The fifth and final season of Fringe begins this Friday and I was thrilled to be part of an interview session with executive producer/showrunner J.H. Wyman today to find out what he has in store for us! Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to give away too much about what is to come this season, but he did give some fascinating answers to some great questions – including ours! One of the things that I loved about listening to Wyman talk is how passionate you can tell he really is about Fringe and how grateful he is to have such loyal fans. He even stated at one point during the interview that Fringe was the highlight of his career, and it was easy to tell that he really meant it. As much as I love Fringe, which is a lot, I think I love it even more after hearing him speak and knowing that these are the kinds of people working on this show. This interview session was with several journalists and the question that I asked on behalf of FringeBloggers was actually one of the last, but of course, we’ll start with that one first!
Me: It’s been said that this final season will be more serialized. What freedoms has this given you as a storyteller in constructing this final piece of the Fringe Puzzle:
Wyman: Serialized is probably not the best term for it. Im probably guilty of saying that myself but its not really that. Its sort of like more of a continuity of emotion and story but its not like you’re gonna get Walter finishes a sentence and its a dunt dunt dunt and you’re gonna come back the next week and he’s sort of still talking about the same thing. Its still sort of capsulated episodes but they’re all about one thing so this 13 stories is about one story and what I’ve done and what the staff have really enjoyed is that continuity of emotions like you have to sit down and say okay, I have to devise an odyssey for Walter and what is Olivia’s odyssey and Peters and so on and plot those all out and in the past just the nature of being episodic television and the responsibilities we have to our partners at Fox and shows should stand on their own and so one week you’ll have Olivia is very concerned because of something Peter did to her and the next week she’s upset because she has a blemish on her hand she doesn’t know what it is. Its a sort of randomness to what people are going through on a week to week basis and that goes along with what the animal is of episodic television usually – and not cable, but on network. And this season what that’s allowed us to do is not really be so concerned with that but be more concerned with how are these people going through what they’re going through. These are real issues and how are they going to deal with them and whats going to happen. Its actually been a lot of fun. Freeing.
Q: When you were working on “Letters of Transit” last season did you already know that 2036 would be the focus of this season? Or was it originally just a stand alone story?
Wyman: We knew that traditionally in the 19th episode spot of each season we always sort of went off the beaten path and we were kind of throwing around a whole bunch of very interesting ideas on what to do last season and we didn’t really know the entire fate of what the program would be we, concretely. We thought, well it would be terrible if we sort of ended without some form of an ending that could I could pick up by comic book or other sort of media that would finish the story for the dedicated fans but that got us sort of thinking, well what if we use the 19th spot sort of like a back to a pilot. We’ve always been interested in going back and forth in time. And we thought it would be such an interesting idea to maybe tell the story in the future. So we used that slot 19 as sort of like a test to see how it goes. I think, you know, when the result of it came in it become pretty clear and to be honest, I personally I fell in love with the possibility of telling the story in the future and married that quite quickly.
Q: You’ve talked a lot about Peter and Olivia being a fractured fairytale in season 5 so what can you tell us about their journey this year?
Wyman: Well you know what Ive said a lot – that no love story worth telling is easy – is an easy love story – its sort of the hills and the valleys that make it worth watching and the harder the tale the more worthy the payoff. So this is what i can say about this year is that I’m trying to, everything that came before, the four years before, I’m really trying to give the characters specific odysseys this year that are singular odysseys for each character but also for relationship dynamic odysseys that are sort of growing and shifting and shaping and Peter and Olivia will be part of that and their relationship will shift and grow and evolve, but its safe to say that we’ll be there for every step of the way and everything will be sort of logical and one of the things that we get to do this year that I sort of found t was great for telling authentic, real, emotional stories is that you know, the 13 episodes, I’m treating them as a saga, as a 13 episode sort of feature film so you’ll be able to track their emotional growth pattern and their relationship very carefully so definitely more in store is to really get in under the hood and investigate those relationships.
Q: What do you take away from this whole experience? Obviously, there’s been some ups and downs, but what do you take away from the years on this show?
Wyman: It’s been the highlight of my career because when I first got on the program I think in the first season the show was still starting to find what it was and I sort of I was always a science fiction fan but I didn’t know a lot about it and J.J. said you know the concept of the program is really about a family, you know that’s what it’s always about and I’m sort of leaning always towards being more of an existentialist so I was thinking how am I supposed to tell stories that are meaningful – not just sort of crazy out of this world circumstances but something that people can relate to and something that I care about writing - about the human condition and he said well you know like Sterling always wrote these stories that are very relevant. If you watch some of his stuff today you’re like, wow that’s amazing! Once I sort of figured that out and went “oh yeah!” And I can see the further out science fiction gets the more about humanity it actually is about. Once I sort of picked that up it sort of changed me, my impressions of science fiction and how I would attack my work on the program. I think I definitely became a better writer, a deeper thinker, in regards to demanding more from my 43 minutes of television. It’s just working with these incredible actors and the support. I mean never in my career have I got the support for what I’m doing anymore than I have on Fringe so I gotta tell you as an artist it makes you feel wow! You know, people are feeling things that I’m feeling about the world and we’re all sort of concerned about the same things and you guys telling me that and that’s really satisfying and on so many levels its really been the highlight and I’ve really emerged from it a much better thinker and a much better writer and a much better storyteller in general.
Q: You’ve obviously talked about how you’ve decided on stuff this season but on a whole like 5 years ago, did you expect to be here? What changed from the original plan the most?
Wyman: Its been such a long road of twists and turns and there’s so many times you’re coming into work and the parking attendant says “Hey what about this?” and you’re like “Oh my gosh that’s the greatest idea ever man!” <laughing> So ideas come from all over and sometimes something you thought wouldn’t really be as big as it did, ya know, blows up into something else. Like there are certain episodes that just really touch people like “White Tulip” came from a dream – it was a dream of mine, just this image and you’re like why did that episode touch people and you sort of have to go and figure things out. We like to be clever and say well, we knew a lot of stuff because we did but the truth is we didn’t know a lot of stuff either like we did not know at the beginning on the bus the amber was amber from the alternate universe -it was recontextualized, ya know, but it just sort of fits like a little bit of puzzle and you sort of find the things that work and don’t work and you kind of go from there. Its like this living breathing organism that if you listen to - and sometimes we don’t hear so well <laughing> but if you listen to it, it sort of indicates where you should go naturally so that idea has changed where we’re gonna end up a lot, even up to the last episode and my thinking on the last episode was fluctuating and vacillating between several different ideas.
During the interview, Wyman also made mention of the fact that his original title for “August” was “A Cautionary Take for an Observer”, which in retrospect, perhaps he should have kept! I have to admit, I was hoping for a few spoilers but he said that he really wanted the fans to be surprised by what is coming this season so he was staying tight-lipped. All I can say is, is it Friday night yet?!
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