Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble... Any diehard Fringe fan will remember the names of the show's trio of core cast members. What would the show have been without the fascinatingly complex dynamic between the mad scientist, his estranged son, and the FBI agent he'd experimented on 20-odd years ago? But do you remember all the amazing guest stars that populated the five seasons of FOX's terrific sci-fi series? Probably not. Like the best procedural shows — Law & Order: SVU and The Good Wife, for example — Fringe racked up an impressive number of high-profile guest stars over the course of its 100 episodes.
Obviously, those 100 episodes bring with them many more guest stars than I could include here. For the sake of brevity, I'll only be discussing guest stars in the most literal sense of the term: actors who appeared on Fringe for one episode, and one episode only. So you won't see recurring players here like Mad Men's Jared Harris as villain David Robert Jones or Once Upon A Time's Georgina Haig as Henrietta. What you will find is an interesting mix of actors who were already high-profile names at the time, alongside faces that you'll be surprised to recognize now, given the fact that they were largely unknowns when they appeared on the show.
1. Zak Orth from Wet Hot American Summer
Season 1, Episode 3: "The Ghost Network"
This week, you can catch Orth in the Netflix original series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp, where he's reprising his role as JJ from the 2001 cult classic film. You may also remember him as computer genius Aaron Pittman on NBC's Revolution. Seven years ago, he appeared early on in Fringe's run as "human antenna" Roy, a man who received disturbing images of terrorist attacks yet to unfold.
2. Michael Kelly from House of Cards
Season 1, Episode 4: "The Arrival"
Kelly just received his first Emmy nomination for his role as Frank Underwood's devoted Chief of Staff, Doug Stamper, in the third season of Netflix's House Of Cards. On Fringe, he was equally devoted to his mission of finding the Observers' mysterious Beacon — he even tortured Peter Bishop for information before Olivia shot him dead. (His future Cards co-star Derek Cecil, who plays Director of Communications Seth Grayson, had previously guest starred on Fringe two episodes earlier as a super soldier who infected a one-night stand with a rapidly-gestating fetus.)
3. Maria Dizzia from Orange Is The New Black & Master Of None
Season 1, Episode 6: "The Cure"
Back in 2008, Dizzia walked into a local diner and inadvertently microwaved everyone's brains before her own head exploded in a gooey mess. These days, you'll recognize her as Piper's bff Polly on Netflix's Orange Is The New Black. (Captain America's brother — aka Scott Evans, sibling to Chris — also cameo'd as the diner's kind waiter whose brain is unfortunately boiled.)
4. Billy Burke from Twilight
Season 1, Episode 7: "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones"
Olivia's old flame, whom she reconnects with while on a case in Germany, appeared alongside Orth for two seasons on Revolution, as Charlie's uncle Miles Matheson. He also played Bella Swan's father Charlie in all five Twilight movies, and gave everyone the heebie-jeebies as Kim Bauer's lecherous boss Gary Matheson in Season 2 of 24. (No relation to his Revolution character, presumably.)
5. Gillian Jacobs from Community
Season 1, Episode 8: "The Equation"
One year before she broke out as buzzkill Britta on NBC's Community, Jacobs appeared in this episode as a mysterious woman who kidnapped a young boy with the help of flickering green and red lights, and then proceeded to torture him with images of his dead mother until he completed an all-important equation for her.
6. James Frain from True Blood & Orphan Black
Season 1, Episode 10: "Safe"
What's so strange about Frain's guest role on Fringe is how uncharacteristically meek his character, Mr. Kohl, was. Now mostly known for playing a menagerie of intimidating freaks — like True Blood's Franklin Mott, Orphan Black's Ferdinand, and True Detective's Lieutenant Burris — David Robert Jones' lawyer was visibly scared by his employers, and died an ignoble death at Jones' hands.
7. Chris Bauer from True Blood & The Wire
Season 1, Episode 12: "The No-Brainer"
Frain's True Blood co-star — who appeared in all seven seasons of the HBO vampire drama as hapless Andy Bellefleur, and is also famous for playing Frank Sobotka in the second season of HBO's The Wire — portrayed a man out for vengeance with the help of a brain-liquefying viral video. (Mary Beth Peil, aka The Good Wife's grandma Jackie, also appeared in this episode as the grieving mother of Walter's former lab assistant.)
