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Atlanta Journal Q & A: Online and on record with 'X-Files' mastermind

Dec-24-1995
Atlanta Journal
Q & A: Online and on record with ‘X-Files’ mastermind
Phil Kloer

Every week, about 16 million viewers in the United States – and millions more around the world – sit down to watch a couple of FBI agents named Mulder and Scully investigate strange phenomena. As “The X-files” has grown from cult hit to mainstream success, creator Chris Carter has found himself increasingly second-guessed by the show’s fans, possibly because the show raises more questions than it answers. During a recent break in production, Carter talked by phone from his office in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the show is produced.

Q: How closely do you pay attention to what fans say or suggest on the Internet?

A: I pay a lot of attention. This year, which has been a very hectic year just getting the work done, I’ve had less time to go on-line. I depend on my assistant to download stuff for me. It’s been an interesting year for online people. There’s a proprietary tone in the air. They feel it’s their show now, not mine.

Q: There’s been a debate as to whether you were incorporating jokes or ideas based on fan postings on the Internet. Have you done that, and why or why not?

A: We have done that. [Chuckles] There was a lot of talk about how Mulder was always losing his gun. So in the episode “Nisei”, Mulder lost his gun, but was carrying a second gun in his ankle holster, as FBI agents do. He said, “I got tired of losing my gun.” So that was a response to people saying Mulder kept losing his guns too easily. At conventions, I get questions like “Why doesn’t Scully drive more?” My response, jokingly, is ’cause she’s a woman. I’m actually going to respond to that. In Episode 13 (in January), I address that little point as well.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about an “X-Files” feature film. Is that going to happen?

A: It will happen. The plan is to shoot it a year from this coming spring and early summer. I don’t know when it would be put in theaters.

Q: Are you writing a script?

A: I’m writing down ideas currently.

Q: Would it be shot in Vancouver?

A: Chances are it wouldn’t be. I think the feature has to give you things you can’t get on a TV series. We’d want to go on location.

Q: Your production company is called Ten Thirteen . Supposedly you called it that because Oct. 13 is your birthday.

A: That’s right.

Q: Then it’s just coincidence that Ten Thirteen is a perfect anagram for “the Internet”?

A: It’s coincidence. It’s interesting, because here’s this show that kind of grew up with the Internet. Well, actually the Internet is 10 or 20 years old. At least it grew up with the online services.

Q: Someone asked if in the opening credits, when you see a man’s distorted face, is that you?

A: It’s not. It was my idea, but it was an assistant to the people who were doing the main titles. Sometimes it feels like my face after a hard episode.

Q: Is there any sort of “Strange Luck” / “X-Files” crossover in the works? [“Strange Luck” airs before the “The X-files”]

A: No, it hasn’t been discussed. Why?

Q: Because at the end of a recent “Strange Luck”, Chance Harper’s brother said, “If anything happens to me, there’s only one person you can trust, an FBI agent named Mulder.”

A: Oh, yeah. They called and asked if they could do that. I just played basketball with [“Strange Luck” star] D.B. Sweeney the other day. Everybody’s up here. We’re on the same lot.

Q: Executive producers frequently create hit shows, then turn them over to other people and move on to other projects. How long do you see yourself maintaining this level of involvement in the series?

A: For the life of the series.

Q: But are you under pressure from Fox to create another show?

A: I am under pressure from Fox. Contractually, I’m obligated to do that. I’m working on something else for fall of ’96. It’s in development.

Q: So tell me all about it.

A: It’s really in the conceptual stages right now.

Q: There’s a lot of back and forth among fans over whether “The X-Files” has gone too mainstream, lost some of its edge, once it started becoming successful. Do you understand the fans’ concern and is it something you think about?

A: There’s a sense that something has been found, poured over and looked at, and what was opened was a wonderful present, but it has now become everybody’s present. The mainstream numbers that we get now, we’ve gained a certain popularity, and some of the people who found it early feel they’re having to share it. I honestly think it’s a lot of people listening to themselves talk. If anything, I think the show has gotten darker. It’s still as subversive as it once was. I still think it’s a cult show.

Q: As you know, there has been a lot of speculation that Scully is Samantha. [Agent Mulder’s sister, Samantha, was abducted by aliens when she was a child and never seen again, causing Mulder to become obsessed with UFO’s. If she were alive, she would be the same age as his partner, Dana Scully.]

A: [Chuckles] People with too much time on their hands.

Q: Can you tell fans that is definitely not the case?

A: That is not the case.

Q: There’s also speculation that Scully is a lesbian and that’s why there have been only fleeting mentions of past romance for her. Is Scully gay?

A: That is not the case either. I hate to answer anything definitely. But Scully is heterosexual.

Q: While romance is not what drives the show, some fans are very interested: Will we ever see her involved with someone?

A: Stay tuned.

Q: At one point in the Clyde Bruckman episode, he tells Scully she won’t die. Are we ever going to learn what that’s supposed to mean? [One of the best episodes this season featured guest star Peter Boyle as Clyde Bruckman, a psychic insurance salesman who could foresee the way his clients would die.]

A: Ummmm. [Long pause.] I think that was peculiar to that episode. People should not take it perfectly literally.

Q: Is there some sort of unifying theory behind all of the UFO’s, aliens, government cover-ups, Cancerman, Mr. X, etc.? [Many episodes deal with an ongoing story that extraterrestrials have been abducting people around the United States for years, and that the government not only knows this but has been cooperating at some still-undetermined level with the aliens, and is covering all this up. This cover-up involves several shadowy figures with no names, so X-philes make up their own names: Cancerman for example, is a guy who smokes a lot.]

