Who’s to thank for the return of “The X-Files”? It depends whom you ask.
David Duchovny claims creator Chris Carter kicked off talk of a revival, but during the show’s New York Comic Con panel, Carter claimed it was a call from the actor that got the ball rolling.
Under the glass ceilings of NYCC’s Crystal Palace, SPINOFF participated in roundtable interviews with Carter and actor Mitch Pileggi, who plays the hard-nosed Walter Skinner, to uncover the truth about the miniseries’ origins, and the mysteries it will into, like what ever happened to Scully’s son.
David said you made the call to bring the series back.
Chris Carter: I don’t think that’s true. I didn’t get the call from him. I got the call from Fox. But I understood from them that it was his idea to do this. So whether or not that’s true, that’s what I was told.
Does the rise of social media place more pressure on producing “The X-Files”?
Yes, I think it does. I think you’re in charge of marketing as well as doing a television show. They actually invited us to a marketing meeting before we set out. I thought it was going to be the usual group of five or six people, but it was 50 people! So, social media has broadened the scope of the marketing of the show. We showed [the premiere episode] today; we’re three and a half months from airing. That’s kind of mind-blowing to me. It feels like too much too soon. I just hope that the buzz — if there is any buzz — that it lasts until Jan. 24. That’s kind of scary to me, but it’s the world we live in.
How did today’s zeitgeist of conspiracy inform the show?
I’m paying attention to what’s going on online about talk of a New World Order, and a lot of conspiracy talk. I’ve gone to conventions. So it’s not like I’m making this up. There’s a lot to draw from.
What kind of conventions are you going to?
I went to a convention in San Jose that was about the secret space program. That’s for example.
What did you learn from them?
I learned a lot. I saw a lot of people speak at that convention in particular who led me down other paths. So, as soon as a door is opening up, it keeps opening up a variety of doors. And that’s the best thing about it.
How have the characters changed since we last saw them, especially considering how the digital age has evolved?
I think that they would both be technologically savvy. I have not imagined their Twitter or Instagram accounts — or Snapchat accounts, probably more likely. Those are things we’ve talked about, but it’s hard to incorporate them into the show because they aren’t necessarily visual.
How did that marketing meeting affect your storytelling?
It didn’t affect the storytelling at all, but it certainly did affect my job. Every step of the way, they want to leak things. They want to tweet things. They want to Instagram things. They want to titillate the fans, and it’s scary. And it’s scary when it’s six, nine months in advance, stuff is put out there. It’s another thing to take my eye off of my focus.
Are you asked to make your content with tweets and social media in mind?
How has that changed your process?
It hasn’t changed my process at all. It just gives me something else to be mindful of, and makes my job a little bit different.
We talked to David about the Joel McHale role, which seems to be a lead alongside Mulder and Scully in the pilot. How did McHale come to be cast, and how integral is he to the miniseries’ arc?
He comes back, and that was important. He’s the bridge between Mulder and Scully. He pulls them back together. So, he’s instrumental in that way. You’ll see him again in Episode 6. It was easy to cast him. He was the right person for the job. I saw him at the [White House] Correspondents’ Dinner, roasting President Obama, among others. I thought he was so funny. Little did I know he was an “X-Files” fan.
Do you have other ideas percolating for shows beyond this six-episode season?
You know you can imagine, every time I open the paper I think that would be an interesting X-File. So, I write things down. I write notes. Have I imagined past these six episodes —
Well, David mentioned maybe doing something every couple of years.
As long as they’re game, I’m game.
In the panel you announced the Lone Gunmen would be back. Didn’t they die?
As I told Jerry Hardin when he died as Deep Throat at the end of Season 1, I said, “No one is really dead on “The X-Files.'” You can come back in flashbacks. You can come back in dreams. There’s ways to bring characters back in the storytelling.
How old would William [Mulder and Scully’s son] be now?
