Originating from the creative mind of noted direct/executive producer/writer JJ Abrams, Fringe became a cult favorite in the sci-fi world. Originally airing on Fox, the series explored the rare instances of fringe science in our society. With a unique mixture of sci-fi oddities and procedural drama, the series quickly became a fan favorite. In addition to its exciting storylines, the show notably incorporated different ciphers into the show for viewers to decode each week.
The series also expanded on its TV popularity through a series of comic books, novels, and games. Though ratings began to wane through its later seasons, Fringe maintained a close-knit fan base that steadily supported the show to the very end. Becoming a victim of the noted Friday Night Death Slot, the series concluded with its fifth a final season on January 18, 2013.
Riddled with coded messages, unsolvable mysteries, and hidden universes, Fringe continues to be a series fans return to again and again. However, among those hidden puzzles lie the secrets only a few Fringe fans are aware of. Although the series has concluded indefinitely, the mysteries about the behind the scenes activities and the stars themselves continue to live on as well.
Here are the 19 Secrets Behind Fringe You Had No Idea About.
19 John Noble Was Too Young To Play Walter
Australian actor John Noble has had a notable acting and theater career since 1988. After a solid career in Australian entertainment, US audiences were introduced to the actor in projects such as The Lord of the Rings films, and TV series The Unit and 24. Though he held small roles in these series, he still had not found a significant role to star in.
Noble’s daughter, an actress, discovered the available role of Walter Bishop for the series Fringe while looking for auditions. After suggesting it to her father, he had his manager inquire about the part. Unfortunately, he didn’t qualify for the role for an unexpected reason. According to The Huffington Post, Noble (who was in his late 50s at the time) was told “that he was actually too young for the role.” However, after submitting an audition tape, he convinced the producers to select him for the role.
18 The Pilot Episode Cost $10 Million
For a new TV show to work, the producers must do whatever they can to capture the attention of the audience from the start. Many shows invest heavily into pilot episodes as they serve as calling cards for the series. The two-hour pilot for Fringe helped introduce the audience to the characters and some of their backgrounds, the expected story development steps, and the fringe science itself.
Though production of the pilot episode took place in Ontario, Canada (with the show set in New York) to save costs, the hope for the show’s success reflected in its expensive price tag.
The pilot episode cost a whopping $10 million to create!
Between the elaborate plane scene and Walter’s laboratory, Fox and the creators of the show had complete confidence that viewers would take to the show. Luckily, they were right: over 9 million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere.
17 Secret Relationships Doomed, on and off screen
As stars of a show continue to work closely together for long periods of time, they tend to find themselves developing an intimate relationship. Such was the case for characters Olivia Dunham and her partner John Scott. The two were involved in a serious secret relationship when season 1 premiered. Their onscreen romance translated into a real-life version for the two stars as well.
In fact, the two actors, Anna Torv and Mark Valley, has a secret wedding the same year season 1 was airing. The couple kept the news of their relationship quiet until the rumors of their marriage were released. However, in both instances, the relationship was not meant to last. Reports circulated that the couple split up just a few months after their one-year anniversary. Their divorce was confirmed in early 2010.
16 Gene the Cow Had To Be Recast
The cast of Fringe offered an intriguing line-up of characters and personalities with great variety. From the hard-working FBI agent to the eternally forgetful but brilliant scientist, the characters worked well together and effectively solved the mysteries presented week over week.
One of the fan-favorite characters turned out to be Gene, the cow.
When Gene was introduced in the pilot episode, John Bishop stated that cows shared similar genetics to humans and so would serve as the perfect test subject. Gene managed to avoid being a test subject and, instead, became an unofficial part of the main cast. However, fans may not be aware that the same cow did not appear throughout the seasons.
Once the show’s production moved to New York, Gene had to be re-cast due to restrictions on transporting livestock from Canada to the US. The “actress” may have changed but Gene remains a fan favorite.
15 Joshua Jackson's Painful Stunt Accident
One of the more intriguing aspects of Fringe centered around the use of special effects for the various plotlines. From the first episode, viewers witnessed a multitude of strange and sometimes sickening, occurrences of fringe science. Along with these weekly mysteries, the cast often worked against the clock to solve the cases as quickly as possible.
Of course, the show employed many action sequences and suspenseful scenes to help keep the viewers engaged in the show. However, early on in the series, Joshua Jackson suffered a nasty injury while filming one such scene. According to IMDB, Jackson “had to be rushed to the hospital, when during a stunt, a copper wire was shoved up his nose and hit a vein.” Ouch!
Though the crew was concerned he would not be able to finish filming, Jackson made a complete recovery and returned to the set.
14 Anna Torv's Family Estrangement and Connections to Rupert Murdoch
Despite its unusual style and format, the series hit home with a loyal group of fans. The first season of Fringe ended with an average rating of 10.2 million viewers. However, after season 2, viewership dropped off significantly over the course of the show. By season 2, viewership was down to 6.25 million viewers.
Fox would typically cancel a show with such diminished numbers.