A: Roughly I have an idea about where we’re going. I try not to be too rigid about what that idea is. I don’t want to take the straight path to that point. I know the direction I’m headed, but I don’t necessarily know what paths I’m taking to get there. I like it that way.

Q: But at the end of the series’ run, will we finally learn how it all fit together?

A: I think so.

TV Guide: "UNKNOWN"

Nov-03-1995
TV Guide
“UNKNOWN”
Deborah Starr Seibel

“When we first started X-files,” says Anderson, “I was so green. It was only my second time in front of a camera. I desperately needed someone to show me the ropes. And he did that. He was wonderful.”

David Duchovny is not happy. He stands behind Gillian Anderson in a barebones photo studio, resigned to having roll after roll of pictures taken on what promises to be another 16-hour day. Now that The X-Files has been crowned with a Golden Globe for best drama and is emerging from cult status to become a mainstream hit, the world is descending upon Vancouver, British Columbia, where the Fox series is shot and in all the X-citement, everyone wants a piece of the costars.

Anderson, sensing Duchovny’s mood, looks down at his hand on her left shoulder and tries to brush it away, as if it were a mosquito. Then she turns and jumps into his arms, laughing, looking like a little girl making trouble for a protective older brother. Startled to be holding her, the smile on Duchovny’s face is forced no longer. “When we first started X-files,” says Anderson, “I was so green. It was only my second time in front of a camera. I desperately needed someone to show me the ropes. And he did that. He was wonderful.”

Little wonder, then, that Anderson, 25, turned to David again when she was pregnant. It was last winter, they were still in the thick of their first season in a series showing real promise, and Anderson was worried about losing her job. “I went into his trailer,” she recalls, “and I said, ‘David, I’m pregnant.’ It looked like his knees buckled. I think he said, ‘Oh, my God.’ And he asked me if it was a good thing. I said, ‘Yeah, it is.’ “No one else knew, and Duchovny kept it that way for weeks, until Anderson was ready to tell her producers and deal with the professional consequences. “We really trust each other,” Duchovny says simply.

There is, between these two, a real-life camaraderie born of necessity, a friendship strong enough to survive too many work hours, and a chemistry powerful enough to rearrange the atoms on-screen. “Whenever we’re acting together,” says Anderson, “it’s there.” As FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, their sizzle packs a wallop not because of any romantic involvement-which the show carefully avoids-but because their characters’ remarkable brainpower, each is incomplete without the other: He never tires of branding the mind-bending, hair-raising crimes they investigate as paranormal or supernatural. She insists that he root his out-of-this-world theories in science. “It’s just suddenly dawned on me,” says wardrobe supervisor Gillian Kieft, “that the way Mulder and Scully are on-screen is the way David and Gillian are in person. They help each other, they respect each other.”

“But we don’t hang out,” cautions Duchovny, 34. “We are very wary of the fact that at any moment the other can turn into a psychotic human being because of the demands that are put on us, the 16-hour days. So I know when she is very tired and irritable, and she knows the same about me. We have a great respect for the fine line the other is walking all the time.”

They are walking that fine line now, near midnight, at a creepy downtown high-rise construction site. Chilly and damp, Duchovny and Anderson are exhausted but show virtually no signs of the usual Hollywood afflictions: no need for hand-holding by assistants, no entourage, no preening between takes, no temper tantrums. They don’t even seem to understand that they are, in fact, stars. “One of the things about Vancouver is that we don’t have a lot of people hanging around watching us, “says John S. Bartley, the X-files director of photography. He reconsiders: “Or if we do, they don’t get too close. There is something about this city, perhaps a Canadian reserve. They don’t seem to bother people who are famous.”

“Did you see when we won the Golden Globes?” asks hairdresser Malcolm Marsden. “Gillian stood up, and she was in an absolute daze. She just never expected it.” Anderson agrees. “I had no clue about it. I just don’t get it. And ultimately, I think that’s good because it keeps my head small.”

That may change. “The other day,” says David, “a production assistant came up behind me and said, ‘Robin Williams would like to meet you, David.’ And as I was turning, I said, ‘No, he wouldn’t.’ And he was standing right there. And he goes, ‘ Oh, yes he would!’ So that was kind of funny. But you know, it is more satisfying to me to deal with the people who tried to help me a long time ago, who believed in me, who told me to just hang in there.”

Which is what Duchovny and Anderson are telling each other now. They have developed a sort of shorthand communication: few words, very focused, very relaxed. “They both have a quiet side,” says Bartley. “David can be very funny, very sharp. But mostly, he holds back and just watches and listens to the people around him. Gillian shows a little more emotion. She laughs just like a little girl. They are terrific together.”

But no one could have guessed from their rocky beginnings in a tiny audition room at Twentieth Century Fox Television that this twosome would take off. “I already knew I had the part, so I was totally loose,” says Duchovny with Mulder-esque sardonic humor. “This was my room, these were my people, this was my part. I was just fantastic. I wish I’d been that good when the cameras were rolling. So I played the scene in a kind of sarcastic way-much more sarcastic then it was written-and Gillian was just completely thrown by it. I was toying with this person, because Mulder doesn’t really care whether she stays or goes. And she was shock that anybody would talk to her that way.” He smiles at the memory. “That’s exactly how she should have reacted. It was perfect.”

Still, the network needed to be convinced. “They wanted somebody leggier,” says Anderson,” somebody with more breasts, somebody drop-dead gorgeous.” Even after she got the part, she knew-and the crew knew-that she was swimming up-stream.

Marsden chopped the long, wavy, ash blond hair that reached to the middle of her back and turned it into a sleek, strawberry-blonde bob. But that was just a surface alteration – Anderson, an award-winning Off-Broadway actress, also had to learn how to move, how to speak scientific jargon with ease, and how to cope with the crushing demands of an hour-long series.

