper.
How instrumental would you say is it for the fan social media—getting on social media and talking about the show—to getting your fifth season?
JOEL: Massive. It was massive. This is actually a really cool time, I think, in television history, or it will be considered a cool time, where social networks are informing the big networks, like people are talking, people are doing things, people are moving. They go into action for their show, which is great. Before, it used to be like, “Well, we’re going to send a whole bunch of letters,” which is okay, but it’s not this. What this is, what’s going on now, is really empowering for the fans because they feel that they have a platform and a forum to really express to people who may or may not be listening, but the chances are that they are, to express their deep gratitude and love of the show, their support. Our fans are so incredible that they were calling the sponsors saying, “Hey, I don’t watch it live because I have a job, but you know what? Here’s the thing—I love the show and watch it on DVR. I’m going to buy your product. You must have good taste because you guys are supporting Fringe.” It was huge for us. I mean, it was a whole movement. Honestly, there’s not a moment where I don’t think how lucky we are to have such incredible fans.
JEFF: I think it is absolutely fair to say that without the support of the fans and social media there would be no season five.
Do you see this as a blessing to get this many episodes to tell the story so you can pace it out?
JOEL: Yes. Like I said, we know the end. It’s a perfect amount of time to be done right and to be doled out in the right pace. We feel really confident that we can have a satisfying ending for us but also, of course, for our fans and supporters within the timeframe of 13 episodes. I think that’s really what we were hoping for. Fox is so great to deliver and continues to demonstrate their incredible support. So yes, we are very content.
What can you tell us at this point about next season as far as how it relates to “Letters of Transit”?
JEFF: Right. We can tell you nothing.
JOEL: It’s hard because part of our storytelling has always been revealed and recontextualizing what you think you know and what you’ve seen and putting it into a different mindframe for the viewer. Let’s just say that that future is important to our storytelling, but it’s not the be all and end all; there is a reason. Like, somebody asked us a really cool question the other day—how did we decide to do flashbacks or flash-forwards or whatever? For us, we can honestly say there’s always a reason. There’s always a reason to do it. We’re going to go into the past because we have to put you in that headspace so you can understand this … and figure out where the character is coming from or has been in order for you to get the full experience of what you’re watching today in the present. That’s how we feel about the “Letters of Transit.” It was for a reason. Nineteen is traditionally the one that we go off the beaten path, and that was no different. It was definitely off the beaten path. Does it have further implications? It does. You’re going to definitely need to understand what “Letters of Transit” is or was in order to fully grasp all … things we like to tell this year.
So someone who was making that trailer for season five knew before you guys did that the show was getting renewed?
JOEL: No, I think the way it worked, I mean, look, people plan for success and failure. That’s just the prudent thing to do. I think that everybody was feeling really good about it. Like I said, and I’ve said it a million times, these guys in the building at Fox and at Warner Brothers are so supportive of the program and every step of the way they have done exactly what they are going to say. I know that’s probably an anomaly because business changes. Sometimes shows get bad ratings and then they stay on, and sometimes they get okay ratings and then they’re cancelled. Then two years later a show that has worse ratings than that show stays on the air. It’s a very strange, non-specific—I don’t even know the rules. Do you, Jeff? I don’t know.
JEFF: No, but to answer your question specifically, you buy an engagement ring hoping she says yes, you know? So the trailer was made in hopes, as Joel said. The internal support at Fox is astronomical. As they said to us, the support outweighs any expectation. Like, a show that, quite frankly, performs like we do, usually people at the network are all running away from it, whereas with us, everyone recognizes, I think, to toot our own horn for one second, the merit and the value on what we’re doing. They really love the storytelling and have been insanely supportive from the top down from the beginning. I think that they made this trailer in hopes of a pickup, but of course the people charged with doing that kind of work are nowhere near, ultimately, the decision makers. The decision makers made the decision and informed us. Part of that time going by was getting the trailer ready to go online, etc.
Since you do have the 13 episodes to finish out how you’d like to, you’ve talked before and you’ve produced comic books. Have you thought or have there been talk about creating alternate media ways to keep the mythology going, whether it’s comic books or in some other ways that you have thought about keeping the world alive after the show finishes?
