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'Fringe' producers talk disappearing/reappearing Peter (I of II)

by jmaloni
Fri, Sep 23rd 2011 06:25 pm

Part I of II

New season begins with large question mark

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni


No series on television takes more creative license than "Fringe."

And no show offers better payoffs.

But the latest plot twist from genius producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman is a real doozy.

In the season three finale, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), one third of the FOX drama's triumvirate, united the "over there" universe with the "over here" universe. He saved two clashing worlds, the life of his love (Anna Torv's FBI agent Olivia Dunham) ... and then disappeared -- and not in the up and left way, either. Having fulfilled his destiny, Peter vanished from existence. Neither Olivia, nor patriarch Walter Bishop (John Noble) -- nor their alternate world doppelgangers, "Walternate" and "Bolivia" -- have any recollection of Peter.

His return (and in what capacity) is at the heart of "Fringe's" new season, which begins tonight (9 p.m.) The details of the mystery and its ultimate payoff promise to be worthy of the trust fans have placed in Pinkner and Wyman.

"Because we've always had a plan, and because the audience has started to understand our season finales pay off what was said up at the beginning of seasons, over time we've developed this trust," Pinkner says. "(It) is obviously paying enormous dividends for us, because it's allowing us to be really adventurous and not worry about constantly within the narrative saying to the audience, 'Don't worry. Don't worry. Don't worry,' because, by now, they kind of, hopefully, have a sense that we know what we're doing. We know that we have their best interest at heart, as well."

For those still uncertain about the logic behind Peter's vanishing act, Wyman points to previous character/cast shifts -- the death of Kirk Acevedo's agent Charlie Francis and the introduction of "Bolivia" as a foil to Peter and Olivia -- as proof he and his producing partner have a method to their madness.

"It was really tough on us when the Kirk Acevedo thing happened," he said. "I mean, if you remember back, there were stories up that he got fired. There were stories up that he quit, and everybody was saying, 'I can't believe that he's gone. He was one of my favorite characters. I'm never watching the show again.' We knew very well that nobody really dies on 'Fringe.' We knew what our plan was to bring him back in the capacity that he came back (in the "over there" realm), and that was part of our storytelling. But we couldn't really say, 'Hey, everybody, take it easy. There's a method here.'

"When people saw that -- it's those little incremental moments of trust that, 'Oh, OK, I get it and I really enjoyed that. I really liked that.' At the beginning when we introduced 'Bolivia,' everybody hated her and they were like, 'Why are you doing that?' and 'Peter should only be with Olivia.' We knew that every great love story is a very winding road. So, by the end when we realized that ('Bolivia') is not as bad as all that, and she's a person or a character, as well, people really started to love her and really liked her."

Those payoffs, Wyman says, justified the unexpected plot shifts. "Fringe" fans, he says, now feel like they're in good hands.

"That's the greatest reward that we could have," Wyman says.

At the end of the day, Peter is an intricate part of "Fringe," and producers promise Jackson will get his fair share of screen time this season.

"Peter is part of the DNA of the show," Wyman says. "To sort of have 'Fringe' without Peter, in some way, shape or form, is really not 'Fringe.' "

"He's part of the language of our show and a very big part of it. So, there are kind of two things that we want to get across without really ruining anything, and that is: No. 1, yes, Peter is part of the DNA and he'll always be that. No. 2 is that, just because he doesn't exist doesn't mean that the three years that we've all invested in and watched does not exist; it didn't happen. It really did happen and it'll unfold itself for you to understand in what context I'm speaking of.

"But, yes, people shouldn't worry. We love Peter and we know how much everybody loves Peter. We both can't imagine telling the series and the story without him."

Adds Pinkner, "What we would say is the show constantly tries to recontextualize your perception of the story. We introduced Walter Bishop in season one, and by the time you get to season two you realize that, in many ways, he's the chief architect. Our most sympathetic character is the chief architect of all the trouble in two universes. There's a version of the narrative where he's the biggest villain of the entire piece.

"So, the idea that Peter is gone -- and ultimately he's not permanently gone, we've made it very clear -- is an opportunity to sort of recontextualize the story of everything we've seen again, which is something that we love to play with."

"Fringe" airs Friday at 9 p.m. on FOX. Follow the show online at http://www.fox.com/fringe/ and http://www.facebook.com/Fringe and @FRINGEonFOX and #FRINGE.

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