“The Lone Gunmen” and “X-Files” star Dean Haglund, also a comic book artist and comedian, visited the CBR Speakeasy to chat with Jonah Weiland about his secret career as an artist and how acting ultimately derailed that passion for a time, as well as the surprising process of developing his own comic book “Shock and Awesome” with the help of Kickstarter. They also to discuss how the Vancouver native fell in love with and came to reside in the city of Los Angeles, and whether or not writer Vince Gilligan had “Breaking Bad” in him when they worked together — plus Gilligan’s not-so-secret plan to bring “The Lone Gunmen” back to television.
On how acting almost put an end to his artistic career: I was drawing as a young child. In fact, I almost chose an art career were it not for a fateful I think 8th grade school play that suddenly somebody said, “You should really pursue acting. It was self-written, actually. A sci-fi version of “Macbeth,” believe it or not. It was an update on “Macbeth” but like taking place on several planets and there was robot dogs and stuff. It was ’70s “Battlestar Galactica” meets “Macbeth” that we combined, and everybody thought that I was an excellent Dirk Benedict/Apollo/Macbeth.
On how he definitively answered why “The Lone Gunmen” TV series was cancelled — as a comic book: When I was on “The X-Files,” one of the “X-Files” magazines did a monthly comic script called “Dean Haglund, Boy Actor,” which was behind the scenes hilarity that happened to me, that I was drawing there. And then, at the conventions, I sell a comic book I drew called “Why The Lone Gunmen Was Cancelled.” All-true story of why our spinoff, “The Lone Gunmen” was cancelled, because at the convention every question I get is, “Hey, why did that series get cancelled?” So many of the actors go, “I get the same questions all the time.” So that’s a good thing, you just go, “I’d answer it, but you have to buy the comic book.”
On what he learned by launching his comic “Shock and Awesome” via Kickstarter: The mistake I did was, because I have tons of sketchbooks of doodles that I just mindlessly draw when I just watch TV or hang out, I said, “Hey, anybody even at the lowest level, gets original artwork” and I thought, “There’s nothing they could ask for that I didn’t already have.” Was I wrong. I had 110 backers and every picture I had to hand draw from scratch. There wasn’t one that I could just yank out of the old sketchbook and mail off.
On whether he knew what “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan was destined for when they worked together on “The X-Files” and “The Lone Gunmen” TV series: John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter, [Vince Gilligan] — those were the four who were instrumental in almost every episode and they worked so hard on those shows because they weren’t just a TV show. They were trying to make it as a mini-movie –that was their concept — to put as much production value as you possibly can, and we’re gonna shoot one every eight days, which is an astronomical idea. Vince was really interesting, because I would always hang out in his office and you know most screenwriters, their offices are all kind of the same. Some posters from movies, and then their bookcase is generally Syd Field’s [“Story”], Hollywood History, you know, something like that. Vince’s library was so obscure. It was “Ancient Rituals of Mithra” — like Mithra, the religion before Christianity — and then he had like early Greek philosophy before Socrates. All of these things, and then you’re just looking at his bookshelf and you’re like, “What the hell?” And he — you’ve heard him talk — he’s got a lovely Virginian accent, totally laid back, nicest guy. He was taking helicopter flying lessons when he was on “The X-Files” just so that he could maybe fly a helicopter one day.
You’d never know that that would come from his brain. But I talked to him and I said, like, “How did you come up with ‘Breaking Bad?'” He goes, “You know me and Thomas Schnauz, the other writer, we were unemployed, we were just going, ‘We might as well just sell crack, to make money.'” And then there was like the LAUSD issue of teachers getting fired every summer and how hard it is for them, and then he was also concerned about healthcare. So all of these ideas all came in and he goes, “Hey, what if they made a meth lab…” and he started percolating. He was gonna set it in Riverside, but then they flew him out to Albuquerque and he set it there.