Jasika Nicole is one of the unsung heroes of "Fringe."
As FBI Agent Astrid Farnsworth, Nicole constantly has to play off of the insanity of Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) in a way that grounds his wild scientific theories and eccentric personality. To top it off, Nicole also plays a version of Astrid from the alternate universe, who has asperger's syndrome and a dramatically different way of interacting with the world around her.
Among the major characters of "Fringe," Astrid is the only one of the main cast who hasn't met her alternate world counterpart… until now. In tonight's episode of "Fringe," the two Astrids come face-to-face in "Making Angels," as the alternate Astrid journeys to our universe.
Earlier this week, Nicole took part in a press conference to discuss the alternate Astrid's motivations for crossing over, the difficulties of playing both characters against each other and what lies ahead for Astrid.
Q: In this week's episode the two Astrids finally meet. What was it like playing opposite yourself?
Jasika Nicole: It was actually pretty overwhelming to play against myself. Not only because it was the first huge episode that I had just as an actor. But I was kind of doing double-duty as both Astrids. She's got these really emotional scenes.
So what would normally take us maybe four or five hours to complete took us about eight or ten hours because we had to do it twice essentially. And there was actually one scene [which has] both Astrids and both Olivias and then Walter and Peter. So, it just took us all day long. Anna Torv actually pulled me aside and gave me all these tips on how to do it because she's the one who, you know, plays her doppelganger in most of the show. So it was technically very difficult and emotionally difficult. But it was really, really exciting and totally worth it.
Q: Which of the two Astrids do you find is more challenging or fun to play?
Jasika Nicole: [Alternate] Astrid is much more challenging to play just because she's so physically different than I am. I didn't even realize, but after the first several months of playing her I would come home with a headache every single day. And it's because she's so stiff in her movements, and she's just got these mannerisms that I don't have and my body is not used to them.
So it's really, really difficult to play her. Also, because she speaks so quickly that I have to know my lines like, backwards and forwards because she spits it out really, really, like spitfire quick. So she's the most fun and the most challenging actually.
Q: Is there a throw away line about why Astrid never sought out to meet her other self?
Jasika Nicole: Yes. You know, I think in the world of "Fringe" because they're solving these cases and they're trying to save lives and they're trying to protect these universes from being destroyed. So I feel like any like ounces of selfishness totally get taken out of the equation. Like, who has time to go across to another universe and spy on their doppelganger when, you know, hundreds of people who are nearing death because there are some like crazy vigilante that's out on the loose killing them all.
So, I think, deep down inside this Astrid would have loved to go over there to see her. But it's just never come up and there's been so much other work to do. But interestingly enough, the reason that [alternate] Astrid does come to this universe is for selfish reasons; not in a negative way necessarily. But it's something personal happens to her and it's really traumatic.
She doesn't have anybody else to turn to. So her only option is to come here, which I think is pretty incredible. I think it's very brave because I think there's a possibility that this Astrid is too afraid to maybe go over to the alternate universe and see if her alternate has a better haircut than her.
Q: And what does spending time with old Astrid do for our Astrid? Does it give her pause to reflect on choices she's made or her potential?
Jasika Nicole: It definitely does and that's the main reason that she comes here is to, I think, get a little bit of clarity. She knows that this Astrid is different than she is. I'm not sure exactly how she knows, you know, maybe she's heard other people talking or something, and that is a really key element in figuring out what her next steps are. So she wants to see this other Astrid who's different than her, who is emotionally available and who probably has different relationships with the people in her life, and that's why she comes here.
Q: What kind of challenges have you faced going through not only playing the alternate Astrid but our Astrid?
Jasika Nicole: I think that the biggest challenge that I went through was this season, actually, when we started this new timeline. Then, I realized that all of the relationships were different now that Peter had never been a part of our lives and we didn't know who he was. But, specifically, the relationship between Astrid and Walter was really different because Olivia was more his confidant, his caretaker. He would seek her out when he was in a bad place and needing help and he didn't really go to Astrid so much.