8. Broadway Actor & Two-Time Tony Nominee Jefferson Mays
Season 1, Episode 18: "Midnight"
Although he has guest starred on other shows like The Good Wife, The Americans, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Mays is most famous as a stage actor; he's a two-time Tony Award nominee, for last year's A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder, and for 2004's I Am My Own Wife (for which he won). Here he played a scientist so desperate to save his infected, vampiric wife, that he fed her his own spinal fluid.
9. Cameron Monaghan from Shameless & Gotham
Season 2, Episode 7: "Of Human Action"
The future Shameless star portrayed Tyler Carson, a homicidal teenager with the power of mind control. He now stars as Ian Gallagher on the Showtime comedy, and was introduced on Gotham this year as a villain named Jerome Valeska (possibly the origins of the Joker?) — a role which he'll reprise on the show's second season.
10. Jeff Perry from Scandal
Season 2, Episode 10: "Grey Matters"
Shondaland devotees will instantly recognize Perry from his roles as Thatcher on Grey's Anatomy and Cyrus on Scandal. In 2009, he stopped by Fringe to play an insane man miraculously "cured" when a piece of Walter Bishop's brain — which had been placed there for safekeeping — was removed from his own grey matter.
11. Diane Kruger from Inglourious Basterds
Season 2, Episode 17: "Olivia. In The Lab. With The Revolver."
The star of National Treasure, Inglourious Basterds, and FX's The Bridge wasn't even credited for her role as a lawyer who gruesomely perishes from a sudden onset of fast-growing skin tumors. She personally asked to appear on Fringe, given that her boyfriend was one of the stars. (She and Joshua Jackson are still in a happily committed relationship.)
12. Peter Weller from RoboCop
Season 2, Episode 18: "White Tulip"
RoboCop himself guest starred on what many Fringe fans agree was the best episode the show ever produced. The standalone parable of time travel and its inherent dangers was given its emotional wallop by Weller's performance as Alistair Peck, a man consumed by the idea of traveling back in time to save his wife from her death in a car accident several months before.
13. Katie Findlay from How To Get Away With Murder
Season 2, Episode 19: "The Man From The Other Side"
Findlay is either the unluckiest — or the luckiest — actress on the planet. Her characters keep getting killed off of whatever show she's on... but that somehow never proves enough to keep her away. First, her Fringe character, Jill, was murdered; she got to come back as a universe-hopping shapeshifter. Then, her Rosie Larson was dead before AMC's The Killing even began, but we got to see her in old video clips and flashbacks. And then, despite the fact that Rebecca Sutter's death ended the Season 1 finale of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder with a bang, Findlay was busy tweeting from the set of Season 2. You just can't keep her down.
14. Martha Plimpton from Raising Hope
Season 2, Episode 21: "Northwest Passage"
Plimpton won an Emmy for her guest starring role as perpetually pregnant lawyer Patti Nyholm on CBS's The Good Wife, but her role on Fringe as small town sheriff Ann Mathis was just as memorable. She paired up with Peter to crack a case involving a brain-slicing serial killer in this particularly Twin Peaks-y episode.
15. Kacey Rohl from Hannibal
Season 3, Episode 3: "The Plateau"
The year after her appearance as über-genius Milo's beleaguered sister, Rohl would go on to play Rosie Larson's grieving best friend Sterling on The Killing. She's now most well-known for her role as budding sociopath Abigail Hobbs on NBC's Hannibal, a role she continues into the current third season, well after her character's bloody death. (Fellow recurring Hannibal player Glenn Fleshler — who appeared in Season 3 as Cordell — also guest starred in Season 1 of Fringe.)
16/17. Aaron Ashmore & Shawn Ashmore from X-Men and Smallville
Season 3, Episode 5: "Amber 31422"
Until this Season 3 episode, lots of people probably thought that the guy who played X-Men's Iceman and the guy who played Smallville's Jimmy Olsen were the same person. Heck, lots of people probably still thought that after this episode, assuming Joshua & Matthew Rose were played by the same actor in two roles, à la Anna Trov as Olivia/Fauxlivia or John Noble as Walter/Walternate. But the identical twins were actually played by real-life identical twins Aaron and Shawn Ashmore. (The former is famous for Smallville and Warehouse 13, the latter for X-Men and Animorphs.)
