So have you all seen the latest Fringe episode ‘Peter’? Awesome, right? In this second part of the conference call from last week, John Noble answers questions about this episode and what’s in store for the future.

Beware Spoilers: there are spoilers in here for last week’s US episode ‘Peter’, and some stuff about the next couple of episodes (although most seemed pretty obvious to me especially after watching the ‘Peter’ episode).

Q: Obviously they keep you in the loop somewhat, but was there anything in the script that truly surprised you, any elements of the story?

A: The ultimate reveal, I think, and which is so critical to this episode of ‘Peter’, that Walter really did intend to take the child back, that he only went over because Walternate had missed the cure. That was a surprise, and a wonderful surprise to me because I hadn’t realized that he had only gone across there because he had to, because otherwise the boy would die. That was a major reveal to me, and I think it adds a whole new light to the relationship between Peter and Elizabeth and Walter going forward.

Q: And to follow up, I am just curious, is there any particular time-table in place for when Peter himself will find out the whole story?

A: Oh, certainly. We have this fabulous eight [episodes] coming out and during the course of that, there will be a build-over of several of those episodes to Peter finding out. Then, in fact, he does in turn find out, and that really dictates what happens in the last few episodes.

Q: How does this ‘Peter’ episode lead us up to any surprises that might be coming in the season finale?

A: Well, as I said, it lets us know what has happened, why Peter is where he is, and it also tells us specifically how Walter went to get him. So we see how he crossed over into the other universe. And so then, but of course once that has happened, we already know from the episode before that Olivia knows that he is from somewhere else. So there is this build-up towards Peter finding out, which is strangulating. I mean, the tension is enormous because Peter doesn’t know, Olivia does know, and she is pushing Walter to tell him. But then finally, he finds out and we tumble, we literally tumble into these extraordinary last two or three episodes, particularly the finale, which is the great promise confrontation that we have been promising for two years.

But a while before that is exceptional in the sense that it is like a mind-trip of Walter’s, and that is when we go into this musical episode that has been talked about. It is Walter trying to grapple with the fact that his son is gone, he doesn’t know where he is at that point. So we have this mind-trip of Walter’s which is an amazing episode, to be honest with you, all sorts of things, we have Peter away from them trying to cope by himself. All the things that people have been asking for, I think we are delivering in this final eight.

Q: It sure sounds like it, and since you guys have a third season coming, do you have any idea what is in store for that?

A: You know, I did ask the show runner. I said, “Have you got a bible ready for next year?” And he just pointed to his head and said “It is all in here, John, it is all in here.” I do know that there will be substantial time spent on the other universe, and when you get to the finale you will see why we have to do that. So, we will have this whole other universe playing in with this, at least for the first third of the season. That is all I can tell you at this stage.

Q: I’ve got to ask you a little bit about your theater background. The musical episode, did you do a lot of musicals when you were in theater?

A: I did some in the early days. I certainly did some music theater, and I even dropped into a couple of operas in small-acting roles. Yes, not the highlight of it. It was very interesting. It was good fun to do.

Q: So in the musical episode do your other co-stars sing too, and are they singers actually?

A: I suggest that probably they are much better singers than me. Lance Reddick is a superb singer and musician. We realize now that Anna Torv has got a beautiful voice, and that is just the starting point, you know. Jasika Nicole is also from a musical background. So, it was quite a reveal to us how much talent there was within the company. As I said, I was certainly not the A-lister in that group of people.

Q: In the Peter episode, there was kind of a hint that Nina and Walter are sharing some kind of bond, possibly about Peter. Are we going to be exploring that bond a little bit more in the last eight episodes of the season?

A: That will remain unexplored. It’s been around the place for a long time. In fact, as long as we’ve been running, it’s been hinted at. It’s one of the strings we’re not going to answer in this particular sequence. It will be talked about again in this sequence coming up, but we won’t be revealing how it came about until next season.

Q: Have they told you anything about that? Are you in the dark as well?

A: I am in the dark as well. I do know that they have worked out what it is, but they didn’t tell us yet.

Q: The revelations about Peter being from the other side will obviously affect the relationships between everyone on the show. Can you tell us a little bit more about how it will affect the potential relationship between Peter and Olivia and how does it affect the relationship between Peter and Walter?

A: Well, look, obviously – I can remember the first time that I was telling my own son about the show and I said, you know, Walter takes a son from the other side, and my son looked at me and said, “Dad, there’s going to be one very angry father on the other side.” I mean, it was so obvious to him that we were creating a hornet’s nest, and that indeed, the son himself when he finds out, if he finds out, is going to be extremely wounded by this and outraged. When Peter finds out, he is extremely wounded and outraged and bewildered and humiliated and all of the things – having just finally found some trust in his life, and given a little bit of himself to these two people, he finds out that he has been duped yet again.

So Joshua Jackson plays this beautifully, actually, and we see him as this lost man really, who has lost this new family of his and is just in the wilderness really. We do see that for a couple of episodes. And as I say, I think Josh does it really beautifully. What’s going to happen, and it won’t happen this year necessarily, there will be a hint of it in the finale, is that a relationship will be rekindled between Peter and Walter. It will be different. But I think there’s sufficient richness and sufficient texture in what they have already to get them past this hurdle, that’s my belief, and similarly with Olivia. The relationship that’s been created over the, you know, the two seasons really, is stronger than – it will survive this breach of trust. It will. And I think there’s a fantastic relationship between Peter and Olivia. It’s not a love relationship in terms of a sexual romantic one; it’s far deeper than that. And I think the three of them are locked together in some sort of an interdependency and that will survive this terrific challenge.

Q: How much work went into creating the 1985 version of you? I mean, not just in terms of creating a younger physical appearance, but also in terms of making a character that has a very different set of life experiences.

A: Quite a lot, but in the sense in my preparation to find the Walter that we all know now, I had to go back to him right at the beginning to see where he came from. So that process was started before the pilot really, what was this man like before he deteriorated, so I was able to revisit that. Physically, of course, what I had to do was capture the energy, to capture the physicality of the man, the vocal physicality of the man, this was my task. I was aided enormously by my hair and makeup and special effects people here in terms of getting the overall, and indeed wardrobe helped a lot as well. And then we, the shot up through these beautiful lenses that we got a different feel to the episode than we would now. All of those elements work together, David, to create this version that you see in the episode.

Q: I don’t know whether you watched the finished episode yet, but the episode does have also a 1985-style opening music and title sequence, and it listed on screen things that would be Fringe science in ’85, you know, like personal computing and cloning, and DNA, profiling, genetic engineering, and laser surgery, and whatnot. My question is, don’t you find it remarkable that what was science-fiction one day can become science fact in the blink of an eye, that we live in a time of such huge leaps and scientific advances.

A: Well, sure, but I grew up as a child reading Jules Verne and it all seemed to be some mysterious other-worldly thing, and basically everything that he talked about has been revealed. So I think one of the great things about science-fiction is that it, it does in fact predict the way ahead, more often than not. And I love the things that have been discussed in science-fiction. Science fiction comics indeed have turned out to be the truth, 30 or 40, 50 years later, so it is really no surprise to me.

Q: I want to know, what it was like for you to go back to 1985.

A: Oh man. Look, yes, I remember ’85. I can remember exactly what I was doing in ’85. I was still working in the theater. I had just directed a very successful play, which was going to London. That was ’85 for me, but it seems like a lifetime ago. Our children were babies. Oh… I could reminisce. But ’85 was a year – was it the year before Chernobyl? I mean, it was an interesting time. We were in Britain at the time when Chernobyl blew up, you know, and that seems like history. But that was ’85 for us. Going back I didn’t actually find a great challenge. Physically you’re probably in better shape 25 years than you are now. But I was able to work pretty hard on that aspect of it myself.

Mentally, I think as you get older, you lose your arrogance, to be honest with you. I think at 21 you know everything and then little by little you lose it, or you realize you know very little. So I think we have a more compassionate, humane man now than we had 25 years ago, but he was a determined and brilliant man and he believed in himself entirely. He believed that could achieve things. He believed that he could save his son, and that’s the difference from this indecisive man we see now.

Q: So, I think we’ve glimpsed a bit of Walter’s dark side so far, like in the episode where you got that piece of your brain back. It was suddenly like he had that focus again. Is it really fun to play that version of Walter, the kind of more focused, slightly more ruthless version of Walter? Anyway, I guess that’s my question.

A: And it’s a terrific question. Yes, it was wonderful to go back and visit the man before he became this damaged creature that we know now. It was probably in some ways closer to myself than the Walter that we see now, and so in some ways it was quite comfortable to go back to that place. It was an easier ride than doing the Walter that you know and that the audiences know. It was kind of nice to have that to be able to play with that more youthful energy. But bear in mind, as we speak about this, that’s two versions of Walter, but you were also introduced to another briefly who will play a major part coming forward in the series, and that’s Walternate. So you’ve got three quite distinct versions of Walter to look at here. And at present, in fact, as I sit here talking to you, I walked away from the rehearsal room, and I’m playing Walternet this morning, who is quite different from Walter in many ways. So it is fun. It’s a great challenge, but it’s great fun.

Q: I wanted to know, if Olivia didn’t have this ability to see the alternate universes, do you think Walter would have told Peter the truth on his own?

A: Interesting question. I think inevitably the truth would have to have come out, simply because of the escalation of the events in the pattern that something has started which was created, which was caused by the fact that Walter breached the tissue between the fabrics to get young Peter out. So, eventually, he would have had to find out. But it was far more interesting for us to find out through this lead character of ours, this very strange and wondrous Olivia character. It was a much better, dramatic way for him to find out.

I love being able to participate in Fox’s conference calls, and last Friday I got to join an interview with John Noble, who plays Walter Bishop on Fringe. This is a write-up of all the questions that were asked by the various bloggers and news outlets that were part of the call.

I’ve split the interview into three parts. One without spoilers today (unless you consider experiments in past episodes spoilers), and two for tomorrow and Saturday with spoilers about tonight’s episodes and some glimpses into the final eight episodes.


Q: There are really two parts to Walter. First, is the incredibly strange, but forward- thinking scientist. The other is just the really odd, random, forgetful man. Can you talk a little bit about what’s the most fun to play about that character and what is the most challenging?

A: Look, you’ve accurately described Walter, you know, as a man that is capable of incredible laser-like thought processes, and also is childish and haphazard and random. The joy of it really is that I’m free to make those choices, that sometimes Walter will hide behind his childishness. Other times, he will substitute a rage for a childish episode.

He’s an incredibly complex character. However, I think that there is a little of Walter in all of us, and certainly, I have observed in my life the extremes that we see in Walter I’ve observed in other people. The joy for me is that every day, the challenge is to make those choices as to which way I will go. And I work quite closely with the writers on this material as well.

Q: I spoke with Lance Reddick earlier this year and he said that you really enjoy working with all of the crazy, kind of disgusting props that your character gets to work with. So, I’m wondering if there were any that really actually grossed you out, as opposed to just fascinated you?