Surprisingly, the show was somehow renewed for a third season. One theory for the show’s “lifeline” came with actress Anna Torv’s connections to Fox founder Rupert Murdoch. Her father’s sister was once married to Murdoch from 1967 -1999. Nothing like a little nepotism to keep the show going?
However, Torv despised her relationship to Murdoch and downplayed their connections. In addition to her resentment toward him, Torv has also been estranged from her father since she was eight years old.
13 Kirk Acevedo Was Fired From the Show and Ranted on Facebook
Kirk Acevedo played FBI Special Agent Charlie Francis. Although his character remained through season 1 and 2, writers felt his time on the show had come to an end. However, Acevedo did not take kindly to being let go and voiced his opinion on his Facebook account.
On May 21, 2009, he posted the message:
"WELL BOYS AND GIRLS THEY DONE DID YER BOY WRONG! THEY FIRED ME OFF FRINGE, AND IVE NEVER BEEN FIRED IN MY LIFE!!!!"
In light of his outburst online, producers for Fringe quickly denied the accusations that he had been fired. Instead, they said his character had been written out of the storyline. Fringe fans saw the last of Charlie Francis alive in the season 2 episode "A New Day In The Old Town", but Acevedo later appeared as Alt Charlie in two season 3 episodes.
12 Joshua Jackson Was Against Peter and Olivia being A Couple
Most shows with male and female leads often set audiences up for the possibility of future romances. From subtle innuendos to building tension, the characters eventually cross that line and become a couple. Although fans were enthusiastic about the possibility of Olivia Dunham and Peter Bishop becoming an item, one of the actors disapproved the coupling. Actor Joshua Jackson (who played Peter) expressed his disagreement with the shipping of these two characters.
As reported by TVOverMind, Jackson stated: “I think this bizarre little family unit we have – crazy daddy, overachieving daughter and layabout, good-for-nothing son – was a really odd thing to put at the heart of a science fiction show.” Also, his hesitation stemmed from the concern that “Peter and Olivia hooking up would ultimately damage the show."
Surprisingly, his co-star Anna Torv loved the idea of the two getting together but questioned if it would ever happen. We all know how that turned out!
11 Jasika Nicole Based alt-Astrid on Her Real-life Autistic Sister
The introduction of the Alternative Universe in Fringe opened up new opportunities for the cast of the show. Given most of them had alternate versions of themselves, the star got to play their opposite with different personalities and physical appearances. Actress Jasika Nicole, known for playing Astrid Farnsworth on the show, looked to her personal life to approach her Alternative Universe self.
In an interview with Uproxx, Nicole shared that she modeled her characters’ behaviors (her character had Asperger’s syndrome) after her real-life sister who has autism. She explained, “Astrid is not like my sister. My sister is lower-functioning than someone who has Asperger’s, but there are definitely a lot of the same qualities. It comes from the same core.”
By incorporating her personal experiences, Nicole successfully captured the essence of alt-Astrid onscreen to the delight of fans.
10 One Star was cast, but never made it on-screen
Casting directors worked tirelessly to select the perfect cast for Fringe. Although the show was already highly anticipated with Abrams at the helm, the announcement of the chosen ensemble also helped to promote the upcoming sci-fi series.
On January 17, 2008, The Hollywood Reporter shared the news of the first cast completed for the series. They stated that “Kirk Acevedo and Tomas Arana have been tapped to co-star in 'Fringe,' Fox's high-profile sci-fi drama from J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. Mark Valley also has joined the two-hour, $10 million pilot, which is being directed by Alex Graves.”
Nothing is unusual about this press release except that it never came true. Although Acevedo and Valley did end up with roles for the show, Arana’s part never came to fruition. Though reported as playing “a special agent for Homeland Security who heads the special Fringe division,” he never made it on screen.
9 Jackson's s Ex-Girlfriend's cameo
While we explored the onset romances that developed during the filming of Fringe, let’s also take a look at an established couple that starred on the show together.
While working on Fringe, Joshua Jackson and actress Diana Kruger had been dating for about two years at the time of the show’s premiere. Working as an active actress in Hollywood at the time, Kruger managed to secure a spot in season 2 of Fringe. She starred in an uncredited role in the episode “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver”, she briefly played Miranda Greene, a lawyer who died early on in the episode.
Sadly, the real-life couple called it quits in 2010 after ten years together. Incidentally, rumors began circulating that Kruger had stepped out on Jackson with The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus.
8 The Observer In Other FOX Shows
In the past, creative marketing has helped certain shows create a name for itself long before the first episode airs. Some TV series even continue to play up the appeal of their show with integrated campaigns, advertising, and promotions on their network. Using this technique, the bosses at Fox decided to incorporate The Observer character throughout its other TV shows.
Fringe fans found the figure lurking in the various places including the audience of American Idol, on the sidelines of NFL games and at NASCAR races. Strangely enough, no onscreen identifier was used when he appeared on camera to point out the character’s name or even advertise for the show. We are not sure how effective the marketing scheme was, however, fans certainly enjoyed looking for the character all over the Fox network.
