Although it was cutting things pretty fine, Jaskia Nicole spoke with the press about her characters’ first feature episode of Fringe [Fox, 10/9C]. The ep was a special challenge because it not only features Astrid and Alt-Astrid from ‘Over There’, but they are onscreen together.
Nicole was excited to talk about the ep and the conference call was a very cheerful affair.
Hi Jasika. Thanks for taking time to talk to us. So it sounds like this week’s episode the two Astrids finally meet. What was it like playing opposite yourself?
Jasika Nicole: Hi. Thank you very much. Nice to be here and thanks for calling in. 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 where they’re 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.
Which of the two Astrids do you find is more challenging or fun to play?
Nicole: Alt-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.
The way I understand it, old Astrid comes to see you. I’m just curious is there a throw away line about why Astrid never sought out to meet her other self? Like, I knew if I had a doppelganger I’d go to meet him just to see if he found like a better haircut.
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, you know, it hasn’t come up and there’s been so much other work to do. But interestingly enough, the reason that Alt-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.
Interesting. And what does spending time with Alt-Astrid do for our Astrid? Does it give her pause to reflect on choices she’s made or her potential?
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.
So as you are going forward, you know, the show has been going for a long time and switched up a lot at different times. What kind of challenges have you faced going through not only playing the Alt-Astrid but our Astrid?
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 kind of, you know, an interesting different choice to have made. I just wasn’t expecting it. But now that, you know, 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.
Yes. Wow. And what kind of a journey would you say that Astrid is on this season?
Nicole: You know, 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 tomorrow and Friday.
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 know, 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.
Can you talk about the ways in which both Astrids need each other and how you see that connection?
Nicole: Well, I think that Alternate-Astrid needs the Astrid over here because she–alternate Astrid is not closed off. She’s got Asperger’s. So she has some fundamentally different things about her that make her associate with other people and the rest of the world. I don’t think that she necessarily wants to be closed off or wants to be awkward in conversations and social interactions. It’s just how she is.
But I think that knowing that there is another version of her out there that doesn’t have these difficulties makes her excited, makes her want to meet her and know what her life is like. And because of this traumatic event that ends up happening to one of Astrid’s, Alternate-Astrid’s, family members that’s the impetus to bring her to this universe to find out more about, you know, the could have, should have, would have’s. I think that this Astrid needs the alternate Astrid just to give her perspective on her life.
You know, she’s been closed up inside this lab for the last four years with this, kind of, crazy doctor and these really bizarre, terrifying things are happening in the world. Then she meets this woman that looks just like her that could’ve had the exact same life as her and did not. So that, I think, opens up her eyes a little bit to let her realize how fortunate she is to have these people in her life. As crazy and dysfunctional as her work family is, it is a family and that is of great significance to her.
What have you learned about yourself as an actress after playing two sides of the character?
Nicole: Gosh, I’ve learned that it’s really important to rely on the other people that are around you, on your ensemble. I never really had a chance to discover that, at least not with this show. But it would have been impossible to do those scenes successfully without having support from the other actors and the crew members on set. They just gave it 110%, which made it so much easier to do the work that I had to do. So it was truly an ensemble piece with all the crew and the cast members.
I wanted to ask, going back a little bit about what you talk about which is this universe this year has created a very different dynamic … what we had always expected that closeness between you and Walter and this universe we don’t really have that. But yet, you are now out in the field. You’re also having more interaction with Olivia and Lincoln. And so what has that kind of brought out in your character and what has that brought out being able to, kind of, interact with them more in a very different way?
Nicole: Yes. I think the difference between the relationship with Astrid and Walter was a little bit sad for me to part with. But what I gained from that besides, you know, kind of creating this idea that she’s the only person that’s welcoming to Peter is like you said, she’s got this really lovely kind of like BFF relationship with Olivia that we never got to see before. And I absolutely love that. I think that the fans have really been into that too because this whole time we’ve had–these are the two women that work together the closest because, of course, Nina is a part of the show. But she works at Massive Dynamics and is a bit separate.
So when we would have all these themes and you would never see Olivia and Astrid like hanging out and talking together. It was like, oh, why wouldn’t they be friends? You know, they’re both really smart. They have a very similar difficult job. They work with the same crazy people. So that was a really, really cool part of this season is seeing Olivia and Astrid hang out together. And now I have this idea that they probably like, you know, go out for wine twice a month or go to see a movie or something like that because they’re with each other so much of the day that they have to depend and rely on each other more so than what we see in the actual episodes.
Which is great and I get that sense too when you’re watching the two of them that there is a link to them that we haven’t gotten to see in other universes which is so wonderful. Have you gotten to play maybe a little bit more of that that we’re going to continue to see?
Nicole: Yes. We have. We are doing it. You’ve done–you know, each little scene is so precious that we get. So I, like, at one point knew exactly how many scenes Olivia and Astrid had together where you could tell that they were friends. We do have a couple more coming up which is really awesome, and maybe even more for the rest of the season. So we’ll see.
