Yesterday I had the pleasure of being one of a group of bloggers/journalists who had the chance to talk with Jill Scott – star of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a multiple-platinum selling singer/songwriter and bestselling poet whose last acting gig was as Truvy in Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias – about her role as the intuitive and oracle-like Simone, a character who figures heavily in Olivia’s quest on tonight’s episode of Fringe (Fox, 9/8C), The Human Kind.
Hello, thanks for talking to us today.
Jill Scott: My pleasure.
So we really don’t know a whole lot about your character yet, so can you just kind of talk about that and how she’s going to play a part in Fringe?
Scott: Her name is Simone and she’s a quiet warrior. (noise in background) I’m sorry; I have a three year old that does not understand.
Scott: She’s a quiet warrior and she’s sort of an oracle of someone who can foresee the future. There is an integral part of Olivia’s quest, and Simone has direct knowledge of that, although I won’t say knowledge, she has an intuition about how to help her on her quest.
All right, great. How did you get the part? Can you just talk about that?
Scott: Well, at first I asked for it. Fringe is one of my favorite television shows from its inception. I absolutely love all of the science fiction of it, the mystery of it, the science in it. The characters are wonderful and so rich. Walter, of course, is my absolute favorite, and I had met with pretty much every company, television broadcast company in America. I kept saying these are the kinds of shows that I want to be involved in. I just put the word out there and, of course, I asked for it. I believe in saying things out loud, and I had Fringe.
That works, so.
Scott: It definitely does work.
Because you are such a huge fan of the show, what does it mean to you to be a part of the final season?
Scott: I wish it wasn’t the final season. I’m really upset about that. It means a lot to me, just simply because putting those kinds of requests into the universe and having it come back to you is again is another confirmation personally. The show and the quality of the show, the writing is splendid. The vocabulary is just delicious.
I mean any one that enjoys X-Files or shows like that where you’re on the edge of your seat and you’re so invested in these characters; for any one like me who’s grown up watching Star Trek and X-Files and reading Edgar Allen Poe and enjoying the darker side of things as well as the light, this was a dream come true. I wish I wanted more powers. I mean to be able to see into the future is pretty incredible or to have an intuition about things like that is pretty awesome. But I definitely wish I had something growing out of me.
So we talked to Leonard Nimoy a couple of times and he basically came out of retirement because he enjoyed his experience on Fringe so much. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience working with this cast and with these writers?
Scott: I was waiting for that moment to work with him. Ever since I heard his line, he said something about he skeeted a little when he was in the backseat of a car and he peed on himself just a little out of excitement, I knew that this was a show that I wanted to be involved in. I did not get a chance to see him and I’m hoping to. I need the show to go a little longer just so that I can meet him.
I was wondering what was the challenge for you in getting ready for this role? I know you tweeted that the bags were real under your eyes.
Scott: I had a lot of wild expectations and hopes for my character. When I found out who she really was based on my conversations with Dennis, the director, based on those conversations, I had to adjust her quickly. She is—I think I’ve lost the question, please forgive me, she is a hard worker and a leader and lives pretty much in a state of exhaustion. I’m sorry, what was your question?
What challenged you about this role?
Scott: What challenged me? The cold just as a human being, the cold was sincere. It’s on location. I understand where I was going. The challenge was having to readdress her, because I had so many ideas, because this is Fringe, and I had so many ideas of who this person was. The redirection on her was my challenge; having to about face was my challenge.
We saw from a clip that your character meets with Olivia first. Did you have any scenes with any of the other characters?
Scott: No, I did not.
How was it with Olivia?
Scott: She’s exactly what I thought she was. The character is smart and lovely and strong, and it honestly bugged me out because this is a show that I genuinely enjoy and there’s Olivia being all of those things right in front of my face. I … let those things go because it’s time to work, but I was thoroughly geeked. My inner child is jumping up and down like yes. It was a pretty incredible moment.
So you say that you’re such a sci-fi geek and everything. You love the show and I do, too. So when you got there was there something, though, that really as a fan that you kind of besides just the characters, like maybe the sets or something or even just like a line you had to say, but something specifically that maybe made you what you were just like oh wow, because you love the show?
Scott: What are you asking? I’m sorry.
Ruby: You said you’re such a fan of the show. I’m just curious when you first got there and started to work, was there maybe something like on set or, I don’t know, something you saw there or maybe you know a line somebody said that just made you completely, because you’re such a fan, geek out besides like the actors?
Scott: Well, I never have had to use any kind of futuristic products or any kind of future apparati. I’ve never had to do anything like that before, so all of a sudden there’s this screen that I have to use, what else can I call it. It’s a 3D scanner thingy that I have to know how to use. That was really, really cool.