JOEL: That’s cool.
JEFF: We thought about a traveling Fringe baseball game, that we’ll travel around the country and there’ll be a red team and a blue team and it’ll be populated by identical twins, but it’s a little tough to get off the ground.
JOEL: Personally, I was responsible, and maybe not in the best way, because I was at WonderCon or ComicCon. I said if there was no pickup we’re definitely going to try to finish off the stories by hook or by crook. It’d have to be comic books that will actually try to give some closure to the fans. We meant it at the time. I think now that we have the 13, that’s not a far out idea. I love comics, and Jeff does, too. I think if there was a significant story where we were like, “You know what? I think people really want to know more about this aspect of the show that really wasn’t maybe covered 100% and they’re really interested,” then yes, that would be something that we would consider, I’m sure.
JEFF: I’m sure you’re aware, Tara, there’s a Fringe comic book that will continue. Josh … wrote an awesome arc in the book this season and if we’re fortunate enough, if DC will continue to partner with us, that will continue to come out. There are still stories to tell that are outside the universe of the TV show, but I don’t know that we have plans to—baseball joke aside, I don’t know, please nobody take that seriously, unless you can make it happen, in which case definitely take it seriously—aside from things that are already in the works, some of which are still kind of secret, some which you may know about. I think largely, as Joel said, the TV show will tell the story.
JOEL: The idea of a couple of very specific gold cover special editions may find their way.
Because you’d put so many storylines in play to get to the end game just in case this season was the end game? Was 13 just enough to get where you want to go?
JOEL: Yes. We’re always hoping for the best, and you have to plan for the worst. A lot of the greatest things that people have loved about the program have come from ideas that we had had that sort of snowballed and became something else and forced us to look at something else in a different way and realize, “Hey, that’s a really cool story stream. We should really give that a ….” That said, and knowing that happens, when you’re telling 13, I’m sure there will be, and there are, things that we’ve discovered where, “That could be really cool.” If we had 22, we could really take advantage of that, but the truth is that we could only operate on what we have. We were hoping at the minimum we would get 13 so we could tell our story and have ways to do that. If it was a 22 episode, we would have found ways to do that, too. I think that Fringe has come such a long way. We were just m ore concerned that we would have the ability to not have a couple of episodes to wrap something up but really an arc, like a real final season event.
Because you guys didn’t know you were going to get another season, obviously, until practically before we did, then you knew how you wanted the series to end. How did you approach this final season then, knowing that you might not get to tell that entire story?
JOEL: This is the analogy that I think that suits us the best. Imagine you’re on an airplane and you start to read a great novel and something that you’re really enjoying. You get through it, you get through it, and then there’s a whole other layover and you get to read four more chapters. You sort of get to the end of a chapter where there’s going to be a new beginning and you realize okay, now it’s time to get off the plane and you need to go about your business. You’re stuck with that lost chapter and you feel like okay, that was very satisfying, although I can understand that there’s another book. If I can get my hands on that other book in the next 15 minutes, I swear I would read it. But I’ve just finished this version and while it’s complete, I still have a longing to understand the characters in a deeper fashion and to imagine where they’re going to go after this logical conclusion after I just read. So that’s kind of how we look at the end of every season. That’s why we sort of felt like the inadvertent design of Fringe and how it became that ended up being a blessing. You’re sort of protected because you’re closing one chapter and then beginning another. You’ll see in the finale it’s like okay, I can understand how the show can end, but I’m interested in going further. That’s sort of how we approach it. It’s like look, we close every single season with a chapter. When Peter disappeared, that could have been an ending. I mean, it would have been, “Whoa, wait—what is that? What happened?” but it would have been an ending of sorts. Like okay, Peter had to sacrifice himself in order to save his family. Okay, I’m not happy about that but I understand it. Then you can imagine one day that they would meet again or something like that. So we just finished the conclusion. We finished the season conclusion in a manner that we feel is authentic and real for that season and then we use that as a push-off point to go and tell another aspect of the story that we hope the people will be interested in.
New episodes of FRINGE air Fridays at 9PM on FOX (CityTV in Canada) and stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole and John Noble. Catch up with past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv
Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to TheTVaddict.com. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).