Anna Torv has plenty of nicknames for her alternate-universe character on the Fox sci-fi series Fringe, among them “Alt-Olivia,” “Altlivia” and even “Bolivia.” Whatever you want to call her, Torv is having a blast with the role. She’s mastered the blond, buttoned-up, ready-for-action FBI agent Olivia Dunham over the course of Fringe’s two seasons, and her doppelganger — who’s also ready for action but more of a redhead — presents a welcome new challenge for Torv. She hasn’t found a downside to it yet, “except it all gets kind of confusing keeping track,” the Australian actress says with a hearty laugh. The Fringe season finale in May had the two characters switch Earths, as Altlivia (my personal favorite of the nicknames) came back to our reality with Walter Bishop (John Noble) and son Peter (Joshua Jackson), and our Olivia was stuck in the other world and captured by alternate Walter, aka Walternate. The third season premieres tonight with an episode entitled “Olivia,” so you can expect Torv to have a significant role, whichever characters she’s playing. I talked with Torv while she had a break from filming the third episode of the season in Vancouver, so read below for what’s on tap for her, the many Olivias and a possible Olivia/Peter romance. (And if you missed it last week, click here for the Fringe producers’ thoughts on the new year.)
Photos courtesy of Fox
Have you had more scenes as Olivia or the alternate Olivia so far?
A couple. It’s them both, kind of, but not really. [Laughs] I still don’t have the kind of handle that I’d like to have on Altlivia, but what can you do, it’s Fringe.
What’s your favorite aspect of Altlivia so far?
It’s interesting now, because now Alt-Olivia is back on our side and our Olivia is on that side. I love our show. We do it long hours every day, all day, so it was really fun to shake it up a bit. I don’t think you get to do that much, especially not in television where all of a sudden you have a whole new kind of team and new stories, new costumes, new set. I don’t know, just to have that change has been off the wall and I’ve enjoyed every minute, actually.
Altlivia seems so different from Olivia — the hair, of course, but also her style, her fashion sense and everything else. Does that help you in differentiating her from Olivia in your head?
It did. And then they threw the curveball, which is that now they’re both in the opposite outfits. Then it’s actually going, “Oh God, who really is this person without the wig and without the clothes?” It could be one or the other. When this first came up [last season], Akiva Goldsman had written the script and also was directing those two episodes. I was lucky enough to be able to just sit down and have quite a few chats about all of that. I would have loved to have made her a completely different character, but we had to keep coming back to the fact that they are extremely similar in that they ended up in the same line of work, the same kind of division, with the same partner even. They really are fundamentally, genetically really the same person. There’s just a front-footedness I think to Altlivia, simply because she just doesn’t carry the weight of the world on her shoulders like Olivia does. Olivia’s mum died when she was really little, and Bolivia’s mum is still around. There’s lots of little, subtle differences.
Altlivia will be a double agent of sorts over here. How will that play out?
Altivia is kind of cocky, so she thinks that if no one says anything, she’s doing a good job. I don’t know how good a job she is doing. [Laughs] She’s like, “Yeah, this is cool. OK. Bring it on. A new challenge and a new mission.”
Josh has said he’s not in favor of an Olivia-Peter romance. Where do you stand?
Especially with the way the last season ended, of course they’re supposed to get together! I don’t know when, but that’s been set up from the start. What the writers are really good at doing is constantly teasing that out. Everytime they take one step forward, all of a sudden there’s another massive obstacle in the way to prevent that. If all of a sudden you’ve got this relationship in the show, it becomes a completely different thing. You want to keep that little bit alive, right? Because that’s how it goes. At the end of the second season, Olivia says to Peter, “I’ve tried to think of all these reasons why you should come back, but at the end of the day, you have to because I think you belong with me.” That’s her declaration of love, and Peter accepts and says OK and comes back and comes back for her. And of course it’s not our Olivia who ends up coming back. Again, it’s not going to work. But I don’t mind if they get together. I think they would handle it in a way that wouldn’t override the show.
With Altlivia on our side, you can see the love triangle coming — although I guess it’s more of a 3D love triangle, with a weird alternate-universe hypotenuse.
[Laughs] I know! I think so, too. I don’t know what they’re going to do with that or how they’re going to resolve that.
Do you look forward to playing that kind of romance? It would be different than what we’ve seen so far in the show.
To tell you the truth, no, I don’t. I love the fight – and when I say the fight, I don’t necessarily mean the stunt fighting. I like playing the stuff with fight and with drive, when it’s connected to a bigger thing. I love the scenes when she’s on a mission, where she’s not reactive, she’s really proactive and she’s sorting it out and she’s getting it together.
In the first three episodes, are there any huge surprises or big shockers?
I think there is. The first episode back is great, and it’s not like a bombshell because it moves so quickly, but it sets the premise for what the— I was going to say themes. See, it’s so stupid. I never know what I can and what I can’t say, or how you tease something eloquently.
They need to give you crib notes for every episode.
Yeah! You become so inarticulate and you just sound like, “Um, well, it’s really fun but, um…” Anyway, the first episode does set the tone for where they’re going to go, with the alternate universe and back over here, and it’s a fantastic episode.
Do you love all the geek cred you now have?
What geek cred do we have?
You have a lot. A lot of people, like myself, feel that Fringe became a stronger show than Lost last year.
Whenever we’re doing any kind of thing where we actually get to interact with the audience, it’s a real mix of people, to tell you the truth. They must all go home and be secret geeks. I never feel like, “Oh my God, how do you answer a bunch of nerds who sit on their computer?” I’m just glad people like the show, really. So, yes is the short answer. [Laughs]