John Noble and Christopher Lloyd On ‘Fringe’

The veteran actors discuss their recent teamup in an episode of Fox's cult sci-fi series

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

John Noble and Christopher Lloyd On 'Fringe'

Doctor Emmett Brown or "Doc" Brown is one of the most beloved mad scientist heroes from the ’80s, thanks to the "Back To The Future" trilogy and the eclectic performance by his portrayer, Christopher Lloyd. Earlier this month, Lloyd made a guest appearance on "Fringe" opposite John Noble’s Dr. Walter Bishop, who is fast gaining a following for his own brilliantly insane man of science.

Recently, Lloyd and Noble spoke with the press about working together within the episode, before Lloyd elaborated on his latest character and whether he’ll return down the line while Noble dropped a few hints about what to expect in the second half of "Fringe’s" third season.


Q: Christopher, how do you keep ending up with these great Sci-Fi roles?

Christopher Lloyd: Well I don’t know exactly how I end up with some of these roles. It mystifies me sometimes, but I am a fan of Sci-fi and I love being taken into a strange world, and when it’s done with imagination and credibility I love being taken on that trip into the Sci-fi film. I always have. When a good Sci-fi film comes out, I go to the theatre and I sit down. I’m looking forward to a great ride and imagination, and so I’ve always been a fan in that respect.

Q: John, were you excited to have Christopher on as your musical hero?

John Noble: Absolutely. I mean he’s one of my heroes anyways, so when they said that Christopher Lloyd was coming on it was like a dream come true, and of course to have him play the musician from Violet Sedan Chair, which was this creation of ours, made it even more interesting. And we had an amazing time together these two old guys reminiscing and getting the music back up again. It was the best fun.

Christopher Lloyd: I concur.

Q: Christopher, do you really play the keyboard?

Christopher Lloyd: Oh, I am not a piano player. I had the obligatory piano lessons growing up but I have not really touched a piano since then. But they adapted a piano so that I could pound on the keys without making any noise and sort of go with what they had written at that point for me to play and pretend I was playing it. I grew up in a household where everybody was playing the piano all the time, so I had fortunately kind of a feeling of the kind of body movement that went along with it. So hopefully that helped me through.

Q: Having played so many great characters can you talk about what you drew from as reference to get inside the mind of Roscoe?

Christopher Lloyd: Ahh, let’s see. Well I feel he’s a man who is sort of retired from life. He’d had some big losses in his life and his life as a rock star has faded, and he’s lonely and wants to be in a place around other people at this home, and then surprising things develop that sort of force him to sort of come out of himself and depends with a new reality. And I just try to go with what— the script really gave so much information and clues that hopefully I was able to follow him and make it happen.

Q: John, can you talk about how dealing with alternate time and universes makes the acting experience more rich for an actor?

John Noble: We’re not playing the ordinary universe; it’s the real universe, so I don’t think of it as the ordinary. I think the great opportunity that’s existed for me and the other actors in our show is that it’s allowed us to play… in slightly different versions of ourselves in that and that’s a huge opportunity. And it’s been amazing for our set design people to be able to create a world just like ours but slightly different, and socially slightly different, and we go back and we play within those roles. So from an actor’s point of view it’s been a really wonderful opportunity for us.

Q: Christopher, what was it like joining a cast that already has such a great chemistry?

Christopher Lloyd: I loved it. I love working with John Noble. I mean not to say that because he’s on the air here, but it was just such a pleasure. And the cast, the director, everybody was very supportive and I really felt I was being included in a very special ensemble and it was a thrill to experience that.

John Noble: And speaking from our point of view, we were all just pretty excited about having Christopher Lloyd join us, and he was just amazing and had some huge scenes and just hit it every time. We were so impressed and thrilled that he joined us.

Q: John, after this episode, what else do we have to look forward to regarding the Observers this season?

John Noble: Well I think the Observers have been that one thing since the beginning of "Fringe" that have sort of kept us way up there. Who are these strange bold people that appear everywhere? And so to have Michael Cerveris as the principal Observer back in the 26th episode, I think, was fantastic and he got to do some really fine things. I had wonderful looking myself but trying to find out what the role of these Observers are. I mean do they stand outside of the universe? Do they stand outside both universes? Are they observers or should they be hands on?

And I think what we’ve discovered is that if they do become hands-on at any stage then they wreck the natural order of things, and then they try to correct it. And one of the founding premises of "Fringe" is that because of the interference of an Observer, we did rupture the two universes. We ruptured it because one of them interfered in an issue. So it’s really interesting to have them back in again trying to repair the damage, trying to put things right. And at the end of the episode the Observer has the last scene and he says something incredible telling, which I’ll leave for you to observe, but it just shows the way … hidden how much the danger and drama there is ahead.



Q: Christopher how is this character different than any other you’ve played?

Christopher Lloyd: I feel the situation is different from any other character that I’ve done. I sort of wake up in a sense. I’ve admitted myself into a nursing home of sorts to sort of retreat from life, and this parallel universe, so to speak, suddenly comes in very strongly into my life in a very personal way, and I am at a loss what to make of it, how to deal with it and what exactly is going on.