A: No, no, no, there were none that grossed me out. There were some that – because I basically know that we’re dealing with prosthetics, and some brilliant prosthetics at that, but I know that they are, and that we’re not actually hurting real people, so I sort of –it’s it’s like this incredible toy room to me. And the special effects people keep coming up with more and more gross things for me to play with and I don’t know where their imaginations live, but it’s astonishing, some of the things. And you haven’t seen some of the ones that I believe are the best ones that haven’t gone to air yet, to be honest with you.

So nothing really – there was one where there was a live actor and we had maggots crawling out of his body. That was a bit hard to take, because that was a live actor that did that, so that was a bit gross. I think that’s the one that really freaked out Jasika the most, she said. But no, overall, I find them amusing.


Q: What has been your favorite experiment on Fringe so far?

A: Oh Lord. There’ve been so many good ones. I liked the one where we made the silly one where we had the frog being injected from the table and into a net. That was kind of hilarious to do. I don’t know if you remember that one. We’ve done another one coming up which is how Walter describes how we cross universes and I think that’s coming up in an episode shortly. Again, it was excellent.

There’s one where we built a huge, sort of Lego building of a – I think this has gone to air – of a molecule, and I’m sure that one went to air. That was great fun. You know, what Walter manages to do is to make them look like the sort of thing that any child would want to play with while at the same time explaining scientific theory.

Q: Walter’s got a very distinctive way of talking, like an accent or something and I can’t quite follow. Is this your natural way, or have you added something, like a little bit of a touch of an authoritative science-touch or something?

A: Thanks. When I first approached the character, I was looking for something that was unique, and I guess came up with, and we could have done standard American, but looking for something a bit more Trans-Atlantic, because my experience with academics, they do have a slightly different way of talking, a little bit more [ed: missing word] sometimes. They mix with people from all over the world… So I guess what I settled on was something which could have been like a Boston accent but with English adaptations, and that was the Trans-Atlantic one. That’s what I’ve been trying to get as against the standard American.


Q: Do you have a hard time turning off your character at the end of the day when you’re ready to go home?

A: You know, I don’t, but I quite often get asked that question. But no, I don’t. I can turn him off. I mean, perhaps I’m a little crazy most of the time, some people would say so, but I don’t certainly get depressed with him anyway.

Q: I was just wondering how much of the science that you get to say do you actually know what you’re saying?

A: Look, the rule of thumb is, is it within the realm of theoretical physics or theoretical science that this could happen? That’s the question I would put out there. And if someone can’t justify within the realms of theoretical physics, then I am saying, well, why are we doing it? You know, we don’t need to. There’s such rich material there already theorized by the great minds in science and chemistry and physics. So we try to make it at least possible theoretically, and that includes things like time travel and other universes and so forth, things that are theoretically possible.

Sometimes, you know, we cross the line a little bit, I think. But generally we are pretty – I mean my feeling is, you don’t actually need to make up rubbish, you know. There is so much tantalizing science out there to be done, that you really don’t need to make it up, and the writers seem to agree most of the time.

Come back tomorrow after watching tonight’s episode to hear more of what John Noble has to say.

Again another interview that I’m posting too late; this one is from a conference call with Leonard Nimoy last week before that week’s episode of Fringe, in which he was guest starring. And to make sure it’s clear, no, this wasn’t a one-to-one interview (although I truly wish it was), this is a write-up of the all the questions asked by the bloggers on that conference call.

Q: I was wondering, did you have any reservations on taking another role with the potential of such a fanatic following?

L. Nimoy: [ed: lots and lots of laughing] I love this question. I can’t help but laugh because you’re absolutely right. It’s an interesting set of circumstances. What attracted me to it was several things. J.J. Abrams, Bob Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, who I worked with on the Star Trek movie, I admire their talent and the work that they do.The series is at the very least to say intriguing. The character was somewhat of a blank slate, but we began talking about it and, therefore, attracted because there’s an opportunity to build an interesting and unpredictable character. I’m enjoying it a lot.

Q: When will William Bell and Walter Bishop face off?

L. Nimoy: Unpredictable at the moment. In the episode tomorrow night, the scene in between myself and Olivia, I think we will learn a lot more than we have known in the past about what their relationship is all about and what William Bell’s intentions are, or at least we will be told what his intentions are. We’re not really quite sure that everything that he says is accurate or true.


Q: I wonder, what does William Bell do when he’s over there? Who is he spending time with?

L. Nimoy: William Bell is sort of a “master of the universe,” a brilliant man, very wealthy man, very powerful. We’ll find out a lot more about him in future episodes.

Q: Don’t you find it remarkable how what is science fiction today can become science?

L. Nimoy: It is remarkable. I was thinking as we began this conference call about the technology involved here. It is quite remarkable and so terribly useful. It’s a very convenient way to put out a lot of information, and this is the kind of thing that was only dreamed about 10, 15 years ago. And you’re right, science fiction very often leads the way for the scientists. Scientists watch science fiction, see an idea being presented, and say, “Well, gee, I wonder if that’s really possible.” They go to work at it on the drawing board, and a lot of it comes to fruition.

Q: I’m only trying to be slightly funny, but are you a techie?

L. Nimoy: Am I a techie? Is that what you’re asking?

Q: Yes, instead of Trekkie.

L. Nimoy: Well, I use a computer. [ed: long pause]

Q: Yes? That’s as far as you’ll go?

L. Nimoy: I don’t know if that qualifies me as a techie, but I’m pretty good on the computer.

Q: So lately it seems as if you’re J.J. Abrams’ muse of sorts. Can you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with him?

L. Nimoy: Well, I first met him I guess about three years ago when he first contacted me about the possibility of working together, and I went to a meeting with he and Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman and some of his production staff. They told me a very good and strong and touching story about their feelings about Star Trek and specifically the Spock character.

It gave me a sense of validation after all these years. I had been out of it for some time, as you’re probably aware. There were several Star Trek series in which I was not involved and Star Trek movies in which I was not involved. This was a re-validation of the work that I had done, the work that we had done on the original Star Trek. I felt very good about it and went to work for them.

I had a great time working on the movie. I think they did a brilliant job, and I think the audience response shows that that was the case and has reinvigorated the franchise. And when they contacted me about working on Fringe—the same people, the same attitude, the same creativity, the same creative team—it was very enticing.

Q: Had you seen the show? Had you been a fan of the show prior to that?

L. Nimoy: I watched it periodically. I think it’s extremely well done. It’s very nuanced. It’s complex. It’s a mixture of science and science fiction in a very interesting and intelligent way. And I think it has a long way to go in story-telling. It tells a terribly interesting story, and the character that I was offered was potentially a very intriguing and controversial and fascinating character, very inviting for an actor.

Q: I was wondering how you felt about the current state of science fiction on TV and film.

L. Nimoy: Well, I’m concerned about the positioning of story in terms of importance. When I see a lot of explosions and a lot of chases, I’m not terribly impressed. I think there are three terribly important elements that must be given a priority position in science fiction as well as in any other kind of drama. The first is story, the second is story, and the third is story. Story, story, story, story, story. If the story is compelling and interesting, I think all the rest will find its place.

We have great technology in our industry, and that technology can be overused at the expense of story. And that’s a problem for me, but when the story is in place, I think the special effects can find their proper place. I think Fringe uses the technology brilliantly, but in the service of excellent story-telling.


Q: You had not been acting for awhile, and then you’ve done Star Trek and Fringe pretty recently together. Having stepped away for awhile and then returned, are your feelings about acting what they were, or have they changed, do you find?

L. Nimoy: Well, I’m enjoying it. I’m very comfortable in the two offers that I’ve accepted. The Star Trek movie was a joy to do. I admire the production team that made the film. I admire the new cast. Zachary Quinto I thought was a great choice for the new Spock, and it was a pleasure to work with him and with all the other people on the project.

The Fringe character was intriguing because, as I’ve mentioned, it was kind of a blank slate and we had some very interesting and intense conversations about who and what he could be and how we should perceive him, what we might or might not learn about him, what we might or might not trust about him. These are intriguing opportunities for an actor, and they came at a time when I and from a group of people that I had respect for. They piqued my interest and I went back to work. I did not expect to, frankly, be acting so much at this time in my life. My concentration was on my photography, but I’m having a wonderful time doing it.

Q: I was taking a look back at your career this morning, and it seems that, after your role on Star Trek, your projects weighed heavily towards the sci-fi genre. Were you always a big fan of sci-fi, or was that a—

L. Nimoy: Well, it’s a good thing if you can find your niche as an actor and be able to support a family. Very early on—I’m talking about many, many years ago, probably 1950 or ‘51— I acted in my first science fiction project, and I have acted in science fiction over the years ever since.

The first one was probably not terribly well known. I thought it was going to rocket me to stardom, if you’ll pardon the expression. It didn’t quite work. It was a great project called Zombies of the Stratosphere, and I was the third of a group of zombies that came to earth to take over earth’s orbit. It’s funny, as I think about it now, but it was a way of making a living. And science fiction has seemed to be a fertile ground for the kind of work that I do, the kind of presence that I offer. I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for the niche that science fiction has given me.

Q: So in the season finale last season, it was very, very heavily implied that Peter Bishop came from the alternate universe, which suggested there’s a second Walter Bishop as well. Are we going to see a second William Bell?

L. Nimoy: A second William Bell? Is that what you’re asking?

Q: Yes.

L. Nimoy: Yes. I don’t think I can really answer that question very specifically right now. I think the most important thing is that tomorrow night we will get a sense of what his relationship is with Olivia. It’s very intriguing and very intense moments that take place tomorrow night, and the rest remains to be seen.

I’m waiting to see what these terribly imaginative writers come up with for the future. I’m expecting that I probably will be going back to work for them before too much longer. I’m looking forward to what they send me on the page. But, right now, I think we go a long way tomorrow night in discovering what William Bell is all about.

Q: Have they mentioned anything about their needs for you on an upcoming Star Trek movie?

L. Nimoy: No. My understanding is they’re working on a script right now. I expect there’s going to be some time before they really know exactly who they need and what they need. I frankly, frankly doubt that I will be called upon again.

I think I was useful in his last film to help bridge between the original characters, the original actors, and the new cast. They have a wonderful new cast in place, and I’m sure they’ll move ahead with them. I don’t see, at the moment, why they would need me in the next film, although, if they called me, I’d be happy to have a conversation about it.

Q: Now, your character, William Bell, believes the world has soft spots. I just wanted to know, do you believe in this as well?

L. Nimoy: Well, what the show deals with in this wonderfully intriguing way is a question of an alternate universe, through which one can slip through, from one universe to another. I’ve been involved in stories of this kind before. I did a series called In Search of some years ago in which we dealt with subject matter like this.

I think the question is one that you would, in terms of whether it’s scientifically accurate, you’d have to ask people like Stephen Hawking. I’m not a scientist, and I can’t really tell you whether or not there is a soft spot where you could slip through to another world, but I think the Fringe series deals with that idea in a very intriguing way.

Q: I wanted to find out what sort of acting challenges have you found playing the William Bell character so far, would you say?

