Leonard Nimoy talks about his return to “Fringe” in tonight’s season finale

We all know better at this point than to fully believe actors when they say they are retiring from acting. Much like a boxer, it usually means the person reached a point of exhaustion and just needs a break to recharge their batteries. But when Leonard Nimoy in 2010, at nearly 80 years old, said he was hanging it up, it seemed like a good possibility. After all, he had just completed a role in director J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek, effectively handing the reins of his signature character Spock to Zachary Quinto, and also finished up a juicy role on Abrams’ trippy sci-fi series Fringe.

Well, the Fringe universe decided it was not through with Nimoy, or his character of William Bell, quite yet. In last week’s episode — the first part of the two-part season finale — Bell returned, this time as a malevolent destroyer of worlds, a man looking to crush both existing universes and form a new one under his control. Whether his plot works will be determined in tonight’s episode, “Brave New World — Part 2,” airing at 9 tonight on FOX. Nimoy spoke with reporters this week about why he decided to return to the role, and why he feels the new Star Trek franchise is just fine without him:

On What Prompted Him To Return To The Role: “It’s not just the role of William Bell. It’s the show. I think Fringe is a wildly imaginative show. The writers and the creators of the show, the producers, are very bright and very theatrical. All the characters are fleshed out wonderfully and the chemistry amongst the cast is terrific. I wanted to be part of this project. I enjoy the project. Of course, the character of William Bell started out to be rather ambivalent. We weren’t quite sure whether we were supposed to enjoy him or be afraid of him. We couldn’t quite figure out what his motivation was. At the end of last season, he seemed to come around to be less dangerous. This season I think things have taken another turn. He’s in another universe and has taken on other characteristics. There were challenges in the character itself that were attractive to me. I could play aspects of a character that I haven’t played in a long time, so it was very welcoming to me. … I’m a sucker for a good role, and J.J. Abrams … is a friend of mine. He calls. I take his call. The writers and producers, Joel Wyman, Jeff Pinkner, and the cast, they’re a wonderful bunch of people and I enjoy being there. When they called and asked me if I would do it, it was pretty easy to convince me.”

On Possibly Returning For The 5th And Final Season Of Fringe: “I’m sure that we will be having conversations about that before too long. I haven’t heard anything new about William Bell or the show, except that it has been picked up for 13 episodes, which I think is wonderful. I know the company was hoping for that, that they could have another season to close out successfully. I haven’t heard anything about Bell coming back, but I’m sure I’ll be getting a call. It will depend on my schedule [and] what they have in mind for the character. There are a lot of issues that have to be dealt with, but we’ll be talking.”

On His Favorite Version Of William Bell: “I think what you’re going to see [tonight] is probably the most interesting of it all because the character has become very exotic; very exotic is the best word I can come up with at the moment. He’s got himself out on a limb and doing some very strange and fantastic things with his powers. I think what you’ll see … is probably the culmination of a lot of wonderful eyes coming together. I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to seeing it myself. I haven’t seen it in context, so I’m pretty excited about what people are going to be experiencing.”

On Rumors Of Him Appearing In The Next Star Trek Film: “My feeling is they don’t need me. They’ve got a wonderful cast. Zachary Quinto has taken on the character of Spock and I think is wonderfully suited. He is a talented guy. He is a very intelligent actor, very well trained. They’ve got a great company of people replacing all of us. I don’t think they need me, frankly. It’s flattering to be talked about, but I just don’t think they need me. I understand, by the way, that they have just finished shooting and they’ve got a wonderful actor, Mr. [Benedict] Cumberbatch, who has a great reputation in the UK and I think is going to build a reputation here in the United States very quickly. The Sherlock Holmes series that he is famous for in the UK is coming to the United States and I think he’s going to be very quickly recognized as a major talent. He’s in the movie. I think they’re going to do just fine.”

Photo: © 2012 FOX Broadcasting Co. Credit: Cate Cameron/FOX