'Fringe' Friday: Christopher Lloyd goes back to the laboratory
"Back to the Future" legend Christopher Lloyd joins "Fringe" tonight (Jan. 21) for its Friday debut, playing Walter's ( John Noble) longtime musical hero, Roscoe Joyce. Now that his band -- Velvet Sedan Chair -- has broken up, Joyce is in an old folks home, living a lonely existence with little awareness of the turmoil in the outside world.
Lloyd describes Joyce as a man who has "retired from life" -- and from being a rockstar. "He's had some big losses in his life and his life has a rockstar has faded," says Lloyd. Nobody gets to retire quietly on "Fringe," though. "The parallel universe comes in very strongly into my life in a very personal way and I am at a loss of what to make of it "
As a musician who has lost the ability to play the piano, Lloyd finds the laboratory strange -- a far cry from the mad scientist he's most famous for playing.
"We're in [Walter's] laboratory which has all kinds of apparatuses," Lloyd says. "I am confused and dismayed and kind of awed by it all, and I feel for me that, the challenge of coming to terms with that and creating that character in his new reality is very exciting."
Noble, for his part, says that working with Lloyd has been his favorite part of the season. "The best fun that I've had was really the stuff with Chris Lloyd," he says. "There are these crazy old guys just trying desperately to communicate with each other and we had a lot of laughs. The common thread of trying to find the music again, because Christopher's character has forgotten how to play the piano, and we go through this journey of tracing the music back to him and through to Walter. It's very complicated, this episode, but it turns into a lot of joy in the lab."
Friday's episode will also revisit the Observers, who have been a persistent and often formidable presence since the show's premiere.
"We're trying to find out what the role of these Observers are. Do they stand outside of the universe? Are they observers or should they be hands on?" Noble muses. "What we've discovered is that if they do become hands on at any stage, then they can wreck the natural order of things and then they try to correct it. One of the founding principles of 'Fringe' is that because of the interference of an Observer, we did rupture the two universes. So it's really interesting to have them back in again, trying to repair the damage. The Observer has a large scene where he says something really telling, which I'll leave for you to observe, but it hints at how much danger and drama there is ahead."
Noble's favorite thing to explore with Walter this season has been his fractured relationship with his son, Peter ( Joshua Jackson).
"We started the third season with this rift between the two men, and we haven't been able to get that back, so that causes a great deal of sort of loneliness and frustration in both of the men," Noble says. But despite Walter being stuck in a frustrating limbo with Peter, he is on a path of personal development.
"Walter's become conscious that the major problems that he faces, he thinks he's incapable of solving, because he's been ill, because of his brain," Noble says. "He keeps saying, 'I'm not smart enough to do this anymore.' You'll see him finally accept his limitations but also accept his strengths, which are more than enough to deal with [his problems.] It's a beautiful journey, really, for Walter, and he goes through all of the emotional stages."
As for a return appearance for Lloyd, neither of the men can say for sure if it's in the cards. "Wouldn't that be wonderful, Chris?" Noble asks genuinely.
Lloyd says that he'd be thrilled to return to the show -- and that, at 72, he has no intention of retiring himself. "I've always admired actors who may have their moment of flash and great success, but above all keep sustaining their work," he says. "Fortunately, there's not a cutoff time. There's not a retirement age. You keep going and keep going until you can't anymore, which is fully what I intend to do."