Fringe debuted on FOX last night to solid ratings – a little less than ten million viewers, but the biggest show of then night in the all-important 18-49 demographic. Mark Valley played a huge part in the premiere as Agent Scott, Anna Torv’s love interest and ultimate betrayer. The character was a complicated one and, perhaps, the most mysterious during the Fringe pilot. We still don’t know where his allegiances lie. We had a chance to speak with Mark Valley about a week and a half ago, and we published the first part of our interview last week. The second part, found below, contains spoilers if you have yet to watch the Fringe pilot, so beware.
You talked about the mysterious motivations of Agent Scott. After seeing the pilot you realize that there’s a definite duality to his character. Did the writers give you a lot of information on what those motivations were or did you just kind of end up playing it in the dark?
Well, no the director actually changed the motivation at the end on me which was a little bit bizarre. The great thing about J.J. Abrams is that as an actor you can really put trust in the writers and producers and the story that it will all end up making sense, you know? That it will all end up coming from a place that’s a tribute to reality. I just kind of trusted what they have and what they say and go with each episode and make up the rest. Sometimes I get lost in the woods trying to write a backstory for a character. For a show like this it’s kind of best to just play it as it comes. Like William Shatner said…I’d say, “How do you know with this one line, I’m not sure how to say it.” He’d say “I cover that situation. If it’s a line I don’t understand, I just say it.” So that’s what I’m going with with John Scott. I just say it. But I think a little bit later on they’ll tell me more about the character. Where he’s from, what his motivations are. But, for now I just have to glean, and what’s actually fun as an actor is to read the script, see the situation, and just kind of extrapolate that in my imagination as a opposed to trying to get it out of the writers, and then just kind of go from there and then if it changes it changes, but usually it’s pretty close. Did that make any sense at all? I used the word “extrapolate.” You should be impressed.
I am impressed.
I was a math major in college, so there you have it. So this show kind of appeals to my scientific sensibilities. I don’t know anything about science, but they explain it easily enough where I can understand, so I like that.
You spent a lot of your scenes in the pilot working with Anna Torv. What was that like, you being the TV veteran, her making her first foray into American television?
Humbling. Because she’s classically trained. She went to NIDA, which is the big school (in Australia) – they only take a dozen to twenty people a year there. It’s not like going to the University of Ohio. She’s very, very talented and she’s done quite a bit of theater as well. And she also has a pretty impressive body of work. People say “Oh she’s a neophyte, she just showed up.” But there’s a lot of television out there besides American TV. She’s done quite a bit. She learns extremely fast. I felt like I was working …I felt like I was learning from her in some ways as well. In that respect it was fun. She’s just a lot of fun, she’s got kind of a wicked sense of humor. We had a nice time.
For a lot of the pilot you’re character spends a lot of time in the hospital in a sort of bizarre condition. Was that you with all that makeup on? How did that go down? Did you spend a lot of time getting did up?
I know, I sort of felt like Beau Bridges, I spent a lot of time getting prosthetic makeup. When I first read the script I thought “Oh they must be getting a body double or something,” but no. I sort of felt like how Beau Bridges must have felt like when he first got the script for Deliverance. “I like this script guys, but I’m missing a couple of pages.” “Oh you’ll find out when you get here.” So I get to Toronto and I guess they wanted to CGI my internal organs, my lungs, my heart – all kinds of things. You have my heart beating, you have me breathing at the same time, they realized that it was easier for them to use me, because the breathing would have been too hard to simulate or it would have cost too much money. It’s a very technical reason that they opted to ask me to do it myself and I said “Sure, what the heck.” So, I basically spent over a hundred hours just slathered in fake tattoos, latex. Just slathered in Crisco and Aloe Vera. Just kind of lying there. It took me four hours to get into it and about ten hours working and another hour to get out of it. But, I tell you, it really kind of exfoliated my skin well. By the time you take all of those fake tattoos off, I was like a baby.
After watching the pilot, the audience really has no idea what direction your character will go. His return, he’s going to be transformed in some way. Is that exciting for you as an actor? How difficult has that been so far?
Well, going back to the first question, I don’t really know where it starts or where it goes. We’re talking right now, but you’re not really thinking about where you went to college or where you grew up or how your mother treated you, your father treated you, you know what I mean? So, no matter what sort of incarnation Scott manifests as the show progresses – a dream a ghost imagination or real person or machine – I don’t know. I was hoping they’d bring me back as the bionic man.
(laughs) That’d be cool.
I could run around in red track suits, let the hair grow out on my chest. But, that was just my idea, I’m sure they’re not going to do it.
Well, last question – Can you give us any hints as to what might be coming up past episode one?
Past episode one, the only hints I can give you is that I”m going to be showing up in the first season. And, for a guy who died in the pilot, I consider myself pretty fortunate. So, there you have it.
All right, Mark I appreciate you taking the time.
My pleasure, Oscar, take care.
-Interview Conducted by Oscar Dahl
(Image Courtesy of FOX)