INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
As Fringe builds toward its Jan. 18 series finale, every episode brings something new to the table while simultaneously helping to resolve the big mysteries of the Fox drama. But although the Fringe team may have a new base of operations in the distant future, it still needs to rely on new allies to help continue its mission. One such ally appears in tonight’s episode of, “The Human Kind,” in the form of Simone, an intuitive and oracle-like woman who helps Olivia track down a key piece of equipment for Walter.
Playing Simone is three-time Grammy winner and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency star Jill Scott, who describes her character as “a quiet warrior.”
“She’s sort of an oracle; someone who can see the future,” she said. “There is an integral part of Olivia’s quest, and Simone has direct knowledge of that — I won’t say knowledge; she has an intuition on how to help her out with that question. … She was a lot more simple, she’s less complex than I originally thought.”
Part of the challenge in her approach to the character was reframing her expectations from her initial impression.
“I had a lot of wild expectations and hopes for my character,” she said. “When I found out who she really was based on my conversations with the director, I had to adjust her quickly. She is a hard worker and a leader and lives pretty much in a state of exhaustion. … The challenge was having to re-address her because I had so many ideas of who this person was. The redirection on her was my challenge, having to about face was my challenge.”
“Simone is not a singer,” she said. “Simone is an emoter. She’s a quiet, strong-willed, focused — in a sense, maybe even a freedom fighter. She’s a big part of the resistance. She doesn’t sing, she works. She’s a hustler, too. She makes ways to finance her community.”
Scott said she was excited to guest star on Fringe, which has been one of her favorite television shows since its premiere.
“I absolutely love all of the science fiction of it, the mystery of it, the science in it, the characters are wonderful and so rich,” she said. “Walter, of course, is my favorite. I have met with pretty much every television broadcast company in America and I kept saying these are the types of shows I want to be involved in. I just put the word out there and I of course asked for it. I believe in saying things out loud. It worked!
“It means a lot to me simply because putting those kind of requests into the universe and having it come back to you is, again, another confirmation personally,” she continued. “The show and the quality of the show — the writing is splendid, the vocabulary is just delicious. Anyone that enjoyed X-Files or shows like that where you’re on the edge of your seat and you’re so invested in these characters, or anyone like me who’s grown up watching Star Trek or X-Files, reading Edgar Allan Poe, enjoying the darker side of things as well as the light, this was a dream come true. I wanted more powers. To be able to see into the future is pretty incredible — or to have an intuition about things like that is pretty awesome, but I definitely wish I had something growing out of me.”
Although Olivia (played by Anna Torv) was the only character with which Scott had any scenes, she said the experience was enjoyable for her as an actor and as a fan.
“[Olivia] is exactly what I thought she was. Her character is smart and lovely and strong,” she said. “Honestly, it bugged me out because this is a show that I genuinely enjoy and there’s Olivia being all those things right in front of my face. Of course, she has to let those things go because it’s time to work, but I was thoroughly geeked. My inner-child was jumping up and down going, ‘Yay!’ It was pretty incredible.”
Other than getting to interact with one of her favorite characters, Scott was excited to use a cool piece of Fringe tech.
“I never have had to use any kind of futuristic products or any future apparati,” she said. “I’ve never had to do anything like that before. All of a sudden, there’s this screen I have to use — I don’t know what else to call it — it’s a 3D scanner thingy that I have to know how to use. That was really, really cool.”
Although Scott is now finished playing Simone, she reflected favorably on the experience, comparing it to her time on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
“All you ever want is a great character and great writing. As an actor, that’s the juiciest sandwich you could ask for,” Scott said. “That’s something you could put both hands on and that’s really all we’re looking for. I chose No. 1 Ladies’ Detective, or I’ll say it chose me, and it was an absolute blessing — for the experience, being in Africa for seven months learning so many different things from languages to foods to greetings — on so many levels, from nature to my heart, an incredible experience. Fringe, I wish that I could come back. It wasn’t enough for me, quite frankly. One episode — this is truly one of my favorite shows. It’s something that I would definitely like to be a part of and I’m saddened that this is the last season. But I’ve purchased every season thus far and I’ll purchase this one, too.”
The Fringe episode “The Human Kind” airs tonight at 9 ET/PT on Fox.