When you watch the premiere of Fringe tonight beginning at 8pm, you’ll notice that there are some very strong female characters who are integral to the show. Anna Torv plays an FBI agent who reluctantly joins forces with a very brainy father-son team to investigate strange occurrences, but her character, Olivia Dunham, is no slouch in the intellectual department herself. On the other side, there is Blair Brown, who plays a top executive at a corporation called Massive Dynamics, a key player in the strange occurrences that become known as The Pattern. Brown’s Nina Sharp will take a maternal interest in Olivia Dunham, and you know from the minute she hits the screen that she’s a force to be reckoned with.
After chatting with the Fringe cast for a little while on the red carpet at the New York premiere, I also came to learn that the actresses playing these roles are also strong women in their own right. Blair Brown, in particular, shared with me how aware she is the difficulty of being an actress these days.
“Will I go to my deathbed wondering why it is that women have not had the same opportunity to be all the different things that we are as men do?” Brown shared with me. “The thing that I do know, as an actress as you get older, they offer you fewer parts, but they are much more interesting because you no longer have the obligation to be ‘the girl.'”
Brown truly relishes the idea of the many different directions her character can take.
“What I like is, we truly don’t have any idea whether she’s a force for good or evil. Or one [of these] one time, and one the next is also a possibility,” she said.
Anna Torv, an Australian making her breakout debut on American TV, finds her character forced into a situation that challenges all of her previous beliefs. When something horrifying happens to one of her coworkers (with whom she is also involved romantically), she dives right into what could be an international conspiracy. I’m sure you’ve all seen the ubiquitous Fringe ads by now in which Torv is partially submerged in a tank of water. Evidently, she went through quite a lot to shoot that scene.
“I was thinking, ‘I have to get out of here at some point’ and ‘I’m going to die,'” Torv said about the isolation tank scene. “We were in this freezing laboratory at minus 45 degrees in Toronto.”
Isolation tanks seem to be a common thread with these two actresses. Brown reminded me that her first big movie was Altered States – which was one of the movies that inspired J.J. Abrams and company to create Fringe, incidentally. This movie had “a lot about isolation tanks” as well. “I think the sci fi genre offers you a lot of possibilities to talk about big things in a way that’s totally palatable,” Brown said.
Torv’s character also gets to do a lot of chasing down the bad guys in the premiere episode, literally jumping off of buildings to do so.
“I can’t claim [all the action scenes],” Torv said modestly. “I can’t jump off the roof! As if they would let me and as if I wanted to! I was the one, down at the bottom on my bum, acting like I had just been really tough. I do the running,”
Another actress in the main cast of Fringe is Jasika Nicole, who plays Olivia’s assistant in the FBI, Astrid Farnsworth. Jasika and I gushed together about those quintessential TV shows in the recent past that featured strong women.
“I loved [Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars],” she said. “It’s nice to have a good balance, to see people that are doing something that is outside the world that they exist in to do better for other people.”
-Debbie Chang, BuddyTV Staff Writer