“In the beginning,” says Marsden, “she had trouble with her lines, and I think it kind of upset David because he is so accomplished. He’s worked in feature files. He’s worked with Brad Pitt. And he can learn his lines”-Marsden snaps his fingers-“like . But I know he appreciates how hard she works.”

Then came the emotional roller-coaster ride of Anderson’s life. Within six months of starting the series, she met and fell in love with Clyde Klotz, then the production designer-a man crew members describe as “very talented, very gentle”-and married him on the spur of the moment on New Year’s Day, 1994, on the 17th hole of a magnificent Kauai golf course (“because that was the most beautiful place we could find on short notice,” says Anderson). Even her hairdresser didn’t know what was going on. “I didn’t have a clue she was getting married,” says Marsden. “It just really stunned me.”

Anderson was a little stunned herself. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the happy couple conceived their daughter, Piper, who is now 6 months old. on their wedding day. When Anderson got back to the mainland, she says, “I was at a party that Fox gave for at a Burbank Airport hangar, and there were fortune-tellers. So I sat down, and the fortune-teller said to me: ‘You are going to have a little girl soon.’ And I said, ‘I am not!’ A month or so later, I started feeling nauseous.” And happy. And very, very worried. A pregnancy would mean limitations on her work schedule and missing episodes – no one could predict how many – in the second season. “I knew I needed to make my decision about the pregnancy first, before broaching the subject with the producers,” says Anderson. “I couldn’t be wavering. Having this baby was the right decision for my husband and me. But it was like, ‘Oh, my God. They did all this for me and now look what I’m doing to them.’ So many things go through your mind. So yes, I was worried.”

Apparently with good reason. According to several sources, executive producer Chris Carter was not pleased. “He went ballistic,” says one source. “He wanted to get rid of her.” Two other insiders back up that claim. “They were considering recasting,” confirms Anderson. “I heard a lot of stuff through the grapevine, and it was not comforting.”

Not so, says Carter. “I never, ever considered replacing her. It’s a lie. If anything, I was the loudest voice saying: We have to protect this show and this person. Scully and Mulder are two characters that the audience has invested in, they are the secret to the success of the show, and we have to find a way to make this work.”

How did all of this affect Anderson? “She’s grown up,” says wardrobe supervisor Kieft. “Getting married and having the baby has matured her, I think, and given her a bit of stability. When she was pregnant, we did have a bed standing by, and whenever we could, we would get her to lie down. But she is quite a strong little person.” In fact, Anderson missed only one episode and was back to work – after an emergency C-section – in just 10 days. “I was getting restless,” says Anderson. “I wanted to get back to work because it was really hard on David, and it’s the two of us up there, you know?”

In the meantime, Duchovny – whose pre-X-Files career included the feature films “The Rapture,” “Chaplin,” and “Kalifornia” – had his own crosses to bear. For this sometimes homesick New Yorker, the idea of living in Vancouver for at least five years is not heaven on earth. “There are some days,” says Duchovny, “when it is really a terrible prospect to me. I never imagined myself on a television series because I always imagined hopping from one glorious movie to another. When we were signing contracts to do the pilot, my agent said, ‘You really have to think about what you are getting into.’ And I said, ‘I have thought about it.’ But I never thought about it. Because I didn’t know how hard it would be.”

Making matters worse is the fact that his girlfriend, actress Perrey Reeves, still lives in Los Angeles – “although I’m not sure I’d see any more of her if she lived up here,” he says. Duchovny, who dreams of one day “having a wife and three kids,” consoled himself by becoming the proud owner of a fluffy Border collie/terrier mix he named Blue – for the Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue.” “The idea was that she would help me with my blues,” Duchovny says. “People think that you listen to the blues when you are sad, but actually, the blues kind of help alleviate sadness. It was a totally selfish thing.” Did it work? “Oh yeah,” he says, as he pets her and her tail goes crazy. “She’s a living thing. And training her is like training for being a dad. I see aspects of myself in the way that I handle Blue that I would want to curb a little bit when I have a child. I don’t get fed up, but sometimes I don’t want to give her all the time that she needs, you know? I’ve got a dog staring at me every morning saying, ‘ Let’s go play Frisbee.’ And I have to say, ‘Don’t you know how hard Daddy works?'”

Mommy’s pretty busy, too. Anderson heads back to her trailer immediately after each shot to check on her baby girl, who’s now sleeping. “I have had the best over this past year,” whispers Anderson. “And , I am beat. I have thought that all of was too much. But having Piper has saved my life.” How? “It took the focus off of me and put it on something much more important.”

A knock on the door and it’s time for another take. Anderson hurries back to the dank basement of a high-rise, where Duchovny is waiting. “You OK?” he asks her. “Fine,” she smiles. Just like Scully and Mulder. And the camera isn’t even rolling.

People Online

Oct-09-1995
People Online

[Picture] Chris Carter (left, with director of photography John Baxter) oversees a typical X-Files set–a morgue.

For many X-Files fans, a first taste of this strange, compelling show has led to addiction. Always scary, often creepy and sometimes just plain mysterious, The X-Files has grown since its 1993 debut from a cult favorite into a mainstream phenomenon. The series was Fox’s top-rated program the week of its Sept. 22 premiere, kicking off a third season with its largest audience yet (30 million). Like Star Trek, X-Files has spawned novels, comic books, T-shirts (emblazoned with the show’s motto, The Truth Is Out There), coffee mugs, conventions and Internet bulletin boards. (Online fans call themselves X-Philes.) Though the script isn’t finished, there’s an X-Files film planned. Good bets to attend the premiere: avid fans Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg.

