Interview with Jasika Nicole from Fringe

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a brief Q&A conference call with Jasika Nicole, who plays Astrid on Fringe. Tonight’s episode, “Making Angels,” is the first Astrid-centric one of the series. Jasika was so friendly and discussed with us what it was like working on such a big episode for her character(s).

Be sure to check out the new episode of Fringe tonight at 9/8c on Fox.

On playing opposite herself

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 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.
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On which of the two Astrids she finds more challenging or fun to play

Jasika: 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.

On why has Astrid never sought out to meet her other self

Jasika: 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.

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.

On the challenges she has faced going through playing the various Astrids

Jasika: 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.

On Astrid’s journey this season

Jasika: 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.

On how the Astrids need each other

Jasika: 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.

On what she has learned as an actress after playing two sides of the character

Jasika: 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.

On the relationship shakeups this season

Jasika: 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.

On how she cried when she first read through this episode

Jasika: 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 is 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.

On why Astrid is a fan favorite despite not getting a lot of screen time

Jasika: 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.

On how Alt-Astrid dealt with the changes to her environment

Jasika: I think that Alt-Astrid is, like everybody in the alternate universe, these have been changes that have been going on for years. … 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.

On what she’s currently filming on the show

Jasika: 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.

On why Alt-Astrid seems a lot more outgoing and excitable in the new alt-universe

Jasika: 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 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.

I think that because other Fringe team members they’re so use 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.

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