Josh Jackson on "The Fringe"
With tons of TV viewers freaked about bad economy, weird politics and terrorist attacks, this is a great time to explain it all with Sci-Fi. The "alternate universe" or "alternate timeline" concept of Fox TV's "Fringe" accomplishes this very well. Actor Joshua Jackson grabbed youth attention early as he played Pacey Witter on the first of the teen-angst dramas "Dawson's Creek" which ran for 6 seasons and ended in 2003. Grown-up Josh has impressed in thrillers like Shutter and Cursed and more serious roles in Bobby and Battle in Seattle.
We got on the cell with witty Josh to talk the new season of "Fringe" and what's in store for his clandestine agency operative Peter Bishop on the show.
TeenTelevision: Josh, the show has action, racing around, crazy science etc.... and a cow. Which do you enjoy working with more?
Josh: The cow’s a diva; it’s a little known fact. She’s not very giving. I don’t know that I have a particular favorite. I think if I did any one of those things too much each one would become boring in their way. The hope is to try and balance those things out as much as possible, if not in every episode, in every couple of episodes. I would tell you that the thing I spend the time thinking about is trying to keep the dynamic between Peter and Walter truthful and growing, but the beauty of being on a television show is that you get to do a little bit of everything all the time.
TeenTelevision: What is your reaction when you get the scripts and it’s some new crazy thing that they’re bringing into the story?
Josh: That’s the beauty of our show; if we don’t have a new crazy thing, something’s gone horribly wrong so I take it always as a positive thing. Each week it’s a little bit of a science lesson for the class, it’s a little bit of a vocabulary lesson for the class and it always presents you with some other kooky thing.
TeenTelevision: Just watching as a fan, what do you like most about "Fringe"?
Josh: As a fan, the things that I like most is the bigger story rather than the individual creepy, gooey stuff. What we’ve done pretty well is to make each one of the creepy, gooey things add up into a much bigger story. That’s the thing that I peak out on that I thing is so cool.
TeenTelevision: We can't give away too much but what can you tell us about your character Peter's storyline this season? The audience (now) knows something crucial about Peter that he doesn’t know about himself.
Josh: We come to find out that this is a large part of the guilt that Walter carries around is that he baby-snatched Peter as a young boy. Inevitably that information had to come out so while I don’t know the particulars much further than the episode that I’m shooting right now, I do think eventually that has to come to a head and it will lead to a conflict between the two guys. The entire first season for Peter and Walter was about this father and son reconnecting through the craziness of their circumstances and actually becoming something of a dysfunctional family. And Season Two has carried that forth. In the beginning Peter is really invested now in being part of this team and actually belonging to this fringe family, but eventually he’s going to find out that this horrible thing happened to him as a child and that’s going to blow up his relationship with Walter and probably with Olivia I would imagine. To me, that’s the great thing hanging over Peter the entire season and it gives me something to move toward as they go forward.
TeenTelevision: Do you think that Peter and Olivia will ever have some kind of romantic relationship or do you hope they don't?
Josh: I think this is more of a family dynamic than a romantic dynamic. What’s unique and what’s great bout our show is, as opposed to having just a leading man and a leading lady, you have this crazy father in the center of it. That would be a very, very awkward love triangle so I don’t think they’re going to go in that direction. I see Peter and Olivia as more brother and sister rather than lovers on this show. Where they’re going to take it, I have no idea, but for right now I run under the assumption that this is father, son, daughter rather than boyfriend, girlfriend, dad.
TeenTelevision: Peter can be very sarcastic and that's kind of fun, don't you think? Is some of the dialogue your doing?
Josh: Josh's sarcasm is not really all that welcomed in my household sometimes. Call my girlfriend (Diane Kruger of Inglorious Basterds). I’ll give the writers credit. I’d say most of those lines are written, though, particularly in the scenes with John (Noble who plays Peter's "dad" Walter), there is some (ad-libbing). John and I have a very strong working rapport and he’s a very playful actor. He likes to keep things live and so you keep on testing and trying. I feel like I’m a bit that way myself. A lot of the humor of those moments comes out of the two of us just playing around until we figure out something that pops. I would say that Peter’s a much more cynical man than Josh is; his sarcasm has a tendency to be a lot darker than my sense of humor.
TeenTelevision: When we first met Peter the first season we got a sense of this kind of dark background that he had; arms dealing etc. Will we get back to that?
Josh: We actually delved right into that very early in the season. We kept on hinting at it last year, but never showing it. It’s difficult to put these characters’ outside lives into the show. Each episode has a central focus; however, we immediately understood what it was, what function Walter has as part of this Fringe team and we spent the first season explaining exactly why Olivia Dunham in particular, as opposed to any other FBI agent, had to be the center of this Fringe team. What we never really got into until the final episode, the final frames of the final episode, was why it is specifically that Peter needs to be a part of this. Now that we’ve brought him in, this season we’ve gone a lot deeper into actually showing rather than just talking about this prior life that he had.
TeenTelevision: Is the "dark side" what made you find your character interesting?
Josh: Absolutely. It’s the thing that drew me into the character in the very beginning, the idea that he has, not even gray, a very black past that he was in a way running from and in another way wants to run back to. Oddly, being an arms dealer and being generally not a very good person is probably simpler for him emotionally than having to deal with his father and to confront all these things from his childhood.
TeenTelevision: You're a big science fiction fan. So, it is fun for you to act on a show with sci-fi concepts?
Josh: It is a ton of fun for a guy who loves science fiction to be working on a science fiction show. None of the concepts that are raised on this show are entirely foreign to me or do they seem that far out there, but I’ve never worked on a show before where we get to actually explore those ideas. Of course, Fringe doesn’t fill up the science fiction quotient of my acting life.
TeenTelevision: So, what Sci-Fi story would you like to enact in a movie?
Josh: There are plenty of books that I read as a younger man that I would love to turn into movies, some of which have already been turned into movies. I would have loved to be part of Lord of the Rings and now they’re making Hobbit. I’m not in that either. I guess I’ll have to wait for The Silmarillian.
TeenTelevision: Can new viewers start watching "Fringe" and "get" it?
Josh: Yes. I’d say we’re about 50/50 for episodes that are heavy into the big back-stories and stories that are just sort of one-off investigations. The idea is also that regardless of whether it’s a mythology episode or part of the larger story or not, each one of these investigations in every episode will always have a beginning, middle and end. Even it is a heavy mythology episode you can still tune in and get a satisfying story as opposed to tuning in to the story halfway through. If you want to pay attention every week and please do, there’s a lot of story being told all the time, but if you just want to drop in for a fun hour away where you get to cringe at the bad stuff and root for the good guys and hiss at the bad guys, there’s that aspect, too. It doesn’t turn you away at the door.