FRINGE: Anna Torv is having a ball playing Olivia and Alt-Olivia (2010)

As Anna Torv admitted in a recent conference call, the opportunity to play two characters on “Fringe” has been both challenging and rewarding. She shared, “I was so excited when it first came up and then we’ve sort of kicked in.” The show’s willingness to venture into another universe has accelerated things both for her as Torv, who plays Olivia Dunham and her alternate self for the show. Because of the multiple layers of Olivia thinking she is Alt-Olivia and Alt-Olivia pretending to be Olivia, Torv works hard to keep the two Olivias straight, though she noted, “I haven’t really had the chance to play Alt-Olivia properly for herself. It’s been our Olivia, thinking that she’s the Alt-Olivia. Then, the Alt-Olivia pretending to be our Olivia. So, it’s been a little bit tough to work that line [between them].”

Despite the complexities of playing two characters pretending to be each other in alternate universes, Torv is intrigued how her own perception of Olivia is changing. By stepping back and seeing Olivia through another’s eyes, she can now more clearly see Olivia and Alt-Olivia’s differences and similarities. She noted, “Each of them has their own impression of the other that they haven’t met really properly.” Thus, the portrayal of the dual roles has been equally tough and fun.

Torv would have loved it if Alt-Olivia had been made a completely different character – someone diametrically opposite of Olivia; but, as it is she noted that while each made almost identical choices in their lives, there are subtle differences. Olivia and Alt-Olivia may have the same job and the same partner, but there are slight deviations. It is those subtleties that make it fun for Torv.

There are also ripple-effects that add to Torv’s fascination. Because of the dual impersonations, there will undoubtedly be personal challenges and conflicts that arise once both return to their respective realities. Questions such as: will home be safe for them; or will their experiences alter who they are and how they relate to the world they came from? Torv explained that for her, “We’ve been following our Olivia and our team for two seasons now. So, our loyalties are definitely there, but when you start to see the other side, solving cases and interacting and working with each other, you realize that they’re both just fighting their own cause. Neither one’s good or bad, or neither one is right or wrong.”

Just about everything on “Fringe” has surprised Torv. When she first took the role of Olivia Dunham, she had no idea that they would be visiting a parallel universe. Yet because the show ventured down such an extraordinary storyline, it has expanded the roles that each of the actors play and created a whole kaleidoscope of shifting relationships. It also helped take the pressure off the accelerating Olivia/Peter relationship. Torv acknowledged, “Of course, you want them to be together. It’s set up that way, but what do you do when all of a sudden your two guys end up together? It then just becomes— What? Romantic drama or comedy? The fact that they’ve been able to kind of give a little bit of that and yet, it’s one step forward and ten steps back. I think it’s brilliant.” She also admitted that, while the current relationship is an assignment for Alt-Olivia, because Peter is such a charmer, that Alt-Olivia is not going to know what to think after they have been together for awhile. This will add another wrinkle to the already complicated palate of storylines.
So while “Fringe” is nothing like she thought it would be, Torv happily shared, “It has exceeded my expectations and has done for a long time. . . .I don’t really know what I expected, but I’ve been thrilled. . . sometimes we’ve had episodes that I think are really quite magic.” She loves the fact that the show is all encompassing and does not fit one specific genre. She thinks “Fringe” is a meld of horror with other-world elements. She said, “There are parts of it that are really heightened. There’s parts of it that are really kind of down and dirty. It’s got humor and a little bit of romance. The fact that it’s so broad in its spectrum and in its stories and that it’s unafraid to go, ‘Let’s just take this leap, shall we?’”

“Fringe” has not only taken the viewers and actors down the rabbit-hole into a wondrous new world, it has also invited us to take an introspective journey into our own minds and think about the reality surrounding us and question who each of us are. As she explores the two universes that Olivia and Alt-Olivia find themselves living-in, Torv also finds herself wondering about how fragile reality can be just by the choices we make. The question of “Who am I?” is so easily influenced by the world around us and yet most of us do not realize it. She explained, “I don’t believe that I’m just this physical person who maybe walks in a particular way or who speaks in a different way, all those little bits and pieces that’s on the outside. What’s on the inside, and do people recognize that, or do they just see what’s on the outside? That’s the bit that I’ve been thinking about.”

Looking beyond philosophical issues, Torv is also acutely aware that it is not just the internal changes, but the physical changes that affect who you are too. She noticed that just having a different hair color effects how others perceive and respond to her. She noted that, while she does not think she acts differently simply because her hair color is different, “Those little things, they change you … your hair or even just little clothes or a different shoe, a different silhouette. . . . People absolutely look at you differently.”

Torv is also extremely invested in both Olivias. She said, “There’s pro’s and con’s to both sides. I love parts of both sides. . . so, I can’t choose between yet.” Each world has characters that she loves and for which she is attached. Thus, it is a blessing to be able to play in both worlds.

Finally, when asked what was her favorite Easter-egg difference between the two “Fringe” universes, Torv confessed that she loved the fact that in the alternate universe they had “Dogs” on Broadway, instead of “Cats.” She humorously explained, “That was my favorite because I didn’t notice it the first day. No one said anything. Then, I went in and then I looked. That really cracked me up.”

Not only has “Fringe” given her two fantastic roles to play, it also knows how to have a great time in the process. For Anna Torv, life on “Fringe” is simply a ball.



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