Eye on Emmy: How Fringe's Anna Torv Finds the Reality Amid the Unreal

As FBI agent Olivia Dunham, Fringe’s Anna Torv this past season loved and lost a man, endured a difficult pregnancy, and cheated death all but one time. Complementing the spectacular conceits of dual universes, duplicate selves, accelerated gestation periods and time-jumps, the drama quotient remained high as well, with this formidable female often feeling – literally — the weight of our world on her shoulders. Perhaps it’s time for Emmy voters to see past the Fox series’ fantasy elements and give props to the Aussie actress who delivers the fantastic week after week.

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TVLINE | This season, you played Olivia, “Bolivia,” Bolivia-as-Olivia, and Olivia as… Leonard Nimoy. How did that work out for you?
This season was my favorite so far. You do a show, and there are things you do every episode – like, we always have a crime scene – so to all of a sudden throw it in the air and be given the chance to play a whole lot of different stuff is fun.

TVLINE | Could you have imagined three years ago you’d be juggling all this?
I didn’t know what to imagine even after we finished the pilot. But this [third] season exceeded my expectations, and I think everybody had a ball, actually. Season 1, [which was filmed] in New York, was awesome, and Season 2 we were feeling things out in a new town [Vancouver] with a completely different crew. So this past year essentially [felt like only] the second season – and everybody says that’s the best one, because you’re relaxed.

TVLINE | Are you worried about what the writers might throw at you next?
I don’t know what they’re thinking, especially with the way we ended this season.

TVLINE | I have to imagine you’ll now be playing Olivia and Bolivia concurrently in the same space…
I’m thinking so, which will be tough on the hair department but fun for me. [Laughs] The only scene they had together was at the end of Season 2, when they had to fight in the apartment. I don’t know how much of that they’re going to do because that took a damn long time to shoot.

TVLINE | How do you go about making Bolivia not simply “the evil twin”?
I didn’t know where [the writers] were going to go with her, so I tended to just play it scene-for-scene or episode-for-episode. There were a couple where I thought, “Oh, she kind of is going bad,” but then you get to see her in other situations and she becomes a person. Going back to the other side and getting to play a bunch of stuff where she’s in her own world I think did great things for the character, because then you went, “She’s just fighting for her cause.”

TVLINE | Talk about how you worked with John Noble to nail down what was basically an impersonation of an in absentia Leonard Nimoy.
I was not excited when that script came out. I was fearful. So what do you do? You call the people that are much better than you and say, “Help!” [Laughs] John had worked with Leonard, plus I was so, so nervous, I wanted to make sure that when I went to set to do it for the first time there was at least one person that I could look at who I had done it with before and trusted. It offered an element of comfort.

TVLINE | Did you ever get a note from Mr. Nimoy?
I did! I got an email saying, “I’ve been hearing good things about your impersonation of me.” I wrote back, “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. Why they didn’t give it to Josh [Jackson] or John, I don’t know.” He was so darling, he wrote back, “It wouldn’t have been as charming.”

TVLINE | Would seeing John receive an Emmy nomination be as satisfying as getting your own?
Oh, I can’t believe that he hasn’t [been nominated] yet. I have the luxury of watching him work, and I learn a lot.

TVLINE | We saw Mary McDonnell do gangbusters work on Battlestar Galactica, which in many ways was “The West Wing in space.” Yet actors in genre shows have trouble getting recognized at Emmy time. Why do you think that is?
I’m loath to kind of comment on that, but I think that people think that serious acting needs to be within a serious sort of story.

