Archive for December, 2000

Science Fiction Weekly: Frank Spotnitz tells the truth about the latest season of The X-Files

Dec-31-2000
Science Fiction Weekly
Frank Spotnitz tells the truth about the latest season of The X-Files
Melissa Perenson

The negotiations went down to the wire. But when the dust settled, The X-Files was on Fox’s schedule for an eighth year, and actor David Duchovny (Mulder) had agreed to return.

As a result, though The X-Files is still fundamentally about telling scary stories, now it’s also about so much more. As if restructuring the series to focus on Scully (Gillian Anderson), her temporary partner, Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick), and their search for Mulder wasn’t a dramatic enough shift, at the end of season seven Scully revealed that she was pregnant. That’s a lot to absorb– for both audiences and the show’s creators alike. Executive producer Frank Spotnitz shares his thoughts on The X-Files’ season so far.

The decision to bring The X-Files back for another year was a last-minute one. How did that affect how you approached the episodes for this season?

Spotnitz: After we found out we were going to be back for another year, the first thing we thought about was, since we don’t have Mulder, who is going to be added to the mix that’s going to shake things up? Honestly, we had to feel our way forward through all of the stories. The X-Files is still The X-Files–it’s always been a plot-driven show–so finding the stories and the investigations has not been any harder than it ever was. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it hasn’t gotten more difficult. What has gotten difficult, and interestingly so, is how these two people go about solving these cases.

What went into the process of casting Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) as Scully’s new partner, Agent Doggett?

Spotnitz: Well, this was a huge studio/network decision. Everyone had an interest in this, because it’s really about the preservation of the series–they really want to see the show continue beyond an eighth year, to a ninth season and beyond. It was a massive casting process; hundreds of names were thrown into the hat, and we saw dozens of actors. We saw many fine people for this part. And I have to say, the one guy who came in, of all the people we saw, who was exactly what we had imagined, was Robert Patrick.

Given how central Mulder and Scully’s relationship is to the series, how did you go about constructing a new working dynamic between Doggett and Scully?

Spotnitz: It’s so complicated. There are so many factors you need to consider, doing something like this. It’s like brain surgery on a TV show. What’s evolved is [Scully as] a very reluctant believer, someone who arrives at paranormal explanations as a last resort; only when science abandons her, when she runs out of all possible real-world theories, does she dare to put forward something that Mulder might have in the first scene of Act I in previous years.

How does Scully react to Doggett’s arrival on scene?

Spotnitz: With hostility [laughs]. Scully does not welcome him, and he has to earn her respect and her trust, much like he has to earn the respect and the trust of the audience. And I think it’s a strategy that’s paying off for us.

“Via Negativa,” this season’s seventh episode and the first episode you’ve written solo in a while, focuses on Doggett’s character.

Spotnitz: It was kind of a storytelling challenge, because early in his tenure, Agent Doggett is handed the reins of an X-File investigation. And he has to struggle through it, with Scully offering only limited help. It was a bit of a brain teaser to figure out how to tell a story like that, but it ended up being very satisfying, and a great experience for me to write and to watch filmed, because we had a new director to the show, Tony Wharmby, who was wonderful, and totally into the script and totally into the character. And then Robert Patrick, he just showed what he could do. He was just fantastic.

After 11th-hour contract negotiations last May, Duchovny struck a deal to appear in a limited number of episodes. How are you dealing with Mulder’s absence through the first half of the season?

Spotnitz: Well, Mulder is sort of spiritually present in all of these episodes, even when they’re not looking for him, because it his approach that Scully is forced to adopt, and it was his unit. And through an incredibly complicated arrangement [with] David’s agents and manager and the studio, he’s available to us for a certain number of days here and there. And so there are episodes that feature him prior to his ultimate return. It’s a weird deal they struck, because I believe he’s in six episodes for real. And then there are a certain number of days to be used by us here and there, that they imagine will amount to another five episodes, but it may be less, or may be more.

When was the decision made to pursue a storyline in which Scully becomes pregnant?

Spotnitz: At the very beginning of season seven, we hit upon the idea and it seemed wonderful to us. There was beautiful symmetry to it. We knew that was our target all season, and so we did a number of things in episodes that would be tantalizing for fans who later were to look back at the episodes and try and figure out when Scully might have gotten pregnant and how. And that’s something we will continue to explore this season. But all questions will be answered by the end of the season, we promise.

How will Scully’s pregnancy affect her ability to search for Mulder?

Spotnitz: Season eight begins the morning after season seven. She’s not showing, and she’s able to not show for some months, so she’s able to preserve her secret for some months. I think this is going to be a season with more than one cliffhanger in it, and we’re going to use those cliffhangers as opportunities to expand or contract time as need be.

