How Astrid's long-awaited Fringe alt-episode changed everything

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Dec 16, 2012, 12:07 PM EST

Actress Jasika Nicole has been playing the beloved Astrid for four years on Fringe, and producers finally got around to giving her some meaty subject matter. It's about time!

Last week, Nicole took on her toughest acting challenge yet, to play opposite herself as her doppelganger, alt-Astrid. In the episode "Making Angels," alt-Astrid travels to "Over Here" to meet our Astrid. For the actress, whose character is a fan favorite, taking on the episode was exciting, exhausting and made her cry.

"I've been waiting for four years to do an Astrid-heavy episode. So, when I finally got it, it was a little bit overwhelming. You know, like it's something that you've been wishing for so long and you get to a point where you don't think it's ever going to happen," said Nicole.

"I had kind of become resigned in thinking that 'Oh, Astrid is not going to get a big episode,' and that's okay because it's been such a lovely thing to be part of the show. So anyway, I finally get the script and it is a heavy-Astrid episode and not only just one Astrid but two Astrids. And then there's like all of this emotional turmoil that's going on within the story. So it was emotional on a lot of different levels," she said.

"It is a really heartbreaking story that is being told with the two Astrids, which is about family and loss and having regrets and feeling confident in who you are and not being able to take that away."

So far this season Nicole has played both roles, but separately, and she hasn't really had any juicy stories. In fact she initially wondered what Astrid's purpose was this season, considering the new timeline where Peter had never been born.

When "we started this new timeline, I realized that all of the relationships were different now that Peter had never been a part of our lives and we didn't know who he was. But, specifically, the relationship between Astrid and Walter was really different because Olivia was more his confidant, his caretaker. He would seek her out when he was in a bad place and needing help, and he didn't really go to Astrid so much," she said.

Astrid seemed to be more of a babysitter than a friend, said Nicole. "But then, as the season went on, I realized that because she didn't have such a close relationship with Walter, I think that she was the only person in this world that was welcoming to Peter. Olivia didn't want to have anything to do with him. Walter didn't want to have anything to do with him. Broyles was totally freaked out by him, and Astrid was the one who was always saying, 'You know, it's okay. He's probably not a bad guy. We've got to help this person.'

"So that was an interesting, different choice to have made. I just wasn't expecting it. But now that we've had this huge Astrid episode, I see that her relevance is way even beyond just helping Walter, because you can see that she helps everybody," she said.

In the episode, Astrid's "been closed up inside this lab for the last four years with this kind of crazy doctor and these really bizarre, terrifying things are happening in the world. Then she meets this woman that looks just like her, that could've had the exact same life as her and did not. So that, I think, opens up her eyes a little bit to let her realize how fortunate she is to have these people in her life. As crazy and dysfunctional as her work family is, it is a family, and that is of great significance to her," said Nicole.

Playing against herself was overwhelming, she said. "Not only because it was the first huge episode that I had just as an actor, but I was doing double duty as both Astrids. She's got these really emotional scenes."

Her other challenge had to do with playing alt-Astrid, who isn't your average doppelganger. She has Asperger's syndrome.

"She's so physically different than I am. I didn't even realize but after the first several months of playing her I would come home with a headache every single day. And it's because she's so stiff in her movements, and she's just got these mannerisms that I don't have, and my body is not used to them. So it's really, really difficult to play her. Also, because she speaks so quickly that I have to know my lines like, backwards and forwards, because she spits it out really, really, like spitfire quick. So she's the most fun and the most challenging, actually."

Here's an Astrid-centric interview with Nicole:

Fringe airs on Friday nights on Fox at 9 p.m. ET.

Did you like the Astrid-centric episode last week? Should there be more in the future?

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