She was more his babysitter than his friend. That was really difficult for me at first because I wasn't sure why Astrid was a part of the team if it wasn't to be Walter's guide and, you know, his shoulder to cry on sort of thing. But then as the season went on I realized that because she didn't have such a close relationship with Walter I think that she was the only person in this world that was welcoming to Peter.
You know, Olivia didn't want to have anything to do with him. Walter didn't want to have anything to do with him. Broyles was totally freaked out by him and Astrid was the one who was always saying, "You know it's okay. He's probably not a bad guy. We've got to help this person."
So that was an interesting different choice to have made. I just wasn't expecting it. But now that we've had this huge Astrid episode I see that her relevance is way even beyond just helping Walter because you can see that she helps everybody.
Q: What kind of a journey would you say that Astrid is on this season?
Jasika Nicole: I know what journey alternate Astrid is on. I don't know what journey this Astrid is on. But alternate Astrid is looking for solace. She's had a rough life actually. And this only comes, to let you know, in this episode that airs Friday [February 03].
But this Astrid has had such a charmed life compared to the other Astrid. I think that this Astrid has taken that for granted because you never know what other direction your life could have gone down. So seeing this alternate Astrid has probably given her a little bit more insight into how fortunate she has been and lucky that she is to have the people around her that she does.
Q: Even though Astrid doesn't get a lot of screen time in either incarnation up until this episode, she's become a lot of peoples’ favorite character on the show. Do you have any thoughts about why that might be?
Jasika Nicole: You know, I thought about it a lot actually and I think, ironically, that one of the reasons people like her so much is because they don't know that much about her. I think that apart from the observer she's kind of the most mysterious person that's involved in the show. And to have this really young invested FBI agent who shows up to work every day with a smile on her face that tries to keep the energy up and is generally always in a good mood.
I'm really fascinated by who that person is because you know you see Olivia, who is also a young, really talented, intelligent woman in the FBI, and you know that she's going through a lot of stuff. She's dealing with all kinds of personal stuff and work stuff and figuring out where her boundaries are and where personal life doesn't cross over into work life. You don't get to see Astrid going through those things. So you wonder how is she handling this when she goes home. So I think maybe that's one of the reasons that people love her so much because they've, kind of, had to create a whole story for her since there hasn't been given to her.
Q: In this new timeline for the alternate universe, the alternate Astrid seems a lot more outgoing and excited and excitable than she was in the previous alt-universe where Peter inhabited it. Have you noticed that?
Jasika Nicole: No. You know, I actually have not noticed that. Not to say that that isn't true; it's very possible. But a part of me wonders if it's just because we've been able to see a little bit more of old Astrid in this season than we have before. And one of my big wishes, I guess, for old Astrid was to be able to see her outside of work because I felt that she was really one note when all you've got to see was her interacting with her coworkers and at her computer screen relaying important information.
But you didn't get to see, you know, what she was like outside of her work area, which is really cool about this Friday's episode. You definitely get to see that. But I never intended for her to not be emotional. It's just that she never had an opportunity to be emotional when she was at work.
But a really important episode for her even though these were tiny, tiny scenes; it was the episode when Peter is in the alternate universe and they're trying to figure out, you know, what David Robert Jones is up to. There's this moment that was really special, it's because Peter knows who Astrid is in both universes. She didn't know who he was at all. But he had this familiarity with her. I feel like he saw her and, you know, felt like he knew her and interacted with her as such.
There's probably never been a stranger to come up to her and be so friendly and kind and put their hand on her shoulder and let her know that it's okay. So he had a reaction to that and I don't think that that had ever happened before in any episode that we've done. So that was like tiny little glimpse into the Astrid outside of her work zone.
Q: Is there anything that you can tease about what you're currently filming on the show?
Jasika Nicole: Yes. We are currently filming an episode that is going to take place mostly in the alternate universe and there's a lot of Lincoln on Lincoln happening on this episode, like a lot, a lot, lot. So I know the fans will be really excited about that because I personally love the Lincoln so much.