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Shivers: Nic Lea: Bad Boy Makes Good

October 1996
Shivers #34
Nic Lea: Bad Boy Makes Good
A Shivers Interview by Nigel Adams

The last time we spoke to Nick Lea, the actor who portrays double-Agent Alex Krycek in THE X-FILES, he had just completed work on “The Blessing Way” and “Paper Clip,” the opening two episodes of the series’ third season. At that time, Nic was looking forward to his next appearance on the series, but had little idea when it would occur or what form his return would take. Upon receiving the scripts for the two-parter that heralded Krycek’s return, “Piper Maru” and “Apocrypha,” the actor freely admits he was more than a little surprised…

“It really wasn’t what I expected,” Nic says of the storyline in which his character has clearly fallen on hard times and is having to sell classified government secrets in order to survive, “but I was really excited about it. It was great because it gave me the scope to have some input into what I was going to look like physically. I wanted to really make a definite change between how we’d seen him at the beginning [of Krycek’s time on the series] — the suit and tie — and then later with the black leather and the chopped haircut and the bags under the eyes and everything. I really wanted to make him look like a man on the run and when I saw the script and I saw what I was going to be doing I thought what a great opportunity to be doing that kind of thing.”

Once upon a time, it was almost inconceivable that a young, good-looking American actor-about-town would want their appearance to be soured by unkempt hair and untidy stubble, but Nic believes that times have changed since then. Asked why he feels that is, the actor holds up a copy of a recent SHIVERS that conveniently happens to be lying nearby; one featuring a cover shot of Brat Pitt in SEVEN. “I have respect for [Pitt] because he takes chances in the things that he does,” Nic states. “In TWELVE MONKEYS a lot of that look was his own idea — cutting the hair and the contact lenses, all that business.” Certainly, Nick is happier working in a profession where appearances are beginning to matter less and less. “For me, it’s not so much about looks as it is about hopefully representing the character properly or doing an interesting job on screen,” he says. “I’d much rather do something interesting than look good. Certainly, there’s some concern sometimes because you want to be seen in a leading man role or whatever, but it’s more important to me to do something interesting than to look good.” Taking that sentiment to the extreme, Nic says he was thrilled by Krycek’s final scene in THE X-FILES to date. “Did you see ‘Apocrypha’?” he asks. “At the end of that episode, in the missile silo, it was not attractive at all, but I loved doing it.”


In “Piper Maru,” Special Agent Fox Mulder once again becomes entangled with his nemesis Krycek after discovering that it is the latter who is behind the selling of government secrets in Hong Kong. Their re-encounter leads to another exhilarating fight scene which, like that in “Anasazi” at the end of the previous season, was jointly choreographed by Nic and David Duchovny. However, the fight sequence in “Piper Maru” was put together under somewhat different circumstances from the characters’ first set-to. “The first time that we did a fight, the stunt man turned up late, so David and I choreographed that one,” Nic explains. “Then this time, they didn’t even think of having a stuntman for the scene, they just let us go ahead and do it ourselves. We added all kinds of things that they hadn’t really thought of: the head butt and all that business; his hitting me with the phone was something we also thought of while we were there and actually when I walked past him on one of the takes, he actually whacked me on the head with the phone and I had a big egg on my forehead. And he felt horrible about that!” But Nic still feels that such risks of minor injuries are still worth taking. “It’s great, because he and I both really love doing that sort of thing; it’s great that we can get involved.”

Then in one of THE X-FILES’ most “Sci-Fi” plots to date, Krycek is possessed by an alien who is leaping from one human body to another to enable itself to return to its buried spacecraft. Nic says that playing the possessed Krycek provided him with one of his greatest acting challenges to date. “What they said they wanted was emotionless,” he reveals, “and I mean, How do you do emotionless? Whatever the situation you’re in as an actor, there’s some sort of emotion. So it was kind of a challenge, but then I watched TERMINATOR 2 and I watched Robert Patrick do what he did, and it was really icy and really cold, and I tried to that a little bit. Then in the scene where I drop the tape on [the Cigarette Smoking Man’s] desk and I say, “Where is it?” I was trying to think of how Laurence Olivier did it in MARATHON MAN — how cold and scary that was, and I just tired to feed on kind of those things. They told me that they were really really happy with the way that ended up. There’s also this scene where we crash and they pull me out of the car,” he adds, “and they wanted a snakey sort of body movement. That was fun, too, although at the time you do it you’re not really sure if you’re giving them what they want, if it’s way over the top or not enough.”

The only indication that Krycek, and the other hosts, have been taken over, is an oily sheen that comes over their eyes. This, though, was an element that Nick didn’t have to concern himself with. “The eyes were all done in post-production,” he says. “I had no idea how they were going to achieve that. They shot a white screen and injected balsamic vinegar or oil into it and matted it onto my eyes. It was pretty clever.”

Next month: Nic’s X-FILES memories continue.

(Note: the second part of this interview actually did not appear until the next year, October 1997.)

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