Now I saw the sneak peek video that was brief clips of interviews with you and the cast. And you said that you cried five times reading the treatment as the cast members talked about what it was like on set. I was wondering if maybe you could talk about what it was about the treatment that spoke to you so deeply, so quickly. I mean a treatment is really a very short form. And maybe if you could go into the actual on set shoot a little more deeply from your perspective?
Nicole: Oh sure. Well, when I say treatment I actually mean like the very, very first draft which is very different than our last draft. So I probably misworded that. It was an actual script. But it was going to go through like at least six different changes by the time we ended up shooting everything.
But I think it was a combination of a lot of things that had me so emotional. Not only because it is a really heartbreaking story that is being told with the two Astrids which is about, you know, family and loss, and having regrets and feeling confident in who you are and not being able to take that away. But also on top of that just the fact that I’ve been waiting for four years to do an Astrid-heavy episode. So, when I finally got it, it was just–it was a little bit overwhelming. You know, like it’s something that you’ve been wishing for so long and you get to a point where you don’t think it’s ever going to happen.
I think that I had kind of become resigned in thinking that. You know, oh, Astrid is not going to get a big episode and that’s okay because it’s been such a lovely thing to be part of the show. So anyway, I finally get the script and it is a heavy Astrid episode and not only just one Astrid but two Astrids. And then there’s like all of this emotional turmoil that’s going on within the story. So it was emotional on a lot of different levels.
In terms of shooting it, it was just really, really rewarding and tough. You know, as they say sometimes the most difficult things end up being the things that best serve you. It was really, really long hours. I’ll tell you, during these two scenes in particular that are extremely emotional where one or both of the Astrids are crying. And so, to try and maintain that level of connection to what these characters are feeling for hours and hours and hours was really exhausting.
I think that’s one of the reasons that the crew and the other cast members were so lovely on those days and just so supportive and really, really quiet because it’s kind of difficult to be doing something where you’re super emotionally invested and then go have lunch and be hanging out and gabbing and talking with everybody. I know there are actors who are really good at that and I’m just not one of them. I have to kind of stay in this, you know, sad frame of mind to maintain that emotional integrity, I guess. Everybody was just so enthusiastic and encouraging the whole time. So, yes, that’s what it was like on set.
I was just wondering, 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. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about why that might be?
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.
Well, obviously, these two universes are somewhat… there are some very drastic differences. So how is Alt-Astrid dealing with the changes to her environment?
Nicole: I think that Alt-Astrid is, like everybody in the alternate universe, there have been changes that have been going on for years. And they’ve got the–oh gosh, I’ve totally forgotten the name of the stuff, the like. What is it called? The stuff that like freezes everything?
Nicole: Yes the Amber. I’m a terrible cast member. I can’t even remember the name of the stuff. You know, you’ve got these whole places all over the world that have been ambered. And I feel like that’s just their world that they live in. For any person that lives in a country that’s war-torn it’s such a part of their life that they don’t even really think about how different it is anymore because she’s grown up in an environment that’s been terrible like that.
I think for this Astrid to go visit the alternate universe would be a huge deal for her because she’s so not used to having a world that’s been completely devastated by, you know, all these things happening because of the universes colliding. Also because Astrid is such a dedicated and focused member of the Fringe Team, I don’t know how much she spends thinking about life outside of work. I think she probably wakes up thinking about work and goes to sleep at night thinking about work. And there’s not a whole lot of other stuff in between. So the fact that she does cross over from the other universe and comes here is a really big thing that she did.
So, is there anything that you can tease about what you’re currently filming on the show?
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 Lincolns so much.
I was just actually chatting with one of my friends who is also on the call, and I just want to let you know that I don’t know if you realize that part of the charm of your character is you. Even talking to you, you’re so charming in person and just listening to you talk it’s just an absolute pleasure.
Nicole: Oh, you are so kind. Thank you very much.
You’re very welcome. But that’s not my question. My question is in this new alternate universe, Alt-Astrid is a lot more outgoing and excited and excitable than she was in the previous alt-universe where Peter inhabited it. Is that different for you to play because she’s a little more emotional? She’s not as dry, at least in the few episodes that we’ve seen her in so far. Have you noticed that and is that something that you’ve done yourself or–
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 Alt-Astrid in this season than we have before. And one of my big wishes, I guess, for Alt-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 she 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 Alt-Astrid outside of her work zone.
Oh, that’s a really interesting perspective, and especially because in your answer quoted what she said, which was what I thought was so interesting whenever her reaction to him coming from another time. Was that so cool?
That was like one of the best Alt-Astrid moments from any of the episodes so far. And it was like, oh, look she’s coming alive.
Nicole: It was totally–and you know what? I think that because other Fringe team members they’re so used to her that they haven’t–you know, they don’t necessarily extend themselves to try and get to know her better. Like, that’s Astrid. She’s weird. She’s really, really smart. She’s different than us and that’s fine. I think that Peter came into the situation with a totally different perspective because he knows her on the other side and on this side. So he treats her with a different kind of energy and I think that she totally picked up on that. It was just such a lovely moment to have.
Well great. I can’t wait to see the episode. Thank you.
Nicole: Thank you so much. Have a good one.
Photos by Andrew Matusik and Liane Hentscher/courtesy of FOX.