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While many other television series already have been renewed for next season, Fringe remains in limbo. But executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman remain optimistic about the future of the Fox drama.
“I think we’re 70/30 that the show is going to come back. I think that’s honestly sincere,” Pinkner told reporters at WonderCon in Anaheim. “That may also be a little bit we’re inside of it and we’re hopeful, so those odds might be skewed by our own aspirations, but the feedback has been very positive.”
“I honestly, personally, I’ve been in this business for such a long time that I understand that you never know,” Wyman added. “Not to say that Jeff isn’t right, there are reasons why he’s saying that. But we never know, so I just have to go and do my job and see if it works. Something can change in the last minute, and that’s what’s so precarious about the business. You just have to show up.”
John Noble, who plays Dr. Walter Bishop, is equally concerned about the cast and crew being able to finish what they started, saying he feels Fringe is on the verge of something amazing.
“The overriding feeling is we’re on the cusp of being one of the great science fiction shows of all time,” he said. “We all want to finish it. We don’t want to leave people going, ‘What? I’ve watched this for four years!’ No one’s certain. There’s not a drop in energy. If anything, it’s got even edgier.”
“I think quite a few of us feel that,” said Blair Brown, who plays Nina Sharp. “We’re trying to work on so many levels at once. You have all these parents and children in various degrees and you’ve got a Romeo and Juliet love story that goes across universes and through alternates. It’s kind of amazing that way. It is epic in a way.”
“I think people are anxious,” she added. “I’m not just being an optimist because I’m not really an optimist, but these last eight ones are so interesting that I think it would be a shame to lose it at this point because they also have very good ideas. They’re really worth exploring for people who care about these characters and like to be tantalized by metaphysical, crazy sci-fi shifts in reality and possibilities reality could be.”
Beyond the attitude on set and the possibility of cancellation, Wyman and Pinkner are ready to wrap up the show in a way they hope will be satisfying to fans — a plan that came about as a result of long-term planning from the beginning of the season.
“Traditionally, we always end the season with the end of a chapter. That was Jeff and my creative choice,” Wyman said. “It’s like something new has ended and something new is going to begin. It really hasn’t changed our attack at all. We know where the show is going. We’ve known since season one where the show is going. We’re not really concerned. We don’t change the way we want to tell stories for anybody.”
“Maybe to our detriment!” Pinkner laughed. “Honestly, when we set out to start shaping this season, we started with the ending of the season. We actually started a little earlier to make a choice creatively last season, like Peter disappears. The value of the choice, the creative wisdom of the choice was very much going to be determined by how it was executed. We knew how he returned, what that meant, what the consequences of that were, how that changed the characters, how that changed the dynamics of the show. We knew that the end of this season was going to make people reconsider the entirety of the season and whether or not it was good. We pretty much started with the ending and hopefully feeling very gratified knowing what the next episodes are that it was a great choice and it gave us a lot of creative juice for the season. There were definitely times when the fans were either with or against us and that’s okay because we had to have confidence in our storytelling. We’re excited to be here knowing what’s coming up.”
The two showrunners said they would’ve been satisfied with the conclusion of Season 3 the end of the show had Fringe not come back for a fourth season.
“If we ended last year, it still would have been okay,” Wyman said. “We would have put out a comic book to explain a few things.”
“But it would have satisfied the journey both characters went on,” Pinkner said. “That ending would be Peter had to sacrifice himself to save the world. It would have been bittersweet.”
“Not what we would have hoped, but people would have at least seen why it happened,” Wyman said. “The journey from the first time these people got sucked in on an FBI case to this is a long way, a long saga. We just want to make sure our fans are taken care of.”
Although the series didn’t end with Peter’s disappearance, Noble recalled the fan response to the character’s sacrifice and its aftereffects.
“We knew that Peter would have to come back. It was interesting the response from the fans as to where is he and why isn’t he coming back,” he said. “They weren’t sure. The main thing that happened without Peter is we had to create versions of our characters that hadn’t been impacted by Peter. You had a Walter and Olivia and Astrid who hadn’t had emotional contact with this man. It was quite different. Walter was probably the least pleasant of the Walters since he was just mad and grumpy and had these two girls who looked after him, but in his opinion only looked after him because he was smart. He was a pretty sad character in the first part of it. We eventually went through the various manifestations to where we are at present where they all accept each other and want this to be their family. That’s where we eventually arrive at. They will it to be a happy place but the first half is quite brutal without Peter. The fans were very anxious about it.”
Wyman also spoke about the Beyond the Fringe DC Comics series written by star Joshua Jackson, which takes place in an alternate version of the show’s universe. “Josh scripted one into several parts, and it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s sort of like the Bizarro world and mythology outside of the television show. It’s just taking those characters — and we were fortunate to have characters and a context for them, the science fiction context, where you can repurpose them in many different ways. It’s a version of — these are stories we would love to tell if we weren’t beholden to the mythology of the television show. They’re really fun.”
Should Fringe be canceled, Pinkner and Wyman said they would consider turning again to comics to tie up any remaining loose ends.
“We were thinking if things ended, what we would do is make a very special edition comic,” Wyman said. “A double issue, something that’s big, however much of our stories could get in there to do what we wanted to do, which for our fans is a big deal because they would buy it. Conceptually, I mean, not purchase-wise. They love the idea. So for this show more than any other show, it’s a possibility.”
Long-term plans aside, both the producers and cast are excited about the immediate future and the conclusion of Season 4, which wraps back to the beginning of the show in a major way
“These last eight [episodes] have a lot of characters coming back from really early episodes, which is fascinating because some stories get sorted out and others don’t, which is the Fringe way,” Brown said. “There’s a really curious shift as well.”
“I know that in the last few episodes, we’ve just created some of the best television out there I’ve been involved in,” Noble added. “It’s very interesting, very rich — great return of all the characters. We’ve had new characters, we’ve had some major guest roles come in with Henry Cusick and Georgina Haig, two newcomers who play major roles in [Episode] 19. They did a wonderful job. The writers are bringing them back in, for the sake of the fans, for another look.”
As for the more immediate future of the show, fans have a lot to look forward to. According to the executive producers, tonight’s episode, “A Short Story About Love,” is a climax to many of the ideas developing so far.
“You can expect a lot of fun stuff,” Wyman said. “It’s hard to say what any specific episode is without spoiling, but as has been pointed out earlier, the beginning of the season was very much ramp-up and setup for episodes that are coming up now, all of which are very tied into the season-long story we’ve been telling. We’re really excited about it.”
Don’t miss John Noble’s interview with CBR TV at WonderCon below. Fringe airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.