TVLINE | Would that influence your Emmy reel, if you get to compile one? Might you cherry-pick straighter drama moments?
That’s an interesting thing, because performance is so much about taste. I don’t ever sit down and ask people, “What’s your favorite scene of mine?” I know the ones that I’m proud of, but people like different things…

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TVLINE | Which scenes are you proud of?
There were two scenes from when Olivia came back [from the other universe] and finds out that Peter was sleeping with Bolivia. One [has] her on her own where she takes all of her clothes out of the wardrobe and puts them in the laundry. [Watch that clip here.] And there’s another where she says to Peter, “I can’t believe that you didn’t know it was me.” The reason I love those scenes is because it’s really easy to be great in your own bedroom [rehearsing], but when you get on set you have so many different obstacles. The scene with Peter and me outside was done at like 1:30 in the morning, in the middle of town, so we had piles of drunk people screaming up and down the street, and massive fire engines and trucks coming through…. We’re doing this quiet scene where I have to cry and we’re on the clock, but that’s what TV teaches you -– to just go with it very quickly.

TVLINE | I remember and loved that scene (watch it here), because it was coming from this place of, “Nobody wants to feel replaceable.”
And nobody wants to believe that they’re just their skin. You want to believe that people see something else inside you. But essentially that’s what she was being told at that point. Those scripts were wonderfully written.

TVLINE | Who inspires you? Is there an actress who, whenever she has a new project come out, you are so there?
I just adore Kate Winslet. I love her because you’re never aware of all the stuff that’s going into her characterization, and yet she completely transforms. She also has this incandescent warmth to her, and that’s a quality that is hers. She’s approachable and damn believable.

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TVLINE | You recently told me that if Fringe ever introduced a third universe, you’d want that Olivia to be a Southern gal….
Yeah, someone really from Jacksonville.

TVLINE | So, not someone Australian?
Australian would be fun, but I don’t know if they’d ever let me do that. But I’d love to play a real Aussie chick! I pitched that once; I wanted to play the teacher in the episode where we go back and find out Olivia and Peter’s [childhood] story. I nearly got the guys to do it, but they thought it might be too confusing. So I let that go!

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  1. Whisky says:

    She should win an Emmy for that first picture alone lol.

    Great interview, lots of interesting tibits about Olivia and how much work goes into playing her (and her many variations). Anna looks like a genuinely nice and humble person. I think if she gets nominated, “Marionnette” should be her tape. But i have a soft spot for “Entrada” too. Hum…

  2. f says:

    Thanks for this interview! Anna is flawless, she deserves some recognition <3

  3. Kate says:

    I would really love to see her win an Emmy for Fringe. Actually I’d love the whole cast to win, but who knows if that would happen. Still I can’t wait for next season!

  4. Sasha says:

    Anna Torv is true class. I love her reply about playing the school teacher, hilarious!

  5. Paul says:

    I think Anna is warm and incandescent! Great interview, thanks fir making tvline.com a cut above all the other sites!

    • Bee says:

      Totally agree with you. TVLine.com is intelligent & observant and the writers are so thoughtful and knowledgeable about their topic. Amazing site. Thank you for this incredible interview!

  6. Dick Whitman says:

    I really really hate the name Bolivia. I know taht’s the “official” name, but I don’t like it.

    They should stick to Altlivia, which is pretty much established in the fanbase by now.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Almost no one on the cast uses “Altlivia,” and Anna specifically went with “Bolivia” when we spoke, so…. Myself, I’m a fan of “Fauxlivia,” which Josh sometimes uses.

      • DL says:

        Perhaps I’m mistaken, but didn’t Josh/Peter actually use “Fauxlivia” in an episode? I thought that would have made it official, but it seems that it hasn’t. Certainly Fauxlivia is the way I like to say it. :)

        • Dick Whitman says:

          I think it was Walter.

          • fringeobsessed says:

            From “Reciprocity”:

            Walter:And Fauxlivia ruined U2 for all of us.
            Peter:That’s what Walter’s calling her now. ‘Fauxlivia’ as in ‘fake Olivia.'”

      • Dick Whitman says:

        Yeah, I understand, and they use Bolivia because that’s how the character is named in the scripts, I just don’t like it.

        I always thought the name Fauxlivia was used when Altlivia was impersonating Olivia.

      • fringeobsessed says:

        I’m with you, Matt.
        “Fauxlivia” feels comfortable to me because of the way the Alternate Olivia Dunham character was introduced into the show.