L. Nimoy: Well, the first thing was some wonderful and creative conversations that I had with J.J. Abrams and Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers, and with Jeff Pinkner, who’s the show runner, to try to create from scratch a character that’s never been seen before, only been referred to. There are certain things that were given, which is that he’s a power figure and a very wealthy and obviously a terribly intelligent man with a scientific background.

But, in terms of characteristics, we started from scratch, and I think tomorrow night a lot more of those characteristics will be evident. It’s great fun to be building the character from scratch, with certain givens, but so much to be developed in terms of the way he talks, the way he walks, idiosyncracies, his tastes, is he difficult, is he gruff, is he charming, is he a nice guy, what are his real intentions. All of these are great exploration for an actor.

Q: And as a follow-up, I just wanted to ask if you wouldn’t mind talking a little bit about your photography and maybe where your love of photography came from?

L. Nimoy: Well, I became enamored with photography when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I’ve been at it ever since. I studied seriously in the ‘70s. I have a master’s degree in photography as a fine art, and I would call my work primarily conceptual. I don’t carry cameras with me wherever I go. I get an idea of a subject matter I want to deal with and I pull out my cameras.

I have published two books. One was called Shekhina about the feminine aspect of God, and the second was called The Full Body Project, which deals with body image issues in our society.

Q: So you had your scene with Olivia, with Anna Torv. Did you get a chance to meet any other actors, and did you get an opinion of them?

L. Nimoy: No. I have not worked with the others. Only Olivia so far. I’m looking forward to meeting and working with all the others. They’re very talented people, and I admire the work they do. But so far, all my work has been with the Olivia character, and I think she does a wonderful job on the show, by the way. They all do. They’re very good.

Q: What do you think of Anna Torv as an actor and as a person?

L. Nimoy: I think she’s really excellent in the role. We spent a bit of time working together, and I was impressed with the way she works. I’ve seen quite a bit of her work on the screen. I think she handles a very wide range of activities, from very internalized psychological questions to very, very physical stuff, and I think she handles it very well. She’s very competent, very interesting to watch. I think she’s terrific.


Q: I know Mr. Spock’s character could be kind of complex at times, I would think, and I was wondering about your character as William Bell. Is there a particular character flaw or even something good that you would like to have highlighted in future episodes?

L. Nimoy: This is a wonderful question. I’m really looking forward to this character unfolding in a very interesting kind of way. I think you’ll see, tomorrow night, one very strong aspect of him and certain idiosyncracies that are being developed. But I do think there’s a long way to go. I think there’s a lot to be discovered, and I’m looking forward to discovering it with the audience.

It’s really not up to me to write the scripts. I don’t do the writing, but the writers are clever, inventive, creative. They’re very bright people. I’m counting on them to give us some really interesting character touches in the future.

Q: Have you found that there’s anything different in the way television is done these days or what it requires of you as an actor, or is that aspect of work still pretty much the same?

L. Nimoy: Well, I’d say that’s a good question. I think it’s safe to say that what an audience is seeing today on screen in the television episode is far more complex than what we were doing when we were, for example, making the original Star Trek series in the ‘60s. We were very, very heavy on pages and pages of dialogue and very little special effects, but because the technology has advanced so greatly, it’s possible to do some very complex and very exciting and very useful technical stuff on the shows these days, so we don’t have to rely quite so much on the story being told by the actors speaking.

On the other hand, there is a danger, as I mentioned earlier, of going too far with the special effects at the expense of story. But if the story is well done, if the story’s in place strongly, the special effects can be enormously helpful to the actors, far more so than they were years ago when we were making the original Star Trek series.

Q: But are you saying that these days you’re allowed to do a little more nuance in the acting and not have to so much deliver the exposition because that—

L. Nimoy: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Exactly, exactly, exactly. Delivering the exposition is the toughest part of the job, and if it can be done visually and physically, it’s a big help. Exactly.

Q: I was just wondering, looking to the future, do you have any goals in mind, any invisible time line where you wanted to just get out of the spotlight and retire, focus on photography—

L. Nimoy: Well, thank you. I thought I had reached that point some years ago. I think about myself as like an ocean liner that’s been going full speed for a long distance and the captain pulls the throttle back all the way to “stop,” but the ship doesn’t stop immediately, does it? It has its own momentum and it keeps on going, and I’m very flattered that people are still finding me useful.

I try to pick my spots so that I have a balance between the work and my personal life, which I enjoy very much. I don’t know that I would actually any longer say, “No, I’m going to stop ten, twelve, fifteen months or two years from now.” I don’t know. I still feel strong and healthy and active, and as long as there’s interesting work to do, I’ll probably keep on doing it.

Q: Obviously, with Star Trek, you set the gold standard in science fiction. What do you think about the products that have come out in recent years, things like Lost or Battlestar Galactica, or even Fringe for that matter?

L. Nimoy: Well, I’m really impressed. I’m impressed. I think there’s some very, very good work being done, and certainly in terms of production value. It’s head and shoulders above what we were able to do years ago. I keep coming back to my baseline, which is the story. If the story is good and all this new technology can work to the service of the story, I’m excited about some of the work that’s being done. I look and I say, “Wow.” In tomorrow night’s episode, there are things being done that I wouldn’t know how to do.

I directed two of the Star Trek films and I produced one. I don’t know how they’re doing some of these effects that they’re doing now in these TV shows and on TV budgets. I’m terribly impressed. I think it’s a very exciting medium to be working in today, particularly if the script is good, the story’s in place.

Q: What is still on your “to do” list with all the things you’ve done in the world?

L. Nimoy: Well, I’m looking forward to developing the William Bell character further. I hope the writers are interested in working with the character. I am. I don’t know how much further we’ll go with it, but the character, so far, has been very intriguing and the whole Fringe company has been very good to me. I’m delighted to be involved.

I am still actively involved with my photography work. I’m working on a current project, which is called Secret Selves, which is about hidden or fantasy or private personalities that people bring for me to photograph. And there will be an exhibition of that name, Secret Selves, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art opening next summer, a solo exhibition. I’m excited about that.

I’m loving participating in all these conference calls, even though so far I haven’t been able to ask anything myself. I’ve got one arranged tonight again with Leonard Nimoy (!!) about his guest role on Fringe. This interview with Eliza Dushku took place last week, but I’ve only found the time to write it up now.

Q: I’m wondering, how do you feel the direction of this season is different from the last one?

E. Dushku: Well, there’s so much being cracked open and explored, especially with Echo having this new place that she’s in, in terms of what we picked up from last year. She had all of the personalities downloaded into her in one swift punch and they’re not going away. So every pick up this year, she’s still tapping into these personalities. Sometimes it’s not in her control, and other times it is. But overall, she’s really absorbing things from her engagements, and from the dollhouse, and she’s really becoming self-aware, but not necessarily as Caroline, but as Echo, as her own person. So it’s definitely complicated.

It’s a little darker all around. We’ll explore sort of some of the things, the origins of some of the other dolls and the other characters. And then bringing in a bunch of guest stars and fabulous people coming in, so there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening with those things as well.


Q: What trouble will Echo run into in her attempts to save everyone?

E. Dushku: I’m sure every kind and all kinds because it’s a Joss Whedon show. We’re starting episode seven, and there are so many directions and so many layers, and it’s all over the map. Of course, a main story line is Agent Ballard, who spent last season trying to get into the dollhouse, and now that he’s in and Echo’s handler, he’s working with her, and they may possibly be trying to bring the Dollhouse down from the inside out.

Also, we get some back story with Adelle and her superiors, and other Dollhouses around the country and around the world, and just to give you an idea of how big the Rossum Corporation is. Summer Glau will join us and play a programmer from the D.C. dollhouse, and we’ll get an idea of the way the other houses are being run.

Q: How does a Watertown girl become Joss Whedon’s muse?

E. Dushku: That’s such a funny, good question, and I have no idea. I literally remember when I made my audition tape for Buffy. I went to the Arsenal Mall. And I got my outfit at Contempo Casuals in the Arsenal Mall, and bought some safety pins in my jeans. And I remember telling whoever the clerk was that I was making a tape for Buffy, and they were so excited. And then I was actually emancipated by a Boston judge who was also a Buffy fan, so I could go out to LA and shoot Buffy, which obviously dealt with vampires who come out at night, and I was still technically a minor, so I had a great judge that emancipated me so that I could come and do the show. I was already out of high school at that time. I guess I always have gotten by with a little help from my friends, Boston and everywhere.

Q: What do you like about working with Joss and doing his shows?

E. Dushku: I would say, first and foremost, that I just love the guy as a friend. He’s been a friend, a brother, a teacher, a mentor, but the other obviously is just his talent. His skill is so beautiful to me, and he’s just wildly creative and smart and feminist and funny and dark and scary and twisted, and he just combines it all so, you know, in such a sweet little package that I just, he gets me every time.

Q: So far as great as the show is, and as talented as the cast is, and as clever as Joss and his team are, obviously you want people to watch the show, and I’m just wondering, do you think Fox has put you in a position for that to happen, airing you on a Friday night after a comedy?

E. Dushku: Well, I think they realized last year that people who want to find the show did, and obviously there’s been a lot of talk about DVR and Tivo and how we really are alive for a second season because of that in a major way. And so I can see how they would say the people that found – people found the show last year, and so we’re just going to leave it where it is, and hope that that continues.

Ratings are obviously important, but, having a professor for a mother, she always taught us about qualitative versus quantitative research, and I know that we’re making a quality show and that we have quality fans and people that come to experience something different and out of the ordinary. There are so many shows on TV that are instant hits, and we’re not that, but we have a core following, and I think that people that check the show out and aren’t intimidated by it, find themselves being sucked in pretty easily.

I mean, it’s sharp, intelligent, fun. It’s sort of sometimes off-the-wall TV, and I know that when I’m spending an hour of my life sitting down to watch the boob-tube, I love getting a rich experience out of it, and I’ve always found that with Joss in particular and, in particular, his shows. So we just do our thing, and given the second season, we’re grateful to the fans, and we’re grateful to Fox for giving us another chance, and we’re making the most of it. We keep doing what we were doing, yes.


Q: Now you and Summer shot the promo last year. Your two shows then kind of were fighting for the last spot in the lineup, and now she’s obviously a part of your show. What’s the dynamic like between you and her?

E. Dushku: She’s great. I love her. We’ve had such a good time the last two episodes. She has come in with her A game, and she’s just a sweet, positive, fun actress. You know, she’s great to play off of. Our characters have some back story that we have to fight out, and so that’s a lot of fun, and I also – anyone that sort of is from Joss’ past, and he’s bringing back, I assume he had a great working relationship with them. He wouldn’t bring any bad eggs into our house, so I always can pretty much safely know that we’re going to have the cream of the crop coming back and coming in.

Q: You mentioned just a little bit ago that Echo was kind of all over the place as a character and, as an actor, how do you approach that?

E. Dushku: Yes, she’s a schizophrenic.

Q: But as an actor, how do you find that through line that you can kind of grab onto when you’re playing the different parts that she plays?

E. Dushku: Well, again, it’s almost, it’s more, it’s easier this year because we don’t have as much of that sort of dumb down doll Echo because with sort of the – first of all, the personalities and now this core Echo being a sum of all these parts, including Caroline, but not really any of them, she’s Echo.