I was just wondering if there was anything about your character that wasn’t specifically written that you added to her?
Scott: She was a lot more simple. She’s a lot more simple. She’s less complex than I originally thought.
What do you think it is about Fringe that really continues to make it such a fan favorite show?
Scott: I think it’s the writing. I do. I think it’s how intelligent and how realistic everything is without looking overly manufactured. I think human beings will always still really enjoy using our imaginations and Fringe allows you to do that. It’s slightly scary and believable. There just might be an alternate universe. There just might be people on the other side that are like us living a different life. The thought of that is pretty intriguing; that there are that people who can stop time and change their bodies, morph into someone else.
And the conspiracy theories in it all, I think it just taps into our curiosity and makes us wonder and ponder. I think that’s the gist of the show, and like I said it is slightly scary. There are moments where I definitely grab the pillow or the blanket and gasp for breath.
As a big fan of Fringe, but also as a big fan of No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, I was just wondering if you’ve noticed any fan overlap between the two, because although they’re radically different, they both have amazing writing and terrific characters.
Scott: I think yes, I mean to a certain degree. That’s really all you ever want is a great character and great writing. As an actor that’s like the juiciest sandwich you could ever ask for. That’s something that you can put both hands on and that’s really all we’re looking for. I chose No. 1 Ladies’ Detective, or I’ll say it chose me, and it was an absolute blessing, one for the experience being in Africa for seven months learning so many different things from languages to foods to greetings and oh my goodness, oh wow on so many levels from nature to my heart, incredible experience.
Fringe, I wish that I could come back. It wasn’t enough for me, quite frankly, one episode. This is truly one of my favorite shows, so it’s something that I would definitely like to be a part of. I’m saddened that this is the last season, but I’ve purchased every season thus far and I’ll purchase this one, too, but I’m in this one. Yoo hoo! I’m so excited about that.
You’re a really great actress and you’re also a very accomplished musician. I was wondering if you’re able to use any of those musical skills during your guest spot on Fringe.
Scott: No, Simone is not a singer. Simone is an emoter. She’s a quiet, strong- willed, focused in a sense maybe even a freedom fighter. She’s a big part of the resistence and she doesn’t sing. She works and she’s a hustler, too. She makes ways to finance her community.
Other than Fringe, do you have another dream job or part that you’d love to play, or another show that you’d love to guest star on?
Scott: Supernatural. I need something oozing out. I need to grow something else. I need to be captured. I just I enjoy that stuff, so I would like to experience, Supernatural is a good show for me. Let me think. There’s so many. Oh boy, Saturday Night Live is a show that I think I could have a lot of fun on just being different characters and maybe singing, too.
It’s so great that you’re a big fan of the show as well, so being a super fan of it, what have you thought about the direction for this last season of what’s happening with them in the future? Then, do you have a favorite episode or a favorite moment from the show aside from the episode that you’ve done?
Scott: Oh man, let’s see. Favorite episode, I always go back to the episode when Walter gets out of the mental institution and where he’s sitting in the back seat of the car and he says he skeeted a little. I never forgot it. I thought that that was just so free, such free writing and his acting was just impeccable. I liked the episodes when the guy was living … was living inside of Olivia. I enjoyed the episode where—oh boy, there are so many. I should know this off the top of my head. Let me think.
Let me think, the episode where, oh, I love when Walter had a cow in his office in the lab. I couldn’t understand that. I thought that was great. The reason that I love the show is that I never know what to expect. I never know what Walter is going to say. I love that he’s obsessed with food. I love that he’s mad and a genius. I prefer him a mad genius.
What other shows are you watching right now? What’s on your DVR?
Scott: What’s on my DVR, let’s see. It’s sad. Maury is on my DVR. That’s junk food. I’m going down the list in my head. Why do I want to call it Ever After, but that’s not the name of it, the television show where everybody in the town used to be in I want to say storybook land or something like that.
Once Upon a Time I think you mean.
Scott: Once Upon a Time, I’m up to the point where the purple fog has come and it’s taken the witch’s tower away, but I haven’t seen it since then. I know everybody was rallying trying to figure out what they were going to do and then they found out that one of the doors if you step over the line from, leave the town and you forget who you are, that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I haven’t gotten any further than that, but it’s still, I have them all on my DVR. I work a little bit, so trying to catch television; it’s all about me having a DVR.
All right. Thank you so much.
Scott: Thank you.
Photos by Cate Cameron/Courtesy of Fox Television