Leonard Nimoy on ‘Fringe’

The veteran actor speaks about the last role of his career.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Leonard Nimoy on 'Fringe'

Later on this week, the storied acting career of Leonard Nimoy will come to an end following the conclusion of the season finale of "Fringe." While Nimoy has become iconic for his portrayal of Spock in the original "Star Trek" TV series and movies, his latest role — as the enigmatic and mysterious William Bell — has introduced the veteran actor to a new generation of sci-fi fans.

CraveOnline recently participated in a round-table interview with Nimoy about his final acting performance and his future plans.

Q: What brought you to "Fringe"? Were you a fan of the show prior to that?
Leonard Nimoy: I had a wonderful time working on the new "Star Trek" movie with J.J. Abrams, who directed it.  When it was done, he asked me to look into the possibility of playing William Bell on "Fringe."  I was frankly not terribly aware of what it was all about.  I began looking at some episodes that William Bell, the character, had been talked about rather frequently, but had never been seen.  I felt that I owed J.J. a favor.  He did a great job on the "Star Trek" movie and treated me extremely well.
I’m very happy I did it.  The work on "Fringe" has turned out to be exciting and interesting.  It’s a terribly well produced series.  The character was a wide open canvas for me to work with.  I had a great time doing it.  Next week’s episode is particularly special for the William Bell character.
Q: How much information about William Bell were you given before you agreed to portray him? Is he good or evil?
Leonard Nimoy: The ambiguity is the trauma of the character.  I think all of those questions will be answered next week in the final episode.  We are still not quite clear, as of last night, about what his intentions are.  He keeps telling Olivia that she should trust him.  Maybe she has to.  I don’t know if she has any choice really, but there will be very strong involvement with Olivia and with Peter and particularly with Walter, which will, I think, answer the questions that you’re asking.  Those are the questions that everybody’s asking.  So, what’s it all about with William Bell?  We’ll find out next Thursday.
Q: You've announced that you're going to retire from acting after this finale. Was there anything about your role as William Bell that led you to make that decision?
Leonard Nimoy: It’s really coincidental.  It wasn’t anything about the "Fringe" job or the character of William Bell that made me decide I didn’t want to do this anymore.  It’s a coincidence.  I’ve been at this for 60 years.  My first professional work in film was in 1950.  60 years, I think, is long enough.
I had decided not to do anymore acting and directing several years ago.  I was called back to work to do the "Star Trek" movie, which was very attractive.  I thought it was going to be a wonderful film.  I read the script and a great handling of the Spock character and an introduction of wonderful new actor to play Spock.
I just [did] this last job as a favor to JJ Abrams.  I’m glad I did it.  I think we’ll see an exciting episode next week.  It’s a very good note to go out on.
Q: Is the exotic subject matter of "Fringe" more complicated than anything you dealt with in "Star Trek"?
Leonard Nimoy: The best answer I can give you is that the "Fringe" television series is extremely well produced.  The production is far more sophisticated than anything that I was ever involved with in television.  Only the previous work that I was involved in was much more simplistic, production-wise, and these scripts are extremely complicated and very nuanced, very intelligent scripts.  I’m intrigued with how well they do these shows, not only in the concept, but in the execution.  I’m amazed.  Particularly the episode next week, I had a chance to be involved in some major production scenes, the likes of which I had never experienced in television.  You’re right.  The stories are unusually complex, but fascinating for an audience.  I’ve become a great fan of the show.
Q: Will you appear on the next season of "Fringe"?
Leonard Nimoy: No, I don’t expect to be on next season.  I have announced my retirement.  I will not be doing anymore television or movie acting or directing.  I can tell you that I feel very fulfilled with the work that was given to me to do in this final episode, coming up next week.  I admire all of the people on this show: Anna Torv, Josh Jackson, and John Noble, and all the rest.  I had some wonderful scenes to play with John Noble who I think is a wonderful actor.  I’m excited.  I’m looking forward to seeing it edited.  I have not seen the edited version, but the work that we did on the soundstage and on the streets of Vancouver felt really creative and productive.  I’m happy that I did it. 

Q: What do you believe is the most interesting thing about William Bell's character? 
Leonard Nimoy: I think it’s the fact that he’s disarmingly unpredictable.  He keeps saying, “Trust me,” but then you’re not quite sure if you should.  That is probably the most interesting thing about him.  He’s obviously a man of great intelligence and a powerful figure, but most intriguing is what his intentions are.  What is his agenda?  What is he really after?  What’s he trying to accomplish?  We’ll find out more about that next Thursday.

Q: What aspects of William Bell's character have you found the most intriguing over the course of the season?

Leonard Nimoy: Well, there’s always been the questions of what are his intentions.  The writers have done a very good job of keeping the answer to that rather obscure.  I’ve tried to make him disarming.  I’ve tried to play him ambiguously so that, although he keeps saying, “Trust me,” you’re still not quite sure if you should.  Even in last night’s episode, he’s saying to Olivia, “I know that you have reason not to trust me, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to.”
I think we’ll find out whether or not he’s telling her the truth in next week’s episode.  We’ll find out whether or not it was corrected….  It’s going to be a very exciting episode.  It’s extremely well-produced.  The performances by all of the actors that I got to work with were wonderful.  I had a great time doing it.  I’m looking forward to seeing it on the air next Thursday.

Q: What was the final day filming on the set of "Fringe' like for you?
Leonard Nimoy: It was very moving.  I had the same experience on the last day of filming on the "Star Trek" movie about a year-and-a-half ago.  This was a very moving experience.  It was a night scene, a very brief scene.  In fact, the last night, the last work that I did was the scene that was on last night between myself and Olivia, Anna Torv.  I had mixed feelings about it.  I didn’t want it to end because the experience had been such a positive one, but of course, we had to get it done.
When it was done, the entire company gathered around.  There was a lot of love exchanged.  I said to them, “I’ve been at this for 60 years.  I have never worked with a better company.”  I meant it.  They do an amazing job on the "Fringe" series.  It just feels really good to know that I’m saying goodbye to the work on a very positive, good note.  I feel very good about the work that was done.  I’m looking forward to it being on the air next Thursday.

Q: Is it hard to say goodbye to acting and directing after doing it for so long?
Leonard Nimoy: No, it’s not hard to say goodbye.  I’ve had 60 years of working in films and television.  I’m very grateful for all the great opportunities that I’ve had and all and the people that I’ve met.
What I’m working on now is making the prints for an exhibition of my photography, which will open July 31st at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.  I’m excited about it because it’s my first, solo exhibition in a major museum.  It’s a show called, “Secret Selves.”  It’s about lost or hidden or secret identifies.  It’s a series of portraits.  I’m excited about it.  If one cares to see what some of images look like, you can go to my Web site, which is leonardnimoyphotography.com.  Go to “Secret Selves.”