She’s actually – there’s something grounded in that, and there’s a strength in the personality that she’s forming through that. And she’s sort of picking and pulling information from all of the different people that she’s been, and as a result, she’s sort of coming to understand and form her own ethics and morals.

But she’s absorbing, and she’s thinking, and she’s processing, and so whereas last year it was from dumb down doll to this singular imprint, and it was always different. This year, there’s – you never know, but you always know at the same time that there’s something going on inside Echo that’s not just what you’re seeing on the surface. So it’s sort of a little more grounding in that way, and fun for me to play.

Q: You guys had such a strong fan base, it seemed, before the show even premiered. Do you guys pay attention to the blog sites and what the fans are saying when you’re coming up with like how to shape the episodes and the series?

E. Dushku: I know that Joss and we’ve always paid attention to the fan love, and we love the fans right back, absolutely. I don’t know how much he takes tips from storylines from the fans. I mean, on the contrary, from what I’ve seen, when he sees someone falling in love with a character, he’s known to assassinate them or do something terrible. So I think, maybe that is a blessing in itself, so maybe yes. But he definitely has a mind of his own. Within the group of writers, they aren’t really conformists, I can confidently say. So whether it’s fans or critics or studios for that matter, they do their best work when they’re sort of left alone and they reveal things as when they feel they should be revealed, and that goes for me and the other actors as well.

Sometimes it’s really exciting for me I don’t want to know necessarily what’s going to happen in three episodes because it may affect the way I’m playing Echo today, and I’m always – that thrill, that adrenaline from reading the next chapter and the next layer that Joss, you know, brings in is one of the most exhilarating things that I know as an actress.


Q: I was wondering, is there a particular role or character in an upcoming episode that you’re going to play that was kind of hard for you to get into, and if so, why?

E. Dushku: Let me think. Well, I’ll tell you, playing a mother was certainly something I hadn’t expected, and that, you know, I’m an auntie, and I’ve always loved other people’s children and babies, but playing a mother and trying to tap into that maternal instinct was a challenge, but also a thrill, and a beautiful thing, so you’ll have to let me know how you think I did after this week’s episode.

Q: Was there anything funny or unusual that happened on the set, like behind the scenes while filming that you could tell me about with the Instinct episode or any episode?

E. Dushku: Yes, trying to breastfeed someone else’s baby is difficult. I’ll just leave it at that. When you’re not an actual mother, and trying to breastfeed a baby is harder than it looks.

Q: This season, because Echo is a little bit more self-aware, but is sort of got fragments going on through her, is that easier or harder to play when she thought she was entirely one person?

E. Dushku: Well, that’s sort of touching on that with the few questions ago. There’s something a little more grounded about it. I mean, when the pieces start to fall apart, and when she starts to be taken over by a memory, that she can’t control, I think it’s difficult. But at the same time, there’s that processing going, and there’s that authentic self that’s holding on and that’s sort of keeping her from completely losing it and from completely being controlled by the personalities. She’s starting to gain control of the personalities, and there’s something grounding about that and something really strong about that. And so for me, I find it a little – I don’t know if it’s easier. It’s more complex, so I enjoy it more, I guess, because there’s more going on besides just blank slate doll and engagement Echo. There’s Echo, who is a sum of all the parts.

Q: And when you get a script going she’s, now she’s flashing on this, I mean, do you sit down with the script and break it down as to how aware Echo is, or do you just sort of do the scene and see what feels right in how to play it?

E. Dushku: No, we’re absolutely breaking it down more this year because those realized moments are so much stronger. I mean, I definitely would not say it’s been easier. It’s been, it’s actually been deeper work for me, but again, it’s deeper work for me is sort of more interesting and more challenging to play. I have to say it’s been a blessing this year to also be shooting on HD because we have more time, and so I get to spend a lot more time with the material and with these characters and with these glitches, and so that I feel like that’s paying off for me a lot this year. And I feel like my performance has gotten stronger and even more, you know, more honest.

And even in that first episode with Jamie Bamber when we had the scene in the office where it goes from him catching me, and then bashing my head off the table, and then me sort of in the backspin, in that tailspin. I sort of famously now burst into tears in the middle of that scene because it was just so emotional, and I now feel this real connection that is sort of came from the inception of the show.

And Joss and I are making this character a little bit based on me where it’s this struggle, this battle of like who am I, and even with all the pressures of society and things pouring in on me, where does that break, and where is my authentic self, and how it feels to stand in that and to live in that? So it’s very personal and very exciting and terrifying and gratifying.


Q: So you talked before about how this show reflects your experiences as a woman and trying to be all the people that people want you to be. Do you feel like Dollhouse is really about the experience of being an actor in particular, like in LA, like people expecting you to kind of fulfill their fantasies and the dark side of that? Is this something you’re putting into it, when you’re playing Echo?

E. Dushku: Yes, I think there’s absolutely a layer or a few layers of that. When Joss and I had our infamous lunch, that was one of the threads and one of the themes, but I think it also translates to young women all over world. I remember my mother; I was the only girl in a family with three boys, and my mother did extensive reading about – I remember her reading this book called Reviving Ophelia, about adolescent girls and sort of breaking the way young women are broken down, and at the early age in their teens where they’re starting to get hit from all sides by media and just images and the way the men in their lives, their fathers and their peers and everything starts to change. And it’s like, the spirit of young women is so fragile and can be so toyed with and broken.

And my mother was always really aware of that and really tried to fight against that, and to teach me to sort of stand in my authentic self and be comfortable in my skin, and with all of that research that she did and applying it, it still haunted me, and it still, you know, at various times in my life has almost wounded me or come close to breaking me.

And so when I sat talking about that stuff to Joss, he just, you know, as a man, it’s so extraordinary that he taps into that in such a profound and intelligent way, and I can’t think of anyone else that gets that or that gets that and can create an entire fantasy show that encompasses such a universal and serious thing in our society. So it’s absolutely parallel to me, and I also feel like to women all over the world.

Q: I wanted to know how much closer Echo will get to rediscovering her true self this season?

E. Dushku: Every single episode, it’s been a little bit more. We’re on 7 now, and we have 13, and this next episode is very – this episode 7 that we’re doing, we’ve been building; we’ve been building. And we have a real kind of, a really extreme. I’m scared to say too much because the way, the feeling I get when I read these scripts and I get the sort of surprise of what’s next, I would never want to ruin for the viewers. But she really is becoming an entirely different character in many ways because she is getting sort of farther away from Caroline, even though Caroline is still the initial, her original self. So Caroline is in there, but I think she starts to realize there are things about Caroline that she’s discovering are not – are unsavory or that are not Echo.

The development of the character of Echo now has just been so exciting and so fascinating because when the way our writers and the way Joss can pick pieces from each of her experiences and weave them into this new character is just fascinating. So you’ll absolutely see a whole new Echo this season.

Q: I noticed in episode three, you’re imprinted with the personality of a college student. Now does that trigger any memories of Caroline’s?

E. Dushku: It does. You’ll have to watch the show. Definitely I start out as a college girl, but when an imprint goes sort of haywire, I spend more of the episode – I think it’s more serial killer than sorority girl. Also, I don’t think Echo, I don’t think Caroline was a sorority girl. She’s a college kid, but far from who Caroline was.

Q: Now I’m sure obviously Dollhouse has been keeping you busy, and yet you still find time to kind of squeeze in some features on hiatus and, I don’t know, weekends and everything. First of all, when was the last time you actually slept a night?

E. Dushku: I slept this weekend, and it felt so good because the weekend before, I went to Italy for a day to see the Robert Mapplethorpe Exhibit at the Michelangelo Museum. So we left on – I worked Friday night, slept a few hours, flew Saturday morning, you know, and everyone is like, oh, it must be easy when you’re flying first class. I did not fly first class. We bought cheap tickets for under $1,000. We flew economy to Rome, took a train to Florence, and went to see this exhibit for some research for Mapplethorpe, and it was definitely an exhausting weekend, and then I came right back to work, and we shot all day, but I signed up for it, and I just love it. It’s my drug, you know, and it’s just – I sleep when I find time. You know people say, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I have too much to live for right now.

Q: Now they just released a film that you did called Open Graves, that kind of flew in under the radar. Can you kind of tell us a little bit about it?

E. Dushku: It did. I shot Open Graves about 2.5 years ago, and we shot the movie in Spain, and such as this business. There are some times movies don’t come together at the pace or with the expectation that was initially intended, so I actually haven’t even seen the movie. It premiered on Sci-Fi the weekend I was in Italy, but I have yet to even watch it on my Tivo, and it was a cool experience. I was interested in working with the director who had worked very closely with Pedro Almodovar, and I thought the script sort of had some interesting and different sci-fi horror twists to it. And I enjoy working in that genre, but it never quite gelled into the movie that sort of I had anticipated, but you know, it happens. You keep going. You don’t quit. I certainly won’t quit horror and that genre forever.


Q: How much of a factor does Epitaph One play into season two because it wasn’t originally broadcast, but it was part of the DVD set, and Joss Whedon was talking about that he’d like to revisit that future. Could you tell me a little bit about that, please?

E. Dushku: Yes, Epitaph One was so well done. I was so impressed. It brought me to tears. Truly when Joss sort of told me about it, I wondered how the hell he was going to do it, how he was going to pull it off, but I was just so impressed and so proud of him and everyone involved, and I thought it was such a beautiful episode. I think it’s a shame that it didn’t air here. But the reason that we came back was that they didn’t want to end the story, and it didn’t end the story. Getting picked up for a second season, I feel like the network probably wanted to just pick up where we left off.

And I know that Joss had originally in the first episode this season planned on weaving some of that into episode one, but there was so much to cover in the first episode. You know, we had Amy Acker, who we’re not going to be able to have with us for the entire season, so we had Amy’s storyline, and we had to have a sort of big, fierce engagement, and there was just a lot to do, and it was a little bit too much. So we took it out of that, but I do know that Joss wants to slice in some stuff in the future episodes, and I love Felicia Day. I loved the way the future looked, as dark and terrifying it was. It was just so raw and so fascinating to me that I hope we see more of it.

Q: Another thing that Joss Whedon brought up was that this season, Echo is going to be kind of looking for allies and to form some kind of a team or a family based on all the memories that have been imprinted and how she, as you noted, as you said before, is changing this season. I was just wondering if you could give me any details in terms of specific characters or what Echo is looking for in a sense of sharing what she’s learned and also sharing a similar experience with other people.

E. Dushku: Absolutely. She is looking for allies because, as she is becoming aware of her surroundings and what’s going on and all of these personalities that are creeping up and out of her, she’s also, of course, always in an entirely vulnerable place because if anyone, if the wrong person catches on to what she’s experiencing and what she’s remembering, she could very well be sent up to the attic and cancel Christmas. She could be done forever. So she’s being very careful with the tools and the knowledge that she has gained to sort of sniff out who she can trust, who she can manipulate, who she can use.

