Interview: J.J. ABRAMS and JOSHUA JACKSON talk FRINGE

Fringe - Joshua Jackson

This morning, I took part of a conference call with J.J. ABRAMS and JOSHUA JACKSON to speak about Fox’s new show, FRINGE, which premieres on Tuesday, September 9, at 8pm.

Fringe is most likely one of the most anticipated shows of the fall season, and I have to say that I really enjoy the approach that J.J. Abrams seems to have when it comes to his projects. And if his track record is anything to go by, I think we can expect some great things from Fringe.

Here are the questions asked during the call and the highlights from the answers. I also included some of my favorite quotes of the call.

To J.J. Abrams – Will the election and its result affect the show?

J.J. Abrams: “I really think Josh (Jackson) should answer this.” (laughs)

J.J. Abrams then explained that Fringe wasn’t created to mirror The West Wing. Fringe is really coming out of a time where every week you read and see some horrific scientific breakthrough. Science is out of control and maybe everything is out of control.

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To Joshua Jackson – What made you decide to come back on TV?

Joshua Jackson said that it was this project specifically that brought him back to TV. The quality of script and density of it. JJ Abrams’ ability to tell a story over a long amount of time was also an important factor. He wanted to go in a show that would keep its quality high and (I should mentioned that Joshua Jackson first asked J.J. Abrams to cover his ears before he said) J.J. Abrams is “the best on TV at that right now.”

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To Joshua Jackson – Were you staying away on purpose?

Turns out that TV is exhausting, but Joshua Jackson said that he wasn’t purposefully staying away, it just happened.

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To J.J. Abrams – Will you try to make “Fringe” believable or will you push the envelope?

J.J. Abrams mentioned that when they did the pilot for Lost, they had the monster appear right at end of the episode so that they told the audience “we’re jumping the shark now. We’re doing crazy shit from the beginning.” Fringe is out there as well, it has a far fetched story point starting in the pilot in order to tell the audience “this is what you’re getting on the show.”

The fun for him is to push the envelope and go further than might be possible today. Fringe will definitely be pushing the edge of the envelope. J.J. Abrams thinks the key is to tell stories that are as compelling, emotional, and weird as possible, but to not exploit that aspect of show. He would rather do a storyline that makes sense for a character, than just come up with something for the shocking value of it only.

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To Both – (For J.J. Abrams) What did you see in Joshua Jackson? (For Joshua Jackson) How is it like to work with John Noble and Anna Torv?

Joshua Jackson has a lot of fun playing Peter. Peter is the go between Walter (John Noble) and Olivia (Anna Torv), which creates an interesting dynamic. Joshua Jackson made an interesting point and called it a “dysfunctional family.” And when you put them in the outrageous world of Fringe, well let’s just say it’s quite the trip.

As for picking Joshua Jackson, well turns out J.J. Abrams was a fan of his work. He thinks that there are actors you find who make characters better and that’s what he was looking for.

Joshua Jackson: “Actually, not to make this too romantic, but I remember the first time we met.”

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To Both – Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson have great chemistry, will there be a love story between Olivia and Peter in the future?

Joshua Jackson started off by saying that it’s a little inappropriate for them to get together in the pilot (I can’t really say why here because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but watch the pilot of Fringe and you’ll get it.)

To that J.J. Abrams added that there is going to be “a slow burn relationship,” but it won’t happen as we might think.

There will be a dynamic there that they will play on, but since there are so many things going on in their lives that are a little more urgent, it’s going to be an over time relationship.

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To J.J. Abrams – What about the corporation involved in “Fringe”?

Fringe won’t be be geared towards the corporation conspiracy aspect, but it does play an ambiguous role in the show. For example, we do not know who Nina Sharp (Blair Brown)’s boss is.

Walter is also sort of involved in it and it’s mostly about the characters and their backstory, and how they ended up where they are.

In addition, J.J. Abrams promised that we would meet Nina Sharp’s boss by the end of the season, but it’s something that he wants the audience to be hungry for.

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To J.J. Abrams – Since you have had so many successful shows, how does “Fringe” compare and what are your expectations?

J.J. Abrams never knows what to expect. He did say that Fringe is the type of show that, even if he had nothing to do with, he would be excited to see.

This time around however, he is writing Fringe so that it’s not as serialized as Alias and Lost was/is. However, since he is so drawn to overarching stories, there will still be an evolution of the characters and the overarching storyline of trying to figure out what is going on (on a larger scale), but there will be less of that every week. What he wants is for people to be able to watch an episode of Fringe and understand what is going on even if they missed last week’s.

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To Joshua Jackson – Do you have an interest/aptitude for science?

Joshua Jackson: “I think the standard answer to that is that I’m an actor because I’m not good at a lot of things.”

The short answer to that question would be no, but Joshua Jackson did say that he does find science interesting.

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To J.J. Abrams – Since a lot of the new shows are based on shows from overseas, do you feel it’s a tougher climate right now for writers? What advice would you give to a young writer?

Even though it is a difficult time, J.J. Abrams is thrilled that Fringe is not based on a format from another country, because it’s “good to be an anomaly to the fad.”

J.J. Abrams: “Although, all the actors are imported.”

As for what his advice would be, well first of all 51% of what he was able to do, he attributes to luck. But for anyone who would like to run a show, to him it’s all about exercising your writing muscle. So write as much as you can because it’s your leverage. And most importantly you need to write something that you desperately want to see, not something that you think people want to see.

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To J.J. Abrams – What exactly will be the format for “Fringe”? Will it be more like “The X-Files” or “Lost”?

J.J. Abrams: “Well, I’ve never seen “The X-Files.” (laughs)”

The X-Files is a good example of what Fringe will be. J.J. Abrams also mentioned that the format would also be “ER“-like, where you have ongoing relationships and storylines, but every episode you’re faced with the emergency of the week.

J.J. Abrams is very interested in relationships, but the problem is that for a show like Felicity, there is nothing to interrupt the relationship story. So if you take ER and the characters were not doctors, you would go through the emotional storylines in a few episodes, but because of the emergencies, it drags along.

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To J.J. Abrams – When looking at the current TV landscape, do you consider this to be golden age of Sci Fi?

J.J. Abrams would call it more Sci than Sci Fi, because for example in Fringe a lot of what they talk about is at least in the realm of possibilities, although they are pushing it. The stuff you wouldn’t think was possible years ago is now happening, hence Sci.

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To J.J. Abrams – How do you find your leading ladies? How did you find Anna Torv?

Sorry but there is no secret formula, for J.J. Abrams it comes down to the feeling you get when you know you have found the right person.

As for Anna Torv, the casting director for Fringe showed them a video of an audition she did for another movie. She had a quality that was unique and smart, plus she was pretty “in a way that wasn’t clony.”

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That was all we could get out of them, but doesn’t all of it sound exciting?

Don’t forget to tune in for Fringe‘s premiere on Tuesday, September 9, at 8pm on FOX.