One of the things I most love about the Fox show Fringe , the second season of which premieres this Thursday, is the tough, no-nonsense character of Olivia Dunham.
But I recently had a chance to chat with Anna Torv, the actress who plays that character (and who also voiced and modeled the character of Nariko in the Playstation 3 game Heavenly Sword).
She surprised me, because she couldn’t have been more different than the character she plays on Fringe — and the fact that Anna, unlike Olivia, is Australian, born in Melbourne and raised on the Gold Coast, is the least of it.
In person, Anna is warm, open, and possibly even a little bit of a girly-girl — more than Olivia, that’s for sure. And Anna has a much better sense of humor (although — let’s face it — that isn’t hard!).
Still, the two women do share at least a few things in common: they’re both very smart and very dedicated to their jobs.
Now as much as I still love the character Olivia Dunham, based on my brief time with Anna, I like the actress who plays her a whole lot too.
TheTorchOnline: I love you and I love your character.
Anna Torv: [laughs] Oh, you’re just saying that.
TTO: I’m not. I might have said it even if it wasn’t true, but I swear it really is! She’s such a rich, well-rounded, kick-ass character, especially for a female in sci-fi. I’m assuming this is what drew you to the part in the first place?
AT: In the first place, yes, [that's what drew me] because that’s kind of what it was set up to be. But things shift and change in TV.
I know that things are shifting a bit in the second season. Peter’s character is becoming a lot more proactive.
But I love the writers for doing that, making Olivia sort of … masculine. Although she does have long, blond hair, so it was [okay]!
And the boy [characters] are like girls in that they talk about all their emotions. But I don’t know if that was conscious on [the writers'] part.
TTO: I think your character was a very brave choice. I mean, you are a very beautiful woman, but they’re not dwelling on that, emphasizing that.
AT: But not only that, I know that I’m regularly described as being very cold and very detached. But I go, “I don’t care you think that, because if I was a guy, you just wouldn’t say that.” Men can be solitary, be on their own, or just not speak.
AT: I think it’d be great for her to get a lover in every port!
TTO: Any relationship so far this season?
AT: Not so far, but I’m hoping!
TTO: Obviously, a lot of people have made a lot of comparisons between Fringe and The X-Files. How often does that come up while you’re making the show? Do the writers ever deliberately not do things, do you ever not play things a certain way, because you’re worried you’ll be accused of ripping of The X-Files?
AT: I just kinda do my own thing. But I wasn’t the X-Files fan that, say, Joshua Jackson was, so it doesn’t really enter into my head — outside of it’s extraordinarily complimentary to compare it to Fringe.
Although I do think they’re two very different shows. I think the Peter and Olivia characters aren’t the Mulder and Scully characters.
I know that the creators and the guys in the writers room are wanting very much to have Peter, Walter, and Olivia become a family. But what I’m not sold on, and what I would be interested in, is to watch Olivia become sort of a maternal figure to these two kind of “lost boys.” I think it’s a much more interesting way to go than Walter being the funny dad and Peter and Olivia getting together.
TTO: I could not agree with you more. So that’s not going to happen? Olivia and Peter aren’t going to get together?
AT: [laughs] I don’t know. It isn’t my decision. They give us the scripts three days before we shoot, so I have no information, except for episode five that we’re shooting on Tuesday!
No, as far as that relationship, that trio, goes, that’s what I would like.
TTO: Is it hard to keep track of the mythology of the show? Did they explain it all to you when you signed on?
AT: I didn’t really know what any of the mythology was going to be, outside of what was apparent from the pilot. The mythology, I think, is kind of easy to keep track of, because it doesn’t come up that much — sort of one [episode] on, one off, one on, one off.
But what I find hard to keep track of are the monsters of the week. That’s when I’m, like, “Oh, my God!” I’ll be doing a scene with a million different names, and I can’t remember if they’re a blood-sucking monster [or something completely different]. Half the time you say the names, but you never see the creature. You’ve got no visual.
TTO: What monster do you personally think is the scariest so far?
AT: The scariest for me was very very early on. There was a conversation in the lab where Walter started talking about the fact that he and William Bell used to make soldiers kind of like tomatoes. And I thought, “Oh, that’s scary, and that’s going to cause a lot of conflict, because that’s a real ethical and moral conversation.”
But the gore, I just don’t like it!
TTO: The one that gave me nightmares is when the orifices, the nose and the mouth filled up. That was such a horrible way to die.
AT: Well, I get desensitized because that darling guy that was playing that character was on set for ages, and we had to lead him all the way up the stairs, into the room where we were about to shoot.
I’m sure there’s a lot of things that I’ve forgotten, because I’m there all the time.
TTO: You’re Australian. Are there any difficulties in playing an American character that maybe we wouldn’t think about?
AT: Oh, yeah. The sensibility is so different. Sometimes I look at a line that really sticks, and I really don’t know how to deliver it. It might be right for the character, but it’s an American way that I don’t know.
TTO: Do you ask someone? I mean, it could just be a bad line!
AT: [laughs] It could be! But sometimes it’s the sensibility. I find it difficult to stand and say, “Aaarrh! You’ve got nothing on me, dude!”
TTO: Well, you’re nothing like you’re character, which means you’re a wonderful actress.
AT: Thank you!
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