Agent Ballard was trying all last season to get in, and now he’s in, and he’s her handler, and I think it remains to be seen if he can be trusted. But in the beginning of the season here, and actually the first episode, it seems like there’s a pretty strong connection there. Then with the introduction of the other Dollhouse and some of the other players, it’s just makes more of a maze for Echo to navigate and to find her way through, realizing that one wrong, one bad step and she’s done.

Sorry, for the delay in posting this. I’ve been so busy the last couple of days, I just haven’t found the time to sit down and write some blog posts. To those of you asking about the House conference call, it got cancelled last Friday and there aren’t any new plans yet whether to do it sometime this week. Thanks everybody though that left a comment with a question behind!


And now to the interview (beware there are some things in here that might be considered spoilers; it’s stuff like casting details, who’s going to play what and appear when):

Q: For Dollhouse, how will Echo, and of course the many other characters she is flashing to, come in to her own this season?

J. Whedon: Basically, through force of will. She did have all those personalities dumped into her at once and as we pick up, we’re going to find out that that’s starting to affect her. Rather than be at sea in between engagements, she’s much more directed and driven, and even in her doll state is growing, and learning and starting to try to access these personalities to see what they can help her with, because she has a mission that she understands now, which is to get back to her personality and get everybody back to theirs.

Q: I just want to know how many seasons do you see Dollhouse going for?

J. Whedon: Dollhouse, the premise is limited and I think by season 17, you’re really going to see us repeating ourselves.

Q: Last season you began with a number of restating pilot episodes where you wanted to make sure that you could bring in new viewers. This season doesn’t begin with that sort of episode. Could you talk about how you approached the idea of new viewers following the show?

J. Whedon: Well, you know, we always try to make, especially in the first episode of the season, but generally we try and make the premise clear enough so that if you haven’t been watching it, you don’t have to do a huge amount of math. There’s a lot of exposition in the first pilot, in the first episode of the season, to help that. But at the end of the day, you do have to go, “Well, if they don’t get the premise,” and we’ve even rejiggered the opening credits to make it clearer, than they’ll either become involved in these peoples’ stories or they won’t. You have to move slow enough so people can grab a hold and jump on with you, but you have to keep moving.

Q: Do you have a pitch to new viewers on how to reintegrate themselves or is the answer as simple as watch the DVD?

J. Whedon: No, I think the answer would be more like buy the DVD, and buy some for your friends. Then have discussion groups where you buy more. Too much integrity in that response?

Q: Can you tell us what Ray Wise is going to be playing in and when we might see him first?

J. Whedon: Ray Wise, I believe, will be appearing in episode six and he’s going to be playing the head of another house, so he’s going to interact with young Olivia and it should be very exciting.


Q: How are arced is the show going to be this season?

J. Whedon: The show is going to be pretty arcy. Clearly what people responded to was the workings of the Dollhouse and the progression of the characters in it and we’re going to honor that. At the same time, I’m very much of the mind that you do need to resolve something in an episode. You can’t just create a series of twists and turns. You need an episode to have a sense of completion, so there will still be engagements or at least problems that need to be dealt with, but they will feed into the main arc as well.

Q: Obviously you can’t give too much away, but is anything of the ‘Epitaph One’ episode going to factor in to Dollhouse now at all, or are you just totally throwing it out?

J. Whedon: No, no, we’re absolutely not throwing it out. It had originally been my intention to start in that era and then come back, but I just had too much information in my first episode. What we’re talking about doing is perhaps revisiting that timeline towards the end of the 13 in a similar fashion, but we’re also looking at the show through the lens of that episode and saying, “Well, this is taking us to a more global concept of how this power is used and abused.” That’s a lot of what informs the season. You don’t have to have seen it to understand that, but it helps if you do. I think it adds a layer.

Q: Right, that was a mind-blowing thing to watch.

J. Whedon: It was fun.

Q: Every television show should have an episode like that.

J. Whedon: I think so. I want to know what post-apocalyptic future was caused by Two-and-a-Half Men.

Q: There were a lot of people who were worried that you might be cancelled after your first season. What do you think it was that convinced FOX to sign you on for another round and hopefully longer?

J. Whedon: I think it’s the nature of the business and the nature of the fan base. The nature of the fan base is they’re in it for the long haul, and they’re nurturing, and they’re intense about it and they will see it through. They will stick with it and that means years after it’s cancelled. Firefly still sells, Buffy still sells, and that’s also a business thing for the studio. They’re in it for the long haul because they know the long haul is how my work pays off. I don’t make hit shows. I make shows that stick around that people come to long after they would have stopped generating revenue in the old system.

With the advent of DVD and the eventual monetization of Online, there’s a market there that exists beyond your Nielsen numbers, and the fans showing up and DVRing, and buying a DVD, and proving on all my other projects that they don’t do these things lightly, that it runs deep in them, means that the base doesn’t have to be as broad for the studio to think it’s worth it to try and eke out another season.


Q: I have read a couple of interviews with Eliza Dushku in which she talks about how she had a hand in developing her character. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of the ways in which she helped shape who Echo has become and will become.

J. Whedon: Well, she really wants to dance burlesque. We keep forgetting to put that in. Eliza has specific things she’s interested in, specific things she feels comfortable with. Sometimes I like to go to that place because I know that she can knock it out of the park and sometimes I like to go in the opposite direction to take her out of her comfort zone because that’s the best thing you can do with an actor.

The fact is she shapes it because she is very specific as a person. She’s very specific in the way she presents and even though there are many different aspects to that, the people don’t usually get to see how funny she can be, how elegant. She doesn’t always have to play the tough girl, but she really just presents. It was a conversation about all of the different things she was supposed to be, or had been, or was trying to be, or trying to get away from that led to the creation of the show. It made me think, “Wait a minute. That’s what the show should be about.” So it wasn’t so much that she said, “I’d like to be the following things,” although we talked about what the characters are, it’s just that she is so many people that we pluck from them. She did go bow hunting. I understand, however, that she herself was not hunted.

Q: Do you think there will be another one-off episode that will be exclusive to the season to you, DVD of Dollhouse?

J. Whedon: I don’t think we’ll have a DVD exclusive, because I don’t think anybody’s going to pony up the dough for it. But I do think we will be revisiting the world of Epitaph One.

Q: You guys haven’t even probably thought as far enough for the DVD, but what kinds of things can we expect as far as visiting the Epitaph One world?

J. Whedon: We’re so fascinated by that world and really in love with the actors in it, and we also want to answer some of the questions we asked about. Well where is everybody, come the future? Who’s doing fine and who didn’t make it? So we keep trying to go back to the future and then realizing well no, it’s not time yet. It’s really going to be towards the end of the season that we’ll be able to do that.

Q: I’d like to know a little bit more about the relationships that are coming up this season – what it’s going to be like with Echo and Paul, and even among the dolls this year?

J. Whedon: Victor and Sierra just can’t keep their hands off each other, and they’re like monkeys and it’s something that we’re going to be treating, they’re going to be seeing through for a while. It makes some people very uncomfortable and sometimes it’s just extremely sweet. Sometimes it’s just funny.

But Echo is very much building herself and she sees it as an indication that they’re ready to be pushed to a level like hers. She’s looking for allies and Paul is the first person she’s going to turn to for that. But then a lot of the season is going to be her attempt to put together some kind of team, even though she has trouble articulating it at first. She’s looking for the sense of family that I think the audience was looking for last season. So we’re going to be seeing who’s on her side and who, not so much.


Q: I was really impressed with what Amy did in this premiere here. Is Dr. Saunders going to factor in a little more in the season?

J. Whedon: Dr. Saunders would factor in much more in the season had we not lost her to another show. She will factor inasmuch as we are allowed to factor her in, which is exactly three episodes worth. They will, however, be three extraordinarily memorable episodes.

Amy Acker is ridiculously talented and the character’s dilemma is fascinating to us. We grit our teeth that we didn’t have the funds, or the support, or the success, to just make her a regular and now we’re paying for it. It means that every time we have her on screen, we’ll squeeze every drop out of her that we can. We’re seizing the day. We just don’t get to seize as many of them as we’d like.

Q: With Amy Acker gone, are we going to get a new doctor character to tend to the wounded?

J. Whedon: We haven’t featured the doctor. We see somebody in the BG. We will be seeing Dr. Saunders again and the stories just haven’t lent themselves to bringing in another person in that capacity. So if we need to, yes, but not so far.

Q: I noticed the guest star lineup looks really impressive this season. You had Alan on last season and Summer this season. I just wanted to know, are there plans to get the rest of Firefly on here at some point?

J. Whedon: It’s a death match between Firefly and Battlestar and which of them is going to get all their people. The fact of the matter is they’re people I admire and they’re people I know I love to work with and this season, I’m a lot less concerned with how the cast is perceived.

Last season, we felt like we wanted to make sure that this was new territory and that people didn’t think of it as just, “Oh, it’s just these faces and he’s doing his old thing.” Now I’m like, “I know these people can act,” and honestly, the people that are watching it are fans anyway. If they know who these people are, they’ll be thrilled. If they don’t, they’ll see good acting so it doesn’t matter to me as much. So yes, I have no fear of throwing anybody that I have worked with or just want to work with in anytime I can.


Q: Could you talk about the casting of Summer and also what’s in store for her character?

J. Whedon: The casting of Summer was based on the knowledge that Summer existed and the character was created with the hopes that she would play it, which she is right on stage right now doing. She’s playing the programmer of another Dollhouse. It’s a somewhat eccentric part but hopefully different than what we’ve seen her do before. The most useful part of that is that the writers work twice as hard to make sure that the character really pops and pays off because they know that it’s going to be played by somebody extraordinary.

Q: Is it safe to assume that Summer’s character works at the same Dollhouse that Ray Wise runs?

J. Whedon: I think that would be safe.

Q: And is it safe to assume that that makes it a super-cool Dollhouse?

J. Whedon: I would say much cooler than this lame one that I’m in.

Q: Can you hint at all, we know that November/Mellie will be returning, but how she will return since for her, it would seem that her time with the Dollhouse is over?

J. Whedon: It would, wouldn’t it? I can’t tell you exactly how. I can tell you that she’ll be back early on and that we’re definitely not done with the character, and that probably means there’s going to be some pain involved. More than that, you’re going to have to wait for it.

Q: You have a number of interesting guest stars in the new edition of the season, in addition to Summer. Can you tell me a little bit about Jamie Bamber’s character and a little bit about Alexis as a senator? I think I read he’s trying to shut down the Dollhouse.

J. Whedon: Yes, he’s got his own crusade going. He’s a very different person than Paul but he’s in a similar position except that he’s gone public with it. How much the Dollhouse loves a senator who has gone public with an attack on them, we will find out in later episodes. But he’s not the Paul of the season because he’s going to have a different set of problems thrown at him, but he has a similar vibe in terms of he’s very tenacious and righteous. Then, I forget what the other part was?

Q: Jamie Bamber, I read that Bamber marries Echo early on in the season.

J. Whedon: If you were those two, wouldn’t you get married? They’re so cute. He came in as the guest star in the first episode, which was just besides a geek dream for me, an extraordinary experience because he’s not just very professional, and precise and talented, but he fleshed out a character that could have been a little bit of a cardboard cutout. He has such sincerity and gravitas that you feel terrible. He makes you feel you’ve betrayed him, even if he’s completely in the wrong. It’s something that he shares with Adelle. Maybe it’s a British thing; I don’t know.


