If you’ve been watching Fringe recently, you know that Anna Torv has had her workload doubled. Now playing two versions of her character, who are from different universes, Anna’s Olivia has become a lot more than she signed on for. She recently took part in a Q & A interview to discuss the show, and the challenges of playing what has now turned into a dual role, and it was a very interesting discussion.
Check it out below, and don’t miss new episodes of Fringe on Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11/10c you can catch up with encore episodes on FOX.
I want to ask you about the acting challenges in playing this character two ways because I imagine you play a role for two seasons. You become one with the character. When they asked you, then, to do a second version, what sort of acting challenges does that pose for you?
A. Torv I was so excited when it first came up and then we’ve sort of kicked in. I haven’t really had the chance to play the Ultimate Olivia properly for herself. It’s been our Olivia, thinking that she’s the Ultimate Olivia. Then, the Ultimate Olivia pretending to be our Olivia. So, it’s been a little bit tough to work that line.
What I found has been interesting is how my attitude or how clearly I am now seeing Olivia, which I don’t think you do. I don’t think you get those opportunities where you actually get to step back and look at a character from a different perspective while playing the other. You keep trying to think, because you’re playing each—each of them has them has their own impression of the other that they haven’t met really properly. So, it’s been tough, but fun.
Also, I would have loved it if we … gone right out there and made her a completely different character, but essentially, the differences are subtle there. They both ended up in the same job. They both ended up to the point where they even had the same partners. It’s just gentle little shifts. It’s been fun. I think all the guys that have had that chance would say the same, too. It’s also been so fun to play on the other side, which does feel like, “Wow! This is a completely different energy.” Then, to pop back. So, I’ve loved it.
What personal conflicts, if any, do the two Olivia’s may encounter? Because there are certainly Fauxlivia or Bolivia— I mean, she’s working with some intelligent, good-hearted people on this side. There are advantages on the other side, too, with the real Olivia, with the people that she’s working with. It looks like alternate … people, but they’re actually good guys. So, they’re both in places where they don’t belong. They’re both in worlds that they don’t necessarily like or support, but do you see any personal conflicts or maybe changing of attitudes for either of these Olivias?
A. Torv Absolutely. I think that’ll come when they both get home. I think that’ll be the test because that’s the interesting part about this, too. Obviously, we’ve been following our Olivia and our team for two seasons now. So, our loyalties are definitely there, but when you start to see the other side, solving cases and interacting and working with each other, you realize that they’re both just fighting their own cause. Neither one’s good or bad, or neither one is right or wrong. That’s hopefully the second half of the season.
Is this a great amount of job security for you because even if one of you gets killed, you’ve still got another one?
A. Torv Yes, I think. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
What has surprised you about other Olivia on our side or our Olivia on their side?
A. Torv I don’t even know where to start with answering that. I think everything. I didn’t know what they were going to do when they first opened up the prospect to this parallel universe. I really didn’t know. As I said, I’m looking forward to playing them as they are in their own world. I think that’ll give me a little bit more of an understanding. I didn’t answer that very articulately, did I? I guess, everything surprised me. Everything.
Well, certainly the aspect of playing a relationship with Peter in character, that must be something surprising.
A. Torv Right. I think that’s so fun, on the whole Olivia/Peter thing. I mean, I said that before. Of course, you want them to be together. It’s set up that way, but what do you do when all of a sudden your two guys end up together? It then just becomes— What? Romantic drama or comedy. The fact that they’ve been able to kind of give a little bit of that and yet, it’s one step forward and ten steps back. I think it’s brilliant. Obviously, this is an assignment for Ultimate Olivia, but Peter’s a charmer. I don’t know what she’s going to think after they’ve been together for a bit.
Could you tell us what you were working on today that was so frantic and hectic?
A. Torv We’re at a train station. We’ve got a hostage situation today. So, we’ve got police cars. That’s the terrible thing, there’s always flashing lights, ambulances, and police cars. I was driving home from work the other day and there’s flashing lights and ambulances and police cars and I’m like, “Oh, well, I’ll keep going.” It wasn’t until I got two blocks down that I went, “Oh, my gosh! That was an enormous accident that I just totally didn’t think was real.” That’s not funny; that’s terrible.
