Anna Torv – a name we’d heard hide nor hair of in the States just three short years ago. While yet to still become a household name among the broader population, she has made a significant impact in the world of science fiction entertainment.
Plucked from relative obscurity by a team which included J. J. Abrams – a man with an eye for starlets in the making, turning Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner into virtual overnight sensations – Torv was cast to play the now beloved Olivia Dunham on the FOX sci-fi hit Fringe. She didn’t have the smoothest of starts, however, with many believing the character too stiff, impenetrable and almost bored by the strange and unexplainable events she was called upon to investigate.
Fast forward to season three, Torv – along with the bulk of the cast – was given the especially trying challenge of portraying two different sides of her character. Of all the actors on the show, I believe Torv has made the most of this opportunity and set herself apart as the cream of a crop of dominant performers on one of the most inventively written series ever to find a spot on broadcast television – and for this, I believe she deserves a spot among the 2011 Emmy nominees.
Among her counterparts, John Noble – a brilliant actor himself, and an egregious oversight among the 2010 supporting actor nominees – is playing two very different sides of the same character, Walter Bishop. The same goes for Jasika Nicole’s Astrid. While a challenge for any actor to play dual roles on the same show, at least their characters personalities are diametrically opposed to one another.
Torv’s Olivia Dunham, on the other hand, requires a much more delicate touch. Both Olivia’s are very much alike in their personalities, with only subtle differences aside from their hair color. Torv straddles those variances with judicious skill, essentially having to play a third and even a fourth version of the character.
Third and fourth character, you ask? In a sense, yes.
The brilliant, tortured and somewhat reserved original Olivia, while captive in the alternate universe, was forcibly given Fauxlivia’s memories and gradually adopted that persona, burying original Olivia’s memories and personality in the process. The heartbreaking scene where she came face to face with the alt-world version of her mother, who had died in our world when Olivia was young, had a tremendous impact as the moment when Olivia tragically gives herself over to Fauxlivia’s mind completely. Even still, glimpses of Olivia would come out from time to time, as the story required, ultimately causing her to “awaken” and re-emerge as this world’s Olivia.
Fauxlivia, a bolder and more playful version of her this world self, having deceived her way to our universe with Peter and Walter, was now required to evade suspicion by posing as our world’s Olivia. There were moments, such as when she murdered the deaf man in “The Box,” where she broke back to her Fauxlivia persona, but had to quickly turn it back on when Peter arrived unexpectedly, or when she failed to remember something that the real Olivia would have never forgotten.
Not only has Torv been required to play both Olivia and Fauxlivia, she has also had to manage Olivia transitioning to and from Fauxlivia, as well as Fauxlivia posing as Olivia.
A lesser actress would be hitting Fox up in advance to foot the bill for her post-season psychological treatment.
If this tedious character balance isn’t enough, add to it that she’s had to play victim, aggressor, counselor, temptress, murderer, and protector, running the gamut of almost every possible emotion in the process – not to mention spending countless hours filming scenes inside of a water tank. What other lead actress has had all this asked of her – within the span of 8 episodes, much less an entire season – and done so with such aplomb?
Here’s hoping that the Academy rises above their snobbery towards sci-fi television and rewards Torv next year for a truly outstanding performance.