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'Fringe': Who is Olivia?

by jmaloni

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni

Sat, Oct 30th 2010 03:30 pm
Anna Torv stars as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on `Fringe.` (copyright Fox; Fox photo by Smallz and Raskind)
Anna Torv stars as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on "Fringe." (copyright Fox; Fox photo by Smallz and Raskind)
It was just one sentence.

And it was spoken during a World Series commercial, of all places.

But, for "Fringe" fans, watching Peter Bishop tell someone, presumably Olivia, that she had to go home ... well, that was more exciting than watching Cliff Lee battle Tim Lincecum.

Barring any Rangers/Giants shenanigans, "Fringe" returns Thursday (9 p.m., Fox) to continue its "over here"/"over there" parallel universe duel. The storyline, presently centered on FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), has alternate versions of our heroine stuck on the wrong side of the fence. "Good" Olivia is "over there"; kidnapped and then brainwashed into thinking she's Bolivia ("Bad" Olivia). Now, she's primed to lead the bad guys into war. The real Bolivia, meanwhile, is "over here," working to sabotage this world, and steal Peter (Joshua Jackson) away from the real Olivia.  

The plot, which may sound somewhat contrived to outsiders, has "Fringe" fans hanging on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating how the two Olivias will return to their rightful places (and when; producers haven't offered a timeline).

With "Fringe" alternating "red" ("over there") and "white" ("over here") episodes, Torv is Ping-Ponging between Olivias. But, that's OK. The opportunity to play one character two ways has been an enlightening experience -- and quite the challenge -- for the Australian actress.

"I was so excited when it first came up and then we've sort of kicked in," Torv says. "I haven't really had the chance to play the ‘Ultimate Olivia' (Bolivia) properly for herself. It's been our Olivia, thinking that she's the ‘Ultimate Olivia.' Then, the ‘Ultimate Olivia' pretending to be our Olivia. So, it's been a little bit tough to work that line.

"What I found has been interesting is ... how clearly I am now seeing Olivia, which I don't think you do. I don't think you get those opportunities where you actually get to step back and look at a character from a different perspective while playing the other. You keep trying to think, because you're playing each -- each of them has their own impression of the other that they haven't met really properly. So, it's been tough, but fun."

If anything, Torv would like the complexity of her two roles amped up even more. 

"I would have loved it if we (had) gone right out there and made (Bolivia) a completely different character," she says. "But essentially, the differences are subtle there. They both ended up in the same job. They both ended up to the point where they even had the same partners. It's just gentle little shifts."

Perhaps, but the worlds these characters live in couldn't be more different. "Over there" has zeppelins, quarantine zones, advanced medicine and a different pop culture (think "Dogs" on Broadway instead of "Cats"). 

"It's been fun," Torv says. "I think all the guys that have had that chance would say the same, too. It's also been so fun to play on the other side, which does feel like, ‘Wow! This is a completely different energy.' Then, to pop back. ... I've loved it."

When the Olivias return home, Torv expects each to have some sort of personal conflict or crisis of conscience.

"Absolutely. I think that'll come when they both get home," she says. "I think that'll be the test, because that's the interesting part about this, too. Obviously, we've been following our Olivia and our team for two seasons now. So, our loyalties are definitely there. But when you start to see the other side, (and her FBI team's alternate selves) solving cases and interacting and working with each other, you realize that they're both just fighting their own cause. Neither one's good or bad, or neither one is right or wrong. That's, hopefully, the second half of the season."

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