While the show’s bizarre plots reflect Carter’s entertainingly paranoid vision–inspired, he has said, by the ’70s occult series Kolchak: The Night Stalker –much of The X-Files’ appeal, and edge, comes from the onscreen chemistry between the stars. Fox Mulder, played by Duchovny, is an FBI agent obsessed with Things Beyond the Pale ever since his kid sister was whisked away by aliens. His FBI superiors, concerned that he has gathered too many moonbeams in his jar, have teamed him with Dana Scully, a forensic physician and professional skeptic played by Anderson. They become allies, but never lovers. (About the names: Fox, as any X-Phile knows, was a boyhood friend of Carter’s; Mulder was the maiden name of Carter’s mother; and Scully comes from Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.)

Series creator Carter couldn’t be happier with his cast. Anderson, he says, “has an intensity that makes her perfect as Scully.” And Duchovny? “A clear, quick mind, an intelligence beyond book smarts,” says Carter. “And a tremendous amount of personal magnetism.”

Starlog: X-Writers

Oct-??-1995
Starlog
X-Writers
Paula Vitaris

For Glen Morgan and James Wong, the truth isn’t out there. It’s in their word processors.

They lurk in the shadows, out of sight, silently watching to see if they can scare you, shock you and send you to bed with disturbing dreams. Could it be a case for those pursuers of the paranormal, The X-Files’ Fox Mulder and Dana Scully?

Well, no. The lurkers are two guys from sunny San Diego, California – Glen Morgan and James Wong, scriptwriters and co-executive producers for the Fox Network’s The X-Files, and lying low, says Morgan, is just what he and Wong should be doing. “Writers belong in some dark corner, watching,” he says, paraphrasing novelist Charles Bukowski – a fitting observation for a man who, together with longtime friend and writing partner Wong, concocts spooky stories about killer mutants, extraterrestrials and sinister government agents.

Morgan and Wong’s work has been so well-received in their year and a half with The X-Files that they have emerged from the anonymity in which many television writers exist to find their episodes anxiously awaited by the show’s fans, with their entries consistently winning computer bulletin board popularity polls. “It’s nice and it’s flattering,” Morgan says, but a following, especially an online following, is “a hell of a lot of pressure,” he sighs. Now that he has become acquainted with fans via computer. “It’s harder. It has gone beyond just an audience thing.”

What typifies a Morgan-Wong episode? “They’re gorier,” quips Morgan, the wise-cracking half of the duo to Wong’s straight man. In addition to the occasional rise in body count, one can count on a Morgan-Wong story to combine memorable dialogue for FBI Special Agents Mulder and Scully with a gripping plot. But Morgan sees another side to their writing. “Jim and I are more character-oriented,” he says, “Maybe Chris Carter would have a more epic show with spaceships and fire, but we focus on people.” They look to episodes like their favorite, “Beyond the Sea,” which links a personal story about Scully coping with her father’s death to the search for a serial killer, as an example of how to mix character development with an absorbing storyline.

Their sources of ideas are varied. Sometimes the impetus for an episode is comments from their audience on the computer networks or in letters, sometimes it’s a real-world event or interesting science fact described in a book, magazine or newspaper article. Sometimes they just throw out an idea and toss it back and forth until it turns into a story. They do some research, but Wong notes, “We’ll always lean towards whatever will best fit the story and the theme versus what’s the actuality in science. It’s important for us not to be so science-ignorant that we ignore the truth, but we’re not as concerned with the reality of that science as with what’s exciting, what’s scary. We take reality into consideration, but it doesn’t stop us from doing things that are wrong. ”

The writers themselves are not believers. Wong says he knows “there are people who believe,” and Morgan adds, ” I want to believe’ is like, ‘I want to believe in UFOs’. I don’t really. What we’re doing is what Chris likes to do: ‘weird science,’ that edge of science we haven’t figured out yet.”

Morgan and Wong are also responsible for producing the episodes they write. “On this series, it’s very much that whoever writes the episode, produces the episode. ”

“In pre-production, we cast,” Wong adds. “We’re allowed about three or four guest artists from Los Angeles. Then, we go up to Vancouver and approve the local casting. we talk to the director, look at locations and make sure they fit in with how we think the show should look. We approve the props and the wardrobe, and every element of the show, or at least we’re familiar with it. The biggest thing we do in pre-production is to have a tone meeting with the director, where we talk about what we would like and hope to see, and what his feelings are. We’ll either say, ‘That’s a great idea’ and do it that way, and in post-production, if it’s a very well-cut show, we just make minor adjustments. Otherwise we make major changes in reshooting.” Morgan and Wong also work closely with composer Mark Snow in spotting the music cues. “We’ve had the freedom to do the things we want to do,” Wong says. “We haven’t had the bad luck of having an idea we really wanted to do and not being able to do it. So what you see is what we wanted.”

Their first entry for The X-Files was “Squeeze,” the first non-UFO episode, with Mulder and Scully chasing down Eugene Tooms, the liver eating, elastic-limbed mutant from Baltimore. The shoot was a difficult one. “I felt the director had no respect for us or our ideas,” Wong says. “In fact, he had no respect for the script. He didn’t shoot coverage and we didn’t like the dailies that were coming back. Ultimately, we had to go back up and reshoot some coverage, shoot a scene he didn’t shoot, and add a lot of inserts to make it work. I’ll always be disappointed because of what it could have been, but I think it turned out OK.”

Despite these problems, the episode got high marks from fans, and Eugene later returned in “Tooms,” the first season’s only sequel. “We liked him a lot,” Wong notes of the character, who was voted Best Villain by X-Files fans on the American OnLine computer network. He and Morgan felt another Tooms episode would be their chance to do right by him. “The fans liked him and he was scary and we decided to finish him off.” Wong says, “That was the show that David Nutter directed. We thought, ‘What a perfect combination.’ We get Tooms -we like the character and the actor, and we had a great experience with David.”

