Archive for 1995

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.”

Cinefantastique: Making Humbug

Oct-??-1995
Cinefantastique
Making Humbug
Paula Vitaris

Behind the scenes of the show’s popular “comedy of horrors.” We’ve seen some pretty way-out things on The X-Files in the past two years. Morphing aliens, exploding facial boils, possessed kids, and lots and lots of glowing green bugs hungry to drain our body fluids… everything is grist for the gloomy X-Files mill. But nothing could have been a more extreme possibility than what arrived on our TV sets on March 31, 1995: a funny episode of The X-Files.

Funny? The X-Files? Well, why not? Comedy attempts to manage pain and chaos, and from the pilot on, there has always been a streak of wonderfully dry, ironic wit running throughout this very serious show. “Humbug” worked a neat reversal, with the humor, as dry and ironic as ever, finally taking centre stage. Yet the episode remains anchored to a core of sadness, and its X-Files roots, with a tale of sibling love and loss unfolding after prim and proper Mulder and Scully arrive to investigate a murder in a Florida town inhabited by sideshow artists with names like Dr. Blockhead and The Enigma.

Two of the X-Files newest staffers, writer Darin Morgan and director/producer Kim Manners, are responsible for this particular hour of madness, although some of the credit can also be laid at the foot of Morgan’s older brother, former X-Files writer and co-executive producer Glen Morgan. “The word came down from Glen, ‘Do one about circus freaks’ ” recalled Morgan, who immediately sat down to watch a tape of the Jim Rose Circus given to him by his brother.

Morgan’s X-Files debut came not as a writer but as an actor, when he played the Flukeman in “The Host”. He also received a story credit for the subsequent episode, “Blood”. Morgan’s credits previous to The X-Files are sparse. He had guest roles on The Commish and 21 Jump Street – “I wasn’t very good, ” he joked. Taking the job with a show as dark in tone as The X-Files created something of a dilemma for him, because he considers himself primarily a comedy writer: “I just don’t know how to write non-comedy. ”

Handed the assignment to write about characters who could possibly by played by Jim Rose and members of his troupe, Morgan “did a ton of research.” On the history of sideshows and circus freaks. Once embarked upon the script, he found he couldn’t help but write it with a humorous slant. “I wasn’t trying to be goofy,” Morgan said. “I wasn’t told to do a funny X-File. I just wrote an episode that would have enough scares and be strange enough to be an X-File, and where the comedy would be good enough that they would let it slide. And that’s what they did. They said, ‘Okay, we’re going to go with it.'”

Executive producer Chris Carter was ready to “throw a knuckleball” at the audience. “I felt that by episode 44 we had earned the right to take a breather, and that people would appreciate a break from the unrelenting tension and paranoia, ” Carter explained. “And it wasn’t so far afield for The X-Files, even though the tone was different. We were still dealing with rather creepy stuff.”

Carter said the studio was “nervous about Humbug, but probably the most nervous person was director Kim Manners, who confessed to a panic attack when he realized he was about to undertake “the first comedy X-Files.” While the episode was shooting, he had no idea whether it was going to work or not. “This is only the second episode I directed, and Chris Carter wants to explore new ground. And I’m the guy that’s going to take the patient into the operating room and do an entirely unproved operation and see if it’s going to still have a heartbeat when it leaves surgery. And it did. But I was really scared to death. I’ve been directing in television for 16 years and it was the first time since the first episode of television I ever directed that I’ve literally been frightened.”

Manners’ first directing assignment on The X-Files had come earlier in the year when Glen Morgan and James Wong, with whom he had worked on 21 Jump Street, brought him in to directed their final script for the show, “Die Hand Die Verletzt.” That episode had moments of exaggerated humour played as straightforwardly as possible, and Manners’ approach towards “Humbug” was similar. “I felt that the script was funny, and if I played it straight and let the comedy bleed through, it would be genuinely, honestly funny. I tried to stay away from the obvious slapstick and to keep it from being too broad. It was a struggle. The idea was, we better not say, ‘Hey, this is X-Files the comedy.’ What I wanted to do was say, ‘This is X-Files, and it’s a funny episode, so enjoy it for that.”

One scene that illustrated Morgan’s theme of not being able to judge a book by its cover took place in a museum of curiosities. Beautifully shot by Manners and director of photography John Bartley, the sequence allowed the viewer to glimpse the museum curator’s severely disfigured face and hand primarily through reflections from a number of mirrors, or from obscuring angles. Morgan wrote it that way for several reasons, one of which was practical in nature. “I didn’t know how much time [SFX makeup designer] Toby Lindala would have. This was just one scene, and I didn’t want to do too intricate a makeup job, so we did end up showing a little bit more of it that I originally thought we would.” Morgan also didn’t want to “gross people out, to be honest. I didn’t want people to be afraid to look at it. But also, it had to do with people with physical deformities, the idea being that you want to look but don’t want to look -looking by not looking.”

This latter idea also inspired a scene where Gillian Anderson, as Scully and Vincent Schiavelli, who plays Lanny, a man with a “parasitic” or underdeveloped twin attached to his body, encounter each other early in the morning. Their bathrobes are slightly open, and they can’t help but peek at each other. “People look at other people’s body parts, without trying to look like they’re looking,” observes Morgan. “If any man were to see Scully in her bathrobe, and it was slightly ajar, he would glance, but trying to look like he was not glancing. And I believe it’s the same way with people’s deformities. You don’t want to stare, and yet you’re attracted. And so I was playing off those inclinations.”

