X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Scarlet Street: Inside The X-Files: Nicholas Lea

Spring 1997
interviewed by Danny Savello

As double-dealing agent Alex Krycek, handsome Nicholas Lea has become one of a select band of recurring X-FILES characters whose appearances are eagerly awaited by hard-core fans of the show. Lea first showed up in the episode “Gender Bender” not as Mulder and Scully’s nemesis but as a horny young man involved in a threesome — with only one other person! That landed him the role of sly, conniving Krycek, who began his treacherous career as Cancer Man’s strong right arm and most recently lost an arm in Russia. SCARLET STREET recently tracked down the elusive Krycek — and the not-so-elusive Mr. Lea — for this exclusive interview.

SCARLET STREET: You didn’t originally plan to be an actor.

NICHOLAS LEA: Well, let’s put it this way: I’d always wanted to be an actor, but it took me a long time to get there. I was in art school for two years, and I sang in a band for about five. Then I met an acting coach, I quit my job the next day, and I started studying. But I’d always been in loved with actors and actresses and movies. My friends would be going out and I’d stay home to watch movies.

SS: Before THE X-FILES, were you in any other series?

NL: Yeah, I did about two-and-a-half years recurring on a show called THE COMMISH. I’ve done some fairly low-budget films in Canada and a lot of series stuff. I did LONESOME DOVE; I did SLIDERS and HIGHLANDER.

SS: You actually made your first X-FILES appearance as an altogether different character in the “Gender Bender” episode.

NL: Exactly. I did the first episode as a sort of guest star. Rob Bowman, who was directing the show, really liked what I did and, when it came time to cast Krycek, Rob really pushed for me strongly. They saw about 30 guys in Los Angeles and I was the only guy they saw in Vancouver, so it was a great experience for me. It was a very nerve-racking experience, because there was Chris Carter and all the producers. My girlfriend was working out down the street. I went running down the street to the gym, found her on the second level, and yelled, “I got it!” Everybody turned and stared! It was great! So it was Rob Bowman who gave me my big break and every time I see him I give him a dollar. (Laughs.)

SS: You had to walk a fine line in your “Gender Bender” performance after the alien shifted from female to mail in the car. Was it very difficult to convey your character’s emotional distress without making him appear homophobic to gay viewers?

NL: You know, that was never an issue to me; I never thought of the homophobic ramifications of it. I suppose some people could say, “That guy freaked out because he thought it was a man.” But, he didn’t freak out because he’s making out with a girl and then found out it’s a guy; he freaked out because she changed directly in front of him. It was also an interesting angle, that the guy was so very macho and then he’s lying in a hospital bed scared out of his life. Really, it was more important to me to play a guy who’s terrified. I try to be responsible about the things I do, so that I don’t have to worry about choices — are they right or wrong, are they gonna offend anybody? It’s actually one of the scenes I’m most proud of that I’ve done.

SS: At the very beginning, we knew very little about Alex Krycek’s background. Did you create one for him?

NL: Yes, I did. They’re such great writers that there’s not a lot of work. What I tried to inject into it was the guy is young and in way over his head. I made the decision that he came from a military background; his father was in the military and he was trying very, very hard to fill up some big shoes. I can draw on my own life about my relationship with my own father, and how you’re constantly trying to live up to somebody’s image of what they think you should be. Krycek doesn’t know he’s being bad; he’s just trying to get ahead and trying to please all those people in his past. He’s just doing what he’s doing to survive.

SS: Do you have a favorite Krycek moment?

NL: There’s a scene in “Ascension,” where Mulder is going up the tram and Krycek tries to kill him. The way it was originally written was that I bring up my gun and whack the tram operator. You see the guy get knocked over instantly and the camera cuts to the gondola. What I decided to do was whack him and then shake it off and fix my hair a little bit. I thought it would say a little something about Krycek, that he was trying to keep himself together and that he was very cool. They kept it in and I was really happy about that. It tells me that my instincts are right.

SS: You’ve gotten some fairly unflattering nicknames from fans — in particular, Rat Boy.

NL: Oh, well, I think it’s great, actually — though I must say, it’s a little daunting still being called “boy” at 33. But it means people are watching it and enjoying it and that’s the important thing. Dave Duchovny is Special K.

SS: At least the name hasn’t turned up in the show itself. Speaking of cast members with memorable nicknames, what is it like working with William Davis, who is better known to devoted X-Philes as Cancer Man?

NL: Bill is a great guy. He’s so different than you see him on television. He’s extremely soft spoken and very funny, actually. Everybody’s great. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Mitch Pileggi because we went over to England to do some promotion for the show. We’ve become friends since the show started, anyway, but now we get to travel and do all these great things together. It’s a real treat. Doing an episode is like going home to see your family, because now I live in Los Angeles and whenever I go back to do the show I get to go to my hometown and see my friends.

SS: So then, who says you can’t go home again?

NL: And it not just my friends. I really look forward to seeing David and Gillian and the producers and crew; it’s a real treat and it’s just fun. As an actor, you hope you can work on a show that you’re proud of, so I”m really fortunate that I’m involved in THE X-FILES.

SS: The inevitable question about life on other planets: do you believe that we are not alone?

NL: Oh, yes, absolutely! I think it would be egotistical to believe that there isn’t more intelligent life out there. I to believe it, because it gives me some hope as well. Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly well on this planet. So it would be nice to know there’s something else out there.

SS: Can you tell us what’s in store for Krycek or would Carter have your head — that is, in addition to already taking one of your arms?

NL: Carter would have my head! (Laughs)

Caption under one of the photos: “Nicholas Lea has become so well known by the name X-Philes have christened him — Rat Boy — that he’d be Hollywood’s top choice should they ever decide to remake WILLARD.”

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