One scene in “Tooms” raised the vague possibility that someday there might be more between Mulder and Scully than just a working relationship, but Morgan and Wong are opposed to any romance between the two. “We don’t see them having a relationship beyond the professional one,” Wong says.

X-Informers

Another very popular Morgan-Wong episode is ‘Ice,’ set at a science station in storm-swept Alaska. A locked-room, small ensemble piece, unusual for the X-Files, the story about a prehistoric alien worm discovered in ice core samples wound the dramatic tension up to an almost unbearable level, with Mulder and Scully even facing off against each other, guns drawn. Ironically, the excitement stemmed from a very mundane origin. “Our shows were going over budget and we needed to do a show that was more contained,” says Wong. “There was an article in a science magazine that said they were drilling down in Greenland to get to the ice cores. We thought, ‘That’s perfect. What if we do that?’ Because it’s the FBI, we decided to set it in Alaska to get jurisdiction.”

They were quite happy with the episode, and particularly loved the huge set designed by Graeme Murray, who had just joined the production staff. “It was much bigger than we thought,” Morgan says, adding that on film it nonetheless conveyed a sense of claustrophobia. Inevitably, fans have compared “Ice” to the two film versions of The Thing, and although Morgan and Wong admit there are similarities, they tried to avoid comparisons.

“E.B.E.,” one of the first season’s most exciting UFO yarns, shed some murky light onto Mulder’s enigmatic informant Deep Throat and his possible motivations. The inspiration again came from the show’s online fans, who sought more information on the character. The two writers also wanted to know more about Deep Throat, and first wrote the scene where Deep Throat confesses a past crime to Mulder. “The episode is built from that last scene,” Morgan reveals. “Deep Throat says he killed an alien, but you never know whether he’s lying or not. Everyone will ask, ‘Is he lying or not?’ I think that worked.” Morgan and Wong had other ideas for Deep Throat that never developed beyond the talking stage, like Scully investigating Deep Throat in an effort to find a missing Mulder, or a story involving the government’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. Killing Deep Throat in the series’ first-season finale, they say, was Carter’s decision. “That was a tough hole to fill,” Morgan admits. “Jerry Hardin was very good. Hopefully, we’ll come up with somebody or something to fill that.” (A new informant, “Mr. X. ” has emerged during the second season) .

All episodes are not written for what Morgan refers to as “the modern crowd,” nor are they sparked by a story that intrigues him and Wong. “Shadows,” a ghost story, came about at the request of a network executive who wanted to see a poltergeist tale. Morgan doesn’t regard the result with much fondness. “It was a little too ordinary. You’ve seen it before,” Morgan says. Wong notes that their original idea, once they agreed to write the episode, was a bit more shocking than what ended up on screen. “We started thinking about a masseuse in one of those sleazy places,” he confesses, but by the time the script was shot, their haunted masseuse had become a secretary.

Conversely, their favorite episode, “Beyond The Sea,” with a blistering guest performance by Brad Dourif as a psychic death row convict had a tough time getting network approval. “They nixed it twice until Chris marched into the office and said, ‘We’re doing it,'” Morgan recalls. He had recently read a book with some startling statistics about the number of women who see the spirits of husbands and sons soon after their deaths, and around the same time, several fans had written messages criticizing Scully’s character. They decided the fans had a point.

“We thought Gillian Anderson needed to show off her talents more,” Wong says, “And this was a perfect opportunity to dispel those notions that Scully will never believe. It was time for the character to grow, because she was just doing the same kind of thing too often.” The result was a story where Anderson could finally let out all the stops, and bring some humanity to Scully.

X-Assistants

Morgan, an admitted “TV kid, ” and Wong, whose parents wouldn’t let him watch television, have been friends since their high school days together in San Diego. They both attended Loyola Marymount University, with Morgan enrolling as a film studies major and Wong as “an engineering major for the first semester, before I realized that Glen was having all the fun” and he switched to film. After college, they went to work as production assistants for Sandy Howard, producer of B-movies like Vice Squad, Meteor, and Angel. When not fetching coffee, they found time to help some friends who were making a rock and roll horror film called Trick or Treat. Morgan, who had done some acting in college, stepped in front of the camera to play the protagonist’s best friend, but his advice to fans who want to search out the video is: “Don’t Watch IT! !”

When they were given the opportunity to take on more responsibility by cutting trailers for Howard’s overseas markets, they felt it was time to make a change. “The career path of a production assistant was really limited, ” Wong says. “We were friends, and we decided to try to write together. After work, we started writing a treatment that we thought Howard would be interested in. We got his attention with our treatment and he allowed us to rewrite an old script.” That script was shot, but the movie, The Boys Next Door, flopped, not to Morgan and Wong’s surprise.

They survived the next four years by writing movie scripts, all unproduced. After the writers’ strike in 1988 their agent suggest they write for television, and they joined the staff of a short-lived crime show called Nightwatch. From there, they went to Stephen Cannell Productions, primarily working on 21 Jump Street and later The Commish, but also contributing to Wiseguy and Booker.

Nearly five years later, Morgan and Wong were anxious to try something different from Cannell’s diet of action and suspense, and they had more or less agreed to join the writing staff of the Columbia Television romance/adventure Moon Over Miami. Then Peter Roth, whom they had known at Cannell and was now president of 20th Century Television, asked them as a favor to watch the pilot of the X-Files.