Some of The X-Files’ online fans read more into Morgan’s gentle spoof than he intended. Although he wanted to “have fun with the viewers’ expectations of the show, Morgan was not responding to any specific audience concerns. For example, in one scene, Mulder falls onto a bed of nails and pronounces it more comfortable than a futon. Fans thought that was a joke referring to a computer conference where Chris Carter had said Mulder sleeps on a futon. Morgan, whose first contact with online computer discussions was a huge sheaf of printouts about “Humbug” given to him by the X-Files staff, said the line “was just a reference to futons. I had no idea there was a question among the viewers as to what Mulder sleeps on!” Another example was the hotel manager’s comments about Mulder’s “unimaginative necktie design.” Said Morgan, “I didn’t know that Mulder normally wears flashy ties. I watch the show and I picked that up, and people commented, ‘Oh, he’s making a joke about the ties,’ but I was not aware that Mulder’s ties were a past topic of discussion.” He added ruefully, “I had no idea I was tapping into the collective unconscious. ”

Although “Humbug” was fraught with dialogue and situations of deadpan hilarity, the characters were always treated with dignity and respect, and when the story called for earnestness, levity was temporarily abandoned. The central scene for both Morgan and Manners was a completely serious one: Lanny’s confession in the jail cell that his underdeveloped twin has the ability to detach himself and has inadvertently killed trying to find a new host to replace the dying, alcoholic Lanny. “I wanted to play that for real compassion and sympathy, and make it an honest, heartfelt moment,” said Manners. “It made me feel good that, in the middle of this carnival of fun, we could give the audience a scene where there was a guy who was really dying of alcoholism. And we showed his pain about this twin brother that he had taken care of, and done everything for – he had nothing in his life because of this brother. And that scene paid off. I felt really good about it.”

Fortunately for an episode set in Florida, most of the shoot took place during weather unusually warm and sunny for winter in Vancouver. Even so, Mother Nature played havoc with the cast and crew. The sideshow artist known as The Enigma, who played a character known as The Conundrum, had to wade for several takes in water close to freezing in temperature. And when the crew arrived to shoot the opening cemetery scene, Manners recalled that “it was Monday morning and it snowed over the weekend, so there was four inches of snow on the ground when we got there in the morning. We had guys with torches who were walking around melting it. We brought in a water truck to wash it away and a steam truck to steam it away, and I had to start the sequence shooting all the close-ups.”

The tight shooting schedule also prevented some scenes from working out to Morgan’s complete satisfaction. His inspiration for the funhouse sequence where Scully shoots out some mirrors was not so much Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai – a film Morgan dislikes – but “every chase through the mirrors” he’s seen in film. A fan of silent era comedy, Morgan greatly admires Chaplin’s funhouse mirror scene in The Circus, and he brought a videotape with him to Vancouver (Morgan was on set for the entire shoot) to show Manners and the art department. The scene ended up much shorter and simpler than what Morgan had hoped for. The filming took place late at night at the end of a 15-hour work day.

“I actually had no time to shoot it, ” Manners said. , “It was time for us to go home. So I planted the camera in one spot; I either had it high or for another shot I had it low, and I tweaked the mirrors, I never moved the camera. We shot the whole sequence in about 45 minutes, because we had to get off the clock. I wish I could say it was a designed sequence, but in television sometimes you can design a sequence and when you get to work and you’re in your 15th hour you take your homework and throw it out the window. You’re now going to tap dance, and that was one of those sequences that was just completely winged.”

Despite the long hours, Manners said everyone enjoyed poking a bit of fun at themselves, and the stars themselves got into the spirit of things. “We all had a good time. It was good for David and Gillian to be able to do the jokes, do the yucks, and not have to be Mulder and Scully, we’re FBI, we investigate the paranormal. It was our version of MAD magazine. David loves to open up his comedic wings. In every episode, he’ll come up with a funny line. So we’ll do what’s scripted, and then we’ll do another take with his comedy lines in it, and oftentimes Chris will say, ‘Let’s use it.’ “One scene had Scully pretending to eat a cricket, and on a dare from Jim Rose, Gillian Anderson actually ate one. When it came time to film the scene she shocked Manners by volunteering to swallow more live insects, even though the producers had spent $2000 on edible honeycomb crickets. A bemused Manners laughed that Anderson was “nuts, absolutely nuts, but then she’s young enough to be nuts.”

Manners allowed the actors to play with different line readings. “I would say, ‘Let’s go a little bigger here, let’s try one a little smaller.’ And I would print two or three takes. I got in the cutting room and I looked at all of them, and even as I was cutting the picture, I was still thinking what would be the best way to go, because I was walking on thin ice.”

Certainly, “Humbug” was an enormous risk for all involved, but The X-Files has always been about taken risks, not only for the characters, who frequently put their lives on the line, but for the producers, who continually experiment with every aspect of the show. “I’m very proud of the episode,” said Chris Carter. But Morgan is characteristically ambivalent; he is “still not sure” how well “Humbug” succeeded.

Is there another humorous X-Files on the way? That’s open to question, but without a doubt, this time the risk paid off with a unique lighthearted and affecting hour of television.

People Magazine: Online conference with Chris Carter

Oct-??-1995
People Magazine
Online conference with Chris Carter

HOST: Good evening everyone! I’m Patrizia DiLucchio, your host, and on behalf of People Magazine I’d like to welcome you all here.

