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Eye on Emmy: How Fringe’s Anna Torv finds the Reality amid the Unreal

As FBI agent Olivia Dunham, Fringe’s Anna Torv this past season loved and lost a man, endured a difficult pregnancy, and cheated death all but one time. Complementing the spectacular conceits of dual universes, duplicate selves, accelerated gestation periods and time-jumps, the drama quotient remained high as well, with this formidable female often feeling – literally — the weight of our world on her shoulders. Perhaps it’s time for Emmy voters to see past the Fox series’ fantasy elements and give props to the Aussie actress who delivers the fantastic week after week.

TVLINE | This season, you played Olivia, “Bolivia,” Bolivia-as-Olivia, and Olivia as… Leonard Nimoy. How did that work out for you?
This season was my favorite so far. You do a show, and there are things you do every episode – like, we always have a crime scene – so to all of a sudden throw it in the air and be given the chance to play a whole lot of different stuff is fun.

TVLINE | Could you have imagined three years ago you’d be juggling all this?
I didn’t know what to imagine even after we finished the pilot. But this [third] season exceeded my expectations, and I think everybody had a ball, actually. Season 1, [which was filmed] in New York, was awesome, and Season 2 we were feeling things out in a new town [Vancouver] with a completely different crew. So this past year essentially [felt like only] the second season – and everybody says that’s the best one, because you’re relaxed.

TVLINE | Are you worried about what the writers might throw at you next?
I don’t know what they’re thinking, especially with the way we ended this season.

TVLINE | I have to imagine you’ll now be playing Olivia and Bolivia concurrently in the same space…
I’m thinking so, which will be tough on the hair department but fun for me. [Laughs] The only scene they had together was at the end of Season 2, when they had to fight in the apartment. I don’t know how much of that they’re going to do because that took a damn long time to shoot.

TVLINE | How do you go about making Bolivia not simply “the evil twin”?
I didn’t know where [the writers] were going to go with her, so I tended to just play it scene-for-scene or episode-for-episode. There were a couple where I thought, “Oh, she kind of is going bad,” but then you get to see her in other situations and she becomes a person. Going back to the other side and getting to play a bunch of stuff where she’s in her own world I think did great things for the character, because then you went, “She’s just fighting for her cause.”

TVLINE | Talk about how you worked with John Noble to nail down what was basically an impersonation of an in absentia Leonard Nimoy.
I was not excited when that script came out. I was fearful. So what do you do? You call the people that are much better than you and say, “Help!” [Laughs] John had worked with Leonard, plus I was so, so nervous, I wanted to make sure that when I went to set to do it for the first time there was at least one person that I could look at who I had done it with before and trusted. It offered an element of comfort.

TVLINE | Did you ever get a note from Mr. Nimoy?
I did! I got an email saying, “I’ve been hearing good things about your impersonation of me.” I wrote back, “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. Why they didn’t give it to Josh [Jackson] or John, I don’t know.” He was so darling, he wrote back, “It wouldn’t have been as charming.”

TVLINE | Would seeing John receive an Emmy nomination be as satisfying as getting your own?
Oh, I can’t believe that he hasn’t [been nominated] yet. I have the luxury of watching him work, and I learn a lot.

TVLINE | We saw Mary McDonnell do gangbusters work on Battlestar Galactica, which in many ways was “The West Wing in space.” Yet actors in genre shows have trouble getting recognized at Emmy time. Why do you think that is?
I’m loath to kind of comment on that, but I think that people think that serious acting needs to be within a serious sort of story.

TVLINE | Would that influence your Emmy reel, if you get to compile one? Might you cherry-pick straighter drama moments?
That’s an interesting thing, because performance is so much about taste. I don’t ever sit down and ask people, “What’s your favorite scene of mine?” I know the ones that I’m proud of, but people like different things…

TVLINE | Which scenes are you proud of?
There were two scenes from when Olivia came back [from the other universe] and finds out that Peter was sleeping with Bolivia. One [has] her on her own where she takes all of her clothes out of the wardrobe and puts them in the laundry. [Watch that clip here.] And there’s another where she says to Peter, “I can’t believe that you didn’t know it was me.” The reason I love those scenes is because it’s really easy to be great in your own bedroom [rehearsing], but when you get on set you have so many different obstacles. The scene with Peter and me outside was done at like 1:30 in the morning, in the middle of town, so we had piles of drunk people screaming up and down the street, and massive fire engines and trucks coming through…. We’re doing this quiet scene where I have to cry and we’re on the clock, but that’s what TV teaches you -– to just go with it very quickly.

TVLINE | I remember and loved that scene (watch it here), because it was coming from this place of, “Nobody wants to feel replaceable.”
And nobody wants to believe that they’re just their skin. You want to believe that people see something else inside you. But essentially that’s what she was being told at that point. Those scripts were wonderfully written.

TVLINE | Who inspires you? Is there an actress who, whenever she has a new project come out, you are so there?
I just adore Kate Winslet. I love her because you’re never aware of all the stuff that’s going into her characterization, and yet she completely transforms. She also has this incandescent warmth to her, and that’s a quality that is hers. She’s approachable and damn believable.

TVLINE | You recently told me that if Fringe ever introduced a third universe, you’d want that Olivia to be a Southern gal….
Yeah, someone really from Jacksonville.

TVLINE | So, not someone Australian?
Australian would be fun, but I don’t know if they’d ever let me do that. But I’d love to play a real Aussie chick! I pitched that once; I wanted to play the teacher in the episode where we go back and find out Olivia and Peter’s [childhood] story. I nearly got the guys to do it, but they thought it might be too confusing. So I let that go!

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