“I’ve had a really charmed career.”
That’s how Lance Reddick ended our interview on the Vancouver set of “Fringe” last month.
It’s hard to argue.
Tall, wiry and intense, but so friendly you forget how intimidating you’ve found his on-screen presence in the past, Reddick has assembled a resume of memorable characters including John Basil from “Oz,” Matthew Abaddon from “Lost” and, mostly impressively, Cedric Daniels from “The Wire.”
On “Fringe,” Reddick plays Phillip Broyles, one of several characters on the FOX sci-fi drama who we can safely assume have kept some motivations and secrets concealed over the past three seasons.
HitFix caught up with Reddick in August to chat about the season to come…
Click through (no real spoilers for anything in the future)…
HitFix: So, for the easily confused, how good a job can you do of setting of where we are at this point in the third season?
Lance Reddick: Just trying to remember everything that happens in one episode is a challenge at this point. Basically, the season’s going along parallel tracks. Every other episode is a different universe, so each Fringe Division is dealing with cases… But in the alternate universe, Olivia is struggling with her subconscious, which is really strong and it’s fighting with her, for the most part her feelings towards Peter and her real family in the primary universe, to try to convince her to pull her back to her true self, while she’s still being brainwashed by the alternate Walter to fit into the Fringe team so they do do these experiments on her, to basically use her as a human guinea pig to figure out how she’s able to go back and forth between universes safely, so that they can basically wage war on the primary universe.
HitFix: Easy for you to say!
LR: And that’s just what’s going on over there. Then the other Olivia is struggling with being an agent under deep, deep, deep cover, having to be someone that everybody else thinks you are and relate to those people and basically crossing over all kinds of lines which, under normal circumstances, would be not only questionable ethically, but just personally and morally. So she’s struggling with that. But in the meantime, as I said, both Fringe divisions are just trying to keep up with the craziness of the Fringe cases and dealing with trying to beat the other side to the punch with the Doomsday device.
HitFix: So how much are the early episodes mythology-based and how much could somebody new come into the series? Or are new viewers just going to be utterly flummoxed at this point?
LR: Wow. I think that for somebody new to come in in the third season? Particularly with the alternate universe? They’re going to be lost, no pun intended.
HitFix: Are you OK with that?
LR: Well, it’s funny. I come from a history of shows like that and most of the shows I’m addicted to are like that. My favorite show to watch right now is “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” and my other favorite is “Friday Night Lights,” so I’m kinda a serialized kinda guy.
HitFix: So you’re of the opinion that you’ve gotta start with shows like this from the beginning?
LR: I think earlier in the show, particularly first season, it was easier to watch episodes as stand-alone, but pretty much from the middle of the first season on, maybe Episode 10 on, it became more and more serialized, so that the mythology is so integral to what’s happening in each episode, that to really understand the richness of what’s happening and to get the excitement and the drama of what’s happening, you’ve really got to be following along.
HitFix: So there’s Walternate and there’s Fauxlivia. Does Alternate Broyles have a witty nickname that I don’t know?
LR: No. In the alternate universe, they just call him Colonel Broyles, because it’s still technically a military organization, as opposed to a paramilitary organization, he’s part of the FBI, in the regular universe. In the alternate universe, Fringe Division is its own division within the US Military.
HitFix: What other differences do you see between Primary Broyles and the Alternate Broyles?
LR: Well, their accents are completely different. Alternate Broyles has a bit more of a street twang to him, I put on a bit more of a Baltimore, South thing. They’re both basically the same guy, so they’re both really well educated, very smart. One’s ex-military, but Colonel Broyles is still full military, he never left the military. I would say that Primary Broyles — I usually just say Broyles and Colonel Broyles — Broyles is more… It’s interesting. One of the things that was described to me by our showrunner, is that the alternate universe is much more devastated, physically, but the people are happier and their relationships are better. So that’s what I’d say about Colonel Broyles. He’s a happier guy. Even though he’s a colonel in the military in charge of a division that’s basically in charge of making sure that the end of the world is stopped, something is more relaxed about him. He’s still married, so he’s still happily married.
HitFix: Are we going to go home with him in the alternate world?