“The X-Files”, now into its third season has gone from a cult hit for folks in the know to a genuine mainstream phenomenon. Not since Rod Serling has the genuinely macabre drawn such an audience. As the creator, producer and sometimes writer/director of “The X-Files”, Chris Carter deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

Welcome Chris!

Just type “hi” to reassure me that yr keyboard is working…

Chris Carter: Hi. Nice to be here.

HOST: Kool!

Chris Carter: hi

Adam: Did you ever watch or read any stuff of Boris Karloff and if so, how did they affect your style of writing?

Chris Carter: All the old horror movies are probably rattling around in my head somewhere. I haven’t be inspired directly.

Yoda: What inspired you to do the X-Files? Was it a current tv show or book?

Chris Carter: I wanted to scare the shit out of people.

Fatsucking Vampire: Will Mulder ever get even with Cancer guy’s assassin for killing his father?

Chris Carter: Stay tuned. Krycek may be coming back sooner than you think.

Alexander Cooper: Did you ever think that the x files would be such a hit ?

Chris Carter: No. But you always have to begin something with the great hope that it will work. I got very lucky.

Chris Williams: Chris, thanks for a great show. There has been much discussion on internet about the parallels in XF with classic literature. Are the similarities of Mulder’s quest with epic quests of classic heroes accidental or intended?

Chris Carter: I was originally inspired by M. Shelley’s Frankenstein, but did not use it directly. I think Mulder fits the mold of the romantic hero, though..

Andrea & Rob: Why has there been so much more gore these past two seasons than there was in the first season? It was scarier, more intense, and more compelling without it.

Chris Carter: I don’t think there has been as much gore as people are saying. We had some maggots in The List, some decomposing corpse in Bruckman. And some gooey stuff in 2Shy. Stay tuned.

Holly: Is production on the show going to be postponed when the filming for the XF movie starts?

Dave Shrader: If you were forced to choose one of your character’s lives to lead, which one would it be?

Chris Carter: I’m going to answer two questions here. First, the movie won’t happen until next year. Second, I would just like to live my own life, thank you.

HOST: Once again, a reminder– To submit a question… either select the question icon or type /question.

Karsten Hormann: Will the X-Files movie mean the end of the TV-series?

Chris Carter: No. The movie will not mean the end of the series..

Katie Of Toronto: Mr. Carter, I heard that Mulder is getting a girlfriend this season, is that true? Thanks I also wanted to say that i really admire your devotion to the show!

Chris Carter: Thank you. Mulder may be getting a girl, but not exactly a “girlfriend.” Stay tuned

Mr Noname/Red 20: What kind of demented people create each individual X-Files episode? They must be really fun to be around!

Chris Carter: We’re all weird and twisted, and one step ahead of the law.

Erin Carter: Considering last week’s episode, are you very involved in the internet?

Chris Carter: Yes. I have cybersex two or three times a day.

IRVIN LIM: To what extent is the X-files related to the government’s own x-files?

Chris Carter: The FBI says it has nothing like the X-files. I refuse to believe that.

Tony: Have you been dropping clues in any recent episodes on things that may pop up again in the future?

Chris Carter: We’re always dropping clues. Watch closely now.

Robin: X-Files has shattered a lot of television paradigms. Are you afraid of the show possibly creating–and succumbing to–it’s own new set of paradigms?

Chris Carter: Holy shit… I have no idea. We just try to keep it smart and scary.

Dmintz: will any stories go into more detail about skinner, the FBI chief?

Chris Carter: Yes. We’ll do a “Skinner” episode later this season.

HOST: Everyone–don’t be shy! Keep those questions coming please. Select the question icon or type /question.

Paul R XXY-FILESl Have you heard of the XXY-FILES parody? If so, what did you think of it?

Chris Carter: I’ve heard of it. I’ve also seen someone’s cartoon parody. I think it’s all pretty cool.

Penelope: Hi. Is it true you are trying to stop the Unofficial X-Files Companion?

Chris Carter: Hi, Penelope. No, I’m not personally. Anyway, it’s coming out.

Alexander Cooper: Have you ever been contacted by the government about the show , and if so how do they feel about it ?

Chris Carter: I’ve talked to the FBI directly. They seem to really like it. Unofficially.

Mike Topf: What prompted you to film in Vancouver, and does the rain ever get to you?

Chris Carter: Vancouver is great. It has the right light and the right look. Those were the primary reasons. Also, there’s a financial incentive. You get more for your money, so more goes on screen.

The Emperor: Hi Chris. Is there any chance that Mulder and Scully will investigate an X-File in Britain?

Chris Carter: I’d love to travel the show. I’d love to find a reason to shoot in London.

Genie: I’ve often heard you should write about what you know, do you know much about the FBI or paranormal happenings?

Chris Carter: I’ve read a fair bit, as you might imagine. Most of our stories come from sources other than those writings you mentioned, however.

Cindy Khoo: My Chinese grandmother oft told me ghostly tales of my ancestors and once swore to me that she saw a dragon’s tail descend from the sky. Would you consider doing an Asian folklore episode or any other foreign ethnic storyline?

Chris Carter: It’s in the works!.

Me.. Naber: With the departure of Sara Charno, do you have any plans to add a female writer to your staff?

Chris Carter: We have a female writer on staff. Her name is Kim Newton. she has written episode number 11 this season..

Chris Williams: You said last time here that you knew what would be in the last few episodes. Without revealing what you have in mind for the series ending, can you tell us if you’ve ever considered a purely tragic ending?