18. Kevin Weisman from Alias
Season 3, Episode 6: "6955 kHz"
The former Alias star maintained his geek cred by swapping out his role on the ABC spy drama as gadget-happy Marshall Flinkman for this role on Fox's sci-fi drama as an amnesia-inducing shapeshifter.
19. Christopher Lloyd from Back To The Future
Season 3, Episode 10: "The Firefly"
Viewers must have thought they'd gone back to the future when Lloyd popped up on their TV screens. (Get it??) He played Roscoe Joyce, the former keyboardist of Walter's favorite band, the fictional Violet Sedan Chair, who has a fateful encounter with what appears to be the ghost of his own long-dead son.
20. Paula Malcomson from The Hunger Games
Season 3, Episode 17: "Stowaway"
The actress most famous for playing the lead character's wife Abby on Showtime's Ray Donovan, as well as Katniss Everdeen's mother in all four Hunger Games movies, guest starred here as a woman apparently unable to die. After the rest of her family is killed, she attempts to join them in heaven by piggybacking on other people's suicides. Dark stuff.
21. Brad Dourif from Deadwood & The Lord Of The Rings
Season 3, Episode 22: "The Day We Died"
Moreau, the leader of the terrorist group "End Of Dayers," was portrayed by famous character actor Dourif. And where do you know him from? Perhaps from his Oscar-nominated supporting role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest? Or maybe from his role as Doc Cochran on HBO's Deadwood? Or could it be from his voice work as possessed doll Chucky in the Child's Play franchise? Or his performance as slimy Wormtongue in The Lord Of The Rings? Take your pick.
22. Chadwick Boseman from Captain America: Civil War
Season 4, Episode 4: "Subject 9"
Boseman is most famous for a role nobody has even seen him in yet: Black Panther. He'll join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in next year's Captain America: Civil War before spinning off into his own solo franchise in 2018. But for now, you'll probably recognize him from playing real-life figures Jackie Robinson and James Brown in the biopics 42 and Get On Up, respectively. On Fringe, the future T'Challa appeared as a fellow Cortexiphan test subject who knew Olivia from childhood.
23/24. Stephen Root & Romy Rosemont From Office Space & Glee (Respectively)
Season 4, Episode 6: "And Those We Left Behind"
Real-life married couple Root and Rosemont appeared as a fictional married couple in one of Fringe's most emotional installments. She (so memorable as Finn Hudson's mom Carol on Glee) played a brilliant scientist debilitated by early-onset Alzheimer's. He (of Office Space fame) played her husband, determined to complete her work in order to return to a time when her mind was whole... no matter what the consequences.
25. Michael Massee from, Well, A Lot Of Things
Season 4, Episode 15: "A Short Story About Love"
It's a bit ironic that Massee, who's an actor with "one of those faces" you can never quite place, appeared on Fringe with his memorable face disfigured beyond recognition. That's because his creepy character, Anson Carr, was driven by his hideous appearance to attempt to make women fall in love with him... by using perfume concocted from the pheromones of their recently-murdered husbands. You can actually see his distinctive face in episodes of shows like The X-Files, 24, The Practice, Carnivàle, Alias, Criminal Minds, Cold Case, Supernatural, FlashForward, Human Target, House, The Blacklist, and more.
26. Rebecca Mader from LOST & Once Upon A Time
Season 4, Episode 21/22: "Brave New World"
Just a few short years after her brain was scrambled by a time-hopping island on one J.J. Abrams-produced sci-fi series, Lost actress Mader had her brain scrambled by a mad scientist's lab equipment on another J.J. Abrams-produced sci-fi series. (That scene of Olivia trying to mine information from Mader's character's reanimated brain is one of the most unsettling in Fringe history.) You can now find Mader chewing up the scenery as Zelena, aka the Wicked Witch, on ABC's Once Upon A Time.
27. R&B Singer Jill Scott
Season 5, Episode 8: "The Human Kind"
The R&B singer appeared in this final season episode as Simone, a member of the resistance who has been harboring a crucial piece of tech for the Fringe team to use against the Observers. Oh, and Simone is also psychic. This isn't the first time the songstress had appeared onscreen, either. Among other things, she co-starred alongside fellow Fringe guest Chadwick Boseman in the James Brown biopic Get On Up, and she played the lead role in HBO's one-season drama The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
Images: FOX (25)