“We sat down and watched The X-Files and we wanted to hate it,” Morgan remembers. “We kept waiting for it to fall apart, and then when it was over, we looked at each other and said, ‘Uh oh…this is pretty good. Look. We’ll go home, we’ll watch the Moon Over Miami pilot, that will be really good too, and this problem will be behind us.’ We watched the first five minutes of Moon Over Miami, we looked at each other and went ‘Uh oh this is pretty bad.'” The choice was clear; they wanted to write for the X-Files. “Columbia yelled at us a great deal,” Morgan says wryly.

The appeal of the X-Files pilot lay in “the tone of the show and the leads,” says Wong. “David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are great on the screen. They draw your attention, whereas the Moon Over Miami leads didn’t. In television, it’s so important that you like the characters, and that you come back week after week to watch them.”

X-Agents

With the second season underway, there are new stories to tell. The season premiered with ‘Little Green Men,’ a Morgan and Wong script that found the X-Files shut down, and Mulder and Scully separated and reassigned. Originally, the idea had been to send Mulder to Moscow, with Carter writing the script, but that did not pan out. After some discussion, Carter told Morgan and Wong they could write the season opener. “It was a very nice gesture on Chris’ part in boosting our confidence and telling us how much he appreciates us,” Wong says.

The challenge was how to structure the show around Anderson, who was now pregnant. The solution: shut down the X-Files in the first-season finale, which would allow for less screen time for Anderson during the first few second-season segments. That, says Morgan, is “what you would normally do in a third year. In a second season, historically, you take your concept and drive it home. We should deliver what new viewers heard about the first season.”

“This is usually done to invigorate a series,” Wong adds. “Because we’re doing it now, it has given us the challenge of trying to woo new audiences, while at the same time, keep the old. I think we’ve done a good job of not changing that much. In some ways, this has given us a fresh outlook on what the X-Files should or could be.”

Morgan and Wong finally wrote their SETI episode for ‘Little Green Men’ with Mulder traveling to the SETI installation at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, hoping to find evidence of extraterrestrials. “I always wanted to do something with the SETI background,” Morgan says. “I hope that kids at school check out SETI, because it was factual as to what exists.” But the episode was about more than the SETI program. With Mulder undergoing a crisis of self-doubt, wondering if he has been chasing illusions, Morgan says one of the themes he and Wong wanted to convey is “the idea that we all have to fight our own little green men and carry on.”

Their second effort this year was “Blood,” an episode Wong calls “our attempt at portraying how some of these spree killers might have gotten their ideas.” In this case, the ideas were transmitted through the digital displays of machines and household appliances. “As we wrote,” Morgan explains, “we were thinking, what do you have in your house that you’re going to deal with every day that scares you? ‘Blood’ is very visual. Jim and I used the least amount of dialogue possible, because the episode deals with people receiving messages and looking at things. The fourth act is really intense, and William Sanderson, who plays Funsch, did a great job.”

Morgan and Wong wrote two additional episodes for the first half of the second season. “One Breath” resurrected Scully, who supposedly had been killed in an earlier episode. Fortunately for Anderson, who had given birth to daughter Piper the week before shooting began, her scenes were confined to a hospital bed, as Scully was in a coma and surrounded by life support equipment. Morgan says the writers attempted in every way to ‘take it easy’ on Anderson, who he describes as “just about the sweetest person on Earth.”

Morgan hoped “One Breath” would be on the same level. as of “Beyond the Sea.” “We wanted this episode to have something a little more uplifting and positive and spiritual,” he says, noting that this script introduced a sister for Scully played by actress Melinda McGraw, who worked with the team on The Commish. “Jim and I are friends with Melinda. She’s a wonderful actress, and we wanted to write something for her.”

The final Morgan-Wong show for the first half of the season, number 14, would deal with false memories and mass hysteria involving a possible case of devil worship. Morgan notes that computer fans have been asking, “When is Scully going to be right? When is there going to be a hoax? We thought this would be a good time to do it.”

For the moment, Glen Morgan and James Wong are far from the investigative arena examined in the X-Files. They’re now running their own TV show, Space: Above and Beyond. This new SF series chronicles the adventures of a group of young Earth heroes now engaged in intergalactic war. Their future ambitions also include writing features. But whatever they’re working on, they hope to do it together. “Like Scully and Mulder,” Morgan says, “we get something from each other.”

Cinefantastique: The writing and producing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong on helping define Carter's vision

Oct-??-1995
Cinefantastique
The writing and producing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong on helping define Carter’s vision
Paula Vitaris

The writing and producing team of Glen Morgan and James Wong spent a year and a half on The X-Files before departing to create their own show for Fox (the upcoming Space: Above and Beyond), but during their time on staff they gave birth to some of the X-Files’ most memorable moments and characters. The Lone Gunmen, Tooms, Luther Lee Boggs, Skinner and William, Margaret and Melissa Scully are all Morgan and Wong creations. Their episodes also helped to define The X-Files as not just about UFOs and aliens, and they expanded the characters by developing their backstories and shedding light on their motivations in such episodes as “Beyond The Sea,” “E.B.E,” and “One Breath.”

Morgan and Wong also brought to The X-Files their talents in the post-production process, with Wong in particular acknowledged by the X-Files staff as a master of editing (an assessment Morgan is the first to agree with). Paul Rabwin, who supervises The X-Files’ post production, worked closely with Morgan and Wong in all aspects of the post process. “Jim and Glen are perfect editing team,” he said. “They each trust their partner’s instincts. I’ve seen them run a problematic episode, zero in on the offending problem, and turn it around. The natural cinematic flow of drama comes naturally to them. They love sound effects and music: it’s exciting to watch them ‘finish’ an episode. The Satanic atmosphere which they created in ‘Die Hand Die Verletzt’ was chillingly simple; most producers would’ve gone for the jugular, but they went for the cerebellum.”

