Anna Torv
interviewed by: Keith Urban

Keith Urban: First of all, hello Anna! I think they must have paired us up for this because we're both Australians. So the natural first question is which part of Australia are you from? What was your life like growing up?

Anna Torv: Yeah, I thought the same thing! Uniting the Aussies. I grew up in the Gold Coast Hinterland of Queensland, which is more like the rainy, forest-y, area of Gold Coast. You and I would call it ‘the bush,’ there’s just no proper way of describing it to someone who hasn’t been there to see it for themselves. I grew up in a very, very quiet area with my mum and my little brother, Dylan, and it was kind of… one of those epic childhoods where you make your own fun, you know? I was by no means lonely or bored but it was very quiet, a lot of time spent outside. It was a really big shock when I moved to Sydney when I was 17 to go to school because living in a big city was so different from my upbringing. It was terrifying and a little funny, I graduated high school a year early to go to University, only to drop out, take a year off, move back home and then start Uni almost two years later than I had planned. So maybe a little sheltered, yeah?

Urban: I know these might be typical questions but it's something that many people mightn't know and it's something I'm always curious about. How or when did you know you wanted to be an actor? And when did that transition from Australia to America happen?

Torv: It’s kind of funny that you ask this because I just told my fiancé this story earlier this week and now I get to share it with everyone else! It was never really a conscious decision to want to be an actress, but really more of a product of my upbringing. Like I said my brother and I were kind of secluded growing up and he’s six years younger than me, so when I was real little, I had to make fun all on my own. And I started doing that by taking books and stories I loved and memorising the dialogue, then sewing together little costumes and outfits and going out in the woods and entertaining myself by basically reenacting the novels. The story I just told to Joshua was that I loved Anne of Green Gables, and I used to dress in huge gowns and force my brother to push me into the dam so I could play like the novel. And it was never, ‘oh, I’m acting! I want to do this for a living!’ it was pure play to me, pretending and entertaining myself and I fell in love with it. So, you know, I like pretending to be other people more than most, a profession in it seemed so natural. And it was the best training for me, I think. I never had the chance to study films until University or learn the proper way to act in a class, but because of my little games growing up, I can memorise 10 to 15 pages of dialogue for Fringe now in about 10 minutes, so something worked.

Fringe is actually the first thing I’ve worked on that’s American. I did a couple of series of Australian television when I left University and a handful of small movies, and after some work in London. Then I was just at home with mates, waiting for the next thing and… I was literally out in The Outback, camping in the middle of nowhere and my agent tracked me down and told me I had to test for an American show for JJ Abrams, and you know, you don’t ever say no to that chance! I was camping in the middle of the Australian Outback one day, unshowered, then faxing my American and Australian agents from a gas station one night, and the next day I was standing in the set for Star Trek, in the middle of the Enterprise, in Los Angeles signing contracts with JJ. My transition from Australia to America was literally three days, and then I was in Toronto filming the pilot a week later. So fast.

Urban: What did you study in university? Was film your major? Acting is definitely something I think kids do out of natural play so that completely makes sense to me. The fact you made it a part of your passion as an adult and pursued it is quite wonderful. So many people lose that when they grow older.

Torv: My degree was in Performing Arts. I thought for a while I’d stick to theatre work, but television and film opportunities came along first. It’s one of those situations where, when you’re offered a chance to work in your preferred field, you’ll take it, no matter what the position is. I could have interned at a production company, a television company, whatever, for all I cared to get my start. It was just important to me that I was getting a really rare chance, I made sure not to take advantage of what I was given. I suppose it’s the same way for musicians, yeah? You love music as a child and that’s all you want to be involved in, so you grow up to make music. You’re just passionate about something and the more you study it or get into that particular world, the more you really don’t want anything else.

Urban: What did you do in London, and did you live there long?

Torv: I had a small part in a drama called Mistresses that was popular in Britain, that’s what took me over in the first place. My arc was only five episodes or so, but the work was wonderful. It was one of those small jobs where everyone I worked with was really fantastic – I worked with Orla Brady, who is in Fringe with us now, and Shelley Conn who’s in Terra Nova, so now the three of us are Fox girls, it’s funny how it works out. I didn’t get to live in England long but it was a trip, kind of like an extended vacation that was really something else to experience. I got lucky all around on that one.

Urban: What's the best thing about working on a series television show (Fringe)? Are there any challenging aspects that might be different from working on a film?

