Leonard Nimoy says his ‘Fringe’ experiment may be coming to an end

Oct. 27, 2009 | 6:03 p.m.
Leonard Nimoy as William Bell


Leonard Nimoy, who was coaxed out of retirement for “Star Trek” and then lingered in order to portray the mysterious William Bell on “Fringe,” says it may be the logical time to say farewell to acting for good — especially since the Bell role hasn’t been a compelling one for him.

“I have such a great life,” the 78-year-old actor said at his home last week. “I’m not looking for work.”

Nimoy had invited me over to talk about his Halloween night photography exhibit at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (watch for a full story on that event and his photography career here tomorrow), which is just one of the many pursuits that Nimoy would rather focus on these days. “As an actor you’re always wondering when you’re going to work again, who you’re going to work with, what it will be. I don’t have that consuming drive,” he said. Then he nodded toward an image that will be on display at the exhibit. “This is my creative outlet. This is what I do.”

Nimoy was fresh from a trip to the Vancouver set of “Fringe,” where he had shot an upcoming episode. He made it sound as if it might have been his final one in the role of Bell, a rarely seen character on the show but one that is, by all appearances, at the very core of the series’ mythology. 

“I’ve done three appearances for them. I don’t know if I will do a fourth…”

Leonard Nimoy 2009


“They’ve asked me to do more, but we have to talk about where the character is going. So far my character, William Bell, and my appearances have been used to lay in information about this alternate universe and the experience of being in this other world. And that’s OK, but I don’t know yet what plans they have for really developing a dramatic story for the character. I’m waiting for a conversation about that.”

Nimoy said that conversation will be “some with J.J. Abrams” but more so with show runner Jeff Pinkner and series creators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the same tandem that came up with the script for “Star Trek,” which was good enough to coax Nimoy back into Starfleet service despite his initial resistance to the idea. Nimoy said Orci and Kurtzman are “just terrific, very talented and very smart” but it was quite clear that the actor’s goodwill posture toward “Fringe” was earned entirely by the “Trek” experience and that it has its limitations.

Fringe poster

“I think they’re talking amongst themselves now so they can present some kind of plan, a story arc of some kind.”

The sci-fi icon surprised me when he said he signed up for the “Fringe” first-season finale without much knowledge of the series at all.

“I never paid much attention until I was asked to work on it and even then I didn’t know a lot. I got the [home video] collection of the first season and [my wife] Susan and I were up in Lake Tahoe and last week we sat there about four or five hours at a time and watched them. And, wow, that show is something. They do a great production job. They have great story hooks, terrific production values and very interesting performances.”

He mentioned in particular the work of John Noble, who portrays the wonderfully eccentric Walter Bishop, Bell’s onetime colleague in the business of mad science.

“We just met for the first time and it was very enjoyable,” Nimoy said, although he was careful not to say whether that encounter was on-screen or off.

For those of you in Southern California, you have a chance to meet Nimoy yourself and even have him shoot your portrait during a photo session. On Halloween, the Santa Monica Museum of Art will be displaying selected works from Nimoy’s project “Who Do You Think You Are?” (which will be an exhibit at Mass MoCA next summer); the collection is a series of portraits where Nimoy asked strangers to reveal their secret selves. That “secret self” theme will carry into a costume contest at the Oct. 31 event and there a different price-level tickets. For more details on the event and the possibility of a photo shoot with Nimoy, go right here

— Geoff Boucher


Leonard Nimoy, 1952

The story behind this 1952 newspaper photo of Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy: “Trek” fans can be scary

‘Trek,’ ‘Fringe,’ ‘Transformers’ make summer hot for Orci & Kurtzman

Abrams and Orci talk ‘Trek’ sequel, which may have terrorism theme 

J.J. Abrams, the Hero Complex interview

Chris Pine takes command: “I am not William Shatner”

William Shatner on the outside: “It’s strange to say goodbye”

PHOTOS: Top, Leonard Nimoy on “Fringe” (Fox) Middle: Nimoy at his home. (Christina House / For The Times)


6 Responses to Leonard Nimoy says his ‘Fringe’ experiment may be coming to an end

  1. Sarah Sheehy says:

    If you love Leonard Nimoy, join us for the California State Parks Foundation film presentation of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home at Paramount Studios on November 7 at 7:00pm. Mr. Nimoy will be available for a Q&A after the screening for all guests in attendance. For more information and tickets: visit <a href="http://www.calparks.org” target=”_blank”>www.calparks.org. And if you buy tickets before November 5th, they go for $9.

  2. George Mellis says:

    If such is the case and Mr. Nimoy does not do any more acting so be it. Just know from us who have watched your work over the years that we have enjoyed your performances and thank you for entertaining us.

  3. J. Cope says:

    I have always been a fan of Mr. Nemoy's work. And no, not just his most iconic pointy-eared portrayal. I honestly had no idea that he had joined the cast of Fringe. If I had, I would have taken another look at the show much sooner. I am a mid-thirties American that grew up on science fiction in many formats. Sadly, Fringe held little interest for me after the first few episodes. Though, if the show was good enough that Mr. Nemoy felt it was a worthwhile endeavor, I may have to reexamine it.

  4. jen says:

    honestly, from the article's headline, i expected something a lot more dramatic than "i don't know if i'll be back on fringe simply becuase we haven't had a talk yet." you make it sound like he's already had that talk and didn't like it and was practically foot out the door. it takes until halfway through the article to get to his actual quote which characterizes the circumstances very differently.

  5. Chantal says:

    Before I state my question, I have to say that Leonard Nimoy sounds like a genuine, honest, considerate, down-t0-Hearth person, and his friends are certainly lucky to have him as a friend. But I have to admit I fail to understand his reaction toward his character in Fringe. Originally, didn't Leonard say he would do a couple of episodes, and then see? And if so, isn't it difficult for the show producers to actually think of a development for the character William Bell if they can never know for sure if the actor portraying him will be there the next time on? What if William Bell develops in a very interesting way, but then Leonard decides to stop? Of course, in Sci-fi, this problem could be easily solved, but still, perhaps it is this uncertainty that is preventing the character from developing too much.
    This being said, I am totally incompetent in this field. So, I am just raising the question, with all due respect to Leonard Nimoy!

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