The Telefile
J.J. Abrams Fears Science, Joshua Jackson Is Just Bad At It As the whole TV-watching world is currently a-buzzin' with Fringe anticipation (myself very much included, as I've refused to watch a screener before tomorrow night's premiere and am determined to be surprised no matter how many spoilers I have lurking in my midst... named Angel), we listened in on an open call with creator J.J. Abrams and star Joshua Jackson recently and got an inside scoop on the show, witnessed the two react to an insane reporter's question, and even learned that invisibility may, in fact, exist. Because those are the kinds of things that happen when you're in the (long distance phone) presence of J.J. Abrams.

Before I get into the meat of the call, we need to address my two favorite things that happened during it. First of all, J.J. and Pacey go way back as buddies, and are really adorable about it. Pacey: "Actually, not to make this too romantic, but I remember the first time we met." J.J.: "At Disney." They both remembered it immediately, like a sweet, platonic old couple. When asked why he cast Pacey out of all the actors in the world for his series, J.J. said, "I've always been a fan and loved his sense of humor and also the gravity that I thought that he could bring to something, even something as soap operatic as the stuff you were doing on the WB." It was a back-handed compliment, sure, but the fact remains: J.J. Abrams believes Pacey brought much-needed gravity to Dawson's Creek, and he is right.

My second favorite incident is even better. A reporter used his lone permitted question and follow-up to ask Joshua Jackson if he is A) Good at science, and B) If not, did he become an actor solely because he is not good at science. Luckily for the reporter, everyone's phones were muted, so he was not greeted with uproarious mockery. Instead, he got a signature Pacey deadpan. "I think the standard answer to that is: I'm an actor because I'm not good at a lot of things." Hee. He then added, "But it's been since high school since I found myself in lab." Much like everyone who makes their living as something other than a scientist. I can't find the reporter's name with a simple Google search, so I'm convinced he was a ringer. I suspect either Greg Grunberg or Ken Olin. Moving on...

Abrams has said many times this summer that Fringe won't require the kind of viewer commitment that Lost and Alias did, and he actually seems to mean it. He also seems to have a plan! This is a whole new J.J., folks.

"I'm so drawn to overarching and sort of long-term stories, there will still be the mythology, the evolution of characters, the revelations of their story and what "The Pattern" means and what they're doing and how they connect to that. But we're doing it in a way that is much less week to week installments of that story, which then requires you to reset things every time you do an episode that is a mythology episode, which makes it, I hope, something you can watch without feeling like you're not in the club if you've missed an episode."

Also, adding a sci-fi element can really spice up a boring friends-and-lovers type of show:

"What shows like The X-Files did so well is they could do creepy stuff Twilight Zone-style, and it was actually even more than half the season, but they would do a number of shows that had nothing to do with the overall storytelling, the overall mythology and then they would jump in and do one. That is definitely closer to the model. I would even say closer to ER almost, where you have these ongoing relationships, these ongoing storylines and yet week to week when the door bursts open you're faced with the insane urgent situation of the week.

A show I loved when it was on was The Practice. That's another show that would do that well -- they would deal with the interpersonal relationship stuff. I am so interested in those relationships. When I look back at doing Felicity, and I'm sure Josh felt this way on Dawson's Creek as well, the problem with those shows is that there's nothing to interrupt the relationship story. So while there are things here and there that you come up with, there was no franchise that would distract the main characters from their emotional storyline.

So I think a show like ER is a good example of a show where if these characters were not doctors and they were just hanging out, you go through their emotional stories in a few episodes. But because of what's happening every day, every week on those shows, there's stuff they have to deal with, there're fires to put out. So anyway, The X-Files is definitely a good model. ER for some reason is one that feels more in line with the rhythm of what we're doing, but The X-Files is a great example."

And hey, why does J.J. fear corporations so?

"There have been a few instances where I've looked at things that certain corporations have done and I just can't help myself. I think, 'Okay, wait a minute. What's the real agenda there? What's really going on?' Because there's got to be something more -- and so it's just a very real thing that we are all surrounded by, as much as we are surrounded by the geography and the political world, we're surrounded by a corporate world. It's hard to believe that there isn't some kind of interesting, compelling intrigue happening behind the doors of those corporate headquarters, so it's an intriguing idea. Having said that, it's also been overplayed and done a million times so if you don't have something interesting to say about a corporate culture, conspiracy, you probably should say nothing. But it is, for whatever reason, interesting to me."

And now for the very real existence of invisibility, as promised:

"It's funny because Lost was always a sci-fi show that was kind of secretly a sci-fi show, and something like Battlestar Galactica is obviously much more overtly science fiction. The weird thing about Fringe is that although you can say it's science fiction, a lot of what we're talking about is stuff that is at least in the realm of possibility, even though we're definitely pushing it. So some of the stuff that we're talking about now is not as much sci-fi as much as it is just sci, like when Star Trek came out and they had their communicators, that was a cool dream and now we all in our pockets have communicators and it's real. So when we're working on an episode and we read, as we did a week ago, that invisibility is coming, they think we've cracked invisibility. And you're like, 'Okay.' Like the stuff that you just would never in a million years think is actually possible is happening every day.

So I think we may be living in the golden age of sci-fi for the TV, but I think it's partially because we're living in an incredibly advanced, and almost uncontrollably so, period of scientific achievement. It's pushing what we all thought was a comfortable, almost quaint version of what sci-fi is to a very different place, and that's where Fringe lives."

I didn't read that invisibility article, but I wish to God I had. Oh, and Pacey and Anna Torv's characters are basically Sydney and Vaughn Seasons 1 and a half.

"There's no doubt going to be a sort of slow burn relationship that develops between the two of them. I don't think it will happen exactly as you might think. There obviously will be a dynamic there that we will play up, but like Josh said, it needs to be burned and it needs to be done right. There's a lot going on their lives on the show that are more urgent issues, but there's definitely going to be over time a relationship between the Peter and Olivia characters."

Why won't they be making out from the get-go? According to Joshua Jackson, "It would be inappropriate in the pilot because it's awkward hitting on a woman when her boyfriend is dying in front of her eyes." I bet!

I also really hope he doesn't read this article. "I wasn't really too worried about coming back and being labeled as "Pacey" or as that guy from Dawson's Creek because that's really an actor's job. If I get labeled as that, it's probably because I'm not good enough to define myself as something else." Not true, Joshua Jackson! It means you're fabulous! Actors and their insecurity, right?

Fringe premieres on Fox Tuesday night at 8 PM. I don't know about you, but I hope to be invisible by then.




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The Telefile

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