Q: What ways are you going to stretch the parameters of the tech this season?

J. Whedon: We’re going to stretch the tech fairly heftily. I actually can’t answer the question directly because a lot of it has to do with the different ways in which this tech can be manipulated, and we’re going to see that it’s not all the simple chair treatments. There’s more that can be done and the excitement and the danger of that is a large part of this season.

Q: We’ve got some glimpses at the back-story of some of the other characters like Sierra and Victor, but still a lot to fill in. Will we be delving into that more as the season progresses?

J. Whedon: Yes, we will. We know how extraordinary those two performers are and we are very curious about their stories as much as we are about Caroline’s. So yes, we will definitely be seeing some episodes that highlight them and their pasts and where they’re heading.

Q: Is the set a designer’s dream?

J. Whedon: It depends on the set designer. It might be a dream where he’s screaming.

Q: I’m wondering, a big thing that people discussed in the first season is who’s the doll. Who is secretly a doll? But now that we know that people can be remotely programmed in a flash without necessarily being dolls to begin with, is that still a meaningful question? Is everybody a doll inside?

J. Whedon: No, that’s the case in the far future. It’s not the case right now. I’ll tell you right now, everybody is not a doll because it would be very easy for us to pull that trick over and over and ultimately shoot ourselves in the foot, because you would find that nothing was at stake and that everybody would see the plot was coming. We’ve actually grounded the show fairly heavily. People who are dolls, are dolls and the other people, every now and then, I’m not saying never, I’m not saying we won’t question reality every now and then but basically, we’re taking the people we have and we’re pushing them around as much as possible.

We’re trying to keep it grounded so that people know that there is something at stake and if somebody did have their personality altered or taken away, that that would be a huge deal. That’s like the attic; that’s like death. That’s like the worst thing that can happen to a character so we want to make sure that the characters are grounded enough that people feel those stakes. If we just make people dolls, Willie-Nillie, then it’s the rabbit hole and none of it really connects or means anything.


Q: My final question is actually for Dr. Horrible. What started in the homegrown effort for you guys and it stayed that way moving forward with all of the claim and success you’ve had?

J. Whedon: The claim and success is not a problem for us. We’re totally comfortable with it. We are working on a follow-up. The question of whether it stays homegrown or whether it outgrows that is one that we ask ourselves. It doesn’t effect the storytelling. The story we want to tell is about the people, whether we do that on a shoestring, the way we did it for before, whether we do something bigger and invite other people into the process. It’s a decision we’ll make after we love the show.

Q: Thank you, and any closing remarks, Mr. Whedon?

J. Whedon: I love each and every one of you very much – possibly inappropriately. That’s it. That’s all I got.

Dollhouse’s second season premieres this Friday on Fox at 20:00.

As promised, here’s the transcript of the conference call with Joshua Jackson about his role as Peter Bishop in Fringe. (Sidenote: this wasn’t a one-on-one interview, but rather a conference call session with multiple bloggers and journalists)


Q: What do you enjoy more as an actor or even as a viewer, when you get to do an episode in which there’s lots of action, fighting, racing around or when it’s crazy science elements or when it’s simply doing a scene with the cow?

J. Jackson: 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 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.

Q: What is your reaction when you get the scripts and it’s some new crazy thing that they’re bringing into the story?

J. Jackson: 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.

As a fan, the things that I like most about our show, the genre that our show is in 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.

Q: Did you see the twist in the finale coming? The twist involving you?

J. Jackson: They thankfully gave me a heads-up a couple months before that happened so that I didn’t read it and think that I had been fired. It sounds a little bit like a tag line, but it is the truth. The great thing about our show is that if we can dream it we can do it. I don’t think anybody really saw that twist coming. I was only told about it four or five months in advance, but I think that’s amazing. To put the last frame of the show in the World Trade Center is incredible. I love our show for that. It should keep on pushing boundaries and envelopes like that.

Q: Going forward now what can you tell us about that particular story line? How much do you know as far as what we can expect towards the first half of the season of that particular story line, as I said?

J. Jackson: The Peter story line, what I love so much about that beyond the “ain’t-it-cool” factor, is now the audience knows something about Peter that he doesn’t know about himself, something crucial about him that he doesn’t know about himself. 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 family, a very dysfunctional family, but something of a 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 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.


Q: Do you think that Peter and Olivia will have some sort of romantic relationship or do you hope that they don’t? What are your feelings about that?

J. Jackson: My estimation I just kind of said it a second ago, which is that I feel like this is more of a family dynamic than a romantic dynamic. What’s unique and what’s great about 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.

Q: I really like the interplay between Walter and Peter and the asides that Peter obviously has. How much of the sarcasm is improvised versus scripted and how much is you versus Peter?

J. Jackson: I’ll give the writers credit. I’d say most of those lines are written, though there is, particularly in the scenes with John, John and I have a very strong working rapport and he’s a very playful actor. I mean that in a good way that he likes to keep things live and so you keep on testing and trying. Just to toot my own horn, I feel like I’m a bit that way myself. So I think 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 out of it, though the scenarios are definitely written. 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.

Q: When we first met you in the first season we got a sense of this kind of dark background that you had, doing arms dealing and such. Will we get back to that and what he was doing in his life away from his father and the life that he’s got now?

J. Jackson: Yes. We actually delved right into that very early in the season. We kept on hinting at it last year, but never showing it and it’s not a problem of the format of the show. It’s not called Peter’s Fringe. It’s difficult to put these characters’ back-stories into the show. That’s not true, not their back-stories; it’s difficult to put their outside lives into the show. Does that make sense?

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.

Q: I know that J.J. Abrahams said that he was trying to keep the series accessible to new viewers. Do you think that can continue?

J. Jackson: Yes. We’re just starting the eighth episode this year and I would say that we are, I guess the eighth episode is a mythology-heavy episode. 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.

Everybody uses Lost as an example and let’s use it again because it’s J. J.’s show. Lost is a fantastic show, but each one of those episodes doesn’t really have a beginning, middle and end, it’s part of a continuing story. So if you don’t know the things that have come before it’s incredibly difficult to just drop in, which is just what Lost is. We should be so lucky to be as good as Lost on our show. The difference being that the format of our show lends itself to simpler storytelling, which is that every week there’ll be something that this group of people has to investigate. Sometimes it’s going to lead them to learn something about the larger story that they’re investigating that if you don’t know anything about that, you probably won’t be engaged by that. But regardless it will still come to an end that episode.

That’s one of the conceits of Fringe that if you want to pay attention every week there’s a lot of story being told all the time, but if you just want to tune in, 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.


Q: Like any new show, Fringe had its share of ups-and-downs during the year, but then I think it had a really strong second half. When do you think the show really found its own voice, its own style and what kind of show it wanted and should be?

J. Jackson: I think right around the midway point of last season the show sort of decided what it wanted to be. From about the midway point it got on a pretty good streak of episodes there from, I think, either Ten and Eleven or Eleven and Twelve or Twelve and Thirteen, I can’t remember the exact number, but the two-part episode where Dunham gets kidnapped. After that it was pretty clear; we introduced the bad guys for the season and there was a much clearer narrative drive through the rest of the season.

I would say, though, that I don’t think the look of the show changed. I think visually the show always knew what it wanted to be. I think that what we were trying to figure out was the alchemy, what proportion was going to be a serialized show, what proportion was going to be one-off. We were still discovering who the character was. I think it was much more about the storytelling than it was about the look of the show in the first season, like every show, frankly, has to figure out.

Q: Obviously the show deals with parallel universes. Has this opened up your mind to the idea of parallel universes and what do you think about the probability that there might be a parallel version of yourself in some universe?

J. Jackson: I do think this idea is part of the zeitgeist right now. Maybe it’s my West Coast, liberal upbringing, but the idea of parallel universes doesn’t really strike me as being too far out there. After the 60s and after all the psychedelia and the doors of perception and what-have-you, I don’t think it’s really all that far out.

What defies my imagination is that there would be nothing out there that would defy my imagination and maybe it’s because I’m a sci-fi fan. It just seems like the only justifiable position that a human can have in 2009 is humility in the face of the universe. We’re learning so much and everything that we learn, it’s like that Carl Sagan thing, the candle in the dark. Every time the candle gets a little bit brighter it only serves to illuminate how much we still don’t know.

Q: The show’s being called a cross between, I guess, The X Files and Dark Angel and a couple other sci-fi shows. What’s your opinion about that?

J. Jackson: I don’t really get what the Dark Angel reference would be. Oh, maybe because Dunham was experimented on when she was a kid perhaps. I don’t know. I think The X Files is a more fair comparison, but even in the opening credits, The X Files, by design, dealt with things that were supposed to be part of the paranormal, what Fringe is trying to say is that these things that we would normally classify as fantastical are actually part of the normal. They all have legitimate explanations in the scientific world; they can’t be chalked up to alien possession or fairies or Dracula.

Q: You’re a big science fiction fan. I was wondering if Fringe satisfies all of your science fiction needs or is there some science fiction plotline out there that you’re really just dying to do.

J. Jackson: Of course, Fringe doesn’t fill up the science fiction quotient of my acting life. I don’t know if there’s any particular; it’s hard to say that you’d be dying to do something because it’s probably already been done, but there’s an infinite number of stories out there. There are plenty of books that I read as a young man that I would love to turn into movies, some of which have already been turned into movies.

It is a ton of fun for a guy who loves science fiction to be working on a science fiction show. Like I said to the guy before you, 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.

Q: One more quick thing. I just want to know what it’s like working with Leonard Nimoy.

J. Jackson: I’ve been shafted so far; in fact I’m going to lodge a formal complaint through this conference call. Leonard’s been up here twice and while I did get to meet him and that’s cool, I have yet to be able to do a scene with him and I think that’s un-cool.

Fringe premiered last night on Fox in the US, and airs weekly on Thursday 9:00 PM.

You might have seen my tweets about this, but I’m seriously geeking out right now. I’ve gotten into a couple of conference calls this week from Fox, to promote the latest seasons of our beloved TV shows. I’m not the only blogger invited, but I do get to ask any questions I want. [Fangirl mode: on] Squeeeeeee!


This evening will be the Fringe conference call with Joshua Jackson, who plays Peter Bishop. Tomorrow will be the House conference call with Hugh Laurie, who plays House (duh), and Katie Jacobs, the executive producer and director. And later that same evening the Dollhouse conference call with Joss Whedon.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for these calls; these type of moments make me love what I do all the more. I’ve already got a couple of questions in mind to ask, but I thought I’d open it up to all of you: do you have any questions for Joshua Jackson, Hugh Laurie (+ Katie Jacobs) or Joss Whedon? I can’t guarantee your question will be asked, but I’m curious to hear what you’d like to know.

Leave a comment behind with your questions.

