Tonight's episode of Fringe calls upon the service of one of the great science fiction icons of our time — none other than Peter Weller, best known to sci-fi fans for his starring roles in RoboCop and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
In the latest episode of the FOX series, titled "White Tulip," Weller plays Alistair Peck, a powerful man with tremendous energy that allows him the gift of time travel. Peck utilizes this ability to correct a mistake in his past, but his attempt for redemption comes at the expense of innocent bystanders.
SpinOff Online spoke with Weller during a conference call with the press, during which the genre actor explained more about his character and the episode.
"[Peck] is a guy who is going back in time and he's making some serious sacrifices in terms of other people's livelihood and well-being to get back and save his wife from dying in a ridiculous moment — a mistake that he made," Weller told reporters of his character. "He's trying to find redemption and go back to the only person that really means anything to him."
Weller said that tapping into the misery of the character was no easy feat. "It's upsetting stuff," he confessed. "You have to sort of imagine what it would be like if I lost my wife. [Peck] lost his wife. His fiancee, anyway. At 60 years old, you want to kind of sit by the sea, smoke a cigar and not look at those possible horrors. That's the biggest challenge — how to access the sorrow of losing the dearest person to you in the world."
In that sense, Weller's character has much in common with Walter Bishop (John Noble), the eccentric scientist who suffered the loss of his young son Peter (Joshua Jackson) to a mystery illness several years earlier. Walter, of course, can sympathize with Peck's plight, as he himself successfully explored extreme measures to replace his deceased son with the Peter of the alternate reality.
"John is a workhorse. He's been around the block, man. He's done theater and everything," Weller said of working with Noble. "John is so in tune to physical space and movement within a room, so one of the things that I'm good at — of the many things that I'm not so good at — is physically inventing in a room. Some people say I'm prop heavy, but I don't call those things props. I call them physical life."
The actor revealed that he's usually quite selective when asked to participate in established television shows — he previously appeared on FOX's 24 as Christopher Henderson, Jack Bauer's former mentor turned nemesis — but for Weller, joining Fringe for "White Tulip" was a no-brainer.
"Fringe is unique," he said. "Fringe is the best that science fiction can be. It’s fantastic and it’s entertaining but at the same time, it has a humanist theme of people, places, things and relationships."
Weller was asked to talk about another science fiction property close to his heart — namely, the RoboCop series, a role that he said he was happy to do and happy to leave. The actor addressed Requiem for a Dream director Darren Aronofsky's long discussed plans to reboot the franchise, saying that he wishes the director nothing but the best — with one caveat.
"I just have to say, [the original RoboCop] is hard to beat," he said. "You've got that director, [Paul] Verhoeven, and you've got those writers, Ed Neumeier and Mark Miner. The combination of action and myth and humanity and humor, all those things wrapped into one, in a perfectly constructed script — the construction of that script was perfect. I don't think they're going to do anything better, but I certainly wish them well to do something as good."
For now, Weller is more than happy with his latest science fiction work on Fringe. "This episode is truly one of the most profound and entertaining and enjoyable jobs I've had in motion pictures, television and theater that I can remember," he said. "I haven't even seen it, but I know it's good. It's maybe even great. It was extraordinarily worthwhile, just from the personal experience with the crew and the cast to the script. It was wonderful. As Shakespeare said: 'Wonderful, wonderful and yet, most wonderful.'"
The latest episode of Fringe, "White Tulip," airs tonight at 9:00 PM EDT/PDT only on FOX.