Chris Carter: Yes. I’ve considered it. Hopefully, I won’t have to consider it seriously for a few more years..

Rick Wilson: will fluke man return? on xf tv show

Chris Carter: Flukie may return, but with a new haircut and wardrobe..

Elias Li: How did you get your start in TV? How do you select the directors of your shows?

Chris Carter: I got started as a writer. And yes, I help to select the directors..

Kim: Are we ever going to meet Mulder’s sister, or is this the eternal search??

Chris Carter: Opps… sorry. That last question was how do I select directors. I select them based on their previous work. As for Mulder’s sister, he’ll keep searching, but I’m sure there will be evolution and eventually resolution.

Dave Shrader: What is your impression of Space: Above and Beyond & what @ Fox’s pushing the connection with the X-Files?

Chris Carter: Sorry, I haven’t had time to watch Space. Fox, of course, is going to use anything. It’s going to use anything it can to launch a new show, so the X-files connection was a natural, I guess.

HOST: Here’s the question we’ve all been waiting for…

Mike Kirchhoff: Are you disappointed that David Duchovny lost celebrity Jeopardy to Stephen King last night?

Chris Carter: I’m only sorry for the kids who benefit from that charity he was giving to.

Bob Edison: Is there going to be a conclusion to the season opener. I mean can we hope that cancerman gets his due?

Chris Carter: We have several “arc” shows coming. There will be developments.

Andrea & Rob: Will the movie affect the story line in television episodes that follow it?

Chris Carter: It’s too early to tell. I hope not. I hope the movie makes the series better.

Hilary: Chris, your work is terrific! What are your ambitions/hopes for X-Files over the next couple seasons?

Chris Carter: Thank you. I hope we can continue to keep the quality high, both in storytelling and production value. We work like dogs!

Annette Kirby: Will Darrin McGavin make an appearance on the show?

Chris Carter: I’ve tried to get him twice, but he wasn’t available. We’ll keep trying.

C: Does anyone from the show look at the X-Files forum on CompuServe?

Chris Carter: Yes. We pay close attention to all the on-line stuff.

JMac X-Files: How does a writer get a script to you? Do you take open submissions?

Chris Carter: Submissions through agents only. Sorry.

Scully wanabe: I have really been enjoying the humor and how loose Scully and Mulder have been lately, Do you plan to continue with that?

Chris Carter: Yes. We try and mix it up, keeping a good balance. Thanks for noticing.

BRI/NJ: I have noticed that the writers aren’t afraid to kill off a blind girls mother, or Scully’s sister or Mulder’s father. Does this type of bold writing style cause any problems within the x file writer circle

Chris Carter: Actually, we’ve killed all the writers’ families, too. So, no. It’s not a problem anymore.

HOST: They write better that way anyway…

Bob: Are you aware of any cast members logging onto internet X-File chats under false names?

Chris Carter: No. They’re all too busy!

Brenda: Have you ever seen a U.F.O. or known anyone who has? If so what impact ,if any, has it had on your stories?

Chris Carter: I’ve never seen one, though a bug flew in my salad the other day. I’ve talked to A LOT of people who’ve seen them, though.

Megen: What are your plans for the future? How long do you plan to stick with the x-Files?

Chris Carter: I’ll stick with X-files until the end. My future plans: going surfing.

Autumn Tysko: It’s been a year now since Scully’s abduction and we still know very little. How much longer are you going to terrorize us by dragging this out? We need to know! 😉

Chris Carter: Stay tuned for episodes nine and ten .

Kim Thompson: Do you say “Beep”, or “Meep”? 🙂

Chris Carter: Cheep.

Penelope: Who wrote Deep Throat’s Speech in the Blessing Way? It took me hours to trace the literary references, but it’s nice to have a show on the air that has so much meaning behind it. Keep it up 🙂

Chris Carter: I wrote it. Thank you!

Sybaris: I really like the Lone Gunmen. Will we be seeing much more of them this season?

Chris Carter: They’re coming back… with a vengeance. You’re not a friend of Frohike’s are you?!

Stacey Earley: I am really pleased with the way Scully’s character has been developed this season. Will we see any personal crises (like, crises of faith, not “girl in jeopardy” stuff) materialize for Dana this season?

Chris Carter: You’re psychic. Watch for episode eleven.

Mark Williams: Who lights your show?. I find the use of lighting particularly effective: it really added to the overall atmosphere.

Chris Carter: The fabulously talented John Bartley (not Baxter!) and his amazing crew.

Jeffrey J. Howarth: What about Kolchak and Thomas Harris novels? (as influences)

Chris Carter: Both have been influential. Yes.

Dmintz: Killing off Mulder’s father was quite an irrevocable step. Is he really, really dead?

Chris Carter: Yes. He’s dead, buried… but not forgotten. Stay tuned.

HOST: For late-comers… to submit a question… select the question icon or type /question

Diane: Whose wit is behind Mulder’s sense of humor?

Chris Carter: All the writers, and David Duchovny.

Melissa: The chemistry between Mulder and Scully is great. Will their relationship ever develop into more than just being partners and friends?

Chris Carter: They’ll find out they’re actually third cousins, four times removed.

John: Who will be joining you at the x-files convention in NYC/NJ? Will you be incorporating the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in any future episodes?’