Does playing different versions of the same person put you in a philosophical mindset, which is to say, do you find yourself musing about how fragile your reality as Anna could be with just a different opportunity or a different choice in life? Or are you just doing your work?
A. Torv Yes, but more so. It’s not so much the differences. It’s more actually, externally, the fact that people don’t see it. That comes into, “Well, who am I?” That’s what, in my own world, I find a little bit scary. Like, “Well, who am I?” I don’t believe that I’m just this physical person who maybe walks in a particular way or who speaks in a different way, all those little bits and pieces that’s on the outside. What’s on the inside, and do people recognize that, or do they just see what’s on the outside? That’s the bit that I’ve been thinking about.
Yes. For me to flip-flop to the completely other side, then, is it barely possible that people on the set or around the studio or when you’re out on location, do they treat you different as a redhead? Do you actually, physically—are you aware of them treating you different because you have different-colored hair?
A. Torv Yes, they do. I think my attitude’s different when I’m in the different places. I don’t walk around in character. I try not to walk around with the accent, but those little things—they change you … your hair or even just little clothes or a different shoe, a different silhouette. You’re kind of like … or not, people absolutely look at you differently.
Given that you’re on location today, do you ever have to be careful where you walk and what you do when the scene stops, and you’re on location, and you’re carrying a gun and a badge? Do you have to watch that you don’t go in the wrong place, that somebody might mistake you for a real life counterpart of what you are?
A. Torv Well, I have accidentally— I’ll end up buying myself a cup of coffee. Then, the props guy behind me going, “Anna, you cannot walk off set with this gun and your badge.” So, they’re pretty good about that. I’d like to walk around with that for a bit. I wonder what that would be like.
Right. You might have a pretty nice arrest record. Who knows?
A. Torv I know. Well then, wouldn’t I get into trouble because you’re not supposed to do that?
Well, we’ll figure that out if it happens.
How emotionally invested do you get in the two Olivia’s, given how the alternate world affects her relationship in the other world?
A. Torv Affects all the Olivia’s?
A. Torv How emotionally does the character get involved?
Well, how emotionally invested do you get into both Olivia’s, given the—?
A. Torv Oh, right.
Yes. One affects the other.
A. Torv Extremely. Extremely because—I said that earlier with that earlier question. It feels very different, even the shooting, the dynamic even on set because you’ve got a completely bunch of different people and different kind of—even the crime scenes are handled differently. It feels very different. There’s pro’s and con’s to both sides. I love parts of both sides, but I feel— Because we’ve been flipping a bit early on. So, yes, you rock up to start the episode in the alternate universe. It’s like, “Hey, how you doing?” to beautiful Kirk and Seth … actors. You love it. Then, the episode ends. You’re like, “Aww.” Then, you come back. You’re like, “Oh, that’s right. We’re back in the ….” We’ve got Walter and Peter. So, I can’t choose between yet.
Now, when you first signed on to the series, did you have any idea of how deep Fringe would go in terms of some of the options with the alternate universe?
A. Torv No, I really didn’t. I didn’t really know what to expect. It has exceeded my expectations and has done for a long time. I really didn’t know. I also didn’t think, “Oh, it’s sci-fi.” I don’t really know what I expected, but I’ve been thrilled.
Was there any particular episode or scene that came off more challenging to you than usual in either character or mindset?
A. Torv There’s been a few, but more often than not, it’s the scenes that you wouldn’t expect to be challenging. It’s the ones where they’re doing the same thing. It’s like them … up dual crime scenes, like how does Olivia handle it versus how does Bolivia handle it, or they’re sitting around and gathering information. They’re the bits that I go, “Oh, what are they both thinking? What’s the difference in their thoughts?” Not so much the bigger stuff, which is a little bit more padded, I guess.
Overall, what is it about Fringe that you like?
A. Torv I like that it’s just so broad. It doesn’t fit in any particular genre. I think it’s scary. I think it’s kind of mystical. I think there’s sometimes we’ve had episodes that I think are really quite magic. I think there are parts of it that are really heightened. There’s parts of it that are really kind of down and dirty. It’s got humor and a little bit of romance. The fact that it’s so broad in its spectrum and in its stories and that it’s unafraid to go, “Let’s just take this leap, shall we?” We all go, “Yes! Let’s!”
