Even from across the globe, J.J. Abrams could tell Anna Torv was the right actress to front “Fringe.”
After watching her audition via teleconference from her native Australia, the L.A.-based Abrams promptly offered Torv the role of Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent tasked with investigating cases that blur the line between weird science and the supernatural. The actress was thrilled to land the plum gig and, considering the pilot was to go into production in a mere three days, a bit overwhelmed.
“It was all sort of fast and furious,” remembers Torv, who scrambled to secure a visa and book a flight to Toronto, where the pilot was shot. “There was barely time to get things in order, let alone think about how I wanted to approach the character.”
Tapping into Olivia, who tends to keep her emotions as buttoned-up as her trademark pantsuits, has been a challenge — particularly since the actress and character share little in common.
“I don’t think we have a lot of similarities, to tell you the truth,” says Torv, who previously co-starred on the cult U.K. sudser “Mistresses.” “Olivia’s ridiculously focused and constantly forward-moving, and I tend to dance around things a little bit more.”
As “Fringe’s” first season progressed, Torv made it her mission to infuse the coolly professional character with shades of vulnerability.
“I don’t think Olivia’s completely in tune with herself,” says the actress, who opts to speak in an American accent on set even when she’s not filming. “I think she’s kind of living in a shadow, but the more her world frays, the more I like her.”
Torv confesses to trying to pry information from the show’s producers, who are eager to keep every twist under wraps from even the cast.
“Most of the time, you’re on a need-to-know basis,” she says, “but if it’s really necessary to what I’m playing, then I’ll fight to find out.”
Sounds like Torv has something in common with Olivia after all.
What do you like most about your character?
“I like that she never makes any excuses for being a woman. She never flirts with the boys to get her way. She just does her job, and her success is always based on her actions.”