Virtuality aired last Friday in the US, but I still haven’t had the chance to see it. The reviews of critics are pretty positive, but the ratings that day show that it didn’t attract that many viewers (well, what did you expect Fox? It’s on a Friday evening death slot). A part of me is still a teensy bit optimistic that it might be picked up for a full season, but chances are it will die a miserable summer death.


Last week I missed out on a conference call with Sienna Guillory and Clea Duvall, but I did manage to get a transcript of everything that was covered. Here are a couple of the questions/answers I found interesting:

Q: I was just wondering if you guys could just talk, go into a bit of detail about your characters, specifically who they are and what they do and what it is about them which you both liked.

Clea Duvall: I play Sue Parsons, who is the ship’s pilot. She definitely has sort of like a cocky, hotshot attitude, which was pretty fun to play.

Sienna Guillory: My character is Rika. She’s an exo-biologist. She’s introvert, oversexed, and I just think quite real. I mean, the fact that we’re geeks doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re particularly brilliant at handling our emotions. So I think we’re all prone to exploding emotionally, and I thought that our advanced kind of cerebral ability didn’t necessarily lend itself to us emotionally, and I think that that’s what’s nice about the story. There are huge big ideas, but we’re all very accessible people that are easily bruised.

Q: What else attracted you both to the project overall, in general, Ron Moore’s idea?

Sienna Guillory: The fact that it was an ensemble. I was seduced by the idea of working in an ensemble, and the complete lack of limitation plot-wise, because anything can happen. Every single character has their own movie. And in virtual reality, your wildest dreams and fantasies can come true, so we all—it’s the fact that it’s limitless and entirely inspirational.

Clea Duvall: I had the opportunity to work with Ron Moore several years ago on a television show called Carnivale, and just fell in love with him and absolutely was excited at the thought of working with him again.

Q: Clea, I had a quick question for you, because we’ve seen you in so many different genre projects and doing so many different types of characters. What kind of preparation do you do to get into what you’re doing, and how do you approach each one of these different types of characters you always seem to play and always seem to be able to put together and somehow knock it out of the park?

Clea Duvall :That’s very sweet of you to say, thank you. I approach each thing differently. On Virtuality, for me it was so much about getting to know the people that I was working with and getting comfortable with improv, which is something that I’ve never done before, but Peter Berg likes to work that way, just sort of letting scenes run and seeing what happens. So it was a lot of kind of on-the-job training on this one. Any preparation I did had to be sort of thrown out the window and just putting the trust into my fellow actors and my director.


Q: Sienna, just one quick follow-up with you: I know that a lot of the work that you guys did, especially when you were in your virtual environments, was a lot of green-screen-type work, backdrops and everything. Were you just kind of in a room filled with green screens? I mean, what were some of the challenges in trying to still make all of that work together to where it all kind of blended together, and was that a little bit more difficult not having objects around you?

Sienna Guillory: I think in a way, when you’re working with green screens, it’s hugely enabling. It’s the same thing – the whole thing that Ron Moore came up with. In Virtuality, he gives us a life with no limitations, so you have to use that green screen as a plus. The fact that there’s nothing there to limit your imagination or to limit where you see yourself or how you see the scene unfolding can be a helpful thing, so you just imagine it exactly the way you want it to be, rather than kind of being held back by the physical limitations of a set.

Q: I wanted to ask both of you, there seems to be a different acting style. You mentioned the improvs, but beyond that, particularly when you’re talking directly to the camera, you guys seem to be very much so of improvising, plus there’s this kind of real intimacy to it. Tell us what those – does it feel different to do those kinds of scenes? Do they provide something different?

Sienna Guillory: I would say – to me, it was part of my character. I decided that she hated having her privacy invaded, but at the same time she was desperate for adventure. She’s kind of complex, an introvert and oversexed. But for me, those moments of intimacy were vital because there are so many big ideas at play within the script and the story. It’s absolutely vital that we’re all regular people, telling human stories.

Q: And the same thing with you, Clea: When you talk in there, you just – it’s a different way than the kind of acting somewhere else, when you’re acting and semi-improvising to a camera like that, as if you’re a character talking to a camera. How does it feel different when you do those?

Clea Duvall: I didn’t really do much of it, but what I did do was – it sort of felt to me almost like you’re writing in a journal, just that stream of consciousness, just really tapping into your character. I really wanted to do more of it, and hopefully if the show is a success, I will get to do more.

Q: I understand that each of the crew on the ship has his or her own virtual reality. So my first question is what was each of yours?

Clea Duvall: My character was very much into outdoor sports – bike-riding and surfing.

Sienna Guillory: My character is actually an exo-biologist, which is kind of extreme gardening on a molecular level. But I’m trapped in this passionless marriage to the ship’s psychologist, so I use my virt module to fantasize about sex and intimacy.


Q: My follow-up is that, given that our world seems to be increasingly moving towards one that’s dominated by virtual reality, how do you think that will impact our emotional and psychological well-being as it’s reflected in your characters in the show?

Sienna Guillory: In terms of how it worked in the show, we’re geeks, but we’re still people, we’re still humans. So anything that happens to us in our own personal movies happens to all of us, because we’re stuck together. And the whole point of it is Ron Moore is providing us with a life with no limitations, so I think it’s tremendously healthy to be able to explore your inner cravings and all the things that you dream of and be able to realize your fantasies without necessarily hurting other people. But also, I think you need to realize that when you do experience something emotionally it does affect who you are, and I think that’s the backbone of what we’re doing, and what happens in our virt modules affects everybody else, even though we think it’s private.

Q: You touched upon the virtual realities that your characters would spend time in. If you were required to kill time with virtual reality, what environment or scenario would each of you be most curious to play with? If the world was your oyster, the virtual world.

Clea Duvall: I think that I would probably want to go into space. It’s the thing that is so far from my reality, and it’s something that I’ve always been so intrigued by but will probably never in my lifetime have the ability to experience it, so probably that.

Sienna Guillory: I think the places that you want to be and the things that you want to be doing change from day to day, minute to minute. I think if I refer back to where we were when we were filming – I mean, working with Pete Berg, he’s phenomenal. He’s the only director who’s never held me back. He just lets us go and raise the bar, and he’s kind of just this absolute alpha male.

Q: I guess, given that the story was meant as an ongoing story, were there any details that you guys were given or that you asked for going forward about the characters?

Sienna Guillory: Actually, we made it as a movie, so we just filmed as much as – I mean, it was all about having no limitations in every single way. When we’re on set there are no limitations. When we were improvising there were no limitations. There were no restraints.

Clea Duvall: There were little bits and pieces that we were given because I think we all had the hopes that it would continue. But they, Michael and Ron, didn’t really give away much. I think that we were all under such pressure to just do what we were doing, that thinking into the future was overwhelming at times. ut there’s definitely a lot more to the story that, fingers crossed, we may be able to tell.

Sienna Guillory: We had great times when everybody would get round Erik Jensen and Ritchie Coster and all of us would have these kinds of mad ideas about, maybe we’re not actually on a ship. Maybe we’re like all in these little pods being fed these ideas, and we’re going to wake up and we’re not actually – or maybe we’re like asleep and the whole thing is a virtual simulation. So there’s a lot of speculation –

Clea Duvall: Or it’s a time-travel.

Sienna Guillory: but – yes, none of us really knows anything.

As promised, here is the second part of the interview with Ron D Moore (check out the first post here):

Q: I absolutely love the Caprica pilot, so I was wondering if you could talk about this virtual world. Is this at all kind of similar to the holobands that was introduced on the Caprica pilot?

Ron Moore: I was sort of aware of the similarities between the two. They do have different purposes and different sorts of constructs to them. They both involve putting a set of goggles on your face, so they’re similar in sort of that perspective. In Caprica it’s really much more akin to the Internet where you go out and the virtual spaces are practically infinite and they intersect with one another. On Caprica you can go from the V-Club where we establish in the pilot is sort of a hacked world and then, presumably, there are worlds of war craft type of worlds, etc., etc. It’s all sort of interconnected into their version of the Internet.

In Virtuality we’re looking at something much more discrete, much smaller, much more of a gaming type of environment where an astronaut has a specific virtual reality module that they go into and play whatever game or have whatever experience they want, but there is no expectation that you can cross from one module to another.

Q: Ron, just still following up, if it only lives as a two-hour movie and doesn’t get picked up is there any thought of maybe trying to push to do another two-hour movie where you could tie up some of the thoughts that you wanted to or, as a lot of creators are doing now, maybe taking it into a different media, like a comic book so you could continue to expand on the theme?

Ron Moore: I think all of those are possibilities. We’ve talked about all of those possibilities. It’s just kind of one step at a time. I think it’s really hard to say. It depends on where we go after the broadcast and, A, after the ratings, after they start looking at demographics, after they start looking at word of mouth. Sometimes these things have a bigger life that sort of blossoms a few weeks after the broadcast. There’s a buzz going. People talk and then they start wondering when it’s on DVD … and decisions about where we would go with the underlying properties is just really hard to say where we are right now.

Q: Are you ready in your mind on where exactly you’d want to go if it either stays in the same medium or if it jumps somewhere else?

Ron Moore: Yes. I mean either way I think Mike and I pretty much have an idea of the direction that we would take the show or the book or whatever it would be. We have an idea of where we would take the story after this, yes.


Q: I really love the idea of the virtual worlds and I was wondering what type of virtual worlds could we see in the movie and maybe in the series if that continues.

Ron Moore: You’ll see kind of a range of virtual worlds. Like I said earlier, it opens in the Civil War in an action sort of piece and then there are more pastoral settings. There is a home. There are actually doctor’s offices. There are rock concerts. There is quite a range of areas that we went into, which was a deliberate choice. We wanted to sort of show that we were going to use these worlds in sort of disparate ways and that they would all be sort of tailored to specific characters and what they were interested in going to do, so you’ll see quite a range of virtual worlds when you get in there.

Q: I was reading somewhere that you don’t really reveal the year or what the actual emergency to the earth is. Was that done intentionally?

Ron Moore: Actually, that changed over time. Initially we didn’t really specify those things. We wanted to keep it looser and kind of vague because I just thought it was more interesting than nailing down the specifics on all of that, but as we went through the process we started to nail those things down. We just started to feel like we had to answer certain questions. I think we did; I know you’re going to ask me what year it is and I’m not going to know off the top of my head, so don’t ask; but I think we do refer to the year and we definitely talked more about the nature of the emergency.

Q: Yes. There was something written, a piece of dialogue, where it said, “Dry land is really expensive now,” so I …

Ron Moore: Yes. We expanded on that idea a little bit more.

Q: Okay, so there are just like hints?

Ron Moore: It’s kind of explicit. I mean there is a commercial for the reality show within the show. Within that commercial it kind of lays out some of the broader parameters of the mission, about what’s happening on earth and why the mission has taken on a new urgency. The mission started out as just one of exploration and then something going terribly wrong back home in terms of climate change, in terms of the environment, or so the astronauts are told. That’s kind of where we are.

Q: Okay. Did you look to any other properties for inspiration, like Sunshine or 2001?

Ron Moore: Not specifically. I mean I think we were aware of Sunshine and we sort of wanted to try to not go into it. We had seen it and we were like aware that there were certain similarities to some of it. We then kind of wanted to go out of our way to make sure that ours was different, so we were kind of like in that place.