Torv: This question is so hard because a television series is such a difficult thing to film. I’d have to say the best thing is the people I work with, our cast and crew… we’re all just like family, we love each other immensely. And our fans are devoted, fanatical, flawless. We are just always in this constant danger of being cancel because airing on Friday, we get pretty low numbers, but our fans just won’t stand for that happening. They petition and send stuff to corporate Fox to keep us on the air, it’s touching. And the acting experience is more than I could ever dream of; I’ve played about six or seven versions of the same character in three years, they are always testing me and as an actress I appreciate that.

The biggest challenge I think is the hours. We film 16-20 hours a day, six or seven days a week, it’s a huge demand. One I’m not used to, either. Films are much less demanding. And for me, personally, I think Fringe is a challenge because it’s American. I’ve got the dialect and accent down now but there are still words I can’t say – ‘aluminum’ and ‘anyway,’ and I can’t yell in an American accent. And just little things! Australians say ‘torch’ and ‘flat,’ Americans say ‘flashlight’ and ‘dead.’ So, I end up saying ‘the batteries are flat!’ and have to go for another take because I’ve used the wrong word.

Urban: When you manage downtime, what do you like to do?

Torv: I’m pretty normal, I don’t do anything cool or crazy like jump out of planes on my downtime. I like going back home to Australia when we have our bigger breaks because I get very homesick, but most the time I’m confined to Vancouver. I read an extraordinary amount, and my girlfriends and I like to go to concerts, though that doesn’t always pan out. We were supposed to go see Peaches not too long ago and they canceled! That was sad. I don’t watch very much television because it’s hard to keep up, but when I can, I like to marathon shows. I love True Blood, and when Peaches canceled my mates and I watched all of Game of Thrones in one day. Has anyone else seen it, because it’s incredible. I love fantasy.

Urban: Of course I have to ask you a music question. Your most played 3 albums?

Torv: I love music, Josh teases me about how much stuff is on my iTunes but it’s like a sickness. My most played album is Middle Cyclone by Neko Case. I worship her. Then probably Cease to Begin by Band of Horses and Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary. I have all kinds of crazy music on my computer.

Urban: I love Neko Case too! What do you think are your most polar opposite bands in your iTunes then? What's some of the "flavour?"

Torv: Polar opposites? Everything! I swear, nothing on my iTunes makes much sense. I have all your typical pop bands and artists like Nsync and Britney, Savage Garden, and then a massive classical music collection. I love Bach and Mozart and Strauss and the classic ballets, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake probably being my favourite to listen to. I like metal, I love, love, love Rammstein and saw them in LA over the summer, they put on a hell of a show. What’s the most opposite thing from Rammstein? Taylor Swift? I love her. Jay-Z and Eminem, Josh makes fun of me because I like to rap in the car when I drive. I can’t even talk about how much I love Lady Gaga, I think she’s a genius, and She & Him is one of my favourite bands. Then things mellow out and I like artists like Lenka and Coldplay, Band of Horses and Great Lakes Swimmers. Josh has really gotten me into Jazz lately, and we’ve been looking at more classic ‘first dance’ songs, so I’ve gotten into stuff like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald really hard in the last few months. It’s pretty eclectic.

Urban: Is it easier or more difficult to work with a partner every day (Joshua Jackson)? And in what ways?

Torv: I think that Josh and I have a very easy time working with each other nearly every day. We’re lucky because before dating we had three years of experience just being sparing partners and mates, and we’re both entirely professional so when we step onto set and are ready to go, it’s no longer us but Peter and Olivia. And he’s beautiful to work with because he’s very experienced with television and film and he really loves the sci-fi world we’re in, so he is helpful as a co-star and supportive as a partner. Days when we argue, I think set can be a little more tense than usual but we can keep calm for the sake of work pretty well. We know we’re lucky and doing a job and try to keep things separate. That’s not to say that kissing your fiancé repeatedly for seven takes isn’t slightly embarrassing with a crew of 75 watching!

Urban: Did you try to keep the relationship private, away from work, for awhile? Or was that fruitless because people just knew anyway?

Torv: It was a little of both, though I guess we hid it more than people caught on. John Noble, who plays Joshua’s father on the show, knew almost immediately that something had changed between us. I think he’s got that parental radar on him about us. Besides him though, we kept it quiet about four months, we didn’t even tell our families, let alone work. Just around the time we started to tell people, we got engaged. We’ve both dated co-stars in the past so we wanted to make sure that it was going to stick before we made things so obvious. You meet people at work, you know, that’s just kind of how relationships start.

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