He’d be a teenager now. We investigate that as well. So William is harkened to through the course of this run.
Are there any shows in this second Golden Age of television that inspired you?
I thought “Breaking Bad” was a masterpiece. I thought “Mad Men” was a masterpiece. I thought “True Detective” was a masterpiece, though I didn’t see the second season. So I can’t comment on that.
That’s why you’re calling it a masterpiece.
[Smiling] No comment. I loved Gillian on “The Fall.” I had time like I’ve never had, so I got to go back and watch all the episodes of “The Shield,” which I thought was a masterpiece. I got to go back and watch “The Wire,” which I’d never really seen, which was a masterpiece …. “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under” … there’s been wonderful television since we went off the air. And there will continue to be more great television. I can tell you this: It’s a Golden Age of television because it’s drawing in so much talent with writers and directors, actors and producers.
* * *
Pileggi, with a scruffy in-the-works beard and a broad grin, then stepped into the hot seat, asking, “W!hat’s going on?”
What’s going on with you?
Mitch Pileggi: I just watched “The X-Files”! It was pretty good.
You seemed like you got choked up at the panel.
What talking about my dad? Yeah, a little bit. I mean to be able to play a character that’s so reminiscent of my father is huge to me. It wasn’t initially conscious. It just kind of happened.
Do you remember that moment, when you first realized it?
When my brothers and sister and mom mentioned it to me, it stunned me for a second, and then I went and sat and watched and episode, and said, “That’s dad.” He wore the white shirts, the glasses, and he was bald. He had a very, very strong personality and a very strong sense of himself, and I think those are things Skinner has. It’s very gratifying. And at the end of the episode that I was talking about, “Zero Sum,” Chris actually let me dedicate that to my father. That was grand.
How do things like Edward Snowden and the higher awareness of conspiracies impact “The X-Files” in 2015?
It’s a lot of material for Chris to feed off of as far as writing these new stories. There is so much available to him with all conspiracies, all the government stuff. I mean, there’s some bad shit going on out there, so I think it really lends itself to storylines for this show.
Are you a conspiracy theorist at heart?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think there’s some really bad people running this world. I mean, really bad people. It’s a feeling, just seeing the way things are transpiring in the Middle East. I worked in the Middle East. I worked for the DOD [Department of Defense] in the Middle East, I worked for contractors to the DOD, so I know what that situation’s like, and I know that human nature is not good.
It sounds like it taps into a theme of the new season.
Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, we’re the only species that slaughters its own kind by the millions – by the millions! What does that say about us? Go online. Go to comments sections; see how people talk to each other. See how people deal with each other on a daily basis. It’s really ugly. Why can’t we just be nice to each other? It’s not in our nature. Anyway, that’s a whole thing.
I’m going to change the tone of the conversation: You, Gillian and David worked together for so many years. What did you miss most about working together?
Gillian’s laugh; David’s wit, his humor. We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of fun when we’re working. And we laugh a lot. We get goofy. And once we get Gil laughing, phew! You might as well call lunch, because it’s all over. If you go and look at any of the blooper reels, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s hilarious. Between his sense of humor and her laugh, they work together very well. I missed standing across from them and working, and to be able to do it again is pretty cool. I mean, just think about it. It’s this show that was so huge in my life and so huge in my career, to be able to come and do it again? I’ve had so many other actors go, “You’re so lucky.” And I’m like, “Yup! I absolutely am.”
Is there something more fulfilling about bringing “The X-Files” back at a time when social media makes it easier than ever to see fan response?
I can see the love for the show. I can see the love for the character when I’m on Twitter with people, and their passion for the show. I’m a fan too … and it’s immediate. One of the things that got me into acting was that immediate response. You can almost get that with the way social media is nowadays. When you see the text from Skinner [in the revival’s premiere], that’s the first time you’ve ever seen a text on “The X-Files,” which is pretty cool!
“The X-Files” premieres Sunday, Jan. 24, on Fox.
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