2009 October 08
By Cynthia for everyjoe
Yesterday, the marvelous Mr. Leonard Nimoy spent part of his afternoon with a group of reporters to talk about his role in tonight’s episode of Fringe. But since he couldn’t reveal too many details about the mysterious William Bell, we got him to talk about other things like the state of science fiction on TV, the difference in TV production from Star Trek to now and his love of photography.
As someone who’s watched Star Trek most of her life, it was a real thrill to talk with an actor whose voice carries so many memories. He was warm and thoughtful but the best part was his laugh, a sound he let loose right after he was asked the first question. I wish I had a tape of it to play for you, but you’ll just have to imagine that deep, vibrato as he chuckled over a question I’m sure he’s been asked many times.
Did you have any reservations on taking another role with the potential of such a fanatic following?
L. Nimoy: I love this question. I can’t help but laugh because you’re absolutely right. It’s an interesting set of circumstances. What attracted me to it was several things. J.J. Abrams, Bob Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, who I worked with on the Star Trek movie, I admire their talent and the work that they do. The series is at the very least to say intriguing. The character was somewhat of a blank slate, but we began talking about it and, therefore, attracted because there’s an opportunity to build an interesting and unpredictable character. I’m enjoying it a lot.
So lately it seems as if you’re J.J. Abrams’ muse of sorts. Can you tell us a little bit more about your relationship with him?
L. Nimoy: Well, I first met him I guess about three years ago when he first contacted me about the possibility of working together, and I went to a meeting with he and Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman and some of his production staff. They told me a very good and strong and touching story about their feelings about Star Trek and specifically the Spock character.
It gave me a sense of validation after all these years. I had been out of it for some time, as you’re probably aware. There were several Star Trek series in which I was not involved and Star Trek movies in which I was not involved. This was a re-validation of the work that I had done, the work that we had done on the original Star Trek. I felt very good about it and went to work for them.
I had a great time working on the movie. I think they did a brilliant job, and I think the audience response shows that that was the case and has reinvigorated the franchise. And when they contacted me about working on Fringe—the same people, the same attitude, the same creativity, the same creative team—it was very enticing.
You had not been acting for awhile, and then you’ve done Star Trek and Fringe pretty recently together. Have your feelings about acting changed at all?
L. Nimoy: Well, I’m enjoying it. I’m very comfortable in the two offers that I’ve accepted. The Star Trek movie was a joy to do. I admire the production team that made the film. I admire the new cast. Zachary Quinto I thought was a great choice for the new Spock, and it was a pleasure to work with him and with all the other people on the project.
The Fringe character was intriguing because, as I’ve mentioned, it was kind of a blank slate and we had some very interesting and intense conversations about who and what he could be and how we should perceive him, what we might or might not learn about him, what we might or might not trust about him. These are intriguing opportunities for an actor, and they came at a time when I … and from a group of people that I had respect for. They piqued my interest and I went back to work. I did not expect to, frankly, be acting so much at this time in my life. My concentration was on my photography, but I’m having a wonderful time doing it.
Have they mentioned anything about their needs for you on an upcoming Star Trek movie?
L. Nimoy: No. My understanding is they’re working on a script right now. I expect there’s going to be some time before they really know exactly who they need and what they need. I frankly, frankly doubt that I will be called upon again.
I think I was useful in his last film to help bridge between the original characters, the original actors, and the new cast. They have a wonderful new cast in place, and I’m sure they’ll move ahead with them. I don’t see, at the moment, why they would need me in the next film, although, if they called me, I’d be happy to have a conversation about it.
How do you feel about the current state of science fiction on TV and film?
L. Nimoy: Well, I’m concerned about the positioning of story in terms of importance. When I see a lot of explosions and a lot of chases, I’m not terribly impressed. I think there are three terribly important elements that must be given a priority position in science fiction as well as in any other kind of drama. The first is story, the second is story, and the third is story. Story, story, story, story, story. If the story is compelling and interesting, I think all the rest will find its place.
We have great technology in our industry, and that technology can be overused at the expense of story. And that’s a problem for me, but when the story is in place, I think the special effects can find their proper place. I think Fringe uses the technology brilliantly, but in the service of excellent story-telling.
Have you found that there’s anything different in the way television is done these days?
L. Nimoy: I think it’s safe to say that what an audience is seeing today on screen in the television episode is far more complex than what we were doing when we were, for example, making the original Star Trek series in the ‘60s. We were very, very heavy on pages and pages of dialogue and very little special effects, but because the technology has advanced so greatly, it’s possible to do some very complex and very exciting and very useful technical stuff on the shows these days, so we don’t have to rely quite so much on the story being told by the actors speaking.
On the other hand, there is a danger, as I mentioned earlier, of going too far with the special effects at the expense of story. But if the story is well done, if the story’s in place strongly, the special effects can be enormously helpful to the actors, far more so than they were years ago when we were making the original Star Trek series.
Will we ever see a face off between William Bell and Walter Bishop?
L. Nimoy: Unpredictable at the moment. In the episode tomorrow night, the scene in between myself and Olivia, I think we will learn a lot more than we have known in the past about what their relationship is all about and what William Bell’s intentions are, or at least we will be told what his intentions are. We’re not really quite sure that everything that he says is accurate or true.
As William Bell, is there a particular character flaw or even something good that you would like to have highlighted in future episodes?
L. Nimoy: This is a wonderful question. I’m really looking forward to this character unfolding in a very interesting kind of way. I think you’ll see, tomorrow night, one very strong aspect of him and certain idiosyncrasies that are being developed. But I do think there’s a long way to go. I think there’s a lot to be discovered, and I’m looking forward to discovering it with the audience.
And the final question went to me:
What is still on your “to do” list?
L. Nimoy: Well, I’m looking forward to developing the William Bell character further. I hope the writers are interested in working with the character. I am. I don’t know how much further we’ll go with it, but the character, so far, has been very intriguing and the whole Fringe company has been very good to me. I’m delighted to be involved.
I am still actively involved with my photography work. I’m working on a current project, which is called Secret Selves, which is about hidden or fantasy or private personalities that people bring for me to photograph. And there will be an exhibition of that name, Secret Selves, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art opening next summer, a solo exhibition. I’m excited about that.