The howling of police cars, the blinding lights of ambulances, the terror of a train station loaded with hostages — frankly, it’s just another day in the life of Anna Torv.
Torv, who stars on Fringe as sharp-minded federal agent Olivia Dunham, spent her day on location in Vancouver filming an intense hostage sequence. But the actress was gracious enough to break away from the thrilling scene to speak with Spinoff Online and a group of journalists during a conference call focused on the latest season of Fox’s critically acclaimed science fiction series.
Through Olivia, Torv has undergone quite the journey since Fringe first premiered in 2008. Over the course of two full seasons, Olivia has seen the impossible, defied the odds, flown to exotic locations for dangerous missions and has even gone so far as to literally travel to other universes. But Olivia’s latest sojourn to an alternate reality has left the character at her most vulnerable state in the currently airing third season, as she’s stranded “over there” and chemically altered to believe that she’s where she belongs. Meanwhile, the alternate Olivia — referred to as Bolivia by the Fringe production team — has infiltrated our world, coming “over here” with a currently unrevealed mission in mind.
It’s a sticky situation for both Olivias, to be sure, but it’s a thrilling ride for Torv.
“I was so excited when it first came up,” Torv said of the chance to play two versions of the same character. “What I’ve found to be really interesting is how clearly I’m now seeing Olivia, which I don’t think you [normally] do — I don’t think you get those opportunities where you actually get to step back and look at a character from a different perspective while playing the other.”
With the introduction of the second Olivia, Fringe has been able to go in bold new directions, such as the decision to allow Joshua Jackson’s Peter Bishop to pursue a romantic relationship with Olivia. Peter, of course, isn’t aware that he’s seeing the wrong Olivia, effectively allowing the audience and the show’s creative team to have their cake and eat it too.
“I think it’s brilliant,” Torv said of how the show is handling the relationship between Peter and Bolivia. “You want them to be together — it’s set up that way — but what do you do when all of the sudden these two guys get together? It then becomes, what, a romantic drama or comedy? The fact that they’ve been able to do a little bit of that, it’s like one step forward and ten steps back.”
That’s not to say that there isn’t real chemistry between the new Olivia and the show’s leading man, as Torv confessed: “I think that this is obviously an assignment for the alternate Olivia, but Peter is a charmer — I don’t know what she’s going to think after they’ve been together for a bit.”
Bolivia isn’t necessarily the most sympathetic figure currently on Fringe, particularly after shooting a deaf man in cold blood during the season’s second episode. But Torv thinks that viewers may eventually find themselves rooting not just for Bolivia, but for many of the other characters featured “over there.” “Obviously we’ve been following our Olivia and our team for two seasons now, so our loyalties are obviously there,” said the actress. “But when you start to see the other side solving cases and interacting and working with each other, you realize that they’re both just fighting their own cause. Neither one is good or bad, or right or wrong.”
Indeed, Torv believes that the two Olivias themselves could possibly get along with each other, given the right circumstances. “Each of them has their own impressions of the other, as they haven’t really met properly, so it’s been kind of tough but really fun,” she said. “I would have loved if we had gone out there and really made her a completely different character, but essentially, the differences are kind of subtle. They’ve both ended up in the same job, to the point that they have the same partners. It’s gentle little shifts, and it’s been really fun.”
In Torv’s mind, the Olivia that fans have come to know and love would see at least one valuable trait in Bolivia: the ability to cut loose. “I think Olivia, fundamentally, the fact that she feels so responsible for everything and for everyone, I think she would like to be able to leave her work at work and go home and put the weight of the world on somebody else’s shoulders for a minute without feeling like if she doesn’t do it, nobody will,” said Torv. “That’s probably her biggest thing. I don’t know that anybody is capable of changing such a fundamental core belief, but I think that’s what she would like. I think she would love to be able to breathe deeply and see the world.”
As Torv continues exploring these two sides of Olivia, she’s caught herself reflecting on her own life and the way that she’s viewed by others. “In my own world, that’s the bit that I find a little bit scary,” she said. “Who am I? I don’t believe that I’m just a physical person who maybe walks in a particular way or speaks in a different way, all of those little bits and pieces on the outside. What’s on the inside? Do people recognize that or do they really just see what’s on the outside? That’s what I’ve been sort of thinking about.”
The very fact that Fringe has caused her to look inward and think about a wide spectrum of topics is part of the reason that Torv remains so enthusiastic about the series. “I like that it’s so broad,” she explained. “It doesn’t seem like it’s any particular genre. I think it’s scary, it’s kind of mystical, we’ve had episodes that are really quite magical. There are parts of it that are quite heightened, parts that are really down and dirty. It’s got humor, a little bit of romance. The fact that it’s so broad in its spectrum and its story, that it’s unafraid to take these leaps … it’s exceeded my expectations, and it’s done so for a long time. I don’t know what I expected [from Fringe], but I’ve been thrilled.”
New episodes of Fringe air on Thursday nights at 9/8 p.m. central on Fox. Tune in tonight for an all new episode titled “The Plateau.”