Fringe – which ends its season four run tonight with a finale that promises to be explosive and mind-bending – has never come up short on ways to surprise its audience. But count the return of William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) in the last week’s “Brave New World, Part 1” to be among one of the best kept secrets and biggest surprises that the show has had so far.
Sadly, Bell’s return wasn’t all joyous, as in this timeline he was revealed to be working behind the scenes with villain David Robert Jones. Luckily, in real life, Nimoy is much more affable than his Fringe alter ego (and much less serious!) We were fortunate enough to be able to participate in a conference call where Nimoy spoke about his return to the show. The actor also dropped some rather tantalizing tidbits on what we’ll see of Bell’s character in tonight’s episode…and possibly in the future.
“Of course, the character of William Bell started out to be rather ambivalent,” Nimoy shared when asked about what specifically brought him out of retirement and what attracted him to the role. “We weren’t quite sure whether we were supposed to enjoy him, or be afraid of him. We couldn’t quite figure out what his motivation was. At the end of last season, he seemed to come around to be less dangerous and this season, I think things have taken another turn. He’s in another universe and has taken on other characteristics. There were challenges in the character itself that were attractive to me, and I could play aspects of a character that I haven’t played in a long time, so it was very welcoming to me.”
Nimoy wasn’t in the dark about returning, admitting that it was “somewhere around two or three months from the time that I knew I was going to do it until now,” but it the decision wasn’t exactly a hard one for him to make. “I’m a sucker for a good role, and J.J. [Abrams, Fringe executive producer] is a friend of mine. He calls, I take his call. The writers and producers, Joel Wyman, Jeff Pinkner and the cast, they’re a wonderful bunch of people and I enjoy being there. When they called and asked me if I would do it, it was pretty easy to convince me.”
So what can we expect in tonight’s episode? We didn’t expect Bell to share all his secrets, but he was able to slightly tease us with this cryptic piece of information: “You’re going to see some interesting activities on the part of William Bell tomorrow night. This character has gotten himself out on a limb and is doing some very wonderful theatrical and bizarre activities. He has become a world of his own…take that as a hint,” he teases, adding that he was eager to see the episode himself. “I haven’t seen it in context, so I’m pretty excited about what people are going to be experiencing.”
As for what we’ll see of Bell beyond tonight, the actor was about as mum as he could be while still managing to raise the hopes of everyone on the press call. “I haven’t heard anything new about William Bell or the show, except that it has been picked for 13 episodes, which I think is wonderful,” Nimoy commented. “I know the company was hoping for that, that they could have a final season to close out successfully. I haven’t heard anything about Bell coming back, but I’m sure I’ll be getting a call and we’ll talk about it. It’ll depend on my schedule, and it’ll depend on what they have in mind for the character. There are a lot of issues that have to be dealt with, but we’ll be talking.”
It should be noted that ever the gentleman, Nimoy ended the call by quickly taking the time to praise the Fringe cast and creative, calling them “a superior company” and admitting that “I’ve never worked with a better company in my entire 60 year career.” Hey, when you’ve got Leonard Nimoy praising your show, I’d say you’re on the right track.
The season finale of Fringe airs TONIGHT at 9/8c on FOX.