Q: What is your relationship with reality TV? Are you a fan?

Ron Moore: I started off as a skeptic/hater of it. Now, actually, there are definitely reality programs that I like. I think probably at the top of that list, I’m a very late convert to Deadliest Catch, which I had heard about for a few years. I was even on a panel once with the executive producer and never really watched it. Then this last season finally my wife and I decided to give it a try and I was really taken with it, really drawn into it and impressed with the quality of the production and the seriousness with which they do this reality show that’s really a documentary every week. From there I like Project Runway. I like Top Chef. I’ve been suckered in, as it were.

Q: Thank you. Do you have any closing remarks?

Ron Moore: Well, I do actually. There is a series of Webisodes that were created for Virtuality. Webisodes are not just your traditional here’s an extra piece of story that you didn’t see on the show and here’s another little segment to tease you. The Webisodes for Virtuality are actually segments of the reality show within the show itself, so when you would log onto the Web site what you would see when you tagged on the Webisodes is you would see pieces of the reality show as it was broadcast back to earth, which was in the pitch when we sold it to the network originally. We said, “Everyone is always looking for this sort of interaction between the broadcast show and driving people to the Web site.” It’s always been sort of an uncomfortable marriage and they never seem to quite marry up in an interesting way for the audience. Ours has this really sort of organic way to do that where you could go to the Web site and experience Edge of Never is the name of the show, so you could go see Edge of Never on the Web site.

The concept and the plan would have been if the show went to series that every week you could log in on the Web site and see pieces of the reality show and buried within those pieces of the reality show would be actual information and clues that would not be accessible to the people watching the broadcast of the show. There was going to be a deliberate effort to sort of say, “Really, if you want to get all of the idea of what’s going on and to even crack some of the underlying mysteries to what the series is about, you would have to go and watch these pieces of Edge of Never,” because the idea within the show was that the astronauts may not be aware of how the show itself is being viewed back on earth. They may not understand certain things, but the audience back on earth might understand certain things.

There was this interesting relationship between the Webisodes and the series. My understanding is that right now Fox is going to put them up. There is a Facebook page for Edge of Never and I think in the next few days, if not early next week, certainly by early next week, you can go to the Facebook page and you can start downloading or streaming or however they’re going to make it available to you, these Webisodes, which would sort of build interest in the show and show you chunks of Edge of Never only on Fox. It would have the logos and it would have the astronauts behind the scenes of their reality show, sort of content for viewers to check out. I would encourage people to go and take a look at it, because I think it’s a unique bit of Virtuality.

Virtuality premieres on Friday 26th June at 8.00pm on Fox.

I finally managed to write-up the interview with Ron D Moore from last Thursday. This was the first time ever I participated in such a conference call, so it was exciting to experience it all. Basically anybody was allowed to ask questions, so there was a great mix of different type of topics Moore talked about. I cut out some of the questions that I didn’t find that interesting, but it still turned out to be quite a lengthy interview. So: I’ve cut it in two. Here’s the first part, later today I’ll post the second part:

Q: Ron, one of the biggest questions people keep asking me about Virtuality is how is it different from on Star Trek when you would have holodeck episodes and people would get lost in the holodeck.  How is this different from that sort of scenario?

Ron Moore: Well, it’s a different concept. The holodeck is a physical space that you would go into and three dimensional forms were actually physically created in front of you that you could feel and touch and interact with, etc. The computer would generate them as long as you were in them. This is truly a virtual space, which is much more akin to putting on contemporary, sort of virtual headsets, but sort of taking it to the next level where you do have an experiential sort of ability to touch and sense and taste and smell things in your mind, so it’s different sort of on the mechanical level.

In terms of the story level, we’re not playing the idea that if you die in the virtual space you die in the real space. It’s not … from that sense. It doesn’t have the safety programs like it did in the holodeck where the safety is off and if you get killed in here you get killed. It’s a very different thing.

Q: So in Virtuality if you die inside the virtual headset you don’t die in reality or you do?

Ron Moore: You don’t. No. It’s more like how gaming is now. You go on-line. You play a game and you get killed and you’re kicked out of the program because you’re dead, but you’re not dead in real life.

We’re using these much more psychologically as well. It doesn’t sound like you’ve seen the pilot, but essentially the experience is that the astronauts aboard the Phaeton have, in virtual space, are sort of things that just sort of are psychologically motivated. They go in there and they do things for entertainment and to sort of pass the time of day while they’re on this very, very long-range mission, but you’re learning things about them personally and about where did they want to spend their time and when things go wrong in that space how does it then influence them in the real world. That was the thing I was most interested in.

The concept was how the virtual space impacted the real story that was going on aboard the spacecraft and vice-versa. What’s the sort of interaction between the two?


Q: My question is sort of following up on that, but comparing it to Battlestar. The nature of Battlestar, you had to be very serious dealing with the space ship and everything. Does Virtuality allow you to have a little bit more fun with the concept of people in space?

Ron Moore: Oh, yes. It’s a much less serious situation than Battlestar was dealing with. Battlestar was literally a post-apocalyptic show where the future of humanity rode on their every decision and death was stalking them continuously. So it’s not set up in the same way. The crew aboard Phaeton signed up for what just seemed like a very straight-ahead mission of exploration and they were chosen with that in mind. They were also chosen to participate in this sort of reality show that’s being broadcast back to Earth.

So there was a conscious attempt on the part of the people who put the crew together to sort of have an interesting mix of people. There are debates within the crew themselves who was chosen just for sort of their demographic content and who was legitimately supposed to be there. Now you’ve got a groups of 12 people stuck in a metal tube going in a straight line for a decade or so and that’s going to just sort of produce a lot of tensions and frictions and manipulations and sort of cross problems between the characters. It has a stronger element of fun and suspense and sort of interesting plot terms in terms of what characters will do with one another than did Battlestar. Battlestar was very driven by the internal pressures of the huge weight that was on all of their shoulders from the beginning of the miniseries.

Q: So a little more opportunity for humor maybe?

Ron Moore: Oh, yes. There’s definitely more humor. There’s more humor probably in the first ten minutes of Virtuality than there was in the run of Battlestar, let’s put it that way.

Q: When did you come up with the idea of blending a sci-fi thriller with a reality show element to it?

Ron Moore: It was sort of in stages. When we first started talking about the concept it was about a long-range space mission, which I was intrigued with. Like I said before, I was interested in the idea of what do you do with 12 people in a metal tube for that long. I thought there were interesting dramatic possibilities right there and, okay, what would they realistically need to do. What would NASA or the space confederation do at that point to keep them from going crazy? They’d probably have a really advanced virtual reality program to help them while away the hours and there’s interaction between those two worlds.

Somewhere in those discussions we started talking about when they would be broadcasting pieces back to earth, obviously, like astronauts do today, and hey, what if they made a reality show out of that? Then it all kind of started to come together. You had these three layers of storytelling going on in the show where you had what was happening in the real world on the ship, what was happening in the virtual space and then what was the reality show that was seen back on earth. Were the needs of the reality show starting to impact what was happening on the spacecraft? Were people being manipulated in order to make better drama for the reality show? The astronauts themselves would start to wonder about are they telling us the truth about what’s happening back on earth or is that something to just get us to be upset for the cameras. It did sort of become this really interesting sort of psychological crucible that they would all be put in.

Q: It sounds like there’s a lot going on, because you have the mission to save earth. You have the virtual reality module. You have the virus. Then you have the streaming reality show. When you were writing it were there any major hurdles or blind alleys? Did it get confusing?

Ron Moore: Yes. I mean it was a tough thing to juggle. It’s a very ambitious piece and I think that was the reaction on the part of Fox when they saw it. It’s a very challenging, very complicated piece of work and there are a lot of moving parts. We knew that sort of going in and writing the script wasn’t easy. There was a lot of sort of trying to decide how much time you spend in any one of these three categories and at what point do you shift from the audience’s point of view from one to the other. What’s the language for that? Where are we going to introduce certain characters? How often do you go to the first person confessionals and the reality show, etc., etc.? So there were a lot of just complicated questions. Then those same questions were there in the editing process. When do you go to which piece of material? I think it was a really interesting challenge.


Q: Is all of the VR avatar style characters or is it real looking people?

Ron Moore: The actors play themselves in the virtual space. What we did in production was all of the virtual reality scenes are shot in green screen and all of the sets are green-scene sets, so for instance, the piece opens with an extended sort of piece in a virtual space of the Civil War for the lead character. None of that was shot on location. None of it was a set that we built. It was all done in the computer on a green screen stage. We kept that language for all of the virtual pieces to sort of give all of the virtual reality a sense of continuity so that you always sort of intuitively felt that you were in a virtual space even if the background looked photo reeled, so all of that is done against green.

Q: I was at Comicon last year for TV Guide and I understood that this was originally supposed to be a pilot for a series, right?

Ron Moore: It is a pilot. It’s a pilot for a series and Fox is going to broadcast it as a two-hour movie. It was a two-hour pilot, so they’re broadcasting it as a two-hour movie, but in my mind it’s a pilot. It’s always been a pilot.

Q: So it still can become a series?

Ron Moore: I think you never say never. They haven’t picked it up to date. Their attitude, I think, is kind of wait and see. I think they want to see what the reaction is going to be. What are the critics going to say? Is it going to get word of mouth? Are fans going to gravitate to it or is the science fiction community really going to turn up for it? Is there going to be a certain buzz and excitement? I think right now it doesn’t look like it’s going to series, but I think if enough people watched and enough people got excited about it anything is possible.

Q: Do you think this is a story that can be told in two hours?

Ron Moore: Well, you’ll see. It certainly does not resolve itself in two hours. I mean it sets up for a show, so it’s got some pretty heavy things that go down in it and kind of leaves you going, “Whoa! Where is that going?” by the end of it.

Q: Just going back to the whole reality TV, which you use as a story point in this film, why do you think people have become so obsessed with reality TV? What’s the attraction to it? What made you want to include it in this particular story?

Ron Moore: The first are two kind of complicated questions and I’m not sure what the answers are. At first I think I was certainly one of the skeptics that reality TV was going to be with us for any great period of time. Certainly, that’s been proven wrong. There seems to be a fundamental interest of people watching other real people or at least what they perceive as real people as opposed to watching fictional programming. There’s certainly something. There’s a powerful draw there of us wanting to look in on other people’s lives and seeing them pretty much as they actually exist.

Why we include it in the show was it just felt like it’s become such a staple of pop culture at this point in time. It seemed interesting to then incorporate it into a science fiction setting, which was something that we had never seen before or heard of and thought that’s an interesting sort of spin on it. We’ve all seen video that’s been broadcast back by the astronauts from the Apollo missions to the Space Shuttle, but we’ve never seen it done in a format where it’s trying to be a reality show at the same time. I thought that’s an interesting challenge. It’s kind of a different hook for the audience and it might be kind of a cool angle for the show.

Come back later for Part 2 of this interview.

Virtuality premieres on Friday 26th June at 8.00pm on Fox.