LR: We haven’t gone home with him in the alternate world, but we will.
HitFix: Any idea of when that’ll be? Is that something you’re looking forward to?
LR: I don’t know exactly when that’ll be, but I’m very much looking forward to it.
HitFix: The producers have talked about sort of hinge events, choices that propel people in our reality and people in the alternate reality in different directions. Do you have a sense of what that event was for Broyles?
LR: You know, I think it was a couple things. First of all, certain circumstances are different, obviously, because of that devastating event in the alternate universe that wasn’t caused in the primary universe. So Fringe Division had a completely different function in the two places. Consequently, Colonel Broyles never left the military. But Broyles, primary Broyles, he’s had to get much more into the politics of it and he’s had to fight for the survival of the Fringe Division, fighting with the government to prove that it’s necessary, as opposed to in the alternate universe, where Fringe, they’re like firemen. They’re basically heroes in the alternate world. The other thing is that in Episode 6 of Season 2, that episode was about that case from Broyles’ past that was kinda the straw that broke the camel’s back in his relationship with his wife, so I’m assuming that there wasn’t a similar kind of case for Colonel Broyles. It’s not like one case breaks a marriage, though. My personal opinion is that it had more to do with the way the world developed and the way his family, his wife in particular, saw his job. How do I put this? I don’t want to sound sexist. Whenever a spouse is married to somebody in an incredibly high-pressure, very stressful job, it reaches a point where the job seems like it’s more important than they are, than their family is, and it never got to that point with Colonel Broyles, simply because of the circumstances of the environment. I think it had more to do with that than necessarily particular choices that he made.
HitFix: You’re doing a pretty good job of explaining this stuff. Are you a fan of this sort of alternate reality sci-fi?
LR: You know what’s interesting? I don’t know why, but I’ve always been leery of alternate-universe types of stories that go on too long. Maybe I like it as a one-shot thing. I don’t know what it is, but it creeps me out. As sci-fi goes, I wouldn’t say that I’m a sci-fi fan generally, but I have some specific favorites. I’m a huge “Star Trek” fan. I think because of that, when J.J. did “Star Trek” and reinvented the franchise, it was hard for me, because they’re almost different guys now, because it’s in an alternate universe. But it’s J.J., so I’m gonna keep watching. And I love those characters.
HitFix: Since we’re chatting, I might as well ask. What did you think of the end of “Lost”? You never got to make that last return appearance, which certainly would have been as plausible as anything…
LR: Yeah, that was tricky. I honestly feel like I didn’t come back because I got cast in “Fringe.” And then, honestly, I got caught up, so I didn’t see the end of it. I stopped watching the show. The last couple seasons, I don’t even know what was happening, so I never got to the end.
HitFix: It wasn’t eating at you to find out how things resolved?
LR: No, because I was so caught up in so many different things. And I’d never watched the show before I was cast, so I had to go back and watch it. Then it was one of those things where I got hooked, but the third season wasn’t out yet and then I got caught up.
HitFix: Going back to “Fringe,” what would you like to see Broyles do this season? What things haven’t you hadn’t the chance to do?
LR: Well, I’m afraid to say, because what I’d like to happen is what I’ve been told is probably going to happen. Which is developments in his personal life and developments in… the actions he takes based on how he feels about what’s happening with Bolivia and Olivia and the whole brainwashing/guinea pig thing that’s happening.
HitFix: And you’re confident he’s going in a direction you like…
LR: I think that. But it’s one of those things where you hear things and you’re told things and for reasons that very often have nothing to do with the creators’ intentions, but don’t necessarily happen. So…
HitFix: So when people recognize you in the street these days, what do they recognize you from?
LR: At this point, it’s a funny thing. Literally, when people say, “I love you on my favorite show,” I always wait, because I don’t know what show they’re talking about. It could be “Lost” or “Fringe” or “The Wire.” And the week, I’ve had two people here in Vancouver say, “Weren’t you the guy from ‘Oz’?”
HitFix: That’s a good confusion to be able to have.
LR: I just feel like I’ve had, particularly artistically on television, I’ve had a really charmed career.