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TV Guide Online: Chat with Vince Gilligan

TV Guide Online
Transcript from the February 17th chat with Vince Gilligan

TV Guide Online: Tonight we are chatting with “X-Files” writer Vince Gilligan about the upcoming episode entitled “X-Cops”. Welcome Vince! Thanks for coming tonight!

Vince Gilligan: Hi, everybody!

Question: In the “X-Cops” trailer…it just says Mulder + Scully are investigating a monster in L.A. and their being videotaped by “Cops”…but what type of monster are they chasing? What’s the episode really about, other than the “Cops” thing??

Vince Gilligan: Well, I could answer that, but it would spoil the show for you on Sunday night. I will tell you that Mulder and Scully think they are looking for a werewolf when the show begins, but then some questions arise… as they often do.

Question: How long had you been toying with the idea behind “X-COPS” before you actually wrote the script?

Vince Gilligan: I had wanted to do a “COPS” related episode for three years now. I pitched the idea to Chris Carter way back in season 4. We put it on the back burner for a while, but finally found the right time to do it, which was this year.

Question: Are you set to write any more episodes for the seventh season?

Vince Gilligan: Yes, in fact, the plan right now is that I will write and direct episode #21, and it will be the first time I direct an “X-Files” episode, and in fact, the first time that I’ll direct ANYTHING since film school, way back in 1989. I’m very, very nervous about directing and yet, nervous in a good way. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, and I’m hoping not to embarrass myself.

Question: Have you ever had an idea for an episode that you thought would be great, yet had it vetoed?

Vince Gilligan: Chris Carter is a great guy to work for in that he seldom vetoes ideas. Having said that, it took him a while to warm up to the idea to doing the “COPS” crossover. But that’s what I like about him. He needs to see you have a lot of enthusiasm for an idea before he gives you the go-ahead sometimes, and that makes you work even harder on that idea, whatever it may be.

Question: How does working with a staff of writers differ from being the sole writer of the project? Is it more of a collaborative atmosphere or all you all working on your own episodes?

Vince Gilligan: The great thing about my job is that we get to do both. We often write episodes all by ourselves, and often we team up and write them together. It pretty much depends on how much time we have to get the episode written. Both ways are fun. It’s great to be able to go off by yourself and write one alone, and yet it can also be a real kick to get together in a room with Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban and bang out a story together.

Question: On average, how long does it take you to write an episode?

Vince Gilligan: The short answer is “As long as we have.” In a perfect world, I like to have at least three weeks. More often than not, once the plot is fleshed out and the actual writing begins, I have on average about 12-16 days. It’s a tough schedule, but it’s a very challenging one, and I think it’s made me a better writer. It’s certainly made me a faster one.

Question: How difficult/different is it to break into TV writing? It seems that it would be more difficult than trying to shop a screenplay.

Vince Gilligan: It’s a good question, but a tough one to answer. The reason it’s tough to answer is because everyone who’s ever made it in either business has followed a completely unique path. Which is to say, there is no one “right” way to break into the business. Having said that, a lot of people do have success with writing spec scripts for TV shows that are in production and getting them to the right agents or TV producers. At the end of the day, it IS tough breaking in, but I have always believed that talent will prevail. If you work hard at writing and are talented, you will succeed sooner or later.

Question: Were you present at all on set, while “X-COPS” was being filmed? If so, was everything turning out how you had planned?

Vince Gilligan: Yes, I was! It was a wonderful set to visit. The crew was very happy because the shooting went very quickly. That’s because we shot it all on video, and because of that the shooting days averaged four to five hours, versus twelve to sixteen… which is how long they normally go. The other reason it was great fun being on the set was that most of the sheriff’s deputies you’ll see in the episode were REAL L.A. County sheriff’s deputies. They were a wonderfully enthusiastic group of men and women who brought a level of realism to our episode, which we could have never accomplished with actors. One deputy in particular, a man named Michael Maher, was an officer I got to ride along with during the writing process. Riding with him gave me a real insight into what the deputies do on the job. It was very exciting! Deputy Maher has since become a good friend, and I plan to ride along with him again in the future.

Question: Any official news on whether there will be an 8th season?

Vince Gilligan: I was waiting for that question! 🙂 We’re waiting ourselves. It all comes down to David Duchovny at this point. Once he decides one way or the other, we’ll know whether or not there’ll be an eighth season. He still enjoys playing Agent Mulder, and of course does a wonderful job as always, but it’s up to him to decide whether to do it another year or to move on with his career.

Question: I have a friend who still has nightmares about Leonard Betts. Have you ever frightened yourself with something you’ve written?

Vince Gilligan: That’s a good one… Actually, it does get sort of creepy sometimes, writing these episodes. I’ve creeped myself out on several occasions, writing in my office here on the FOX lot late at night. One time that springs to mind was when I was on a tight deadline to finish the episode “Paper Hearts.” It was about 4 in the morning, and I was the only person on the lot, except for one or two guards. The studio is dark and deserted at that time of the night, much like a ghost town. I remember thinking I was seeing and hearing things just out of the corner of my eye as I would make frequent trips to the bathroom. The frequent trips to the bathroom were of course brought on by all the coffee a writer needs to drink when he’s pounding away at the typewriter at 4 in the morning.

Question: Vince, Hi there. My name is Anthony and I’m a huge fan of yours. I was wondering if there is an address so fans can write you for an autograph? Thanks!

Vince Gilligan: Thank you, Anthony! The best address to send correspondence to is: Ten Thirteen Productions; P.O. 900; Beverly Hills, CA 90213 Of course, there is no official fan club for writers! If we were that good looking, we’d be in front of the camera, not behind it.

Question: What is your favorite “X-Files” episode ever?

Vince Gilligan: I don’t really have one favorite. I don’t really have a favorite movie or type of food either. It’s always so hard to choose just one. I do have MANY favorite episodes, however, some of them include: “Dwayne Barry”, “Colony” and “Endgame” “The Walk” and pretty much anything written by Darin Morgan. Glen Morgan and Jim Wong wrote some great ones too, of course…”One Breath” was a favorite of mine.

TV Guide Online: Thank you Vince, for chatting with us this evening! We enjoyed it and hope you can talk with us again soon!

Vince Gilligan: Thank you so much for signing on! And as always, thanks for watching. P.S.: I’m sorry… I don’t know what “WEEB” is. Of course, if it’s anything Internet related, I am the WRONG person to ask. I barely know how to get my VCR to work. 🙂

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3 Responses to “TV Guide Online: Chat with Vince Gilligan”

  1. […] Gilligan has conceded that working on Paper Hearts unsettled him. Asked if he ever creeped himself out working on the show, Gilligan replied: […]

  2. […] Indeed, even the act of emulating Cops resulted in a cheap and cheerful episode of The X-Files. Despite the episode’s departure from the familiar structures of The X-Files, Vince Gilligan noted that the production of X-Cops went very smoothly for all involved: […]

  3. […] future. Asked about the possibility of an eighth season in February 2000, Vince Gilligan responded, “We’re waiting ourselves.” When the question was addressed to Gillian Anderson in April 2000, she replied, “If I knew… […]