Out actress Jasika Nicole has played Junior FBI Agent Astrid Farnsworth on Fox’s sci-fi series Fringe and tonight’s Season 5 premiere will be its last. While Jasika finishes up filming the show in Vancouver (they’re working on episode seven as of this week), she’s looking forward to life after the show with her partner, as they relocate to Los Angeles and “turn a new leaf.” Jasika took some time to answer our questions via Skype this week.
AfterEllen.com: I feel like I have no idea what’s going to happen at the end of Fringe.
AE: There’s just so many ways it could go!
AE: Did you ever worry you would get a script and learn you were killed off?
AE: Will there be another Astrid-themed episode?
AE: I read that you had some input on your Alternate Astrid character.
So it was this really bizarre kind of fateful thing that what they created was something I had a little bit of experience with, obviously as an outsider. Just having somebody close to me in my family who’s on spectrum. And they just wrote that and I kind of just ran with it. They were really not a lot of specifics about how they wanted to play her, they just always wrote her with a ton of really rapid-fire dialogue to deliver. All these other things I kind of adapted from what I knew about my sister. I didn’t copy them necessarily, but there are certain things that she would do that I would notice in other autistic people on spectrum, like not being very comfortable making eye contact. Stuff like that! So I just kind of took it and the first several episodes of Alternate Astrid, you don’t really see her much anyway. She’s only got a few lines. It’s just really subtle stuff so the fact that anybody knew she was autistic I took as a huge compliment. I’m like “She barely said anything! How did you know?” But there are other people who say “Oh my god, her mannerisms really remind me of my son who’s on spectrum” or something so. Not everybody got it, not everybody appreciated it but it was at least something different that I got to play and I got a chance to bring a little bit of awareness to a community of people that don’t always get represented in the media accurately.
AE: What’s next after Fringe? Are you reading any pilots?
AE: Do you want to do something completely different or along the same lines as Fringe?
Honestly I’m happy working so I can’t say I’d turn a lot of things down but I’d definitely like to focus on doing more comedic stuff. I just miss it so much and sitcoms are so amazing because it’s kind of the closest meshing of the theater world with the television world that I’ve ever experienced and I love that. You have to think on your feet and be really quick with stuff but you still have a rehearsal process too, which is very much out of line with Fringe. I mean we just show up and block it and we shoot it and then we’re onto the next thing. It’s such a jam-packed show that there’s barely time to get your bearings. Which is a different challenge and a great learning experience, but I would very much be interested in doing more comedic stuff. I think there’s always room for women of color in the comedy world. I think there could never be enough of them.
AE: What a great segue! How important is it to you to represent women of color or a queer woman when it comes to the parts you choose?
Unfortunately I think that Hollywood’s at rest position for female characters is white. So, you know, if there’s a female character, unless it says otherwise, it’s just assumed she’s going to be white. So you have to really kick ass in your audition or show them something they haven’t seen before so they’ll be interested in going in a different direction. And I think that is a misconception that to go in a different direction you have to rewrite your character. A black character, as Asian character, a whatever character, they can all have the same qualities. They might have different histories in the world, but it doesn’t have to change what the story is. Everybody’s still looking for love. Everybody’s still trying to find their way in the world. Those things are human qualities, not necessarily race-specific qualities. And they’re certainly not gender-specific qualities or sexuality quality either. It’s so hard for people in Hollywood to understand that. And I don’t think that he audience is necessarily dictating what we want to see, I think it’s the other way around. I think it’s the network executives that are assuming that they know what the world wants to see. But I feel like the United States of America, at least, is completely ready to have a queer woman as a lead role and not have the fact that she’s queer be a scary issue on the show. It can be tested obviously. Everybody is so afraid to write something like that and it’s like, how do you know how that’s going to be received if you don’t even get it out to the television world so audiences can respond to it? So it’s just a tricky place.
It’s funny, it’s so complicated because I’d love to play a queer woman on a television show but that’s only because I think we need to see more queer women on television, not because it’s the only thing I can play, certainly. Whenever there’s a space that’s lacking, I’d love to be able to slide in. That’s why with, like The Mindy Kaling Project. I was just Facebooking about it today. I can’t tell you — the first time I saw that pilot — I’m not into romantic comedies. That’s not really my go-to genre. When I saw that pilot, just seeing a woman with skin that looked like mine seem so unapologetic and very un-selfconciouss just made such a huge difference to me. It was unbelievable. It made me want to watch her show, even though I’m not into romantic comedies. There’s something about that that I can relate to. And then there are people who don’t have dark skin necessarily but do like romantic comedies and can relate to looking for love in the modern world or whatever. There’s just so much space for people to have recognition within characters of colors or characters that are queer or gender nonconforming and I feel like we don’t give audiences enough credit to be able to handle that kind of stuff.
Jasika Nicole on being a queer woman of color in Hollywood