7 The Original Series Title Was "The Lab"
The concept of Fringe erupted from the creative mind of TV and film producer and writer JJ Abrams. Though many shows and movies influenced the creation of the show, the simplest explanation would be that Fringe is The Twilight Zone meets Law & Order. While this was an unusual combination to begin with, Abrams felt that the audience would be drawn in by the unusual science and technology of the storylines.
In fact, his original plans were to call the show “The Lab”, given that most of the significant discoveries would take place in Walter’s laboratory. However, the title put more focus on the physical location than the science itself. Instead, the show’s name was changed to Fringe to showcase the fringe science that would be explored each week.
6 The Notorious Friday Death Slot
Over the years, Fox has gained a reputation for killing great shows in their prime. Thankfully, many shows have found new life in syndication and even returned to the network to continue their run. However, before that renewed life occurs, these low viewership series are banished to what is known the Friday Night Death Slot.
Fringe moved from its regular Thursday schedule to the dreaded time slot during its third season. To combat some of the negative publicity from the move, Fox released some self-deprecating promotions that lampooned the notorious time slot and positively promoted the move.
While the network was very clever with its marketing tactic, the show still suffered from plummeting ratings. However, Fox still had faith in the show and renewed it for a fourth season.
5 Original Showrunner Stepped Down
Though many shows suffer from cast changes over the years, Fringe maintained its main cast for the majority of the series. However, behind the scenes, significant changes took place that affected the course of the show. Since its premiere, the series was led by showrunner and executive producer Jeff Pinkner. With his history of other Abrams projects including Lost and Alias, Pinkner was familiar with his style and his way of producing a show.
By the second season, J.H. Wyman was added as an additional showrunner because of his love and history in science fiction. However, as the show’s numbers continuously dwindled, Pinkner began to seek out other projects for his future. After the conclusion of the fourth season, Pinkner stepped down as showrunner for the series. Wyman remained as the only showrunner for the fifth and final season.
4 The New Showrunner Said Peter Bishop's Absence From Season 4 A Mistake
As the storylines for the Alternate Universe continued to weave into the Prime Universe, writers felt the need to make a major change to the cast. The storyline of the third season brought about the disappearance of Peter Bishop from existence. As he was considered an integral part of the show, fans expressed their outrage at his removal from the majority of season four. In reflection, many viewers felt the fourth season was severally lacking without Jackson’s presence.
In fact, showrunner J.H. Wyman shared the same sentiment in an interview with SFZ Magazine. He stated “I look back at it and consider it one of our missteps. We liked it and thought it was cool. But, no matter how many times we told people, 'No, Peter is still part of the show...' everybody was saying, 'Peter is not on the show so I'm not watching anymore!' They didn't get it.”
3 Leonard Nimoy Acted On The Show Even After His Official Retirement
Fringe fans were delighted to hear that Star Trek alum Leonard Nimoy would be added to the cast for the season 1 finale in 2009. Playing the role of Walter Bishop’s former lab partner, Dr. William Bell, his character was extended into the following season with a more extensive arc.
However, with the announcement of his retirement, fans of the show were heartbroken that Bell would not return to the series. In fact, his character was considered dead after the season 2 finale, effectively ending his guest start appearances. Despite his retirement, Nimoy agreed to return to the role once again to conclude his character’s storyline in 2011.
He returned in animated form for the season 3 episode “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide" and in a computer-generated role in the season 4.
2 It Was Nimoy's Last Onscreen TV Work Before His Death
Loving the experience of playing Dr. William Bell, Nimoy returned for his final appearance as the character in the two-part season finale of the fourth season. His legacy on Fringe holds a particularly significant place in the actor’s television history. His depiction of Dr. William Bell stands as his last television onscreen acting appearance before his death on February 27, 2015, at the age of 83.
Although he did provide his voice for Spock action figure on the Big Bang Theory in 2012, he was not seen on camera. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Actor John Noble shared: “The man was a living legend, totally, a true living legend. Apart from feeling incredibly honored, really honored — privileged — to be sharing a soundstage with him, it was more than that, I also found him to be a superb actor to work with.”
1 JJ Abrams Hasn’t Done A Sci-Fi TV show since Fringe
After the poor ratings for the fourth season, Fox announced that Fringe would conclude with the fifth and final season. Given only 13 episodes, the network ensured the series would hit the 100 episode mark necessary for syndication. With a final season that tied up many of the mysteries of the show, creator JJ Abrams gave the show a proper send off.
Although Abrams has been considerably busy since the conclusion of the show, he has yet to make his return to sci-fi- YB. Although he has served other roles, such as executive producer and composer, for different shows he has not headed a new TV series in the sci-fi genre.
After five long years, we may be seeing the return of Abrams to TV.
As we reported, Abrams is currently shopping around his new space drama television series to several TV networks. We will provide further updates as we receive them.
Do you have any Fringe trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!