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'Fringe': Leonard Nimoy on William Bell

October 8, 2009 |  7:12 am

Normally, I watch “Fringe” like anyone else. Thursday night, I sit on my couch, give my TiVo a little head start so I can fast forward through commercials, and enjoy the episode, furiously scribbling notes onto a small notebook the whole time. That’s how everyone watches, right?

This week, I got a preview of the new “Fringe,” “Momentum Deferred.” They should have called it “Gratification Deferred.” This is the episode everyone has been waiting for since the new season began. I don’t want to spoil anything. Not for the episode tonight, and not for my Show Tracker tomorrow. So I’m not going to tell you what crazy experiment Walter does or where to find the Observer or about all the heads, and I absolutely won’t tell you who guest stars.

One a completely unrelated note, Leonard Nimoy took time yesterday to talk about “Fringe” and playing the part of the infamous Dr. William Bell.

“Fringe” spent the entire first season talking about William Bell. Here’s a reminder:


 


When it came time to finally meet William Bell, who could they get to fill these very large shoes? Why not Leonard Nimoy, possibly the most iconic actor in all of science fiction?

J.J Abrams, a co-creator of “Fringe,” was already hoping to hook him for another role in his reenvisioning of the “Star Trek” franchise. Nimoy explained: Abrams "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.”

That story and vision for "Star Trek" came out last May to rave reviews and made nearly $385 million in theaters.

204_momdef_0061 “I had a a great time working on the movie. I think they did a brilliant job,” Nimoy continued. “ … 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.”

Nimoy had some familiarity with “Fringe” before they asked him. “I watched it periodically,” he said. “I think it’s extremely well done. It’s nuanced. It’s complex. It’s a mixture of science and science fiction in a very interesting and intelligent way.”

Which isn’t how Nimoy sees a lot of contemporary science fiction. “I’m concerned about the position of story in terms of importance,” Nimoy told. “We have great technology in our industry, and that technology can be overused at the expense of story.… I think 'Fringe' uses the technology brilliantly, but in the service of excellent storytelling.”

Nimoy should know; he’s made a career in science fiction. “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…. It was a great project called 'Zombies of the Stratosphere',” Nimoy reminisced, “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.”

But it wasn’t the science fiction that drew Nimoy to “Fringe.” It had more to do with William Bell. “The character was somewhat of a blank slate … 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,” Nimoy explained. “William Bell is sort of a “master of the universe,” a brilliant man, very wealthy man, very powerful.”

Nimoy came on at the end of last season for just the one scene opposite Anna Trov (Agent Olivia Dunham). “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,” Nimoy said. “I think she’s terrific.”

120_nimoy_111 But we didn’t get to see how that scene played out. This season started with Olivia unable to remember meeting with William Bell. Nimoy says when we do see their full interaction, “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.”

Who knows when we might see that scene fully played out, but as a complete nonsequitur, “Momentum Deferred” premiers tonight at 9/8 Central.

But even after we see Olivia and William Bell’s conversation, it won’t be the end of Leonard Nimoy’s role in “Fringe.”

“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,” Nimoy said.

If you curious as to what else Leonard Nimoy is up to these days, check out www.leonardnimoyphotography.com. Though maybe not at work. He gets a bit risqué.

-- Andrew Hanson

Photos and video credit: Fox Television

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