The X-Files was Morgan and Wong’s first genre show. Friends since high school in San Diego, they studied film at Loyola Marymount University and then went to work as production assistants for producer Sandy Howard, whose output included Angel, Vice Squad, Meteor and the like. They saw a movie script produced – The Boys Next Door, directed by Penelope Spheeris and starring Maxwell Caulfield and Charlie Sheen – but they were not particularly happy with the result. After four lean years of writing more movie scripts, all unproduced, they moved into television, and joined Stephen Cannell Productions in 1989. Their time with Cannell was a productive one (Wong described it as “our graduate school”), where they absorbed everything they could about the craft of writing and producing for television. The shows they wrote for Cannell include Wiseguy, Booker and the obscure Disney/Cannell co-production, The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage (which starred Steven Williams, the future X), but their longest tenures were on 21 Jump Street and The Commish. Anxious to try their hand at something other than cop and action shows, they were on the verge of joining the writing staff of Moon Over Miami, when Peter Roth, president of 20th Century Television, asked them to watch a tape of The X- Files’ pilot. Immediately they knew this was the show they really wanted to write for.

“Die Hand Die Verletzt,” Morgan and Wong’s last episode, began and ended with messages to some of their favourite people. Die-hard fans of the San Diego Chargers, the two decided to show public support for the Super Bowl underdogs by changing their producer credits on the episode to read “James ‘Chargers’ Wong” and “Glen ‘Bolts Baby!’ Morgan.” And in the episode’s final scene, the message on the blackboard read, “It’s been nice working with you” – their farewell to cast and crew. “It just seemed perfect,” said Wong. “We wanted to make it fit within the show and for us, personally. I’m really happy with that.”

During Morgan and Wong’s last week on The X-Files, before they turned their attention full-time to their new show, they reflected on their time in the world of the paranormal. “We spent as much time as we could making it as perfect as we could. The attention to detail was so great because nobody was pushing us to turn over the show,” says Wong. Morgan attributed that artistic freedom to creator Chris Carter. “He really established, long before anybody else was here, that that was how it was going to be. He put his foot down when the money guys were going, ‘You’re done, move on.’ Chris will do that. He’s the one who established that’s how The X-Files was going to go.”

Writing for The X-Files, concluded Wong, “has been a great opportunity for us. We really are proud of the shows that we’re done and it’s been a great experience.

Cinefantastique: Family Ties

Oct-??-1995
Cinefantastique
Family Ties
Paula Vitaris

The show’s basic premise turns on a family tragedy, tracing Mulder and Scully’s backstory.

I once had the opportunity to ask what Glen Morgan thought about Chris Carter killing off Melissa Scully, because personally, that REALLY pissed me off! He told me that most networks have what’s called “character payments”. If a character that a writer created returns in another episode, they get a couple hundred bucks. This doesn’t happen on FOX, so there goes any cash for the Lone Gunmen, Skinner, Tooms, Scully’s Ma…etc. “If we did get character payments, I would have been more bummed that they killed Melissa. Now I just feel bad for Melinda who is a wonderful actress and a really nice person … sorry if I sound greedy but it’s sort of joke between Jim and I.”

Anyways, just thought I’d share that little anecdote since this article was written before Melissa’s unfortunate demise. – Sensation

Although the main focus of The X-Files is the cases Mulder and Scully solve every week, the show’s basic premise turns on a family tragedy, the disappearance of Mulder’s sister, Samantha. Although the writers have wisely refrained from overplaying Mulder’s quest for Samantha, it is inevitable that they (and the viewers) would want to see both Mulder’s and Scully’s families worked into the storylines. Mulder’s parents did not appear until late in the second season, in the two-parter “Colony/Endgame” and the finale, “Anasazi,” but viewers met Scully’s family early on in the series with the first season’s “Beyond the Sea”, and subsequently in the second season’s” Ascension” and “One Breath”. Even though their presence has been brief overall, Scully’s family has become much loved by the show’s audience.

The conception for “Beyond the Sea” originated with a desire on the part of scripters Glen Morgan and James Wong to write a “Scully episode” with the goal that such a story would both highlight Gillian Anderson’s acting ability, and humanize the dour Scully. They believed the best way to achieve that was to tie the episode’s X-File case to her in a personal way: by introducing her parents and having her father die before the teaser ended, and then linking her need to speak once more with her father to a psychic prisoner on death row.

Morgan recalled that, “In the pilot, Scully mentioned that her parents didn’t want her to become an FBI agent. We found that interesting. So many people want their own lives, and yet need their parents to accept that life, and we thought it seemed to be a common phenomenon around us. So we put it into the story and hoped it would connect with people. And we thought maybe Scully’s parents lived in Washington. And if they live in Washington, what could her father do? It was kind of obvious to us he was in the government and we put him in the military. Then we thought, ‘OK, he has to be a higher rank, a Navy captain’s kind of neat. And we just worked backwards from that.”

Director David Nutter cast Don Davis, familiar to genre viewers as Major Briggs in Twin Peaks, as William Scully, and Sheila Larken as Margaret Scully. “Scully needed to have a father and mother both of real strong qualities and charisma and three dimensions,” he said. “I felt that Don David and Sheila Larken would bring the required weird to the parts.”

Davis, who has a Ph.D. in theater, moved to Canada in 1981 to teach in the theater department of the University of British Columbia. He started doing extra work during the summers, and eventually found himself doubling for Dana Elcar in Macgyver He won a leading guest role in that show, with more series work to follow, and was able to give up teaching for full-time acting. Nutter had worked with Davis previously on several shows, including Broken Badges, and called him personally to ask him if he would accept the role of William Scully, despite its brevity.