        I was so excited to meet alternate OD, and so disappointed with what they did with her. Putting her back in her natural element towards the middle of S3 was like a breath of fresh air. I still don’t like the FauxLivia character alot(we honestly still don’t know her that well), but I understand her a tad better, and respect how she acted towards the end of Season 3.

        • Steve K. says:

          Fauxlivia is much better, much more in keeping with the quick witted intelligence of the show, but doomed to failure because most people mispronounce it so often.

    • Leithen says:

      I see Altivia, I think of the waste water treatment


    • Christa says:

      i still call her Holivia… ;) at the start that was the best name for what her charterer was doing with peter… i guess now that does not work as well but i still call her that :)

  7. TQB says:

    Torv has completely won me over. The first season I really didn’t find her very interesting. What a transformation! It’s so interesting to hear her speak about Winslet, because what I admire in Torv is the intense detail of her work. It’s high time Torv and Noble were recognized for their work on Fringe. Heck, it’s high time Fringe was recognized for being the most heartfelt, well-written show on network TV.

  8. MACK says:

    wonderful interview Matt, thank you.

  9. RKron says:

    Anna Torv is so eloquent and sincere! I hope she gets some recognition this year, her performance was brilliant throughout the season.

  10. Dick Whitman says:

    I forgot to add in my previous comment how much I’m hoping she gets an Emmy nom (and win).

  11. Holla says:

    Anna Torv is so classy and beautiful! I love that she clearly loves what she does. She acts for herself and for her fans, and thats awesome!
    I think its high time she deserved some recognition.

  12. Hannah says:

    Great interview! Anna is such a wonderful actress. I really hope after Fringe is over (which hopefully isn’t for a LONG time), she can get out there and do some movies. She hides her Australian accent surprisingly well.

  13. MelStone says:

    Great Interview!!! I love her and the rest of the Fringe cast so much! She seems very classy and joyous about the work she does! SOOO READY FOR SEASON 4!

  14. guest says:

    Fantastic interview, Anna Torv comes across as we see her being described evrywhere by fans who have met her, genuine, modest(too modest I think), intelligent, wonderful sense of humor.
    Great personality.

    I want Anna Torv to get at least the nomination, but actually I think she should win, she truly deserves it.

    PS.she just did 90 minutes Twitter responses to fans (fans are so much loved by her,and viceversa), another confirmation of Anna being wonderful.

  15. Amy says:

    She truly has blown all of us away this season with the breadth of what she’s done — and not all Big Showy Emotional Moments, either (though there are some of them, and they’re fine), but the really subtle work she does to detail Olivia vs. Fauxlivia. And her Nimoy! When she said, “Aye aye, captain,” I nearly lost it. She’s a treasure.

  16. Alexandre Leal says:

    She’s just so adorable even when you’re only reading an interview she gave! Absolutely. Love. Her.

    I would be so damn happy just to see her nominated at the very least!

  17. forrest says:

    First season I thought Anna Torv’s performance was wooden – stiff. With the introduction of Fauxlivia, I then understood that Olivia the character was restrained, very guarded. It definitely broadened my appreciation of the actress portraying Olivia / Fauxlivia. Interviews like this and behind the scene clips provided by Fox added to my adoration of this actress.

  18. DonnyG says:

    Bolivia. They have been using that name in the closed-captioning that airs with the show. They started that more than 14 months ago. They verbally joked in the Fauxlivia fan name in the middle of the third season. Bolive wins over Faolive. Anything else is just fan dribble…

    • Dick Whitman says:

      Nobody was doubting the official-ness of “Bolivia” though. ;)

    • La says:

      Without “fan dribble” you wouldn’t have many seasons. What is the show for if not for the fan’s. Bolivia may be “official” but does not have the pun factor of Fauxliva.

  19. Mari says:

    Fringe is the best tv show right now!

  20. Real1 says:

    She was great in every scenes since S1 , and in S3 she just was brilliant and deserves emmy for her work , “Marionette” and ” The last Sam weiss ” were some of her best acting a long with “stowaway” .

    Anna rocks .

