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For Nimoy, 'Fringe' was comfortable fit

Leonard Nimoy will begin a recurring role as a wealthy genius beginning next week in the season finale of Fox's ''Fringe.'' Leonard Nimoy will begin a recurring role as a wealthy genius beginning next week in the season finale of Fox's ''Fringe.'' (Craig Blankenhorn/Fox)
By Derrik J. Lang
Associated Press / May 9, 2009
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LOS ANGELES - Outside of Leonard Nimoy's Bel Air home, workers are busy constructing a new driveway, replacing flagstone with sleek cement as part of an ongoing conversion from Mediterranean to modern. Though the 78-year-old actor is also undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts, he isn't paving over his past.

After a 19-year absence, Nimoy has again donned pointy ears as a mature Mr. Spock in J.J. Abrams's reboot of the "Star Trek" franchise. Next week, he'll originate the recurring role of genius gazillionaire William Bell at the end of the May 12 season finale of Fox's wicked supernatural series "Fringe."

"In both of these cases, I feel like I'm slipping into a very comfortable bathrobe or a very warm bath," Nimoy said with a robust chuckle over a cup of coffee inside his house. "I had a great time on the 'Star Trek' movie. And I had a delicious time on this episode. I like the position they have given me. I like the enigma of this character."

Bell, the former lab partner of unhinged scientist Walter Bishop (played by John Noble), has often been mentioned - but never seen - on "Fringe." Astute fans know that Bell became one of the wealthiest men in the world after parting ways with Bishop and founding Massive Dynamic, an ominous corporation that dabbles in robotics, pharmaceuticals, and weaponry.

"I've never played America's richest man before," Nimoy cooed.

He has filmed one scene so far in New York with actress Anna Torv, who plays Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent assigned to investigate unexplained phenomena with Bishop and his son. After production moves to Vancouver for the second season later this year, Nimoy will appear in additional episodes "when they call me."

Something about Bell is very different from any character Nimoy has ever played, but he wants to keep that under wraps. What's not a mystery is why Nimoy was offered the part: He bonded with "Fringe" cocreator Abrams during his "Trek" resurrection. Nimoy had never seen "Fringe" before but was impressed with the show after watching a few episodes.

"It's not unlike any other show that's ever been done," said Nimoy. "It's just that the execution is so much more thoughtful and theatrical than what I've seen in the past."

Nimoy, surrounded by art in his house - including many of his own photographs - said the version of Spock he's portraying in the new film is more like who he is more than ever before because "I know where I'm going, and I know where I've been." Other than the "Fringe" role and possibly another "Trek" film, Nimoy doesn't have other on-screen commitments.

And that's exactly the way he wants it.

"I like being here," he said. "This is a great place to spend time."