Astrid is a lifelong computer geek with a B.A. in Music who speaks five languages and bakes up a storm when she’s stressed out. She is also, seemingly — we know very little about her background — the most emotionally intact character on the show. In a contrast to the lead characters, Walter, Peter, and Olivia, whose relationships were, until relatively recently in Season 3, always on the edge of implosion, Astrid’s genius doesn’t get in the way of her ability to interact empathetically with the world. Her sparkling emotional intelligence is a welcome change from Magical Negresses who solve white people’s problems with folksy wisdom and a hug to the bosom. It is rare for the Math/Science Nerd trope to be deployed subtly and it is almost never embodied by a women of color. Astrid is essentially a unicorn. A really, really good-looking unicorn.
Thanks to the show’s dynamics, Nicole actually gets to play two Astrid Farnsworths — “Our” Astrid and “Alter Astrid,” or Altrid, also known as Agent Farnsworth. This is common within the Fringe universe, as most of the main characters in “our” universe have doubles in the parallel world… Here, Nicole portrays a very different, though no less overlooked, aspect of black femininity. The public sphere is almost completely devoid of portrayals of people on the autism spectrum. It is even more rare for these portrayals to depict valued, functional members of contemporary U.S. society. In view of the fact that whenever we do see people with autism, they’re almost always men and they’re almost always white, Nicole’s portrayal of Altrid not only highlights the very existence of women of color with autism, but it also challenges the way that dominant U.S. culture sees this group. Grounding her performance in her experiences with her own sister, who has autism, Nicole plays Altrid with a compassion and subtlety that are often lacking in portrayals of both women of color and people with autism.