"I just always felt, for a guy whose character dies in the pilot, I’ve gotten an awful lot of work on this show," Mark Valley cracks.
Indeed, it's the rare actor who gets to die in a show's pilot and is still being brought back for conference calls with reporters three months later.
It helps that Valley's character, John Scott, is appearing on the J.J. Abrams co-created "Fringe." From "Alias" to "Lost," Abrams' shows have a history of never letting death be an obstacle to continued employment.
FOX has promised that Tuesday's (Feb. 3) episode of "Fringe," titled "The Transformation," will be a pivotal one and that it will feature Valley, whose Scott was introduced as co-worker and lover to Anna Torv's Olivia Dunham and was later revealed as a traitor, just before he died.
"T think he’s just a real believer," Valley told reporters on that recent call. "I think he’s really serious about what he does, and whoever it is that he is working for, he’s extremely loyal to them. Aside from that, I don’t really want to judge it, to be honest with you."
Valley spent a lot of time "being honest with us" on the call, but very little time sharing details about who or what John Scott really is.
"I don’t have any theories, to be honest with you, because every time I’ve gone down that road and come up with something, it seems to take a turn in a different direction, so I try to keep an open mind about all of that," Valley admitted.
It helps that Valley probably isn't overburdened with information.
"I only know when I get the script, basically," he said. "They don’t have an episode for any other scripts. But I generally just know, as with all of the actors, probably four or five days before the episode starts, sometimes less time."
Another unusual aspect of Valley's work on the show has been that he's mostly only worked with Torv, since she's been the only person capable of seeing him.
Asked about his frequent scene partner, Valley noted, "I think she’s just a fantastic actor, and I really like working with her, because she has such a solid idea of what’s going on in a scene and what her objective is and what she’s going to do. Yes, I’ve enjoyed working with her, and as a person, she’s just delightful."
[Note that the conference call was conducted on Jan. 30, just days before news broke that Torv and Valley had been married on the sly in a private ceremony.]
Olivia and John are so intertwined that often his appearances have been either as a memory, a figment of her imagination or a piece of her subconscious. Or at least that's what viewers are supposed to figure. It's entirely possible that his nature is something far more complicated that the writers have yet to reveal. This makes it hard for an actor to play as well.
"What I think is challenging is playing a character that is in her memory, or in her consciousness," Valley said. "It is challenging trying to think of where he comes from, where he’s going, what he’s aware of, and what is he not aware of, and what does he remember, and what does he not. That is a little bit challenging. It is sort of taking the character out of the ether and placing him somewhere and trying to figure out how he would react. That I find challenging."
Valley also finds it challenging not knowing when he'll next be needed on the show.
"Basically, it’s one of those situations like they have with most TV shows is they can keep you as long as they want, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can leave whenever you want," Valley said. "That’s all I can really say about that."
"Fringe" airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on FOX.