Fangasms, Vagendas, & Human Connection: How I Interviewed Joel Wyman Without Hyperventilating
I want to tell you a story. It’s a story about a girl who loved stories. And this girl especially loved stories about mad scientists and unexplained phenomena. She went away to college and didn’t particularly enjoy it, so she mostly sat in her room and watched television. One day her brother told her about a new show called Fringe. She decided to give it a try, and she found that it was rather excellent. Two years later, she started writing about this show. Then she found dozens of other people who loved Fringe, and she relished in their shared excitement over this little show that was perpetually on the brink of being taken away from them. By some miracle, Fringe made it to a fifth marvelous season. Although the girl and her friends were sad to say goodbye to the beautiful characters that they had grown to love, they were grateful to have been a part of Fringe for five seasons.
A few weeks after the show ended, the girl received a message asking if she would like to interview Joel Wyman, the man who orchestrated Fringe’s final season. Of course the girl couldn’t believe it, and thought it was all just a wonderful dream. But it came true, and she got to talk to the man who helped create one of her favorite stories. The girl (who was actually really more of a young woman, but that just doesn’t sound as good when you’re telling a story) cherished her encounter with the storyteller, and she and her pet unicorn named Lincoln lived happily ever after. The end.
Believe it or not, everything I just told you is true. (Except for the part about the unicorn…probably.) That girl/young woman was me, and I am still dancing a jig of giddiness in my soul because I got to talk with Joel Wyman—and I didn’t even pass out or forget how to speak English! (I was legitimately worried that one of those things might happen.) I think I successfully maintained the guise of a devoted-but-not-insane fan of Fringe, keeping my real self (which was still fluctuating between near-catatonic, and a state of spastic excitement reserved for contestants on The Price is Right) hidden just below the surface.
Here was my dilemma: I obviously wanted to spend the entire interview talking about Fringe—specifically the details of Lincoln and Altlivia’s wedding day, family vacations, and whether they pack peanut butter and bacon sandwiches for their son’s lunch. But the purpose of the interview was to talk about Joel’s new movie, Dead Man Down (read my review here), so I tried to make sure that I only asked a reasonable number of Fringe-related questions. Mostly I just found excuses to add Fringe to every question anyway, like, “This movie has an outstanding cast, much like Fringe. Do you happen to have Seth Gabel’s cell phone number?” I even got the chance to ask Joel something I’ve been wondering for a couple years: Who wrote the “vagenda” line in the season 3 episode “Entrada”? He wrote the episode with Jeff Pinkner, so I asked him which of them came up with Walter’s hilarious Freudian slip, and…of course it was Joel. Sadly, I couldn’t come up with a way to somehow relate this question to Dead Man Down, so you won’t find it in the write-up of my interview.
Lucky for me, Joel seemed perfectly happy to talk about Fringe. He told me how hard it was for him to say goodbye to the characters, and how much it meant to him that the fans were so supportive. I almost teared up when he called Fringe fans, “the greatest fans in the world.” For some reason, it had never occurred to me that Fringe might mean as much to Joel as it did to us—which is ridiculous because he helped create these characters. He spent five years of his life on this journey with them. And although we’ve done the same, I’m sure it’s even harder for him to let them go than it is for us. While I was talking to him, it finally dawned on me that he’s one of us: a Fringe fan. Sure, he was also the puppet master who decided the fate of the entire Fringe universe(s), but he’s not just some omnipotent force who’s removed from the emotional core of the show. He’s just as invested as we are—if not more—in the stories he’s telling.
I was amazed at how kind and humble and down-to-earth Joel was. He’s like a real person! But better! (Just kidding, we’re all special in our own unique ways…his are just specialer.) It gave me shivers when he said that he feels like Fringe fans care about the same things in life that he does, and how, “we’re all part of the same thing.” This is the point at which I was grateful that I wasn’t interviewing him in person, because I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from hugging him, and I feel like that’s probably not considered good interview etiquette.
Joel cares so much about the Fringe fandom that he read every tweet about the finale. So if you tweeted about the final episode of Fringe in the 24 hours after it aired, odds are Joel Wyman read your tweet. He says he took a day off from social media after the final episode, and when he came back to Twitter he read every single tweet about Fringe:
“Literally. I went through every single one. It was kind of the most incredible experience. Because they really are the best—it’s unbelievable the feeling that you get, so you know, I felt, if anything else, this new show has to be up to snuff, because I don’t want to let these people down. They’ve been so supportive, and they really are concerned with the same things I’m concerned about in life, and I kind of feel like we’re all part of the same thing, so it was really moving.”
Well, if I’d known Joel would be reading our tweets, I would have tried to make my post-Fringe musings a little more eloquent and a little less…incoherent strands of punctuation marks.
Joel said that one of the most important themes in his stories is that, “it’s your job as a human to connect.” I’m proud to say that not only did Fringe succeed in embodying this concept from a storytelling standpoint, but it also gave me the chance to connect with other people whom I otherwise would never have interacted with. And for that, I am unbelievably grateful. Thank you, Joel, for caring about your stories as much as we do, and for reminding us to connect.