Stephen Root Talks Guest-Starring On This Week's 'Fringe'

Romy Rosemont and Stephen Root in this week's Fringe

This week, two great geeky tastes come together for the first time: Stephen Root, and Fringe. Not only that, but the Office Space/True Blood star acts opposite his real life wife on screen for the first time. We’ve seen the episode, and not only does it have huge revelations about what’s been going on with Peter Bishop, but a heartbreaking story involving Root and wife Romy Rosemont. Oh, and of course, crazy science.

We had the chance to talk to Root on a conference call set up by FOX in preparation for this Friday’s episode of Fringe, and the affable, very kind and funny actor kept things moving and a fun clip as he answered questions about his acting method, alternate universes, and oh, some minor spoilers here and there:

On acting opposite his real life wife:

Stephen Root: “It was a great opportunity to be able to work with her. We have been able to do readings and things like that for films, but never in front of a camera. It was tremendous to be able to work together. I think the first day that we worked, was just the two of us and the director and the crew. It was a joy. It was tremendous… I can tell you that they're a husband and wife that are both scientists and have something going on in this universe, not the other one. It's something you need to go ahead and see. But, we're both scientists trying to accomplish something. “

On alternate universes:

SR: “I love that. I've been a sci-fi guy from way back, including comics in the 60s and sci-fi from the time I was 13 years old. It's always fascinated me, whether we're in a situation where, “Are there multiple universes? Is the nature of time itself-is it possible to travel back through time?” That kind of stuff has always fascinated me. I'm happy to be addressing it a little bit in this show.”

How did you end up on Fringe?

SR: “It came through-actually Romy had went to Northwestern with one of the executive producers and we were actually at a party and talking to him. They were saying, “Would Stephen be interested in doing a Fringe?” And Romy popped up, “Well, yes, if you invite me.” And strangely enough, Mr. Pinkner a while later said, “Yes. Please. Come on and do the show.” We were just more than thrilled to be able to work with each other and come on a quality program.”

Then we jumped in with our questions, which skirt spoiler territory, so warnings here… We asked first whether – given the nature of the relationship between Root’s character and Rosemont’s – if it would have been easier (or harder) to work with an actor who isn’t your wife?

SR: “I appreciate that question. I think to play husband and wife and be real husband and wife, it's easier to emotionally connect quickly to a big emotional place, since we're actual husband and wife. You don't have a lot of time on television to do that usually. There is not a lot of rehearsal time. Us knowing each other so well-we're probably knowing where the other person is going to go emotionally, was a help.”

We followed up asking about his arc, and whether it was accurate to say he starts out pretty steady, and falls apart by the end:

SR: “I'd say that's accurate because he thinks things are going to go along swimmingly, until they don't. It was a nice little arc to play. I really appreciated the chance to do it, especially with my wife.”

On being a guest star, versus a series regular:

SR: “You're always the new kid on the block when you come in as a guest star. Their series has been going on for four years and they're a well-oiled machine. They know each other emotionally and intellectually and then you come in and go, “Hi. Here's my episode. I want to play with you guys.”

I always feel like it's the first day of school for me when I'm doing a guest star thing, but it's kind of good because you jump; you're pushed to an emotional high quickly. On TV, there is not a lot of time to rehearse, so it was nice to be able to work with your wife, somebody you knew so well.”

On what makes Root pick one project over another:

SR: “I'm hoping that I'm picking projects that I believe are really well-produced, well-written, and star people that you want to work with. At this stage in my career, I pick projects according to who you want to work with, how well it's written, and the director.

All those things that you've mentioned are the criteria for what I'm working with now, which is why I was thrilled to work with Eastwood on J. Edgar. I was thrilled to work with Redford on The Company You Keep and The Conspirator. You try to keep working with people you think are better than you, or you want to work with because you really admire their work. Yes, that's pretty much the criteria.”

Will Root be on the next season of Justified?

SR: “They've actually-I'll say this; they put a pin in me for an episode later on this season. Hopefully that will come about. But, yes, it looks like it will.”

On his favorite role:

SR: “Because you do so many things, probably series work has got to be your most favorite because you're going through a family situation. I did King of the Hill for 13 years. Brittany Murphy was 18 when she started that project and by the time we finished we'd been through births and deaths and marriages.

I would have to say something like that or the run on NewsRadio were really your most favorite because you're dealing with what has become your family… I get to see Dave every once in a while. Maura I see-I just saw her in New York. She's doing well after her bout with cancer. She's great. I see a lot of the King of the Hill people because they also do other animated shows that I've been connected with. Yes we still all stay in touch.”

Why do True Blood?

SR: “You got to do things that scare you every once in a while. This was pretty far away from me. I really wanted to tackle it and see what it was like. I was really, really pleased with the way it came out. I was happy to work with those people.

Yes, I think you have to challenge yourself. You really have to stretch every once in a while. Sometimes it doesn't work and sometimes it does. But, unless you're challenging yourself, then I'm not doing my job as a character actor.”

What other shows would you want to be on?

SR: “There are a few that I really-I love The Good Wife. I'd love to work on that. I love well-written stuff. I saw Kelsey Grammar's new show Boss. I thought that was pretty good. You want to work on well-written stuff and with people you like. Off the top of my head, a lot of HBO stuff and FX stuff. I love doing, obviously, the Justified, Louie. Whatever's well-written, really.”

FRINGE's next episode, "And Those We’ve Left Behind," featuring Root, airs Friday Nov, 11 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

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