Chris Carter: Ha!!!!! I have tentative plans for NY. Yes, Scully may ask Mulder if he’s ever read Breakfast…

Howard Ball: Hi, Chris. Love the show! Just one thing, though: it often seems that Scully is put into the position of being a “victim”, but this never seems to happen to Mulder to the same degree, and I confess it bothers me – Scully is strong! She shouldn’t be put in this position so often!

Chris Carter: They both get beat up rather equally in my mind. Even if Scully is victimized, she never behaves like a victim, which I believe is the great thing about her.

Karsten Hormann: There’s rumors that people like Whoopi Goldberg want to guest-star on the show. Do you think that guest *stars* will draw the attention away from the story?

Chris Carter: That’s a fear of mine. I don’t want to put a star on if it’s going to take us out of the story.

Susan M.: With Scully’s sister and Mulder’s father gone, do you plan to introduce any new recurring characters?

Chris Carter: There are a few ideas in the works. Stay tuned.

JeffD: Hi. Will John Neville be returning in any of the upcoming episodes?

Chris Carter: I thought John Neville was great. And the crew loved him. I’m sure he’ll be back.

LittleGreenGal: Hi!! I heard that when Scully was abducted in the show and had that micro-chip implanted in the back of her neck, Gillian Anderson was actually pregnant and that you used special effects to cover it up. Is that a fact? P.S. I congratulate you on the success of you awesome show!! Keep it up!!!!

Chris Carter: Thank you. Yes, Gillian was preggy for first half of year two. We just shot around it, no special effects.

cool-one: With the growing popularity of the show, are you planning more involved FX (slime/gore) or do you prefer to leave these to the imagination?

Chris Carter: We do what we can afford and have time to do. It’s about as simple as that.

Me.. Naber: With Mulder getting a girl, will we be seeing Scully having more of a personal life or a date?

Chris Carter: Scully will join a nunnery when she learns that Mulder has strayed.

(Andy): I really loved the last season premier. My mom saw that and she really liked it. But after that came all of the gory stuff. As a result my mom says that now I am not allowed to watch The-x Files. If you could, please make another episode or series like the last season premier.

Chris Carter: Watch the next episodes. They’re not as “gory” though they are scary. Eps nine and ten are much more like one and two.

Host: Tell Mom that Chris gave you permission….

Chris Williams: Chris, TEN THIRTEEN is a perfect anagram (i.e., letters scrambled) for THE INTERNET. We know that’s your birthday, but was the anagram intended or is this an X-File :-)?

Chris Carter: Purely coincidence! I love it.

Host: Chris, your fingers… how are they holding up? How many more answers can you type?

Chris Carter: I’m good to go, babe.

Dave Shrader: With the near-death experiences of Mulder & Scully over the past year, did you feel forced to kill off Scully’s sister to maintain credibility?

Chris Carter: I just thought it worked dramatically. Also, Melinda was going away She got her own sitcom, so it was our last chance.

OVman: How was Gillian Anderson chosen to play Scully and does she have a sister who is also an actress.

Chris Carter: Gillian Anderson IS Dana Scully. She has a sister, but she’s younger, not an actress as far as I know.

Ruth Sumuel: Is there a particular episode that stands out as your favorite?

Chris Carter: Several. Beyond the Sea, Ice, E-Flask, D. Barry, this season I like.

Mary Paster: Rumors about a girlfriend for Agent Mulder have a lot of fans worried that this will ruin the “sexual tension” between him and Agent Scully — can you tell us anything about it to calm our fears?

Chris Carter: Is that Mary Paster, Donnie’s sister? About Mulder’s girlfriend… don’t worry, I won’t let anything “ruin” Mulder and Scully.

Kathy Summers: I enjoyed the episode around the “face” on Mars. Do things in the NASA press releases, astronomical events such as the eagle nebula photo or upcoming Galileo encounter with Jupiter ever trigger episode ideas?

Chris Carter: Ummm… that is actually one of our most unloved episodes. Astro stuff figures into an upcoming episode.

Cm: How did M & S get out of the cave on the season opener. It seemed like a fortress going in but more like leaving a movie theater going out.

Chris Carter: They snuck out the back door! The secret “alien” entrance.

Scully wanabe: Do you know what the Storyline is for the movie yet? And is everybody on the s how going to be in it. I hope it has something to do with Samantha

Chris Carter: It’s all hush hush. David and Gillian will be in it.

Eowyn /question: Do you have a story arc about Samantha or are you making it up as a good idea comes along. Is Scully going to turn out to be his sister? Are you going to do a Twin Peaks cross over?

Chris Carter: The Samantha thing is vague in my mind. Scully is NOT Mulder’s sister. What kind of Twin Peaks Crossover?

Fox Mulder: Is it possible to obtain a script of one of the shows???

Chris Carter: They’re all over the black market. Next.

Dawn M. Swingle: There was talk last year about a crossover story with Picket Fences, that eventually fell through. I think it’s a neat idea–any chance of a crossover with another show?

Chris Carter: Not in the near future. Sorry.

C: How has David Duchovny been handling all the attention he’s getting from the ladies? Does he have inflated ego syndrome?

Chris Carter: No. David is David. He’s a very smart, very hard working person who guards his privacy.

Carl Villasenor: What is your favorite surfing spot? What kind of board do you have?

Chris Carter: favorite spots are in Santa Barbara.

Host: This is the last question…

Mulder: Do you really believe that there are such elaborate conspiracies in the US government as you have portrayed in X-Files?

Chris Carter: I think there are things going on out there that we’ll never know and might not believe. I wake up every morning and read the paper. I’m never disappointed.

Host: At this point, Chris and everyone… I think I’m going to open the conference up. There are about 150 of you here right now! So don’t all type at once. The transcript of this conference will be available in the PEOPLE Forum early next week. GO PEOFOR Thanks Chris. I think you set the record for the number of questions answered in a single hour! Seventy-four…

Chris Carter: Thank you, Thanks.

Sci-Fi on the Net: Interview with Chris Carter

Aug-12-1995
Sci-Fi on the Net
Interview with Chris Carter

INTERVIEWER: Richard Van Syckle, segment producer, c|net television

PARTICIPANT: Chris Carter, creator, executive producer, “The X- Files”

VAN SYCKLE: To start with, you’ve said that winning the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Series, you were so stunned that it was sort of an “X-Files” experience in itself. Now that you’ve learned that, has the shock worn off or are you still surprised by success?

CARTER: I’m surprised by every day. It’s almost like I haven’t really lifted my head up. I’m still running so hard and just trying to do good work that all the good things and the awards and now the nominations haven’t really landed on me yet. But I think that’s a good thing. Also, it says a lot about my main motivation, which is my fear of failure. But I just try to do the best shot I possibly can, and the good things have come as a result. I don’t look at them as the carrot, I look at them as sort of things that have–the path to all the hard work.

VAN SYCKLE: In terms of this success, filling out into mediums you might not have even envisioned before, such as online, what has that been like with this whole new other world of online fans?

CARTER: It’s funny. “The X-Files,” it was perfect timing but it was a fluke, really. Here’s this huge, growing thing in America and around the world, which is these computer online services, the growth of these and the Internet. And “The X-Files” just happened to come along and come of age with those things. So, it seems like the perfect show at the perfect time with the perfect medium, which is this online service. Also, our audience is a very computer-literate audience mostly, I’m imagining. So, it’s a natural that we would be, I think, really the first show to have such a great following. I’ve used it as a tool; they use it as a tool. It’s a great way to interact immediately with your audience, hear what they’re thinking, and to tell them what you’re thinking.

VAN SYCKLE: I read an interview with Rob Bowman, that he said, “We wish we had time to put everything into the show that the online fans read into it.” Tell me about that.

CARTER: Well, yeah, it’s funny. It’s like literary criticism. A lot of times I’m sure the writers had no idea that they would have their material parsed and picked over so tediously. Sometimes there are things there that maybe you put in unconsciously; sometimes there are things you put there very consciously. I put in a few–actually, the season finale–that no one ever picked up. So, as much as they see things that aren’t there, they don’t see things that are there, either. So it’s an interesting thing for me.

VAN SYCKLE: How does that dynamic work in terms of the two-way communication, the interactivity? And do you feel like you have help out there creating this “X-Files” mythology, in terms of the fans?

CARTER: Not really. I mean, I have a very strong idea as to the other writers about how the show should progress and evolve, and so I listen out there to what people are saying. I look at their reactions to things. But I’m ahead of them, because I know far in advance where the show is going and they don’t. They can only react to what we show them. I listen to what their criticisms are–what they like, what they don’t like–and I take those things all to heart and I incorporate them. But there are no ideas that I’ve taken off the Internet, no direction I’ve taken off the Internet, although there’s plenty of help I could have gotten from the fans online about how to take the season finale–which was a cliff hanger–how to finish it, how to follow up, how to end that story. There was no end of speculation on how I might do it and how I should do it.

VAN SYCKLE: Do you think that having characters, like the Lone Gunmen, who use the Internet, who are very literate–lots of references to hackers in “The X-Files”–do you think that it’s fun for the fans to see themselves or see people they’d like to be?

CARTER: Yeah. I think that those are sort of caricatures of the hard core fans. I think that most of the people that I meet, particularly at the conventions, aren’t quite that extreme. The Lone Gunmen–actually, they were created by two writers on the show who have now since left, Glen Morgan and James Wong. I think that they were inspired by the UFO conventions that we all went to and some of these other functions where you see a lot of very extreme characters selling extreme pamphlets and literature. There’s just a lot of paranoia out there and I think the Lone Gunmen became the representatives of that kind of person.

VAN SYCKLE: I know you’ve probably just been besieged by UFO fanatics and there definitely is a fringe which runs in that site, but I’m thinking of the poster in Mulder’s office that says, “I want to believe.” It doesn’t say “I do believe” or “I don’t believe” but “I want to.” Do you think that that sort of represents something that you’ve tapped into in this show out there, that there are people who want to believe?

CARTER: Well, I created that poster for the pilot and really it sort of represents my personal–I don’t know if you can call it a philosophy–my personal bias, bent. I describe myself as a nonreligious person looking for a religious experience. I want an experience, I want to find something to believe in, I want something to occur to me, I want to see something out in the desert some night that I can’t explain. I’m desperate for that experience and so is Agent Mulder. He wants to know the truth; he wants to be able to believe in these things that are rather unbelievable. So, on the flip side of that is Agent Scully, who is the skeptic, the person who refuses to believe in anything that cannot be proven scientifically, the two different sides of my character, which make a nice sort of dichotomy for the show.

VAN SYCKLE: I’ve heard some interviews in which Gillian and David talk about their own personal characters, as opposed to who they play, and it’s interesting, especially with Mitch Pileggi, who has had what you would describe as a paranormal experience. Gillian is sort of more on the believer side, and the roles reverse. Tell me about them bringing their own personalities and their own beliefs into their characters.

