Tonight’s fantastic episode of Fringe, “The End of All Things,” was a giant chew toy for our brains to try and rip apart (here’s my review). Nina Sharp played a huge part in one of the major storylines. Or, if you want to get technical, she played TWO huge parts. I chatted with actress Blair Brown to discuss the episode and what’s ahead for her characters.
Great job this episode! Yesterday, showrunner Joel Wyman told reporters that you coined the name for your alternate universe character.
Well isn’t that cute. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first time that you’ve really got in on the “dual characters party” in a single episode.
It is! It’s so fun. I was thinking, “Oh great, I get to be totally different!” And then it was like, “Whoa! Actually you have to be so completely the same.” I found initially when I was playing Mean-a, I wanted to do something here or there for the astute, you know? And of course that’s completely wrong because that spoils the fun, because [the audience] must believe this is the real Nina. But now in other episodes we’re going to see Mean-a not playing Nina.
What kind of acting tricks are you going to incorporate to differentiate the two?
The whole thing about the alternate universe, when you think of Walternate and Bolivia, it’s a tougher world. [Fringe showrunners] Jeff [Pinkner] and Joel [Wyman] said that in this world there was no William Bell, there’s no Massive Dynamic. So Mean-a has the same intelligence, ambition, drive, yet she’s thwarted her whole life, until Jones shows up and says, “Hey you can be part of this. Oh by the way, we’re going to cut off your arm.” And she’s desperate enough to be part of things that she says yes. It’s a much more craven quality than our Nina, who keeps things really close to the vest.
I’ve learned not to trust anything my brain says while watching an episode of Fringe. Can you confirm that the Nina who stepped through the portal toward the end of the episode is Nina from the alternate universe and not a shapeshifter?
Ummm… can I tell you that answer to that or not? It’s sort of in the air at the moment. It’s not come down clear to us either way.
I assume we’ll learn how Jones and alternate Nina came to hook up?
We know some about Mean-a and Jones, the backstory we haven’t told yet. But we know that they are in control. The problem is the plot starts to run hard and fast now. Because we understand in our universe how in peril and how penetrable it is. What Nina and Jones are doing now is more important than how they got together. That will be revealed, but we’re into heavy plot territory as we race toward the end here. [laughs]
Are you saying we’re not already in heavy plot territory? Because it seems like we’ve been there since the pilot!
[laughs] Oh fasten your seat belts! We’re shooting [Episode 19] right now, so you know how that goes. The 19s are always trouble!
This is Fringe, so things are complex. I have trouble keeping up with all the details. How do you do it? Are you debriefed ahead of time?
We’re never debriefed. A script arrives and you go, “Oh! Okay!” And then the emails start. “Does this mean—?” “Should I?” “What happened here?” I have to say at the beginning of the season, things were so complicated! I remember Anna [Torv] and I were in a scene where we were like, “Okay. What’s actually going on?” Neither of us knew. [laughs] So we got into a whole discussion, and the crew is so into it so we all had to lay it all out. Fortunately now, we tend to have directors who have been here before. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a new director to show up on this show. He or she would not have a clue as to what’s happening. Now we’re all pretty clear on what’s going on. It’s dense and intense, but it’s clear. The beauty of the show for us is that, given all the sci-fi elements of parallel universe, alternate realities, and Observers, in the midst of it you have incredibly deep human relationships. I can’t wait—I guess it would be Season 5—[to find out] what’s with Walternate and Mean-a? Walter and Nina have a complex history that’s barely been touched on—they occasionally smoke a joint together and talk about the old times—but are [Walternate and Mean-a] even connected in the other universe? Is he even aware of her? Is he aware of her because Walter and Nina were together?
Blair Brown talks more about filming scenes without knowing exactly what she’s filming.
In addition to Mean-a’s double cross, there were two other major breakthroughs in “The End of All Things.” How much more will we learn about the Observers between now and the end the season?
Oh a lot. A lot. There’s a lot about the Observers, and it’s really interesting and unsettling.
I know all the alternate universe stuff is really cool and all, but I’m all in on the Peter-Olivia love story. Where do you stand on the “Is this Olivia or not?” debate? She has her memories, but is she actually Olivia?
And also, even is she isn’t, does it matter? I think that’s the great thing that’s posed here. Okay, so what? There’s that too. What’s true? Even if this is her fulfilling Peter’s memories, is that a bad thing? It’s very interesting. It’s funny to think that in a popular art form you can tackle huge metaphysical questions if you want to.
Does the rest of the cast laugh at Joshua for only getting to play one character?
[laughs] We always laugh at Joshua for one reason or other.
– Fringe S04E14 Review: You Just Got Ob-SERVED!
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom