X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Archive for January, 2000

E!Online: Mulder turns to mush in Return to Me and spills all on romance, fatherhood and the fate of The X-Files On getting involved with Return to Me

Mulder turns to mush in Return to Me and spills all on romance, fatherhood and the fate of The X-Files
On getting involved with Return to Me

Will America accept David Duchovny, who’s become a household name playing driven FBI investigator Fox Mulder on The X-Files, as a sad-sack widower who falls goo-goo-eyed in love with the woman who received his dead wife’s heart?

That’s the question for Return to Me, starring Duchovny and Minnie Driver. And it’s an important one: With many expecting this season to be Duchovny’s last on the supernatural series, the slim, sexy and sardonically witty actor has to hope his film career can break out beyond such clunkers as Playing God and Kalifornia.

Of course, with a good amount of X millions, beautiful wife Tea Leoni and a one-year-old daughter, he shouldn’t have too much trouble enjoying life after alien autopsies.

Is it true you were one semester away from your Yale PhD when you quit school to do a beer commercial?

Well, that was my first paying job. I wasn’t like, “I want to do beer commercials! Hello, is this my agent? I want beer commercials!”

I think I started getting interested in acting through trying to be a playwright. So, I thought I should learn a little about acting. I was about 25. There was a time where I was commuting from New Haven to New York, where I was taking acting classes, because I didn’t want my two worlds to know about each other. It was very schizophrenically successful for me to have those two destinations. And after a while, I just stopped going back to New Haven.

Return to Me is a real crying-in-the-aisles type of thing, not what we’d associate with a sly, dry guy like you. Are you secretly a sucker for romantic movies?

No, but I love this movie. It’s not the kind that I would run out and see–wait, I shouldn’t say that–but I feel like I should get the word out that it’s not what it seems to be, that it is actually a very complicated, tricky movie that is both profoundly funny and sad at the same time.

I would be really happy if people came to see it, because if I stumbled into it, I would have been really happy.

You’ve been friends with the director, Bonnie Hunt, since you both acted together in the dog comedy Beethoven, right?

Yeah. I thought the script was this big, romantic, sentimental thing and not really my cup of tea, but when I heard Bonnie was going to direct it, I knew she’d bring a wry, funny perspective into the mix.

Was it important to you to play somebody so different from Fox Mulder?

No. I’m less aware of what people think of my image. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I just do the best work that I can do in the best movies that I can get.

Then you’re not worried about being forever associated with such an iconic TV character?

I’ve been asked this question a lot: “How are you going to break this image?” And I really don’t know how to answer it, because I can’t. I’m lucky enough to have been in a show that is so strong in people’s minds that they want to see me in a certain way.

And then I think about other actors. If you think about a great actor like Robert De Niro, here’s a guy who’s done 45 films, maybe. Do you think he gets angry when all people do is say, “Are you talkin’ to me?” I think he might. At first I thought it was just me and William Shatner. But I think all actors deal with it.

And isn’t there a core of cultists who prefer to associate you with your other great TV series?

You know, still to this day I’ll go to a movie premiere where there’s a big crowd, and everyone is like, “Mulder! Mulder!” Then I’ll hear, “Red shoes!” from the back. “Makin’ any more of them?” We haven’t made them for seven years! “Make more!”

You’ve just directed your second X-Files, in which Mulder discovers they’re making a TV show out of one of his cases. Tea plays Scully, and your friend Garry Shandling plays you. It’s almost like you’re trying to make a personal film on network TV.

I’m glad you said that, because that’s exactly what I feel I’m doing. I mean, I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t personal. This one is obviously about the difference between reality and acting, Hollywood and the rest of the world, truth and fiction–all of which is very personal to me.

How important is The X-Files to you now?

At this point, it’s just about money. Anybody that tells you that creatively there is anything left to do on that show…The only creative thing left to do is the sheer high-wire act of “How can I keep on making this show?”

That’s really all, you can’t really say that there’s more to do. All you can say is, “Wow, I can’t believe you keep on doing it and it’s still good.” And it is. But creatively, that’s kind of a weird response.

Sounds like you’re tired of playing Mulder.

If you were in a running series called Hamlet for seven years, it would be the same thing. I would be tired of getting my mother to admit that she had slept with my uncle, just as I’m tired of shaking the Cigarette Smoking Man and telling him to admit that he’d slept with my mother. Maybe it is Hamlet! Maybe I’m happy to be on the show!

So, with your contract running out, it’s going to take a ton of money to get you to commit to an eighth season. Think they’ll cough up?

Are you kidding? The X-Files makes a hideous amount of money, a huge amount of money. They could spend $50 million an episode and still make fourfold that. The X-Files is obscenely successful. It’s worldwide. I mean, it’s the only American show besides Baywatch, which is a kitschy thing. They don’t watch ER anywhere else, they don’t watch NYPD Blue anywhere else. Those are great shows and they’re very popular here, but The X-Files is popular everywhere.

Even though we’re FBI agents, we’re dealing with issues that are interesting to all people–and whatever else is out there. Of course, when we do colonize other planets, they’ll be like, “That’s so unrealistic!”

But you’ve had to sue them for the rerun millions you believe they owe you…

But that has to do with my lawyers and Fox’s lawyers. That has nothing to do with me and Chris or Gillian or anybody who’s been involved with making the show as good as it is. That doesn’t even come into my consideration about whether to stay for another season.

I don’t even know the people I’m suing, I’ve never met them. They’re the people who made up my contracts and, in my estimation, didn’t fulfill them. That has nothing to do with what I think about the show. I’m just really proud of the show, and it feels like winning the lottery to be part of something like that.

Chris Carter is named in your lawsuit. That has to have affected your relationship.

Yeah, that has definitely been a wedge between Chris and me. But just personally, not professionally. Obviously, I’m writing and directing for him, and he directed a show a couple of weeks ago–so he directed me as an actor.

And what about you and Gillian? For years, there have been rumors that the two of you don’t like each other.

It’s always been fine. We’re just not Mulder and Scully. We’re not going to lay our lives down for each other, yet we do like each other.

Now that the end may be in sight, do you think the characters are finally going to acknowledge their love and act on it? I mean, there was that New Year’s kiss, but not much since then.

I thought that was, like, a cheap ratings gesture. Don’t you? I think everything is up in the air because of the movie-franchise aspect. If we truly knew that it was ending this year, next year or whenever, you could actually write toward an ending. I think you could actually disrupt the nature of Mulder and Scully’s relationship and make it sexual–make it something–and actually deal with it, in that case.

But because everybody involved in the writing and producing end of the show wants to keep it a lucrative enterprise, they want to keep it the way it is. But it’s tough to do–seven years, keeping people in exactly the same spot.

Let’s talk about a major change in your life, then. You’ve been a father for about a year now.

It’s so different, it’s so life-changing, you’re not even aware how you’ve changed. Everything’s changed. I think you realize that you’ve opened yourself up to such heartbreak when you’re responsible for this helpless being, and you could never recover if anything happened.

Think you’re good at being a dad?

Well, Tea’s a great mom, she’s really a natural at it. But for men, I don’t think it’s so natural. You’re like, “What do I do?” You’re in the background. I’m always in awe of Tea. I, like, hold things while she does things.

TV Industry: EditorsNet: Michael Watkins

TV Industry: EditorsNet
Michael Watkins
Elif Cercel

Michael Watkins has worked in every facet of television production since he was 14. An award-winning cameraman, Watkins first had the opportunity to direct while working on “Quantum Leap.” He has since directed multiple episodes of “NYPD Blue,” “Chicago Hope” and “Lois & Clark; The New Adventures of Superman.” He is now a co-executive producer and director of “The X-Files” alongside the show’s creator, Chris Carter. “The X-Files,” in its seventh season on Fox, stars David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully). Watkins directed three shows for this season, including an upcoming episode that will air Feb. 20 that brings together “The X-Files” with the production team from the Fox reality show, “Cops.” Watkins received an American Society of Cinematographers award for “Family Album.”

In the “Amor Fati” episode you directed, Duchovny and Carter had writing credits. How would you describe their creative input?

David is a very bright writer and Chris has proved his storytelling skill. David wrote one episode last year called “The Unnatural.” That was his first directing assignment. I thought he did a lovely job. For David to write on the show is a chance for him to reinvest his creative juices. Both Chris and David have great shorthand with the show. I can’t think of two people who are more easily acclimated at writing what goes on here. It’s fun when he’s on the set and participating, because he’s there all the time. He takes it seriously — not that he doesn’t take everything seriously, because he is a wonderful actor. But when your words are being performed, you take them even more to heart. Having him there made the dialogue of directing all the more interesting and detailed.

How involved, as a producer, are you in developing the episodes?

My job as producer is to take scripts and arrange them, schedule, budget and invent ways to get the scenes done. When directing, I try to read through the script and make my creative input in terms of the flow, cutting and visual content. I put my spin on what’s already there. Also, when we do multiple-parters, there is a traffic pattern — stories that are previously under way that have to be acknowledged and looked after in the back house. Then when you do the front-house ones, you have to set everybody up for the conclusion.

The “Amor Fati” episode must have been particularly challenging to direct given that it takes place mostly in the mind of Mulder (Duchovny). How did you feel about the task?

It’s very different with David being insane and going in and out of consciousness. The audience has to follow what’s real and what’s not. And at the beginning, you don’t want them to know what’s real and what’s not. Then little by little it starts to reveal itself. The show’s audience is so dedicated that they remember scenes and follow it through, understanding what was a dream and what was real. You have those great moments where the characters are communicating via telepathy.

How did you direct the actors in those sequences to get the right tone and pace?

We talked through it. David and Bill Davis (Cigarette-Smoking Man) play heavy adversarial roles. And we talked about the content of the show and then I took them into a soundstage and had them run the dialogue at different rhythms. I played back the dialogue as they walked through the scene so they could get the movement, breathing and postures of what the words would be while they’re thinking them. It became a natural flow for them. So they didn’t just have to walk through. We rehearsed times and feelings and the flavor of the dialogue; then they were able to do it. Obviously, mystery and suspense are key to the show. Each episode is full of cryptic dialogue and clues building up to a finale.

How difficult is it to maintain that tone?

It’s a detailed show. The detail is very accurate with a graphic visual nature. So everything is researched.

Do you do much of that research?

No. We have a group of people who do the research and report to the writers about what’s real and what’s not. There are other things we’ll do in terms of research or in terms of technical advice. But everyone pulls together to keep it as detailed and realistic as possible.

What visual effects techniques and other camera or lighting tools did you use in creating the dream sequences that were so intrinsic to the plot?

We wanted to take it a step out of reality, so we saturated as many blues as we could and polarized the picture a little bit, too. As soon as you saw it, you didn’t have the sense that it was a surreal setting, but something was “off.” We laid the sound differently as well, so there was a sense of quietness — living in a world of cotton. We stripped the set of any ambience. And then when he was old, we tried to keep it real — more orange, to get the sense of a real palette of colors. And we tried to light it like a late moody day. And, of course, the end of the world — no one can film that.

How did you achieve the apocalypse sequence?

Bill Millar in visual effects made renderings to show to the writers, producers and myself. Everybody made notes and then we started to come up with the idea of what we wanted. Then we designed the windows, reflections, the shadow overhead and the fire. Everybody integrated their ideas and then we shot with nothing around. We had flame bars shooting fire up so it would reflect in the glass and also create an interactive look to the lighting with what was happening. You just have to cast your fate out there. You know that a guy is blowing propane fireballs in the air and you’re looking at the stage, knowing that the end of the world will be on the stage. It’s a matter of trust. Then we kept shooting and building to get to the final product.

Your experience in production and photography is evident when you describe lighting scenes. Do you feel that that experience gave you an edge for directing?

It does a lot; it’s huge. I have one less thing to worry about. It allows me to have more knowledge and more time so it’s much easier to come to a decision or to grasp ideas when people are trying to contribute. I’m able to visualize what people are trying to say much faster and either incorporate that or not have to spend time with it.

Did you work with a second unit?

Yes. All of the directors shoot all the way through. On this show, which is particularly different, we shoot eight days in first unit, which is primarily supposed to be David and Gillian’s stuff. And then there is the second-unit time, where we try to do bigger effects or visual effects and shoot all those things that David and Gillian aren’t on. It would be impossible for us to keep our production schedule if we only had one unit. We wouldn’t be able to deliver the 22 shows. This show is completely different from any other show you see on TV. This is like a movie. I think that craftsmen in the business appreciate what we put out technically. There’s a lot of respect paid to all those crafts and, consequently, all the people who work here give an enormous amount more than you see in other places. It’s not meant to put anybody down. It’s just appropriate for the kind of storytelling that’s done here. It’s a different sort of show.

You’ve been involved in “Chicago Hope” and “NYPD Blue” and other shows. Do you feel you have found your creative niche in “X-Files?”

Yes and no. But this is the most difficult show to do. It is exhausting. The idea of fear and suspense here is done totally differently. On “NYPD Blue,” where we worked on 90-degree angles and with the dialogue with the Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) character, he came alive because it was always about the interview in that room. This show takes us to Area 51, Chicago — it’s unlimited where we go to here. There are no boundaries and no standing sets other than maybe Mulder’s office. And we build a habitat here. It’s not like a two- or three-wall set. We have sets where the plugs and the ceilings work. We build habitats here because it’s all about point of view. So our shot list intensifies geometrically. When the characters look at something, we have to look at it. We have to be able to see all the rooms at all times so you’re always in the mind of the character — trying to study what’s going on through their eyes. The difference between horror and suspense is that in horror we all know that something scary is going to jump out while the characters don’t know and the audience does. There are all sorts of levels that have to be built and you can’t keep going back to the same close-up angle all the time because it becomes predictable. The angles help create an uneasiness with the constant movement of the camera.

As in most television series, there are other directors involved in the show. How does that affect the show’s characteristic stamp from episode to episode?

When you think of this show running for this many years, I don’t find that many. Rob Bowman and Kim Manners have been with the show from the beginning. And Chris has directed a few shows. Now I’m doing them. But it’s not like on “NYPD Blue.” There is a fingerprint to this show; it’s not easy. And television has an extraordinary amount of pressure built on top of it. We may work with a big budget, but we also have to get an enormous amount of work done in a certain number of hours. Because of the quality of the shows and the previous episodes, everyone puts themselves out there to do a successful show and feels failure when they’re not measuring up. You have to maintain more than just the sense of suspense of the supernatural.

There is also great tension between the two lead characters. Don’t they have great chemistry?

If I could bottle that, I’d be wealthy beyond compare. All I know is they have one of the great chemistries of all time. And people root for them. You feel the magic of their love and caring for each other. I don’t know what it is. If I could describe it, I could re-create it. But it’s just one of those things that happens. Like a Katherine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy thing. You see other shows and they’re written well and they look nice. But the chemistry isn’t there.

In the episode we were discussing, you directed a number of emotional scenes. How did you get the actors to hit those emotional marks on-set?

Scully was great in that last scene. When they saw each other — it’s killer. They’re delightful and you fall in love with them.

In terms of the plot, will that relationship ever take a romantic turn?

I don’t think it can, because then I think you’d kill off the beauty of their relationship.

How much longer do you see this show continuing?

I don’t know. I certainly think they have a franchise here and a strong audience. As long as they’re telling good stories, they would try to continue. There’s all the talk about next year and we’ll see where that goes.

Are you sold on the supernatural subject matter of the show that obviously captures the imagination of so many viewers, and is it something that makes your directing better?

No, I don’t bite down. I believe that when you find yourself and let the ego fall away, everything comes together and things happen for a reason. I don’t know if there are souls that come back and forth between incarnations. I think that the big karma wheel is run all by ourselves. That’s a big relief.

How did the “X-Cops” episode come about?

In talks of “X-Files,” all the little idiosyncrasies of lenses and everything we do. But we shot the whole “X-Cops” episode on video. “Cops” is a real-life television show and it has a huge following and the banner song, “Bad Boys.” They drive around with officers all over the country. What we did is — I think it’s the 150th episode — we started off riding around with sheriff’s deputies and then lo and behold, we come across Mulder and Scully investigating a case. And they get involved in the television show “Cops.” I watched many episodes and met with the creators. I think it’s a delightful episode. It’s a huge change from our look — all those close-ups and everything. We do one-timers and turn it into that sort of TV show. I think the fans will like it. It’s a lot of fun and it took a lot of courage. Everyone had to go the other direction to do it.

Is this a one-time occurrence, or do you expect to do more of these shows?

No. I think it’s one special one, right out of the chute. A lot of times we do fun ones. Chris did one a couple of years ago in black and white. We did one as a sort of homage to Hitchcock’s “Rope,” trying not to have edits. Every now and then, one of these pops out. But this is all by itself. It’s a lot of fun.

The Hollywood Reporter Composer Registry Golden Circle: Interview with Mark Snow

The Hollywood Reporter Composer Registry Golden Circle
Interview with Mark Snow

Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter Composer Registry Golden Circle, our tribute to those composers who continue to inspire through their work and love of music. It is our pleasure to welcome Mark Snow.

Golden Circle: Starsky and Hutch in 1975 was one of your first big composing jobs. How did you get into the business and land that job?

Mark Snow: My brother-in-law was an actor in a series that Aaron Spelling did called The Rookies, and that was my first job. They liked me over there and I did other work for them. Starsky and Hutch was part of that. Right now to me, anything before The X-Files is almost like something I don’t remember. I mean, there’s a lot of it. I would say there have been two big beats to my career; “Pre-X” and “After X.”

GC: And how did you win The X-Files job?

Mark Snow: I had a producer friend named Bob Goodwin and he did the pilot up in Canada. He suggested me to Chris Carter and Chris didn’t have a relative or a friend who was a composer, so he was just looking around. Oddly enough, one of his main concerns was that he wanted someone on the west side (of L.A.) so he didn’t have to go out to Agora or Woodland Hills or someplace every day on his way from the Palisades to the Fox studios. So he came to my place twice and heard some stuff and looked around. He was very polite and respectful, but he didn’t say much else. About a week after the second visit, I got a call saying they wanted me to do it. At the time it was good news, you know, but if I had known what was coming, I would have been jumping up and down like a maniac. I knew it was a cool thing, but it certainly didn’t seem like it was going to be this phenomenon.

GC: How has technology, specifically digital, changed composing over your nearly 30-year career?

Mark Snow: Around 1985-86 these different kinds of keyboards were coming out and there was a more sophisticated sense of sound and sampling at that time, although it was still incredibly primitive compared to now. Most of the working people were finding combinations of electronic gear to make mini home studios. It seemed like a very important bandwagon to be part of, so I looked around and came up with a Synclavier as the most impressive, most important thing at that time, although it was invented in the late ’60’s by some people at Dartmouth college. It seemed to me the most self-contained situation. You didn’t have to have five different keyboards with wires going berserk all over the place. They had an amazing storage capability, amazing recall capability and recording capability all wrapped into one thing. Plus, it had more voices than anything at the time so the sound was pretty cool. It took me a good three or four years to make the thing sound really great and luckily when The X-Files came around in ’93, I knew it really well and had stored up a great personal library of sounds and samples that went into the theme.

GC: Needle drop and pre-written compilation soundtracks have become increasingly popular these days. What effect, if any, do you feel they have had on original score composers?

Mark Snow: I think the subject of a lot of films and t.v. out there right now really benefit from pop music or other sources of music beyond the actual score. I did the movie Disturbing Behavior, and it had tons of songs on it and that was absolutely right for the picture. I don’t think that stuff takes away from the composer’s roll at all. Say, for example, your Elmer Bernstein on Ghostbusters, – that was a gigantic-selling album, you know, with Ghostbusters, (written and performed by Ray Parker Jr.) on it, and he had two and or three cuts on it and made a couple million dollars. Or going back to David Shire when he had two cuts on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Those guys aren’t too unhappy about it. And my thing with The X-Files, there were two cd’s with that show. One had just my music on it and the other one had a bunch of songs sort of inspired by the show and my music. So I went along for the ride on that. I hear a lot of detractors of this, but I just don’t see it as a negative.

GC: What do you see as the biggest differences between television and movie composing?

Mark Snow: I think everyone wants to think that they will eventually write for film scores, but you just do the work that is being offered to you at the time. There are a couple of people who started out when I did who didn’t do particularly well in t.v. and somehow they got to do a bunch of really crappy B-movies, but their careers gained momentum. Now some of these people are the ones who are in the forefront. It’s not about not wanting to or wanting to, it just happens that way. I’ve done a lot of t.v. stuff and that can tend to pigeon-hole you. Agents try to get me stuff and a lot of people will hear my music and say, ‘Oh boy, that’s great,’ and then say, ‘Oh, t.v., well … I don’t know.’

GC: Obviously your X-Files theme is very distinctive and unusual. Do you attempt to put a sort of “Mark Snow” stamp on all of your work?

Mark Snow: I don’t. I don’t think about that. I think about what’s right for the picture and what the obligation is to the film. Hopefully there’s a quality to it that might cut through and people will say, ‘Oh, that sounds like Snow.’ There are a lot of great composers who you can hear and recognize their style right away. I’d say like [Ennio] Morricone or John Barry, you recognize them when they’re doing what they do best. Morricone with his lush romantic themes and John Barry with his very slow, very broad, fat orchestral melodies, or John Williams with that 19th century orchestration that just flies all over the place. You get to recognize their style. My thing is that if I did a comedy or a romance or something else, I don’t think it would be too recognizable as Mark Snow. But that’s not necessarily bad. If I do a great score for a project, that’s the bottom line.

GC: What advice would you offer to a young Turk starting out in the business today?

Mark Snow: Things have completely changed since I started out. It’s interesting you use the term ‘young Turk’ because that’s really what you have to be. You have to have a strength and a confidence and a perseverance. If you’re lucky enough to have as much talent as perseverance, then you’ve got a really great shot. In the old days it was about getting meetings with the head of the music department at one of the studios. They had incredible influence. Now that’s all out the window. In film it’s the director who has a few good movies under his belt who gets to call the shots and that’s it. In t.v. it’s a combination of the director and the producer, but the producer or the people putting up the money usually have the last word on that. For a newcomer it’s about taking advantage of every relationship you have with anyone in the business, even if it’s not the music side of it, making contacts and hooking up with a working composer. I had a combination of a little nepotism with my family and then ghost writing for a few composers. Some of them were gracious enough to suggest me for stuff they couldn’t do and it just started to take on its own momentum. My success has not been something like these internet stocks where they go sky high instantly. It’s been this very sort of slow progress. On a graph, the line wouldn’t be spiked. Still, what would be amazing for me right now would be if somehow I got a shot at a movie and it was a success and people really took notice of the music. And then to spend the final third of my career working in movies, that would be my dream. On the other hand, if it stops tomorrow, I still would have had a really great run. So it’s sort of a win-win situation I think.

GC: What projects do have coming up?

Mark Snow: There’s a mini-series coming up called Sole Survivor, with Billy Zane in it, and that looks really great.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter Composer Registry [www.hollywoodreporter.com/registry/showcase/index.asp], 2000

SFX Magazine: File Challenge

SFX Magazine
File Challenge

[typed by Mim]

This spring, things looked grim for the XF. After 7 top-rated seasons, behind the scenes strife threatened its future. With one star ready to walk and the creator / producer caught between disinterest and a lawsuit, it appeared as if the FBI agents Mulder and Scully had investigated their last XF.

The season closer ended in a nod to its beginning, returning to characters and settings from the pilot episode. At the denouement, as we all know by now, Mulder was abducted by the aliens he had been chasing for so long, and Scully and Skinner finally had incontrovertible proof that Mulder’s crazy theories had been right all along. But creator CC had one more cliff-hanger trick up his sleeve, just in case the series was renewed: in the show’s final moments it was revealed that Scully – supposedly unable to have children due to alien tampering – was pregnant! But how? And with whose baby? And would we ever find out?

That final question weighed most heavily on the studio chiefs and producers’ minds as filming ended this Spring. Deadpan series star DD had tired of life as equally deadpan FBI agent Mulder on the XF, and despite the fact that his film career consisted of a handful of flop features, he wanted more. Or out. Or both. Last year, DD bought a lawsuit against 20th century Fox for cheating him out of syndicated rerun profits. His argument was that Fox had sold rerun rights to its sister cable network FX, for less than other networks would have bought them for. He also sued CC for conspiring with Fox for the deal, and then covering it up.

Although CC had initially waffled about doing an 8th season of the XF himself, the spectacular failure of his third series, Harsh Realm (which followed the cancellation of his second series, Millennium) prodded him to approach another season with more relish. CC told the press that “Fox had asked me very late in the season last year to do the show and I said to them ‘I really do not want to do this as a matter of commerce.’ I wanted it to be a great season of the XF. I want the event of Mulder’s disappearance to be an important event. I want the possibility that the show could go on. I wanted it to go on for all the right reasons.”

Meanwhile GA, the distaff members of the onscreen duo had already signed for the 8th season, a substantially smaller paycheck than DD was getting. But rather than making immediate waves, Anderson bided her time as negotiations progressed.

With only one day to go before the Fall schedule was to be announced in late May, Fox and CC settled their lawsuit with DD on May 17th for an untold sum (reportedly $20-30m), and the actor agreed to do a limited number of episodes in S8 (6 complete and 5 cameos, out of 20). “He’s looking for a place to invest his money right now,” CC joked whilst speaking to fans at the San Diego Comic Con. He later told reporters that, “whilst we weren’t able to speak a lot last year because of the lawsuit there has been, I think, a lot of repair of something that was damaged.”

Left with a partnerless Scully in the episodes DD was not going to appear in, CC and his staff invented a new FBI agent who would come in to investigate the XF – and the mystery of Mulder’s abduction…Agent John Doggett.

In July after a quick run through of some of Hollywood’s hot – and available for a TV series – actors such as Bruce Campbell, Hart Bochner, Gary Cole, DB Sweeny, and Lou Diamond Phillips, CC and Fox announced that the new agent would be played by RP, best known for his role in Terminator 2. “We saw terrific actors for the part,” CC told reporters. “We had written the part and conceived of a part that was very much an insider of the FBI. He’s part of the fraternity. Mulder had always been an outsider, a consummate outsider. We wanted somebody who was blue-collar, a former cop, a man’s man. And RP came in and blew us away. He just embodied this character – everything from the timbre of his voice to the presence of his intensity. Because he’s going to be on screen with Scully a lot, I saw them as worthy adversaries and worthy partners.”

RP signed for 2 seasons which means that Fox had to renegotiate with GA for a 9th season. She was perfectly amenable to the plan…provided her paycheck went up to the same amount as DD’s (reportedly $200-300m per episode). With all the contracts signed and lawsuit resolved, CC and co went into overdrive to prepare not only for the 8th season of XF, but also TLG. But big questions loomed ahead. No US science fiction series in TV history had ever gone beyond 7 seasons. With its already waning ratings, could the XF still compete in the market? Would the fans be interested in an essentially Mulder-less series? Could GA and RP capture the same kind of chemistry between their characters as GA and DD had?

Playing spin-control, CC made a rare public speaking – and autographing – appearance at the San Diego Comic Con to reassure fans that they were in for renewed energy and more scares. He then spoke solo in the annual Television Critics Association tour, where journalists who weren’t quite as steeped in the show’s mythology still wanted to know if the XF was still worth all the fuss its co-star had caused behind the scenes…and whether RP could replace DD effectively.

“I had to write the season finale Requiem not knowing whether or not we’d be back,” admits CC. “It set up an interesting problem for me in coming back now and doing an 8th year. I have the opportunity to be able to explore things that I wasn’t going to be able to do. There was a point last season where it was kind of distressing. Right around Xmas time I came into Frank Spotnitz’s office and I said ‘I’ve got this great idea,’ and he looked at me and said ‘We’ve only got ten more episodes to go.’ There’s still a lot of things I want to explore.”

CC describes RP’s agent Doggett as “a member of the FBI fraternity. He’s one of the guys. He’s one of the hardcore. He’s on his way up the ladder. He’s a do-gooder in one sense, but he’s his own man. What he represents to Scully and Skinner is a threat to the XF, because it is a basement operation. In coming to look for Mulder, he’s a threat because he is a part of the system. He’s attacking the XF. He isn’t working as Scully’s partner, but at some point they will come to a point where they can agree to disagree.”

“He’s a person who’s doubting by nature,” CC continues, “and he really is one of those people who needs to see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, feel it, in order to believe it. And that’s going to be the character. He was a former NY police detective, and he was in the US marine corps, and that’s where we’re working from. ”

Scully, meanwhile, has gone through changes of her own. “Agent Scully, over 7 years, has seen a tremendous amount of things, and it’s eroded her scepticism,” says CC. “Even though she’s a scientist, she’s a reluctant believer now. To find Mulder she has to accept the fact that he may have been abducted. So it leads us to a new era of the XF. She’s a scientist,” CC explains. “In her heart she’s a scientist, so she has to come at things scientifically as any smart person would do…I think that it makes the character interesting. She’s torn and she’s always been torn. The great thing about Scully is that she wears a cross around her neck. She has a religious bent. She has beliefs and those beliefs were always in conflict with her science anyway. So she has been a character who has been both torn in her belief and in her personal approach to life.”

Beyond that complicated dichotomy, Scully’s mysterious pregnancy will continue to play a major role in the series – as well as hinting that a certain person with the initials FM is the father. In last season’s GA-written-and-directed- episode all things, CC says that “we hinted at a relationship with Mulder. We’re going to go back and explore that. And it’s a very interesting thing to play with for her character, too. She’s a very lonely person, and now she’s even lonelier without Mulder.”

Still he admits that all the pieces to the pregnancy puzzle haven’t been put on the table just yet. “We’re going to explore what happened earlier. Whilst it may seem like you missed something – and you did – you will not miss it at the end.”

MP’s character of Skinner has also come to the forefront of the series due to his involvement in Mulder’s abduction. CC admits that he has gotten a tremendous amount of fan mail pressurising him to utilise Skinner more. “We’re trying to figure out ways to do that,” he protests. “It’s really just being true to the characters and true to the stories how we do that. The character of Skinner is really important to the show because he has seen something now and has seen something even Scully hasn’t seen.”

Because the XF has been swirling in conspiracies – governmental an alien – since its inception, numerous secondary characters have gained a foothold with fans. WBD’s CSM, the sole surviving leader of the main conspiracy was last shown being pushed down a staircase in his wheelchair. When asked if we’d see CSM again CC asks with a grin “dead or alive?”

CSM’s assassins, Krycek and Marita are slated to bedevil Scully yet again, and Doggett may not know what’s hit him. “You’ll see more of Krycek,” says CC. “He’s coming back. We’ve got to get Mulder back before we can have any M/K interaction. The mythology lives on. And even though there are certain things that have been resolved there are still things to explore. As you saw in the season finale, Krycek is still very much alive. So is Covarrubias, and because Laurie Holden sent me a nice letter at the end of the year, I’ll probably give her as much screen time as I can,” he says, smiling.

So what can fans look forward to in the rejuvenated XF during its 8th season? “This year we’ll really go back to our roots, which is scary stories,” promises CC. “We always inject humour into the show. It just won’t be slapsticky slap-happy episodes,” he says, referring to the spate of comedic episodes in the last two seasons. And he notes that the new blood will help things greatly. “Mulder and Scully are the reason – GA and DD are the reason – for the show’s great success. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t threaten the paradigm, you can’t threaten the model, you can’t threaten the relationship.”

Later this year CC promises a clearer explanation of the aliens and the government’s interaction with them. We really hinted at an Are 51-like base in ‘Deep Throat.’ You saw Mulder escape into it in ‘Dreamland.’ I don’t know if we’ll go back to that base particularly, but we may actually explore that area because we are now back into UFO and alien territory with the abduction of Mulder.” As to the aliens, the series creator notes that “there are several alien races. There’s the Greys, and then there are the faceless aliens, and then there’s the Bounty Hunter who is a renegade who left the faceless crew. Those are all things that are going to be explored this year because I know people have questions about that.”

And fans shouldn’t rule out a return appearance of the dour Frank Black, the star of CC’s three-seasons series Millennium, which crossed over with the XF last year. “I hope t bring back Frank Black. I love the character, and I love working with Lance, so the big treat last year was being able to bring him back and doing it in an episode where M&S actually get to consummate their relationship with a kiss. After 7 years you’ve got to admit that it’s pretty good for two characters who’ve had such sexual tension. It’s the world’s longest foreplay.”

Looking further into the future, CC does plan to do more XF movies. “There are plans, but they’re all in my head. I think the TV series will hopefully become a movie series. Right now what we’re doing is telling stories that hopefully will lead to that. I think the XF could probably go on forever if it was in the right hands.”

Meanwhile, CC has S8 to keep on track. “We want to keep the show good, we want to prove to ourselves that we are not resting. We want to prove to ourselves that after 161 episodes we can continue to be imaginative. It’s a real challenge.”

Dreamwatch: Riding the Wave – Jenny Cooney Carillo catches up on a hectic year in the life of Chris Carter

Riding the Wave – Jenny Cooney Carillo catches up on a hectic year in the life of Chris Carter
Jenny Cooney Carillo

Like the avid surfer he is in real life, it seems appropriate The X Files creator/producer Chris Carter rides the ups and downs of his career so smoothly. After the series became an international phenomenon he launched another drama, Millennium, which was met with mixed reviews, but survived three years, and then got the go-ahead for Harsh Realm. But harsh reality hit when his new series was cancelled only weeks after it first aired, and then both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson announced that they thought it unlikely they would be back for another season. And if all that wasn’t enough, Duchovny filed a lawsuit against Fox for bilking him out of millions of dollars of profits through the practice of vertical integration – selling syndication rights to the show to another arm of the same company for less than market value – and he named Carter as a co-conspirator.

But now the waters seemed to have calmed and Carter finds himself coasting along again as The X Files returns for an eighth season; one which some insiders are already proclaiming to be the best yet….

Q: How many actors did you see before you cast Robert Patrick, and why did you choose him?

We probably saw about 50 to 75 actors. We had heard that Robert was unavailable because we asked about him right away before we saw anyone else. He was attached to another project but I have a hard time taking no for an answer and I knew I wanted to work with him, so I was determined to make it work and eventually I did. He was perfect for the character we wrote.

Q: So tell us about the character if FBI Agent John Doggett…

For seven years it has really been Mulder as the believer and Scully as the skeptic, so with Mulder’s abduction, Scully now has to really accept certain things. Mulder was taken away and to pursue him she has to pursue the paranormal and she has to become something of a believer in it. Enter this new character, John Doggett, who is assigned to help her, or I should say is assigned to do this and she’s actually taken off the case. He is a former New York cop and, unlike Mulder, is very much liked and respected at the FBI and is actually a more hard-core disbeliever than Scully. So now we’ve got a new dynamic: Scully as the reluctant believer and a new guy who I would describe as a knee-jerk skeptic.

Q: During all the negotiations and problems last year, did you ever reach a point where you thought, forget it – I’m going surfing!

Yeah, honestly, there were many times last year when I didn’t think year eight would happen and we would go on and make movies instead. But there were good reasons for it to happen so I’m happy about it and I’m really looking forward to getting on with a more human existence and pace in my life. When a show has been so good to you and still has life in it… I decided to go ahead and sign up for one more year, and that doesn’t preclude me or rule out the fact that I would still do other years as well.

Q: You said there are many reasons why the show should go on. Can you elaborate?

When there was talk last year about possibly doing the show without David, I thought that was a bad idea because I thought the show should include David in some small way and it should be about what it’s always been about. We shouldn’t just be doing it because it’s a hit show and it makes a lot of money for everybody. We should find reasons to tell stories, and so I deliberated and considered all these things before I started out and I realized there were good stories to tell by adding a character like Doggett, making Scully’s character a little bit different and making Mulder a kind of absent center. He is till very, very much a part of the show even when he’s not there because his absence is what fuels Scully’s search.

Q: How does Gillian Anderson feel about returning after being so reluctant to do so last year?

Gillian has been a dream to work with. I just finished directing an episode and she called me up at the end and thanked me for the work and said it was a joy. She’s a happy person and she’s getting to spend time with her daughter who last year spent a lot of time between here and Canada. It was exhausting for Gillian.

Q: So how did you actually get Gillian to return and be committed to the show after the way she felt last year?

I wasn’t involved at all, actually. Everybody goes through cycles in their life and periods where you’re tired or something went wrong or your relationships are stressful, and I think that was what you were hearing from her last year – the venting of that particular time in her life. I have to say, through the rest something changed and it had nothing to do with anything that I said to her. I think that she saw she had an eighth year in her contract, that Fox was looking to bring the show back for an eighth year, and I think wisely she figured out that it would be better to do it in a constructive way rather than a destructive way.

Q: Does she get a break in her schedule?

She gets some breaks. Her daughter is now going to school in Vancouver so it was important to her to spend more time there. We’re actually making allowances for her to be with her daughter for periods of time, and I understand it and support that decision.

Q: How tough was the lawsuit on your friendship with David Duchovny?

We’ve had several meals at several different times since the settlement of the suit, and since we’ve gone back to work I think we’ve buried the hatchet. I still blame vertical integration as the big problem, and this is the beginning of something you’re going to start seeing a lot more of because what happens is that when the buyer and seller are the same person, it pits everybody against everyone else and it’s not good for working relationships.

Q: So you don’t deny there was a hatchet?

I was just using a figure of speech! But I can’t say it wasn’t without its tension. I’m still unclear what I was accused of doing. Even though I was not being sued, there was an accusation that I was somehow part of the problem, and that was just not the case.

Q: So could David’s decision to cut down his time on the show be a blessing in disguise?

I kept trying to see it as creating a solution for a problem that was interesting to solve. The solutions sometimes make for very interesting storytelling. Now we have Robert aboard, I can tell you that it’s working and it’s working well, and the storytelling is as good as its ever been. The stories are scary. We’ve got a new life in the show and so I have to say the search for Mulder – which is what season eight is about – makes for a new, interesting X Files season.

Q: Will it be scarier?

I think the show will go back to its scarier roots. I don’t think there will be as many comedy episodes this year, although we never actually started comedy episodes on The X Files until episode 48. You have to earn a little bit of trust before you can start messing with the formula.

Q: It felt like you got no support for Harsh Realm from the network. Was that a painful experience for you?

I’m still a little bitter about it but it’s water under the bridge now. The truth is that the guy who I hold responsible for the quick demise of that show has been cancelled himself so that relieves some of the feeling. But every time I see a billboard for Dark Angel, I think ‘That’s one more billboard than Harsh Realm had.’ No one knew about the show so it was no surprise that it didn’t get the ratings that they had hoped for.

Q: What about the Lone Gunmen pilot. How is that shaping up?

Lone Gunmen will air five episodes in the spring during the X Files hiatus, and the pilot is terrific.

Q: How do you divide your time?

Since the third season of The X Files I really have been working on two things at once, so I have learned to divide my time well. A guy like David Kelley… I hope people appreciate what he does because he writes everything and he’s got three show’s this year. That is superhuman and my hat is off to him. Our shows are different shows, but I think it’s insanity to do it all yourself.

Q: So what kind of relationship will Scully and Doggett have? Romantic or strictly platonic?

Well, at the end of last season Scully announced she was pregnant and we still don’t know who the father is, but she is pregnant. So a romantic relationship right now seems a bit awkward but I think that, like Mulder and Scully, their relationship is very much about protectiveness, about respect, and shared passions, and the things that the best relationships are built on. I think you’re going to see some of that here too because Robert’s character is a very protective character and he’s watching Scully sort of stumble forward trying to deal with what’s happened to Mulder. He deals with her belief in the paranormal, but he lets her go and watches her stumble and then picks her up because while he doesn’t believe in it, he respects her struggle.

Q: So no love scenes?

I think what you’re going to find this year is we’re going to deal with all that in a delicate and provocative way. We deal with how Scully got pregnant – we’ve not done anything like that on the show before.

Q: Is it true that you may resurrect Harsh Realm?

I have this idea that I think Harsh Realm was under-appreciated and mistreated, so there is a way I may be able to resurrect it. I actually have an idea how to do that but I have to be secretive about it, so I’m not going to tell you more just yet.

Q: You are shooting Lone Gunmen in Vancouver and you own a house there. Do you prefer working in Canada?

I bought a loft there because I was just paying rent for five years, so it was an opportunity to put a root down in Vancouver. I love my crew in Los Angeles and we do great work, but I was in Vancouver before because they had terrific locations and it was the perfect place to do a show like The X Files. The only reasons I’ve gone back now is I have friends up there. I have a crew up there. I have developed a working relationship with the city and the community and its a nice place for me because I’m familiar with it.

Q: You’ve answered some of the big conspiracy questions on the show. Was that because you thought it was over?

Those characters had for us reached a point where we felt that they needed to be given some kind of resolution. Not a total or absolute resolution but a resolution of some of those storylines. So we just thought it was the time to do it, whether the show was going to end or not.

Q: Didn’t William B. Davis [Cigarette Smoking Man] move down to Los Angeles and then you killed him off?

No he didn’t. He still lived in Vancouver and we still don’t know whether he’s dead or not! We left him lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs and he was looking in pretty bad shape, but this is The X Files…

BBC Online: Cult – X Files – Frank Spotnitz interview

BBC Online
Cult – X Files – Frank Spotnitz interview

How did you start on The X Files?

I was a struggling features screen writer and a part time journalist and I had known Chris Carter. I had met him some years before at a book group.

I was watching The X Files on TV during the first season and a friend of mine who also wanted to be a writer called me and asked me if I could get him a meeting with Chris to pitch some story ideas for The X Files.

So I called Chris and I said, ‘I’ve got this friend, he’d like to pitch some ideas to you, would you be willing to meet with him?’ And Chris said ‘No, but I would be willing to meet with you. Do you have any ideas?’

I didn’t but I immediately went back to work and thought of three ideas. I came and I pitched them, and I got shot down.

I thought, well that’s the end of that, and then he called me a couple of weeks later and he said, ‘You know I shot down those ideas but they were actually pretty good, in this way and this way and this way. If you can rework them or come up with some new ideas I’d like to hear them.’

So I started working on another round of ideas and while I was still working on that second pitch, two co-executive producers of the show resigned and he called me on a Thursday and said, ‘Forget the pitch, can you come in and join the staff?’

So on Monday I started writing for The X Files and this is my seventh year on the show.

What are the elements of the series that set it apart from others?

The X Files is so different from everything else that is done on network television. It is different in approach. I think it’s much more plot-driven and much more idea-driven than most television dramas. One hour dramas that tend to be about characters.

I think production wise it’s insanely ambitious, almost impossible to achieve every week. Most one hour dramas you’re in the same standing set for the majority of the time. On The X Files most of the time you’re out in completely new locations.

Every week there’s a big idea that is completely different. There’s a new set of rules, there’s a new paranormal phenomenon that has nothing to do with what came the week before.

So it’s a hugely ambitious show that tries to be cinematic in its approach. You look at an X Files shooting script and it’s unlike any other shooting script for a one hour drama on television. It’s trying to direct itself in the writing because there is so much that needs to be achieved in our shooting schedule .

Unless you’re specific with a director from the page about how you can achieve all this with the time and money we’ve got, it wouldn’t be possible. It’s a very difficult show to write for, and I’ve always felt the enormous pressure to try and achieve the work in the time allowed from the moment I got here.

Were you sceptical about The X Files’ ability to succeed when you first saw it?

I was sceptical because too often when television tries to do cinematic stuff it looks like television. You see the lack of money, you see the lack of time.

They [the producers] were just so smart in their approach: The counterpoints they gave Mulder and Scully, and what they showed you of the monster. More importantly what they didn’t show you of the monster. How much they relied on you to connect the pieces yourself.

I think especially in the early days it was the brains of the show that caught people and made them stick. Then, of course, [there was] just the incredible chemistry that David and Gillian had from the start. That’s the kind of thing that no television producer can expect or count on. When you get that it’s like gold because so much of this show depends on the chemistry of its leads.

How would you kind of describe the relationship between Mulder and Scully?

I think the first thing, the most obvious thing, to say about their relationship is it’s a Yin and Yang. It’s the believer and the sceptic. Yet it’s flipped from the beginning because the women is the sceptic and the man is the believer. That is a clear switch on gender stereotypes.

The man has the more emotional, intuitive position and the woman’s got the more cold, rational approach. That immediately made it interesting. Then they’re both fiercely intelligent, very smart and very interesting.

Secondly, as the years have gone on, there is this unspoken bond between them. It is evident in the way they look at each other, the way they treat each other, and this is very rarely spoken of.

That’s an interesting thing too because these episodes are so plot-driven that you’re hungry for character detail. You want to know more but the show doesn’t give it to you. When it does come, and something personal happens in one of their lives, it’s like a cool drink of water. At last you get more about them.

The last thing I would say is, the sexual tension. It’s there for two reasons – One, because they’re both very attractive people and two, because these two actors just have this chemistry, this electricity that is a gift from God for all of us.

It’s just there, and I don’t know how to explain that. You see them off screen as private individuals and they cannot be more different. They get along fine, but they’re not close personal friends off-screen

When the camera turns on I think both of them are aware of this connection between them that audiences react to.

How much is the show inspired by shows such as The Avengers?

I think there’s an undeniable influence of a show like The Avengers. There are four of us, four writer producers who’ve worked on the X Files now for five or six years. This one core group of us were huge fans of The Avengers growing up.

Emma Peel is a key figure in your imagination when you’re a boy, and the idea of what a beautiful women is stays with you as you grow up. She was smart, funny, and she was sexy. She was an equal to Steed in every way.

I doubt very much that Steed and Emma Peel played consciously in Chris Carter’s creation of Mulder and Scully.

I think as the years went on and as he sought for a way to explain them, the influence of a show like that and those characters probably became something that he was consciously aware of.

What has the working relationship with David Duchovny been like?

David is amazingly smart. Whereas most actors are exclusively concerned with their role in the story, he tends to look at the script as a whole. Just as a writer or producer might look at it.

When you get notes from him they’re about the script, and not just about his role in it. They’re usually very good. I think he’s made a lot of scripts better just by his reactions to them.

It’s been a great collaboration over the years. One interesting choice David made early on when playing Fox Mulder was his being completely unembarrassed and unapologetic for his whacked out beliefs.

Fox thinks the craziest things and he almost takes delight in hushing a room, in creating discomfort at the FBI by spouting these things that anyone else would be ashamed of.

It’s probably a quality David has himself. He can be a bit of a provocateur some times, just like Mulder. That’s one of the appealing things about him.

Then there are the things about Mulder that are a bit off kilter. He has no private life, we didn’t see his bedroom until the sixth season of the show.

He was an unabashed reader and viewer of pornography. These are things that you just didn’t see on network television prior to this character.

Where did the pornography story originate?

That was in the first season. You discovered Mulder liked pornography. I think it was something that Chris Carter, Jim Wong and Glen Morgan came up with. David and Gillian just had fun playing it. It was something that worked and was charming.

Gillian’s reaction to the pornography was humorous. She wasn’t shocked, she was like ‘I may be stiff and kind of prim but I can joke with you about this!’ It humanised both of them in a way.

Describe the difference between the two types of episode featured in the X Files.

The X Files has always been kind of a schizophrenic show because there are episodes that deal with the question of extra terrestrial life. Then the great majority of episodes are not about aliens at all.

They’re about all manner of paranormal phenomena from traditional monsters like werewolves and vampires, Frankenstein’s creatures to monsters that you know are unique to the show. Beings like someone who can harness lightning, somebody who can’t die. All kinds of paranormal creatures and situations.

Beyond that one of the interesting things about The X Files is it defies conventional wisdom about what a drama is supposed to be. The wisdom in the television industry in America is ‘give them the same thing every week, only different’.

The X Files said ‘forget that. We’re gonna give you a different type of show, a different situation every week. As different as we can make it’.

Is there an effort made to tap into people’s worst nightmares or their superstitions?

The show wants to tap into fears you have but you don’t know you have. It wants to be normal. We don’t, by and large, do stories that are set in exotic locations or about people that you don’t know.

It wants to be about the guy next door, the girl next door. To pick up on something that could be happening while you drive past that mini-mart, [that] this creature might be in there.

That was one of Chris Carter’s original insights into what is scary. He had a number of mottoes that he would drill into a writer’s head. It’s only as scary as it seems real. It has to be at the bounds of believability, at the extremes of science.

Scully really helped make these things seem credible. Mulder makes these huge paranormal leaps, and she talks about what science knows. Between the two of them you’d get to a place where you could see how, taking science a notch or two further, you could end up with what this episode is about.

Have you ever written something that was scary beyond the acceptable limits?

There was one episode that Chris wrote in the second season called Irresistible. It was one of the few X Files that had nothing paranormal in it at all. It was about a serial killer and it scared the hell out of people.

This was the first and only time this has happened to us.

When first draft of the script that came in, the standards and practices people who are the censors for the network sent back a memo. It had one sentence which said that this script is unacceptable for broadcast.

They just said you can’t make a show about this guy, he’s too repugnant! We discovered eventually that they were offended by the fact that he was a necrophile. So we simply went through the script and changed all the references to necrophilia to death-fetishism and then it was acceptable for broadcast

I think the episode that still receives the strongest response, and that outraged the most people was called Home. It was written by Glen Morgan and Jim Wong in the fourth season. It’s about a rural family in a town called Home in Pennsylvania.

The teaser is this deformed baby is buried under a baseball field. Again, trying to make it ‘normal’. It could be happening in your sand lot baseball diamond. It turns out that these three brothers have sex with their mother to create offspring.

The mother is a women with no arms and legs who lives under the bed and they wheel her out. So it was horrific. There was a very, very scary scene in that episode when the Sheriff and his wife are attacked by the brothers.

People were just angry, horrified, had nightmares and they described shots that we never filmed. They described scenes that they swear they saw that just weren’t there. What happened was the situation was so intense and scary that their imaginations filled in things.

And as outraged as people were, you know we were delighted because we are here to scare people. It’s very gratifying when I meet somebody and they say ‘you know I saw that episode and it gave me a nightmare’ or ‘I can’t think about this anymore the same way’.

Are there rules and guidelines to writing ‘The X-Files’?

There are an enormous number of unspoken rules on this show.

For the first several years I was on The X Files it was very difficult because I was one of the few writers who would survive every season. All the old writers would be let go because nobody was making the grade, and then you have a new crop of writers. You have to start all over again every summer.

You knew to explain all these things that you had internalised about what Scully would do, what Mulder would do. Where the camera should be. Where it shouldn’t be. Why you’d like something this way, why you wouldn’t … just endless numbers of details and a philosophy that people don’t consciously articulate.

Fortunately, the last few years we’ve actually found a group of writers who we’ve stuck with. We’ve had faith that even if they hadn’t got it immediately, they are going to get it. So there’s been a deepening of understanding and a larger group of people internalising what the model is.

But it is very hard. Once you understand the model [you say] ‘Ok I’ve got it. I think I understand what it is Chris Carter wants the series to be. Don’t do it the same way he would. Come up with something he wouldn’t think of.’ That’s why you’re here. It’s a very tough competitive environment.

What would be a good example of the rules for writing The X Files?

There’s a lot of little rules that are easy to explain. You know he doesn’t think, for instance, having your hands in your pockets is generally a good idea for actors.

He [Chris Carter] thinks it takes intensity and drama away from a scene. Reliance on a prop, an arbitrary prop like a coffee cup or something like that.

The harder things to learn, things that really make the show a success I think are harder to explain.

The biggest, I think, is the cinematic principal of this show. Who’s head is the audience in? You shoot to that character, and all the other angles compliment that character. It’s about that character psychology and if you’re standing in the wrong place, you’re not scared.

What was the genesis of the obscure episode titles?

We had the great fortune of having X Files become a success just as the internet was booming, and chat rooms and message boards were spreading like wild fire.

Chris Carter realised that The X Files had a special relationship with these people who were on the internet, so let’s have fun with our audience. Let’s come up with a title that will make them wonder what that show’s going to be.

‘What’s that title mean? I’ve never heard of that Latin phrase’ or ‘that’s a biblical reference’, and it became something that generated more chat on the internet and intrigued people.

Chris is a great showman, he’s a great withholder of information. Both in the way he tells the stories and the way he promotes the show. He makes the audience wait. He creates a thirst for knowledge and then knows just when to reveal it. He’s been very successful at that.

How important was the internet in building The X Files?

I believe the internet was critical in establishing the X-Files as a success.

The X Files is completely atypical in that its success grew every year for the first five years of the show, really peaking with the release of the feature film after the fifth season of the television series. Yet, in the first year the ratings were unspectacular and it really took a long time for it to grow to an audience that was a clear success.

There was a drum beat that you could hear from all the people on the internet who were watching the show. Talking about it, dissecting it, and it was rich material for them. A lot of intelligence and ideas.

There were many times, especially during the second and third seasons of the show, when we’d come in on Monday morning and there’d be a telephone book sized stack of e-mail that was posted about the previous episode.

We still look on the internet from time to time, and we try and gauge fan reaction. It’s a sizeable and important audience, probably the most hardcore of the show’s fans.

Over time we came to see that the people on the internet have a very specific agenda and taste. Certain things about the show are more important to them than are important to the audience at large, so you mustn’t let yourself be led or overly influenced by that sector of your audience.

Do you have to understand the mythology of the series to enjoy watching it?

Good luck to anyone who thinks they are going to completely understand the mythology of The X Files. You can’t. It’s too dense, it’s too complex. It’s been woven out over eight years.

We tell people you don’t need to understand it all. You shouldn’t understand it all to enjoy it. We repeat what you need to know. The other stuff you don’t need to know.

We’ve never wanted the audience to feel like they need a guide book to watch the show. We’ve never wanted somebody to feel like they can’t watch the show because they weren’t watching from the beginning.

It’s not true as long as you just sort of accept, ‘I’m gonna be told what I need to know to enjoy this hour’.

Are there also disadvantages by having a hardcore internet fan base?

The frustrating aspect about having such a loyal and hardcore internet following is that it’s very hard to keep secrets. We have had scripts stolen out of offices [and] off the Fox lot. We’ve had tapes stolen, cuts of shows that have disappeared.

The scary thing about the internet, not just for a television show, but actually more so for other spheres of life like politics and people trying to protect their privacy, is that all it takes is one person to know something and then the whole world can know about it.

What we’ve discovered is that the people who want to know these secrets are probably the ones who are going to watch anyway. They’re so devoted they’re gonna watch and enjoy, even if they’ve spoiled the surprise for themselves.

How do you try to protect the stories?

There is a limit to how much we can do to protect the secrecy of the television shows and the television scripts.

There are just too many people on the Fox lot who have to read each one of these scripts before it gets produced. There’s literally hundreds of people that read it so it’s virtually impossible to protect that secret.

When we did The X Files feature film we had a much greater opportunity to be super secret. So we printed the scripts on red paper, we numbered each one of them. We had people sign privacy agreements.

We were insanely protective of it. The story line still did get out despite all that, but we were able to float enough false story lines and denials that no-one really knew what the real story was until the feature was released.

Can you explain the phenomenal success of The X Files?

I believe good stories will last beyond the time they were written and produced.

I think the enduring success of The X Files is the central theme of the show which is ‘the truth is out there’.

What does that mean? That’s an endless question. That’s incredibly deep, the philosophical idea. ‘The truth is out there’. It really speaks to me, both in the alien and the monster shows.

In every type of episode we try to capture the sense of mystery in the universe and the world that everybody senses. Whether they believe in ghosts, and aliens, or God or not.

There’s a mystery that all of us are aware of, and the show says ‘yes there is more than you understand’. And it treats people. It captures their imagination because of that.

What does Mulder’s search for the truth represent?

As the years have gone on we’ve thought more and more about extra terrestrials and people’s interest in them. We’ve become more and more aware of the parallels between seeking to prove the existence of aliens and to prove the existence of God.

I think that’s a lot of what goes on within the real world and in the popular culture. With aliens and the U.F.O mythology it’s like looking for God. It’s looking for meaning, order. A greater sense of what the world is about. On another level that’s kind of what conspiracy theories do too.

The world’s too big for any one of us to encompass anymore … we can’t possibly encompass all of it. So when you hear a conspiracy theory like you do in The X Files, it’s as if it’s giving you a magic key.

You go ‘Oh, this is how it all works, I see, all these elements that don’t make sense to me’. This conspiracy theory connects it all for me and it’s very satisfying.

Now I don’t think that is the way the world works, but that’s the appeal of a conspiracy theory in a show like The X Files.

Is Chris Carter a true believer in the paranormal?

I think Chris is Scully, but he wants to be Mulder.

‘I want to believe’ sort of expresses that tension. Chris doesn’t believe in extra terrestrials, he doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, but he’d love to. I think we all would.

Just like all of us would love to be devout believers in God, but most of us aren’t. Most of us struggle with faith. What comfort it would be to have that abiding faith, belief and conviction.

Why have so many cultures embraced The X Files?

I think the same things scare people all around the world. They’re universal.

You know if you look at comparative mythology or comparative religion the same symbols come up. The same ideas. The same religious figures all over the world from tribes in remote islands in the South Pacific to the Americas and Europe and Asia.

You can find the same notion in culture after culture after culture. You know it’s kind of a heart-warming thing, ironically, that we’re all frightened by the same things. It just sort of reaffirms our common humanity.

I think the success of The X Files is another example of that.