CARTER: None of them really bring their own beliefs into the characters, I don’t think. I think that they play the characters that are written for them and they play them very well. And they know those characters very well, so they’re able to, as actors, perform. They don’t have to bring their own belief systems. Actually, it’s very interesting to play something different than yourself. I know it’s interesting for David and for Gillian, Gillian being the believer playing the skeptic and David being the nonbeliever, basically, playing a person who is willing to take these giant leaps of faith. So, I think that it’s a testament to them as actors that they are able to sort of pull it off. But you’re right, the people and the actors are much, much different.

VAN SYCKLE: There’s a show right now on the Sci-Fi Channel that they’re rerunning, the old “Prisoner” series. And they’re doing that with the interactive chat, where they’re having people log on and it’s sort of like a collective Mystery Science Theater 3000 that you participate in. Do you think this sort of blend between computer technology and real time and science fiction and television, does that interest you at all? Is that going anywhere in a direction that you might be interested in, or what do you think about that?

CARTER: You know, not really, because it really verges on too science fiction-y for me. It’s really not what we do. I think we’re kind of a cross-genre show. You really can’t peg us. Even though I actually like that show and I remember liking it when it was on, it’s not something that inspires me or I think is something that I would ever get into. I was never a science fiction fan. I spoke to a group of people the other night, a Mensa group, and they were very upset that I’d never seen an episode of “Star Trek.” They actually hissed me, you know, sort of in jest. But I’m just not a science fiction fan. It’s never interested me. I’m really interested in personal experiences that could affect me in this place and time. I think that’s what makes “The X-Files” so scary–it seems very, very real.

VAN SYCKLE: Last question, I’ve gone through [the Internet], I’ve seen the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade, “X-Files” on Ice, “X-Files” Christmas Carols. I think I pay too much attention to this, but do you have a favorite site out there? Do you check into any of these things ever?

CARTER: You know, I don’t. I have my basic DelPhi site because of the “X-Files” connection to DelPhi, but I’m all over the place. I have to say I’m actually one of these online illiterates. I sort of stumble around, fumble around, and find my way into different things. I have no favorite spot; I’m just all over the map. Actually, it’s funny, for as much popularity as there is for the online services and for this kind of communication now, it’s funny to me that it’s actually a step backwards in technology. It feels to me more like we’ve gone back to the telegraph but in a kind of high-tech way. I’m very interested to see how the technology develops and how I can use it more creatively. I’m interested in this real-time video that I hear is going to be happening. All this stuff sounds very interesting to me as it progresses. But right now, I think it almost seems gimmicky to me, in a way. I’m using it because it’s a tremendous communication tool, but I’m very anxious to see how we leap into the future.

In Camera: John Bartley shoots The X-Files on the edge of darkness

Aug-??-1995
In Camera
John Bartley shoots The X-Files on the edge of darkness

[typed by Pam]

A lot of light can be needed to achieve darkness

In one episode of The X-Files, a character’s shadow vaporises anyone it touches. Another character begins smoking when sunlight reaches into his jail cell. No one has to utter the word, the audience already knows it: vampire.

That’s typical of how Director of Photography John Bartley CSC, talks to the audience with light and shadows. In many episodes, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully probe the darkness with xenon flashlights. Somehow the brilliant splashes of light knifing through the blackness add to the aura of suspense.

Mulder and Scully specialise in investigating the paranormal for the FBI. Bartley, who earned a 1994 nomination for Outstanding Artistic Achievement from the American Society of Cinematographers and a 1994 Emmy nomination, says THE X-FILES uses darkness as a character.

Interestingly enough, he may use plenty of lights to achieve all that darkness. His package includes HMIs, Dedolights, KinoFlos, MiniFlos, a wide variety of practicals and, of course, those famous xenon flashlights. The key is using light as a counterpoint to the darkness, emphasising what the audience can’t see (as opposed to most TV dramas, that concern themselves mostly with what can be seen).

“We actually blend light and dark,” he says. “Some things the audience can see, and other things they’re not sure if they saw them or not. It adds to the aura of mystery.”

To accentuate the foreground shadows, Bartley may add beams of coloured backlight and sidelight. They often pick up slowly — moving steam, adding to the eerie ambience.

Darkness definitely has its advantages. Like the time the crew had to shoot a scene of a submarine in the arctic circle — in the Vancouver, British Columbia studio that the show most often calls home. The crew blacked out the whole stage and positioned 6K HMIs on hydraulic lifts. As the camera changed positions, Bartley used a different light, always hidden by the submarine set. Most of what viewers could see was steam and silhouettes. That created the mood Bartley was after. Equally important, it hid the fact that the scene was fabricated on a soundstage.

“There was never more than a single light, and it was always hidden. The snow would bounce the light around,” Bartley explains. “But the periphery was always dark.”

That episode also introduced the xenon flashlights. In the corridor of the submarine, the camera picks up Mulder and Scully searching the vessel, illuminated only by the bounce from two visible shafts of light (the flashlights). The gaffers used Rosco pebble bounce to kick just enough light back into the characters to define them and leave a catch-light in their eyes.

Bartley routinely uses candles and other low-intensity practicals. They’re often the only sources serving the main characters in a scene. He consistently shoots on the edge of darkness, and relies on telecine operators, at Gastown Post and Transfer, in Vancouver, to maintain the visual integrity of the images he creates.

