VANCOUVER – If Anna Torv is tired, she isn’t showing it.
Torv is in every scene, this day. Shooting ran late the night before and the day’s call time was pushed back to 11 a.m. That means an already long day is about to get longer: Fringe may well continue shooting past midnight.
This crew is fast, though, and working flat out. Ever since The X-Files, Vancouver crews have earned a reputation for being among the fastest and hardest-working on the continent – one of the reasons Vancouver has been dubbed, not always as a compliment, Hollywood North. As freight trains thunder past the antique shop, horns blasting just steps from the film site, a small army of electricians, grips, props masters, camera operators and sound technicians scramble between the antique shop and, half a block away, a temporary bakery.
Fringe is filming in two places at once on this day, and Torv is a study in motion, moving between one site and the other, trailed wherever she goes by a heavy Panavision camera and grips hauling mobile dolly tracks.
It’s only appropriate. Torv is playing two versions of her Fringe character this season: FBI agent Olivia Dunham, “good Olivia,” trapped in a parallel world where she can’t reveal who she is, and “bad Olivia,” dubbed “Bolivia” by Fringe’s writer-producers, who has taken good Olivia’s place in the real world, and is now hell-bent on sabotaging everything and everyone she comes in contact with.
Torv is dressed head-to-toe in black leather and denim on this day, like a latter-day Emma Peel, and she’s in a kick-ass mood. It’s fun, she says with a lively laugh, to run, fire guns and bash adversaries on the nose. Bad Olivia could not be more different from strait-laced, buttoned-up good Olivia, and the actor in Torv is stoked by the challenge.
“Playing bad Olivia has made me understand Olivia a little bit better,” Torv said. “In my mind, at least, it’s become very cool.”
Ironically, now that Torv knows more about her character – from seeing her character’s dark side – she wishes she could go back to Fringe’s first season, “and fix all the little mistakes.”
Ah, yes – what if. Fringe is all about “what ifs” this season.
Playing a character in an ongoing TV series is quite different from playing a one-off character for the stage or on the big screen, Torv says. Olivia Dunham, circa October 2010, is a very different character than Olivia Dunham, circa August 2008.
In one memorable fight scene from last season’s finale, Torv had to fight herself – literally – as the two versions of her character squared off. That meant tricky blocking and shooting, with fight doubles and herself in both roles, keeping track of her every move, mindful at all times where the camera was and how tight the focus was in some shots.
It was a blast, Torv said, despite the work involved. She shot the scene knowing that her original character’s body language and posture is completely different than her doppelganger’s, but it came off. Torv credits the crew more than the actor; the camera, makeup and continuity people were at the top of their game that day, and they’re the reason Fringe looks as good as it does, she said.
“I give them all the credit in the world. It took a while. They had to change the makeup, change the clothes, change the hair, change every little thing, every time they (moved) the camera.
“I love the fight scenes; I love being active. But the emotional scenes are what’s connective; that’s my responsibility as an actor, and that’s what I do as an actor. So, being able to do both, this season, has been especially gratifying.”
Torv, born in Melbourne, Australia, is Aussie through and through. She grew up on Queensland’s Gold Coast, and lived a life more suited to Crocodile Hunter than the glass towers of Melbourne and Sydney. That physical athleticism has stood her in good stead, especially this season.
Torv has adapted comfortably to her new life in Vancouver. Fringe’s renewal for a full season of 22 episodes was both a surprise and a relief, she says: The crew has become like a family.
Fringe was based in New York in its first year – the pilot was filmed in Toronto, in early 2008 – but the production moved to Vancouver from New York last summer, in 2009, as a cost-cutting measure.
“I love living in Vancouver; it’s a beautiful city,” Torv said. “It’s a quieter place. It’s so beautiful; the people are beautiful. New York is an awesome city, but it is just so intense. It’s actually much easier to work here; the quality of life here is really quite unique.”
Adapting to Vancouver from New York was easier than adapting to North America from her native Australia, Torv admitted.
“You think it’s not different, because you see it, all the time, on TV. A lot of television in Australia is American. You think America or Canada is no different from Australia, but when you get here it’s very, very different. I do think there’s less difference between Canadians and Australians, especially now.”
She laughs suddenly, just as an assistant director begins waving his hands. The next scene is ready to go, and they need her on set. The other set. The one down the street, past the moving trains and roaring trucks. Time to go.
“I absolutely appreciate where I am,” Torv says suddenly. “I don’t have a problem waking up in the morning. I like coming to work. I remember the desperate times, where you just want to roll over and stay sleeping. But coming to work is just a lovely feeling, especially with these people. I don’t take for granted where I am, not for a second. I have a really cool, great job.”
Fringe airs Thursdays on Citytv and Fox at 9 ET/PT.