“The character is very similar to Briggs on Twin Peaks,” Davis noted. “William is a military man who, although he loved his child deeply, was unable to verbalize that love until it was too late. It was very much along the line of the Major Briggs character, that this was a guy who was at the top of his field and the way he showed his love to his family was to give his children an example to follow and to provide them with great security. That’s kind of where I started off from with the character.”

Although William had died, on The X-Files anything can happen, and he reappeared in “One Breath” to deliver to the comatose Scully the paternal message she had longed for in “Beyond the Sea”. David said that director Bob Goodwin’s concern was that his monologue would not “become maudlin. He wanted me to be on the verge of being overcome, but he didn’t want it to happen. He wanted the character to be strong, to be very much the man that had fathered Dana. So what I tried to do was to show a man holding himself in, a man who was filled with emotion but who, as a military man, controlled the emotion. We did a few takes and each time Bob was bringing me down.”

In between “Beyond the Sea” and “One Breath” David made an uncredited, off screen appearance as a dialogue coach for “Miracle Man.” As a native of the Ozark Mountains region, and a former theater professor, he lent his expertise to the guest cast to help them properly pronounce Southern accents.

Scully’s mother Margaret was portrayed by actress Sheila Larken, and in the X-Files world, where almost everyone has a hidden agenda, Larken’s maternal warmth and sincerity was a bright spot within all the bleakness. David Nutter had met Larken when he auditioned her for his 1985 film Cease FIRE, and although he didn’t cast her, she made an impression on the director.

Larken’s husband, X-Files’ co-executive producer Bob Goodwin, mentioned her at one point to Nutter, and Nutter immediately thought of her for Margaret. “She was perfect. She was the one, and I hired her.”

Larken was reluctant to take on the role of Margaret Scully. The New York native had left acting several years ago and had obtained a master’s degree in clinical social work. But after moving to Washington state with her husband, X-Files’ co-executive producer Bob Goodwin, she found herself busy with acting offers. Her hesitation stemmed, she said, from her own father’s death the year before from a heart attack.

“It wasn’t really something I really wanted to do or pull up,” she said. “But I did it anyway. I never thought the part would repeat. My interpretation when I did that scene at the funeral was of a woman so involved with her own pain, she couldn’t even react to what her daughter was asking her. And they allowed that, even though the daughter was the lead in the show.”

Larken saw Margaret as “a military wife, married before I graduated college, someone who never gets to finish her college degree or find a career for herself, but mainly gets enmeshed in her family. You know, the Everymother. Part of her emergence in becoming self-sufficient was during the course of this show with Dana. I think Margaret is ever-evolving. ”

Larken’s favorite scene came in “Ascension, ” when Margaret and Mulder meet at a park and talk about the missing Scully. “You explore a scene and try to find what you’re thinking, and what you’re not thinking, and that one just jelled together. There were just so many little itsy-bitsy things that came together and they came together on camera.” She found working with Anderson and Duchovny to be a particular treat. “Their depth is multi-layered. A lot of times you work with actors, and when you look into their eyes, they’re a blank. You’re working alone. But when you get to work with Gillian and David, whatever you send is received and vice versa.”

Larken said that as Margaret she usually does not draw on her own experience as a mother, because “it’s almost too vulnerable to let in. ” She did admit to an exception: “There’s one scene where being a parent did work. In ‘One Breath’ where Margaret says to pull the plug on her daughter, Mulder doesn’t want her to do it. He moved away on me, and I called him his first name. I just went, ‘Fox!’ I could hear that ‘mother’ voice. And David stopped cold, he stopped in his tracks. It was like the voice of every mother; in that sense, the mother did come through.”

The arrival of Scully’s sister Melissa, in ‘One Breath’ was an unexpected one. Scully’s two brothers, of whom she spoke in ‘Roland,’ were glimpsed in “Beyond the Sea” and were seen as children in a flashback of ‘ One Breath.’ Yet the sibling who turned up in that latter episode was a previously unheard of sister, Melissa, played by Melinda McGraw. McGraw, who had trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, had spend several years as Syd Madison on The Commish, where she had become friends with Morgan and Wong, and they had wanted to write a part on The X-Files specifically for her. “Melissa was someone who had to understand Scully and yet be different to challenge Mulder’s actions,” said Morgan. “Who better than a mother or a sister? Considering where Mulder was at that time, we thought it would be interesting to see Mulder’s reaction to a believer of ‘positive’ ideas. So, again, it was a character that was created from the needs of Mulder and Scully’s characters. Most importantly, we wanted to write a good part of Melinda McGraw, with whom we shared a frustrating time on The Commish.”

Coincidentally, McGraw said, she brought up the idea of making Melissa a psychic, and found Morgan and Wong had already had the same thought. McGraw enjoyed playing a softer role after several years as a police detective. “It was really great for me to play a different character,” she said. McGraw felt that Melissa “was the black sheep in this family, probably a very difficult teenager, in trouble, very curious. She experimented, I’m sure, with drugs and boys, was very political and was always a bit left of center and always pretty conscious of developing her psychic ability.”

Morgan and Wong had also played around with making Melissa a girlfriend for Mulder, and although that idea was jettisoned, McGraw said she felt the element of attraction was still there, “Certainly from Melissa’s side. We had talked about that, and I think that for various reasons it wasn’t to be. Mulder had just had a romance the week before (in “3 “). McGraw felt that in the end, it was a good idea that the relationship “didn’t go that far, because that left grounds for something later. I think they wrote Melissa in a neat way, because she wasn’t all pure and light. She had this dark side to her, and this slightly jealous side, of being jealous of Dana.” But, she concluded, there is also a “total love. The bond of sibling love is so intense. It’s an age-old dramatic theme, and it’s one of the greatest loves that human beings have. It’s undeniably bigger than any other connection, because you’ve shared not only the same parents, but the same actual physical experience of being born to that mother.”