John Noble in FRINGE - Season 4 - "Forced Perspective" | ©2012 Fox/Liane Hentscher

John Noble in FRINGE - Season 4 - "Forced Perspective" | ©2012 Fox/Liane Hentscher

Some actors do one-man shows based on all the characters they’ve played over their career. Australian actor John Noble could probably do a one-man show based simply on all the variations he’s played on his FRINGE character Walter Bishop.

Walter is introduced in Season One as a brilliant scientist who has had a breakdown and become deeply eccentric, owing to secrets having to do with his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) and FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv). We learn that Peter is actually from an alternate universe, taken by Walter to save his life after Walter’s son Peter died in this universe. In the other universe, Peter’s father, an alternate version of Walter, or “Walternate,” also played by Noble, is firmly in charge. Then there are flashbacks to when Walter was younger, saner and more confident.

Now there’s a new universe, with a Walter who failed to rescue the other universe’s Peter, but still caused a breach that is affecting both universes, and then the new other universe’s Walternate.

Noble, also a noted theatre director and performer who achieved widespread fame as Denethor in the LORD OF THE RINGS film trilogy, is in person a modest, soft-spoken man who is happy to talk about FRINGE, now in its fourth season on Fox Fridays at 9 PM, and his multitude of Walters.

ASSIGNMENT X: Toward the end of Season Three, were you confident that FRINGE would come back, or was there a lot of concern?

JOHN NOBLE: I think on an emotional level there was a lot of concern. When I personally looked at the direction of what we were supposed to have done [in terms of ratings], what numbers we were supposed to have done, I went, “Hang on, based on that, we have to come back.” Basically, with any television network, it gets down to numbers. We did a better job on Thursdays for them, and now we have [done a better job in ratings terms] on Friday nights.

Anna Torv, Jeff Pinkner, Joel Wyman, John Noble at the 37th Annual Saturn Awards | ©2011 Sue Schneider

Anna Torv, Jeff Pinkner, Joel Wyman, John Noble at the 37th Annual Saturn Awards | ©2011 Sue Schneider

AX: So by the time the Season Three finale was filmed, did you know you had a pickup for Season Four?


AX: Do you know whether Season Three would it have ended differently if it had been the series finale?

NOBLE: I’m positive that the writers were prepared, but I thought that at any given stage, we were poised to go into a series finale. In fact, the season finale where it ended was actually written in the middle of that episode. So they were prepared. They looked at their A and B plans. They would have been very remiss not to. It would have been a disaster to finish up another show without a finale. They wouldn’t have done that, but it was cleverly enough constructed that they could take it into another dimension.

AX: You’ve now played present-day Walter, you’ve played Walternate, you’ve played Walter before he went mad, you’ve played Walter at the peak of his madness. How would you describe this season’s Walter, the Walter in the universe without Peter?

NOBLE: We see Walter basically in the state he was [at the start of Season One]. He’s taken out to do the work by Olivia, but he’s never had the humanizing factor of Peter, so he’s still quite odd, very odd. He’s never healed, and he’s agoraphobic, he’s obsessive/compulsive.

John Noble in FRINGE - Season 3 - "6:02 AM EST" | ©2011 Fox/Liane Hentscher

John Noble in FRINGE - Season 3 - "6:02 AM EST" | ©2011 Fox/Liane Hentscher

AX: But he’s still gone mad for the same reason …

NOBLE: It still is. Peter still dies as a child.

AX: Some people inferred from the Observer’s dialogue last season that Peter never existed at all …

NOBLE: That was one of the things that I’ve been trying to clarify. What happened was that Walter’s Peter died, he went to the other universe to try to save the other [Peter], brought him back, but the child never survived. So all of the basis of Walter’s existence is in place, except for Peter. There’s still the breach [between universes], and there’s still the grief over the loss of his son. There’s still the incredible driven nature of Walternate, because he’s had his son stolen and his universe [compromised]. There’s still the incredible guilt and confusion by Walter about having done it. So all of those things are in place.

AX: Do you have a favorite version of Walter to play?

NOBLE: Golly. It’s a funny thing. I suppose like a lot of actors, I kind of involve myself with all of them to a very large degree. I’ve spent a lot more time with [this universe’s somewhat broken] Walter. I spend a lot more time in his company and I love to get the variations of doing him. But I sort of get inside all of them when I do them. Walter is obviously the one that I’ve done much more with, so I’ve had more experiences with him. In some ways, because I’ve had to do him week after week after week, he’s more of a challenge to keep consistent with.

Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble in FRINGE - Season Three | ©2010 Fox/Smallz and Raskind

Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson and John Noble in FRINGE - Season Three | ©2010 Fox/Smallz and Raskind

AX: Whereas the other versions, you don’t have to keep them as consistent to so much of what we’ve already seen?

NOBLE: Yeah, you have a couple of episode arcs. Walternate has more, but he’s such a stitched-up character that I can hold him in my head.

AX: Did you do any other projects during the hiatus between Seasons Three and Four?

NOBLE: Yeah, I presented and narrated a series for Science Channel, which [was originally broadcast] on the thirty-first of August, called DARK MATTERS, which is rather consistent with the work we do here.

AX: You’re in the middle of making Season Four and you can’t spoil anything, but do you have a favorite episode or scene from Season Three?

NOBLE: Gee whiz. I loved the episode “Marionette.” I thought it was exquisite, not because of anything I did in it, it was just the one with the reanimated ballerina. Astonishing. I remember it because I rarely do this, but I went to watch them film that scene, because it was just so amazing. I thought Anna did some excellent work in that. So I liked that. I suppose “Entrada” was a good episode for everyone, everyone seems to have liked that. There was another one, which I liked because I had a good time in both [roles] – that was “6:02 AM EST.” It was the third to last, and for Walter and for Walternate, it was really interesting.

AX: And is there a moment that you had the most fun with, just in terms of enjoying the moment?

NOBLE: Well, yeah. There are some wonderful moments in there. One of the funniest ones was that unforgettable line where Walter in his rage [talking about Peter and Bolivia] says, “He fell right into her vangenda.” I love that line. I was looking at that when I read it, and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, how do I do this line?” It was very fun doing that line, because the other actors didn’t know what I was going to do with it and the whole set was going, “Oh, my God …!” So that was very funny. It even made Lance Reddick [Broyles] laugh, which is not easy to do.

Related Link: Exclusive Interview Executive Producer J.H. Wyman chats about Season 4


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