Are there any particular topics that have fascinated you that you guys have covered?
A. Torv Really early on—I think even the second episode or something—there was a case where Walter was talking about his research with William Bell where they were working at developing soldiers, seeing how quickly they could grow these—genetically engineer these soldiers. There’s been other ones since then, too, but any of that kind of like that real ethical fine line, it always gets me interested because I’m interested in that ethical and moral divide between humanity and science and how far can you take things for the greater good, and what is the greater good and what isn’t. Those bits always pique my interest.
I know that you did a lot of Shakespeare earlier in your career. You toured with the … Shakespeare Company and I think you toured as Ophelia at one point, early on. How does doing Shakespeare prepare you for a story like this where there’s a lot of doubling and mistaken identities and deceptions and people … each other and all that sort of thing?
A. Torv I don’t know. I always think of— I don’t know. I think I guess maybe in the sense that when you’re doing— I don’t know. I guess it’s all about kind of like big themes. All , Shakespeare stuff is all just big themes, like the most amazing, love your life, or the most scary war, all of this. Fringe is like— I mean, I am constantly, essentially, saving the world. So, I think you just have to buy it or you just have to go, “I really am.” When you say those lines, “The shape-shifters are going to destroy our universe,” you have to say it with a straight face. That’s so interesting you say that because I’ve thought for a long time the similarities between our beautiful, beautiful Walter and Shakespeare’s fool is probably—
Shakespeare’s fool, you said?
A. Torv Yes, Shakespeare’s fool.
A. Torv No. I don’t think so. I think the fools. That is what Walter kind of is. I think that the fools in Shakespeare’s plays are always wisest and yet always making a joke of it. Yet, you get them down, they’re often the saddest. Yes, absolutely the fools, particularly Lear’s fool.
The other thing is—especially last year, there was a lot of stuff about how Olivia was so repressed and how she’s not in touch with her emotions. Sorry, did you hear that?
A. Torv Yes, I did.
A lot of stuff last year about how Olivia was very repressed, and she’s not in touch with her emotions. Now that you’re getting to play her, both versions of Olivia, much more emotional and open, is that a welcome change?
A. Torv Absolutely, but I didn’t mind her being that repressed. I actually think that there was something—this sounds so counter-intuitive, but there’s something actually liberating in that. So often, you’ve got the guys that are the quiet, silent types that do all the tough stuff. Then, you’ve got the girls that are all emoting and chatting and talking about their feelings, working out their relationships. I think that that’s kind of one of the … things that Fringe has always ….
You’ve got the woman who doesn’t talk all that much, who’s extremely repressed, who just goes and does the job, doesn’t have much of a life at home. Then, you’ve got the two guys who sit around in the lab, which essentially is the kitchen cooking cookies and trying to work out where they stand with each other. I actually have always found that side of it interesting. Why can’t a woman be a little cooler in her emotions and a little quieter and a little repressed without it being a huge thing? So, I’ve actually always quite enjoyed that, to tell you the truth. Obviously, getting out of this pea soup has been a little bit of fun.
I’m just wondering, do you think that Altivia has any qualities that Olivia might wish she had?
A. Torv Yes. They both do, in fact. Yes. Olivia would— Well, I don’t know since Olivia is … to me, but Olivia has … qualities. I’m trying to think specifically. I think that Olivia’s main struggle is fundamentally the fact that she feels so responsible for everything and for everyone. I think that she would like to be able to leave her work at work and go home and put the weight of the world on somebody else’s shoulders for a minute and not feel like if she doesn’t do it, nobody will. That’s the biggest thing. That’s probably Olivia’s …, but then, I don’t know if people change. I don’t know if you’re capable of changing such a fundamental, core belief, but I think that’s what she would like. I think that would enable her to breathe deeply and see the world in a bit … fashion.
I really love all the differences we’re seeing in the alternate universe, like “Dogs” on Broadway instead of “Cats.” I’m just wondering if you have a particular favorite of those little Easter egg things.
A. Torv That’s one’s my favorite. That was my favorite because I didn’t notice it the first day. No one said anything. Then, I went in and then I looked. That really cracked me up. I think that was my favorite.