  21. Leo says:

    Bolivia is good girl, charming smile, shoot straight, it is clever.
    Deceived FBI. She clone Anna Chapman.
    I do not like Olivia, drinks a lot coffee, a sad face.
    Anna Torv deserves emmy for the role Bolivia.
    Comrades in the struggle Bolivia, good luck!
    From Russia with Love.

  22. Johnny says:

    The love she puts into her acting shows what a wonderful actress she is. Thank you Fringe and the people who chose Anna Torv for giving us such a true gem. Anna truly deserves an Emmy for her work and nothing would please me more than seeing her receiving one.

    Thank you TV Line for the great interview.

  23. Margie says:

    Great interview! I do think both she and John deserve Emmy nominations and I hope that their Critics Choice nominations and John’s win are a precursor to that. (Hmmm, but maybe those awards were in an alternate universe???)

    I would love to see the entire cast get nominated for an Ensemble Acting award at SAG this year. They all deserve it.

  24. Rocio says:

    There are two episodes where Anna simply blew me with her outstanding interpretation one was the last episode of Season 2 when she was left behind and the other one is Marionette! She absolutely impressive in both!

  25. Doug-H says:

    As someone who lives in Jacksonville, the cartoon version had a couple of real places in it though still not quite right.. Also, while Jax is in the south, there are tons of transplants like me who don’t have a southern accent… it depends on what side of town… my children grew up without them because many of their friends had moved to the area from elsewhere.. The only real southern accents in Florida are mostly in the smaller towns..

  26. I am an admin for the “Save Fringe” website and Facebook page, and I set up a character “roll playing” profile on Facebook with the name Faulivia Olive Dunham. I have well over 1000 “friends” and over 5000 on the Save Fringe page, and everyone seems to like the sound of “Faulivia” (without the “x”!) altivia sounds funny, and isn’t Bolivia a country?! I actually came up with the Faulivia profile well before Walter called her that, which, needless to say, I found very amusing when he said it! So that’s my opinion!!

  27. Kelly says:

    Anna Torv has captured my admiration from the very first Fringe episode. She continues to astound me with her talent and richness of the emotions (yes, even the suppressed ones) she brings to all her characters. Having met her in person (briefly), I can say she is genuinely lovely, beautiful, graceful, and appreciative of her fans. I cannot wait for S4. I loved this interview…thanks.

    • Suhara says:


      You met her in person?! How/where?! Damn I’m soo jealous! I would cross universes to meet her in person!

  28. Maxx Hamilton Mix says:

    I too feel Anna Torv deserves an Emmy nomination for her work as Olivia and Bolivia on Fringe. I also hope John Noble is nominated for his work as Walter and Walternet. I am enthralled week after week, year after year with this show because of their characters and the always surprising, well written storyline. thanks for this interview. Can’t wait for S4 to begin.

  29. Suhara says:

    I swear to God, if Emily Deschanel and Anna Torv don’t get an Emmy nomination each, and one of them win (leaning towards Emily Deschanel), then I’m NEVER watching the Emmys again! Seriously…. :)

  30. guest says:

    As I said earlier, this interview reflects Anna Torv, for me she is the most fascinating actress, still not getting the recognition she deserves. In one scene or a couple of seconds she can show you multiple emotions, and although she has a beautiful voice, with her eyes alone you feel everything her character goes through. And the control she has over her facial expressions, wonderful.

    This was already evident in season 1, she then was the victim of a vicious campaign by some and critics who cannot see great acting when they see it.Olivia is an introverted character, not easy showing her emotions, it is underneath. Luckily most of them have apologized. The way Anna has handled that, shows her class.

    And Matt, I just saw your predictions at Goldderby, thank you for putting Anna Torv on your list. That is the way to change a list that would otherwise remain the same. From what I read the past season about Anna, you would think all critics would have put her on their list, and the Critics Choice awards would have been hers.
    She carried season 3 of Fringe, she should get the praise.
    I do hope the voters have seen her quality and that Anna Torv will get the Emmy nomination.She truly deserves it.