And like I say John Noble’s character when we’re in his laboratory has all kinds of apparatus, everything, what is this all about because I am confused and dismayed and kind of awed by it all. And I feel for me the challenge of kind of coming to terms with that, creating that character and his new reality was very exciting. I loved the script and the people I was working with had all helped to make it happen.

Q: John, Have you ever considered the possibility that "Fringe’s" real universe is in fact yet another alternate universe?

John Noble: Absolutely, yes, my friend. Absolutely. Well you know it’s interesting that when I’m playing in the other universe and playing the character of Walter in the other universe, obviously this universe is the alternate universe. We have the other universe. So I imagine from which ever hill you stand on the opposition’s on the other one, and yes I’ve thought about that quite a lot, and if there were more universes, and there could be, they would all be alternate to the one you’re standing in.

Look our creative people are — must be an amazing place to be in their minds because they come up with the most extraordinary ideas. If we have, from our point of view as actors, if we have an idea, they’re always receptive to it and will listen and sometimes if it’s appropriate they will build it in. There’s a big creative team of writers working and continually coming up with ideas that we wouldn’t even dream of to be honest.

Q: In what ways would you say that Walter has further grown and developed in your eyes this season, and what continues to make him both exciting and also challenging for you to play?

John Noble: A bunch of things happen this season. Walter came from a very big fog when we first knew him and slowly he’s put the pieces back together and rebuilt his life, and that’s all history, and then he went through the terrible second season of realization that Peter had to know, had to find out, so we did that. So we start the third season with this rift between the two men, and we haven’t been able to get that back so that causes a great deal of sort of loneliness and frustration in both of the men but what’s also happened is that Walter’s become conscious.

The major problems he faces, he thinks he is incapable of solving because he’s been ill, because he’s had part of his brain removed, so it’s this incredible struggle. He keeps saying, “I’m not smart enough to do this anymore,” and Nina keeps encouraging him to do it.  And through the course of this season you’ll see him finally accept his limitations but also he accepts his strengths, which are more than enough to deal with situations here. It’s a beautiful journey really of acceptance for Walter, and he goes through all the emotional stages to get there, but a gorgeous journey of accepting where he is and then moving forward.

Q: Christopher, one of your most famous characters, Doc Brown in "Back to the Future" was an over-the-top and comedic character and yet you were able to make him seem like a real person. What would you say is the secret to bringing these outlandish characters to life and making them seem real?

Christopher Lloyd: I don’t know. I feel like I’ve witnessed a lot of people in my own life who were pretty much on the edge at one time or another and I just try really hard to find the reality of a character. How he perceives things. The way he feels about things and try to put that all together and create a person, a character and it’s something I do kind of whatever the role is. It’s just a matter of the way I work and I know a lot of other people that work the same way. So no matter how outlandish or far out the character is there is somewhere a line of reality, which I try to connect with and hope for the best.

Q: Would you say the same, John?

John Noble: I think I’m just looking to the perfect answer and absolutely what Chris has said. You find the truth in the character and it doesn’t matter where and I love Chris’s comment of having contacted many people during his life who are on the fringe or very sustained and that’s the observation you make. That’s exactly the right answer.

Q: Will we get the chance to see your character again, Christopher?

Christopher Lloyd: I have no idea.

John Noble: Wouldn’t that be wonderful, Chris?

Christopher Lloyd: It would be wonderful and I would just so love that.

Q: John, will we see more scenes of Walter running Massive Dynamic?

John Noble: [Walter] does go back in there occasionally and without giving too much away we just in fact shot a scene last night, which is a wonderful .. dynamic and showing just what some of the CEO Walter … are capture …wonderful but it’s very, very funny and he’s not the most responsible CEO in the world, so let’s hope he doesn’t get too much say.

Q: Can you give us any teasers about what’s coming up with the alternate universe and Walternate?

John Noble: Okay, yes I can give you a little. We can’t resist the alternate universe and having created it we have to go back there because of this huge conflict. We all go back. The character of Walternate will be developed, I think, at this stage he’s seen as sort of a nasty cold man. We’ll give you a little bit more background on why he’s like he is over the course of this season, and we spend a few episodes back in the universe and wonderful episodes back in the alternate universe. So I think you’ve got that to look forward to as the season goes through. 

Q: When we see Walternate again, will he be coming undone after murdering his friend Broyles?

John Noble: You won’t see him falling apart. What you will learn is more of what made Walternate what he is, and you’ll see some humanization of the man that behind that steel exterior there are decisions that he makes that are very, very difficult, and we’ve done some terrific scenes which don’t soften him but help to understand that he is in fact a man not a machine.

I hope and I don’t know, but I would hope that there is a resolution between Walter and Walternate because obviously playing them both I don’t see either of them as bad men. Obviously men that are misguided but regardless some reconciliation. I don’t know if that’ll happen but that would be my ideal.