When "Fringe" premiered in September of 2008, co-creator J.J. Abrams said the fun of the show "was taking the kinds of things we loved growing up and combining them and sort of playing with them and making them into something that is hopefully brand new while being in the spirit of things that inspired us." Fast forward to 2010 and Abrams hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the show. The prolific writer, director and producer was on hand at the TCA Winter Press Tour last month where he chatted with reporters about what's in store for the show, his new pilot at NBC and his boundless love of the television medium.
Question: What can you tell me about where the second half of the season is going?
J.J. Abrams: I will say that there are... the story that [we established] at the very beginning of the season is going to play out. There were some adjustments we made along the way... but what I think is fun about where it's going is on the one hand there's this inevitable thing that will happen but I think there's going to be a huge surprise too. I'm really excited about it... The fun of [the conflict with alternate universe] is there's this growing problem and that there is something brewing sort of between these two places. To me it's just a fascinating kind of premise. It's so big! And the key is how do you make it specific and how do you make it personal and I think some of the stuff you'll be getting to with all three of our characters [will be fantastic].
Question: Any plans for Leonard Nimoy?
J.J. Abrams: I have tons of plans for him. Whether he'll be part of them is another question but there are plans aplenty... I would love to return to that character, I know there's a chance that will occur.
Question: Are you satisfied with the ratio of standalone to arc episodes? And will that change going forward?
J.J. Abrams: I think it will be somewhat consistent with where it's been but I think I always like a great standalone but I'm also a sucker for that like ongoing serialized story. We're sort of in a place where I'd be thrilled with more serialized stuff but I also know that's an increasingly difficult way of doing television.
Question: Will the same apply to your NBC pilot "Undercovers?"
J.J. Abrams: This show does have ongoing stories as well but they are much more personal based and character based. But I'm trying to do a show that has a more fun energy and a little more comedic than ["Fringe"]... There won't be any of [the Rambaldi-type mythology, i.e. "Alias"]. I think that there will be, again, something that will give the story a sense of inevitability and yet, you're right, it won't be going into that place of like crazy, mythology heavy stuff.
Question: Why did you decide to direct the pilot?
J.J. Abrams: I just enjoyed the idea of it. I enjoy the script... I enjoyed the chemistry of these two people and it became clear as we were working on it, rather than be sitting on the set every day with someone else directing it, being annoying, I'd rather just take the burden on myself.
Brian Ford Sullivan: I talked to [executive producer] Jeff Pinkner and he said [tonight's episode] is your best one yet and the one coming back [after the hiatus] is even better. [Abrams laughs.] What's so great about them?
J.J. Abrams: The great thing about Jeff is he knows how to lower expectations. [Laughs.] I would just say that it's always wonderful to get director's cuts of episodes that make me smile. And it's nice when they are on important dates, and it's nice when they are consecutive so I will just say we're on a nice internal run right now where things are, you know, when a story's entertaining and fun and has that weird combination - which is the goal of "Fringe" to be scary as hell and funny in one show, it's a weird thing to do - when that works, it's just, you know, you just thank God.
"Fringe" airs its winter finale tonight at 9:00/8:00c. Look for the second season to resume on Thursday, April 1 at 9:00/8:00c.