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Interview: John Noble On Walter Bishop’s End In ‘Fringe’

While the relationship between Peter and Olivia has driven many of “Fringe’s” five seasons of plots, it’s the love between a father and son, the growing closeness between John Noble’s loveable mad scientist Walter Bishop and his estranged conman/genius son that has given the series its heart and soul. It’s a relationship that has damaged and redeemed both men, particularly Walter, who tore space and time apart to save his son–so what will he be willing to sacrifice in the finale to save the world?

In a conference call last week, Noble reflected on Walter’s five-season journey and the heart of a chemically-enhanced genius.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the support that the people have given the series over the last five years… I think we finished the series off in the best possible position that we could.” Throughout the talk, the Australian actor frequently became very sentimental about working with actors Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and Jasika Nicole, the constants in Walter’s life throughout the five seasons of “Fringe.”

When asked which Walter moment was his favorite, Noble joked, “Which Walter,” an allusion to the many different versions of Walter across time and dimensions. Even within one Walter, there exists contradictions, conflicts, and curiosities: a dangerous scientist with the heart of a child, an avowed atheist with a deep reservoir of faith in something greater than himself, and a loving humanist with a terrible capacity for revenge.

Looking back, Noble considers the more intimate moments between Walter and the cast including Joshua Jackson’s Peter Bishop as his favorites. That intimacy, he feels, has translated into what he feels will be a lifelong friendship with co-stars Jackson, Jasika Cole, and Anna Torv. Throughout the call, Noble stressed his love of the relationships in the show and their importance to the series.

Talking about those final episodes, he feels that the end of the series does honor to the relationship between Walter and Peter, maybe the defining relationship of the series. Walter literally broke space in order to save his son (or at least a version of him) and has tried since to be a better man for his son and for the world. The current season has seen Walter fearing for his own mind, worried that the “old” dangerously ambitious Walter might rear his head. In the most recent episode, “The Boy Must Live,” Walter learns that something terrible might be required of him in order to defeat the Observers–but he’s unafraid in a way that synthesizes the many takes on the character over the years.

He describes the first season Walter as the most fun to play, the chemically-enhanced, unhinged mad scientist happy to be out in the world again after a long confinement in a mental institution. Speaking to the version of Walter in the world without Peter, Noble says that take was perhaps the most difficult version of him, necessitating elements of OCD in that even more emotionally fractured version of the character. Overall, Noble says that television work is pretty demanding, developing this particular character who trails multiple emotional issues across multiple continuities–and yet he loves it.

“When you start acting, you have dreams about what you can do,” Noble said, calling his “Fringe” role an opportunity to break out of his pigeonholing as a heavy over the years. The main timeline Walter is the exact opposite of that–gentle, curious, kind, and affectionate. You know, when he’s not cutting into a specimen. Noble brought so much warmth to the character, making Walter a mad scientist with a heart.

The question is, how much will he have to give in the finale? The “Fringe” writers haven’t been shy about paring down the supporting characters in the finale season–so will the battle against the Observers take another casualty among our main cast?

The “Fringe” two-hour series finale airs Friday, January 18th on Fox.

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