John Noble: Fringe's end is 'one of the great finales of all time'

With just three hours of television to go, Fox's Fringe will sign off next week with what actor John Noble believes is "one of the great finales of all time," said the Australian actor, who plays mad scientist Walter Bishop.

"I think we finished the series off as well as I could possibly have dreamed of, as I hope will be evident in the next couple of weeks," said Noble during a conference call with journalists. Fringe, which is in its fifth and final season, is near its end, with one episode tonight, "The Boy Must Live," and then the two-hour series finale next week, "Liberty" and "An Enemy of Fate."

"I think [the script is] the best finale I've ever read, just in terms of being able to tie up the five years, five years of intense work. To be able to pull it together in the way that [executive producer] Joel Wyman did is quite remarkable to me. So I honestly think the fans will be ... well, they'll be disappointed. There's no question, because the series is finishing. But I think they'll be very thrilled and honored by the way that Joel has made that happen."

As far as what happens with his character, Walter, Noble said, "if you had asked me in season one where I thought Walter should finish up, it would've been exactly where he does. That's the remarkable thing. When I say I think it's a great finale, that's the reason why. I think it's the perfect out for Walter."

As far as details of what we can expect in these final three hours, Noble isn't parting with any real spoilers. But he does tease us a little.

"We know that something radical has to happen in order to beat the Observers. I think by now we've built up to the fact that possibly, maybe Walter has to do something pretty outstanding to make this happen," he said. "More importantly, I think, what you'll find is the way that his relationship with Peter plays out over the next two episodes, and in particular the finale, is really quite remarkable. That's something we had to do, because we spent so much time and I know that the fans love the relationship between Peter and Walter so much, and we certainly paid homage to that and brought it home, I believe, really strongly."

He also has some "beautiful moments" with Jasika Nicole, who plays Astrid, and Anna Torv, who plays Olivia. "It's good story writing in the sense that they've built this great big arc and it's going to pan out. I'm not going to tell you exactly what happens, obviously, but we do get the payout. And it's also wonderful to have Mike Cerveris back into the equation again. He's also been, aside from the fact that he's an amazing actor and a friend of mine, he really does add another element to our storytelling," said Noble. Cerveris plays the Observer September.

When it came to the final day of filming, "We were all kind of buoyed up. It was one of those nights that go forever. I think we finished at 9:00 in the morning or something, but we had a lot of fun. I can remember we all got a fit of the giggles halfway through the night, which is probably really inappropriate. All of us were doing a scene together. I don't know. It was just hilarious. I couldn't get my lines out, which is very unusual for me. I just kept getting it wrong, and we were all laughing a lot. But it was good fun. We had a wonderful time," he said.

"The last scene I did was a beautiful scene with Michael Cerveris, but backstage all the rest of the cast were on set as well, as we do in most scenes. You give your speech afterwards and so forth. I felt really buoyed up afterwards. I didn't feel depressed. I thought that we'd really had a great finale. The last day was so much fun," said Noble.

Through the five years of playing Walter, he said there have been plenty of surprises. "I suppose an example that would encapsulate that surprise is the time that, I think in season two, when we were told to go into a sound studio and record our voices for singing. We didn't know why. We said, 'Why are we doing this? I don't understand.' And of course it was for the musical episode, but we didn't know until we got the script really what we were doing. Suddenly we found out we were in this bizarre musical, which was huge fun to play, but we didn't know ahead of time." The episode was called "Brown Betty."

"So often it was the case that we wouldn't know which way it was going to go. That's okay. As actors, you don't actually need to know the future of the character. You just need to know the backgrounds. Those major shifts into the alternate universe and so forth, which were really challenging, I always found the flashbacks really interesting," said Noble.

"When I had to do a few episodes of flashback with the full prosthetic makeup and so forth and flash-forwards and flash-sideways, but the good thing about those things is they keep you very alert. There's no room for boredom or getting empathetic in there. I always loved the challenge. When something new happened I always used to get quite excited."

As far as playing Walter, Noble admits that's its hard to pin down his favorite moment, let alone his favorite Walter. "I've played a bunch of different versions of him. Gee, I don't know. I loved it when he was being random, which was probably the original version of him, more than anyone else. I loved doing Walter then and all of the different mental states that we've played during the time, but when he was being completely random and had very poor social skills," he said.

"I loved the scenes that he played with Peter, the connecting stuff that I played with Josh Jackson over the five years. Both of us really loved doing that work. There were so many different aspects of Walter, the comedy and drama and emotion and so forth. He was a fully fledged character. So it's hard for me to say what my favorite one was, but probably—Fringe is essentially a love story, and so the scenes where he had close connection with Peter, but also with Anna's character or Jasika's character, were very special to me," said Noble.

And when he thinks about which is his favorite Walter, "Going backwards, the pure fun was the original Walter, who was just released from a mental institution and probably shouldn't have been. He was just fun, because he could basically say and do anything and get away with it. The most difficult Walter was the one that I had to play when there was no Peter in the world. That was really tricky. I think it was the beginning of season four. It was really tricky to play that same character but without the relationship with the son redeeming himself. ... He wasn't a well fellow. I mean I played him with a lot of OCD attributes. He really wasn't a very pleasant man. I found that one the most difficult to play," he said.

He also loved playing Walternate, "because he was the same character, actually, completely the same character, version 1985, and then it developed in such a different way physically and mentally. So to be able to play that in the same television series as playing the other ones was a fantastic gift to me," said Noble.

"It was wonderful to be able to play a character who had so many colors, who was able to play comedy, to play incredibly vulnerable, which he did a lot of the time, to play the love story, to play the relationship with the son, which is quite unusual, particularly—I think it's one of the strengths ... the relationship between the man and his son that makes it unusual and special. That's a gift to me as an actor. It was like everything you could possibly hope for, and not only that but to play it out over five years. So I was a very lucky actor," said Noble.

Here's a look at tonight's Fringe:

How do you think Fringe and Walter should end?

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