Why Fringe's William Bell will be Leonard Nimoy's last role

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

Leonard Nimoy promises we'll learn all about William Bell's motivations on tonight's season-two finale of Fringe on Fox. But he also assures us of something else ... William Bell will be his final role.

(Spoilers ahead!)

"It wasn't anything about the Fringe job or the character of William Bell that made me decide I didn't want to do this anymore," said Star Trek icon Nimoy in a conference call. "It's a coincidence. I've been at this for 60 years. My first professional work in film was in 1950. Sixty years, I think, is long enough."

While the 79-year-old actor quit acting years ago, he was pulled back into the business by J.J. Abrams for the recent Star Trek movie. "I thought it was going to be a wonderful film. I read the script and the great handling of the Spock character and an introduction of a wonderful new actor to play Spock," said Nimoy.

"Then J.J. Abrams, who is the executive producer of Fringe, asked me to do the William Bell character. I thought I owed him that. I'm very glad that I did it, because it was an exciting project. It's just coincidental that I decided some time ago that I really didn't want to do this anymore. I just did this last job as a favor to J.J. Abrams. I'm glad I did it. I think we'll see an exciting episode [tonight]. It's a very good note to go out on."

And what that means is William Bell, at least as played by Leonard Nimoy, won't be around in the future on Fringe. "No, I don't expect to be on next season. I have announced my retirement. I will not be doing any more television or movie acting or directing. I can tell you that I feel very fulfilled with the work that was given to me to do in this final episode," he said.

The episode in question, the season-two finale "Over There, Part 2," digs into what happens after Olivia (Anna Torv) and Walter (John Noble) travel to the alternate universe in an attempt to rescue the missing Peter (Joshua Jackson) and prevent the two universes from colliding.

As for what drives his enigmatic character, William Bell ... "There's always been the questions of what are his intentions. The writers have done a very good job of keeping the answer to that rather obscure. I've tried to make him disarming. I've tried to play him ambiguously, so that, although he keeps saying, 'Trust me,' you're still not quite sure if you should. Even in [last week's] episode, he's saying to Olivia, 'I know that you have reason not to trust me, but I'm afraid you're going to have to,'" he said.

Nimoy said there are some "very strong scenes" between Walter and William, characters who have a long, difficult history on the series. "I would say that's at the heart of the episode. ... There's a very strong relationship resolution between Walter and William."

Regarding whether we'll see an alternate William Bell (perhaps with a goatee, a la evil Spock in Star Trek's alternate universe), not so much. "We're getting close to doing a spoiler here, but I think it's safe to say there's only one William Bell that you're going to see." While the other characters all have alternate-universe duplicates, some with very different personalities from the originals, "I was only given one William Bell to play."

It's a William Bell and a Leonard Nimoy we'll miss come next season. "It's not hard to say goodbye. I've had 60 years of working in films and television. I'm very grateful for all the great opportunities that I've had and all the people that I've met," he said.

Tonight's season two finale of Fringe airs at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

As for Nimoy, well, if you like photography, you haven't seen the last of him. "What I'm working on now is making the prints for an exhibition of my photography, which will open July 31st at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. I'm excited about it, because it's my first solo exhibition in a major museum. It's a show called, 'Secret Selves.' It's about lost or hidden or secret identifies. It's a series of portraits."

So, are you sad Leonard Nimoy is quitting acting?

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