“Fringe” executive producers and showrunners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman recently participated in a conference call with reporters to discuss their sci-fi drama, which currently airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on Fox. The two shared their thoughts on setting an end date for the show, what to expect from the season finale and their favorite alternate universe nicknames.
Q: I’m curious, given the relatively early renewal news, did that allow you to make some wholesale changes to the season finale? How deep into it were you at that point?
J.H. Wyman: We didn’t really change course at all. Jeff and I had a plan for the series, for the season this year, and we just went along with that. Nothing has changed from our previous plan.
Q: [You] have a history of really bold finales. A couple things have come out about what we can expect.
Jeff Pinkner: What has come out?
Q: Well, we know that somebody we love is going to die … There’s talk of introducing a third world … What can you say about any of that?
Pinkner: Half of that is true. Somebody who we all love deeply will die. We’re not introducing a third world. There’s our world, and then there’s the world that Peter was taken from as a baby. We still have plenty of story … to tell just in those two worlds. Maybe at some point in the future there will be a third world, but not yet.
Q: How pissed are people going to be about who dies?
Wyman: Well, at some point you have to say, “All right, they’re driving,” and you’ve got to go with it. There’s been so many things that people have assumed or thought from various sources that weren’t true. I mean, “Fringe” always does things the way you don’t expect. At least we try to. So it’s going to be effective, and I think it will be self-explanatory.
Q: What challenges did you guys face as you were putting together the end of this season?
Wyman: Well, we had so many emotional things to pay off. We’ve been really sort of cognizant of finding all the emotion that we can to logically come to a conclusion that would be satisfying, and at the same time sort of suggest things are going to go further in a different direction … So challenging only in that we were trying to take out things, like we had too much story that we would like to tell.
Pinkner: Ultimately, we try to write stuff that we would want to see [and] really … make you reconsider everything you had seen before. … One of the themes that we constantly go back to is perception and the different natures of reality and choices and how those different choices branch off down different paths.
Q: So you guys have a game plan? If you were given the opportunity to give an end date, kind of like “Lost” (2004-10) was given, would you go for that? If so, how many seasons do you see the story arc of “Fringe” going towards?
Pinkner: I think that we have an ending in mind. We said this before, it’s sort of like a file folder. Like there are chapters that we can tell to round out that ending, that we can drop in before we get to the ending, that will just make it richer, and at the same time aren’t necessarily required storytelling for the ending to work and be satisfying.
Q: How do you guys plan to narratively balance over here and over there? I know you, of course, in the past have done some episodes where we had a little bit of merging per episode. Is that what we should look forward to as we come to the finale?
Pinkner: Absolutely. The run up to the finale and the finale impacts both universes directly. We will be going back and forth within episodes.
Q: I was curious as to how you came up with the nickname for all the alternate versions of our characters.
Wyman: Basically we just started — when we start[ed] ripping it, the writer’s room, we were here, we just started calling them so as not to confuse each other we would say, “A Olivia” and “B Olivia” I mean, it was that simple. And so we would say, “And then B Olivia goes here, so then we just started writing it on the boards, and then it became B Olivia was Bolivia, and then we started calling her that. Then Walternate, one of the writers, I believe it was Ethan Gross, came up with the concept of calling him Walternate, which was obviously stuck. … It became really fun, actually.
Q: Do you have any personal favorites?
Pinkner: Walternate’s my favorite. Joel?
Wyman: Yes. I would say Walternate is the one that it just sort of embodies who that character is, and it’s sort of like it’s inevitable. The others all feel — and the online community, too, has their own favorites; Bolivia or Altlivia. But Walternate is just the one that you hear it and you just know it’s right.