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