We hope we were really talking to “Fringe” star John Noble and not his alternate-universe counterpart, because whoever it was has us totally stoked for the season finale.
Noble’s been playing two sides of the alt-universe coin this season as both the brilliant but troubled biochemist Walter Bishop and his inter-dimensional counterpart – dubbed “Walternate” – his universe’s Secretary of Defense, and both men’s agendas are coming to a head.
“It’s like an epic trilogy,” says Noble of “Fringe’s” season-ending episodes. “All year we’ve been heading towards the fact that there seems to be inevitable conflict between the two universes, and we’ve gotten to know the people on both sides now. So we now bring it to a conclusion starting with ‘6:02,’ Friday night’s episode. We start to deal with the issue because our Earth starts to deteriorate. Events start to happen here which indicate that our world is degrading, and so everyone has to say, ‘Well, this problem is not going to go away. It’s now affecting our side. We do have a machine which we believe can assist in the resolution of this problem.’”
“You could make an assumption based on what’s happened so far with both these men gathering pieces of the machine that they both have the same tool,” says Noble. “What happens, in fact—which will be no surprise to anyone—is that Walternate finds a way to activate his machine, and as a result our world starts to break down – I mean seriously break down, as we’ve witnessed in the alternate universe, which of course then prompts panic on our side. ‘What do we do?’”
“We start to resort to...ourselves,” reveals Noble. “Walter has to really come to his very best—has to get his best faculties back together again, do exactly what William Bell told him he could do and resolve these problems with everything he needs to do it. He has to allow Peter the freedom to be a hero, instead of being a protective parent.”
“The very fundamental nature of science – and Walternate points this out during the season – is that the universe will seek balance, and that’s, in fact, true,” the actor adds. “So what we’ll find, through some awfully precarious events, is that everything will attempt to find balance. And this man, Walter/Walternet – because they are the same man – will hopefully find a balance as back as one human being again. Because at this stage neither of them are complete human being by any means.”
Because “Fringe” also focuses as much on the human equation as the sci-fi elements, the season-long tension between Walter and Peter (Joshua Jackson) also come to a head. “Most of the season Walter has been alienated from his beloved son, and he found that very difficult because he had become so attached to Peter,” he adds. “You’ll see that there’ll be some resolution between Peter and Walter: a much more grown-up relationship will establish.”
The veteran, Australian-born actor is still celebrating “Fringe’s” semi-surprise fourth season pick-up and the opportunity to continue playing a role he calls a gift. “I’ve been sort of acting forever,” he says. “What Walter Bishop gave me was the opportunity to basically use just about every trick I’ve got in my book, and have such a lot of fun doing it. And then, like the gift that keeps on giving, they also gave me Walternate to show the other side of him. So as a reward for, I guess, an actor towards the end of his career, it seriously couldn’t have been better.”
It’s a character(s) he expects to explore thoroughly, given “Fringe’s” devoted fan base. “I suppose what will happen somewhere down the track is they’ll make a movie – that seems to happen,” he says. “Walter is still a work in progress. It’s a most rare thing to be able to develop a character over four years. But when it finishes, I suspect it’s finished and there’ll be other fish to fry, as they say.”
But he’s not sure whether to believe that a certain contingent of the audience sees brainy, eccentric Walter as a bona fide sex symbol – maybe in an alternate existence? “Oh, Lord. A sex symbol, is he?” he laughs heartily. “Oh, golly, I don’t know. No, I haven’t experienced that. There was a girl in New York that wanted me to sign her midriff. She pulled her shirt up – but she was doing that to all the actors!”