“I don’t use much fill,” Bartley says. “I started that on a series called Booker [Stephen J. Cannell’s 21 Jump Street spinoff/Richard Grieco vehicle]. With today’s EXR films I’ve been five stops underexposed, and have still recorded details in the highlights and shadow areas. I like to use the full latitude of the stock.

“Things have evolved over the past two years. It has become a challenge to take things dark, but not so they’re as dark as possible, because that doesn’t work on TV.”

Sometimes an editor will tell Bartley he can’t see what’s going on in a scene on the AVID monitor. But when Bartley checks the digital videotape, he finds enough detail to use the scene.

He lights interiors and night exteriors to a stop of T2.8. That produces plenty of challenges for Focus-Puller Marty McAnally, Bartley says, since the show uses some long lenses for tight closeups — anything from an 85 on the main camera to a 200 on the B camera — and to compress the foreground and background.

As for latitude, he exploits it at both ends, highlights and shadows alike. Case in point: scenes shot with apparent sunlight in the office of Assistant Director Skinner (Mulder’s boss). “Overall, it’s a dark show, but in Skinner’s office for a daytime interior, we have 2 x 20Ks coming in through the window, and the light on Skinner’s white shirt is something like a T-45, but we still shoot at T2.8 to capture the best flesh tones,” Bartley says.

“I love blowing out the highlights occasionally,” he continues. “We push the ratios to the limit, and push the film scanner. You really can’t bring a scene back when it’s that far overexposed, but somehow it holds well enough to work. It’s fun to see how far you can go.”

In addition to unusual lighting, he explores unusual visual perspectives to draw the audience into the story. In one episode he brings viewers into intimate contact with a character by zooming in on an ultra-tight shot of an eyeball. “We had a diopter on a zoom lens, and were wide open at T-3,” Bartley says. He was shooting with the 500-speed 5298 film.

In other episodes he chooses a wide-angle lens for closeups. “I’ve used 10mm and 14mm lenses, and the other day we used an 8.5mm lens,” Bartley says. “Shooting a very tight shot with an ultra-wide lens can open up the scene and give you a lot of visual impact.”

Shooting in Vancouver is a mixed blessing, Bartley says, but it is mostly a blessing. The city’s various neighbourhoods can substitute for a wide, wide variety of locales. “The storylines have taken the characters all over the US, to Puerto Rico and even up into the Arctic Circle,” Bartley explains. “But it’s really all shot right here. Vancouver can look like any city in North America.” The city is so far north that in the winter the sun never gets very high; that works for the crew, since the noon sun isn’t beating down on them from directly overhead, and Bartley can shoot throughout the day.

The downside is rain and snow. It’s omnipresent. But even that can work for a show like THE X-FILES. “We’ve been lucky with the weather. We’ve been in the forest during the rain, and we used it: we backlighted and used a lot of steam, and had lights panning across the frame as search lights,” Bartley says, explaining a scene that revolves around an alleged alien landing. The effect was chaotic, eerie and discomforting: vintage X-FILES.

The show is shot on 35mm film for a couple of reasons. Fox wanted to shoot the show in Super 35 format, providing a wide frame for future HDTV syndication. Using a large negative also gives Bartley the freedom to work with low-key lighting and maintain the richness of the show’s high-impact images.

“If we were shooting in a smaller format, we’d need a lot more light to keep grain from building up. That means we’d have to give up our minimalist approach to low-key lighting. We’ve done many scenes with just practicals. That’s living on the edge.”

And life on the edge is good. The X-Files first became a cult favourite, complete with fan clubs and discussion groups on the Internet. In its second season, Fox ordered 25 episodes (instead of the usual 22), and ratings continued to improve, up more than 40 per cent. It’s now the top-rated Friday night show among adults 18-49 in the US, and is seen in 60 countries. In describing the lighting for the jail scene in the vampire episode, Bartley may have touched on the reason. The scene employs a surreal colour palette. Through the first season, Bartley used colour sparingly; the show didn’t seem to lend itself to colour. But in the second year, he’s been more adventurous. He employed harder light than usual, along with super-blue fluorescent tubes for the jail cell scene.

“These tubes are so blue, you can’t even read them on a colour meter,” Bartley says. “Then I added just a little tungsten on their faces, and a very hard top light overhead. It doesn’t have to be a conventional sort of place. It doesn’t have to look real, or match anything. That makes things more interesting. I think it’s what makes The X-Files different.”

[Note: the film number 5298 mentioned in the text refers to Eastman EXR 500T film 5298.]

Data

John Bartley, a native of Wellington, New Zealand, apprenticed in his homeland as a prop electrician in the theatre. He later moved to Australia to work at a television station and began lighting sets. When the wanderlust took him halfway around the world to Toronto, Canada, Bartley joined a production company as a gaffer. He freelanced for several years, working with, and studying under, cinematographers such as Sven Nykvist ASC, Bob Stevens ASC, Frank Tidy, Hiro Narita and Tak Fujimoto.

In 1988, he became a Director of Photography, shooting music videos on weekends and trailers for feature projects. “I was working every weekend,” he recalls. “It was really good to get out and shoot; I was gaffing during the week and shooting over the weekends.”

He made a living for a time shooting commercials of snowmobiles and snowblowers, then lucked into a low-budget feature that had lost its cameraman during pre-production. Eventually he moved into television, with such shows as Wiseguy, Booker, The Commish and now The X-Files.

He had completed two seasons as Director of Photography on The Commish when he met Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, and Charlie Goldstein from the Fox network. “Charlie used to be an editor,” says Bartley. “He understands what you need to keep a production looking its best.”