Stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick and Jasika Nicole took the stage with executive producer J.H. Wyman at Comic-Con International for the very last Fringe panel, in anticipation of the fifth and final season of the Fox sci-fi series.
Moderated by Damian Holbrook, the panel began with an exclusive reel for "all members of the resistance” (see below).
After cheers from the audience died down, Holbrook introduced the panelists, who assembled as the audience held up drawings of a white tulip (a reference to the Season 2 episode "White Tulip"). At Wyman’s request, the crowd also sent a "We miss you, Blair!" video to co-star Blair Brown, who couldn’t make it to San Diego.
Wyman revealed the Comic-Con reel required the actors come back to shoot new footage for a season that isn't in production yet. He also spoke about his ideas for the ending of the show.
"I had ideas since Season 1, but those changed, to be honest," he said. "You get people bring things to the pie that you don't really expect and that makes you think about a whole different way to go. I had two and a half versions of what we should do for the end, and I decided three months ago or a month and a half ago."
The showrunner also said the cast was informed how everything was going to end.
"Usually we're all in the dark," Torv said. "It's interesting to pluck a little more out than usual. Thank you."
Wyman said that having just 13 episodes for the final season is an interesting limitation because he wanted to make sure the actors had enough advance warning -- something that Jackson noted was particularly helpful in crafting character. "Just as you guys want to show to end well, we want the show to do well," Jackson said.
Wyman said the Fringe team decided it would be a good idea to release an Observer book detailing September's experience going through the program. Tara Bennet and Paul Terry, who wrote something similar for Lost, will craft the book, which will feature a fun twist for those who pre-order. "We're actually going to have some kind of contest and your names will be included in the book as a person of interest," Wyman said. "We're trying to give you guys back so much because without you guys, we would not be here. This is the little show that could. We appreciate it so much."
Nicole, who plays Astrid, spoke about her character's unusual connection with fans from the start of the show. "In Season 1, when she didn't even have much to do!" she said, admitting she thought Astrid might get killed despite fan response to the character. "The relationship that John [Noble] and I have in real life transferred to camera a bit."
"I think Astrid's first episode was realized because of her relationship with the doctor in 'Snakehead,'" she said, adding that it would’ve been okay if she got killed in her first TV show. However, she "made it to the fifth season, I'm still here!"
Reddick, who plays the stern Broyles, noted the differences between his character and himself. "People are still surprised that they see me smile," he said, prompting Nicole to recall a humorous convention experience.
"When we got here, I thought I was going to do my hair different, and that was going to be my disguise for Comic-Con," she said. "Lance was going to wear a Breaking Bad hat, and it was going to be his disguise for Comic-Con."
Jackson, who came to the show, as Holbrook put it, "a slightly more grown-up Pacey," talked about what he learned about himself by playing Peter. "I would like to aspire to the nobility Peter has developed over the last five years," he said. "I don't know how much I've learned about myself, but it has been a great joy, particularly with John to go from being the son to back to the father figure. The process has been a pleasure."
Torv, meanwhile, thought long and hard about what she's learned from playing Olivia. "When you called me Liv, my heart melted, so I must be attached. The biggest lesson is to come, I think," (and the entire room lost it due to the unintended innuendo) but Torv went with it, saying, "I'll tell you what, I think that's what we need to teach Olivia to do."
After the laughter died down, Noble was asked whether he was prepared to say goodbye to the cast. "They have become family, and I don't think you can work with a group of people for five years without developing a relationship," he said. "Even though we may disagree on many things, and we do, but we have a real sense of solidarity. I love that and I don't think that'll go away anyway. … What we've learned is about the power of love in this story. The thing that holds it together is the power of love. I'm sure that's why you guys have followed it through, the wonderful bonds between these people that work together."
Jackson and Torv spoke briefly about the overall story of Fringe to great effect. "It's your typical, boy meets universe, boy crosses universe, girl goes to other universe, boy sleeps with her doppelganger story," Jackson said as the crowd laughed. "Doppelganger gets pregnant, has baby too fast, baby gets tied up in interdimensional war … finds dad searching for mom story."
As for spoilers, the actor teased, "This'll just stay between us, right?" and continued by simply saying, "I think these two will get the final chapter of their story."
"I concur," Torv said.
Jackson elaborated, saying that part of the fun of watching the series is the process of discovery. He referenced Breaking Bad, saying he wanted to be able to discover the story for himself, avoiding all spoilers. "The characters don't end when the show ends, but we'll tell our final chapter."
The cast was asked to go down the line and say their favorite scene that wasn't their own. Nicole chose the scene with the phone booth where Walter couldn’t remember the number to contact Peter, and when Olivia goes into her house and realizes the doppelganger had been washing her clothes. The two actresses began to cry.
Torv, still teary-eyed, described the silence and the care and the love during the Astrid-centric episode from last season.
Reddick became choked up when he asked whether the scene Torv was describing was the one in which Astrid spoke with her doppelganger. He said it was one of the few episodes he actually watched, and he became teary while he described them. "You can't go out and tell anybody this happened," he said.
"I too am sensitive," Noble said in a flat voice as the audience laughed. "I liked when Peter chopped that guy's fingers off. I think there was one scene when Olivia shot 17 men."
"I feel like an abusive father right now," Jackson said. "I apologize I don't have tears for you guys." He went with Seth Gabel, particularly, when he was doing his doppelganger portrayal of Lincoln Lee. "The way he contrasted his two selves were really well-performed, so I'm going to have to go with Lincoln and Alt-Lincoln."
The cast ran a video clip made exclusively for Comic-Con to thank the fans. "We feel like you have a brick in the building," Wyman said. "It's not saying goodbye, it's saying we're successful. From all of us sitting here and all the people in Vancouver and all the people at Fox who stuck with us."
The panel then took questions from the audience, which led off with the assembled cast attempting to give advice to their Season 1 selves.
"Get a good night's sleep," Jackson suggested.
"I think I would've loved somebody to say, 'It's okay, Anna, take a breath, television is fluid,'" Torv said.
"I don't think any advice could've prepared me for the first day on set," Nicole admitted.
A very excited fan asked whether Henry Ian Cusick, who played Agent Simon Foster in Season 4, was going to appear in future episodes, leading Wyman to reiterate that he wants to keep a tight lid on story developments. "Henry was an astounding performer last season,” he said. “Let's see if he makes his way into the season this year.”
One fan asked about the possible expansion of Fringe in comics, leading Jackson to note that Nicole is a comic writer and artist.
"I'd be happy to keep the story on in my own head," Nicole said. "It'd be called 'The Adventures of Astrid.'"
Noble was more optimistic for the show's future, saying, "If this season finishes up as we think it will, I think there's a possibility for a film."
"I think the show will live on in some form or another," Jackson said.
However, one of the more hilarious answers was Nicole's when she mentioned that fan fiction was a part of the show's mythology -- and that she and Torv had seen some of it. "By the way, Anna and I have read some of that fanfic out there,” she said. “You guys are scandalous.”
The final season of Fringe begins Sept. 28.