Leonard Nimoy Returns To TV As 'Fringe' Character As Mr. Spock on Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy created a cultural icon. His return to TV in a recurring role on a new show from Lost creator JJ Abrams surprises Nimoy as much as anyone.
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Leonard Nimoy Returns To TV As 'Fringe' Character

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Leonard Nimoy Returns To TV As 'Fringe' Character

Leonard Nimoy Returns To TV As 'Fringe' Character

Leonard Nimoy Returns To TV As 'Fringe' Character

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/112996962/113010712" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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In the three seasons of the original Star Trek series, Leonard Nimoy developed a character so distinctive that Mr. Spock is now considered an American cultural icon. Now Nimoy's back on TV in a recurring role — as much to his surprise as anyone else's.

"I'm in a state of shock," Nimoy tells Guy Raz. "I don't know how it happened. I'm asking myself: How do these strange things happen to a life when you've made your plans and things change?"

Nimoy, who once said he was done with acting, will be playing Dr. William Bell on the TV show Fringe. Turns out, he says, returning to television has been fun. "I'm enjoying it. It's intriguing. It's thought-provoking. The work is good. The scripts are interesting and multi-layered."

Dr. Bell is "a combination of the richest man in the world and a Timothy Leary-type scientist," Nimoy says. "We're not quite sure what his intentions are. He seems to be sincere." Are his warnings from an alternate reality to be believed? "Time will tell whether he is really giving out good advice or being misleading," Nimoy says.

But Dr. Bell doesn't show up very often so far, and that doesn't give Nimoy a lot of screen time to build the character. Nimoy wants to make the character elusive to keep him interesting. "I'm trying to make him something of a mystery so that there will be an anticipation of what might be revealed in the future." he says.

Fringe director JJ Abrams, known for his work on the hit television series Lost, lured Nimoy into the project following the success of the latest Star Trek movie, in which Nimoy reprises his role as Mr. Spock.

It was the work of Abrams and his team on the movie that inspired Nimoy's respect. "I think they've revived the entire franchise," Nimoy says.

Even so, Mr. Spock, or at least Nimoy's incarnation of the character, may have finally found his final frontier. "I know why they wanted me in this last film, which was to create a bridge between the original cast and the new," he says. "But that's been done. So I would suspect that there's no need for my presence again."

Nimoy won't say for sure if he's finished with Star Trek, but he admires Zachary Quinto, the young actor who inherited the role. "I'm proud of what he did in the film. I think it's very good work," he says. "I think the character is in very good hands."

Forty years ago this summer, the original Star Trek series aired its final original episode. Nimoy went on to make movies, write plays and books, publish photos and even record a few albums. The upside of playing an occasional character on TV, Nimoy points out, is "it leaves me free to do the other things that I enjoy doing."

He's agreed to do a couple episodes of Fringe, "and so far I have done two," he says. "I think I will do at least one more and then we'll see what happens."