With Mulder away, will we see more of The X-Files’ peripheral characters this season?

Spotnitz: We’ll see Krycek and Covarrubias in the second half of the season. I think their roles become more important when Mulder is returned. But Skinner, to me, is extremely interesting this year, because his role has changed fundamentally.

Will we see much of the Lone Gunmen?

Spotnitz: They appear in the first episode, and again in “Via Negativa,” the episode I wrote with Doggett, and again in episode 11. We hoped to use them more, but it’s difficult, because they’re in production now on their own series in Vancouver; it’s going to be logistically difficult.

Mulder and Scully are obviously the heart of The X-Files–but now we have Doggett, too. What will happen to that dynamic when Mulder is back in the picture?

Spotnitz: That’s a really interesting question, and that’s the one we’re starting to explore in earnest, because we’re almost up to that point, in terms of writing the shows. But he’s not going anywhere, so he’s going to become an important part of the show. It really becomes a three-lead series at that point. I think, over time, a bond will form between Scully and Doggett, and it doesn’t go away once Mulder returns. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how these two men play off of each other once Mulder comes back.

So far, the show’s ratings have held steady. But did you have any concerns going into this Mulder-less season?

Spotnitz: Definitely. I was totally uncertain about whether it was a good idea to go forward this year. If it had been left up to me, I’m not sure I would have gone forward; but having committed to it, I wanted it to be great. And I wanted to be vindicated creatively, and defeat all the naysayers. So that’s what we’ve been doing. All of us are aware of what a huge risk this is, and how crucial the character of Mulder has been to this series, how much he has been the series, and how much he and Scully and their relationship have been central to everything that has made the show successful. To take that away–you can’t take a bigger gamble in television. We’ve gone into this with our eyes open, fully aware of the more-than-good chance of failure, but we’ve been going at it the best way we know how.

The Hartford Courant: ‘X-Files’ Spinoff Due On Fox In March

Dec-29-2000
The Hartford Courant
‘X-Files’ Spinoff Due On Fox In March
James Endrst

LOS ANGELES — There are still some people in this world who, when they speak, are guaranteed an audience.

Fans of ”Star Trek” come to mind.

As do aficionados of Chris Carter and his Fox paranormal drama, ”The X-Files.”

So if you happen to be one of those people, listen up. With ”The X-Files” in its eighth season and a ninth year in doubt, and after a long, distracting legal tussle between Fox and star David Duchovny, Carter is not only in the midst of determining the future of his series, he’s also hard at work on a spinoff, ”The Lone Gunmen.” Due in March in ”The X-Files” Sunday night time slot at 9, the hourlong comedy/drama will give those computer-savvy conspiracy geeks Byers (Bruce Harwood), Frohike (Tom Braidwood) and Langly (Dean Haglund) – also known as the The Lone Gunmen – a Fox show of their own.

Carter, the creator/executive producer here again, says his latest series wasn’t part of some long, drawn-out plan.

It happened, really, by chance.

”We did episodes that were dedicated to the Lone Gunmen … really as a result of the unavailability of Gillian (Anderson) and David when we were making the movie (1998’s ‘The X-Files: Fight the Future’).”

The ”Gunmen” episodes, says Carter, were very successful. ”We thought the guys were very funny.”

Funny? Yes.

But cool? Never.

Described as a ”misguided ‘Mission: Impossible’ team” with ”stagnant” social skills, the trio will get some help from the distracting presence of Yves Adele Harlow, played by newcomer Zuleikha Robinson. ”She’s just stunningly beautiful,” says Carter. ”She’s very young and she’s very green, but she’s terrific.”

From his perspective, Robinson is cut from the ”Bond Girl” mold. But the British-born actress, who was raised in Thailand and Malaysia, is also a woman of the world – one with a British accent Carter will use in the series.

Look for a fourth gunmen, another unknown named Stephen Snedden, to join the show, as well.

Duchovny and Anderson were hardly household names when Carter cast them as Mulder and partner Dana Scully. Carter says he prefers casting no-names rather than big names. ”I think if you have faith in your taste, it’s the way to go,” he says. ”Because it creates a level of interest for a show, for the material, that might not be there otherwise. People have already made up their minds about certain actors.” Carter didn’t find the audition process too painful, either, speaking clearly of Robinson’s role.

”Mostly we cast bland everybodys and everymans. And every once in a while, we get a chance to actually see beautiful women.”

For the ”X-Files” faithful who simply must know, assuming they haven’t hacked into a Web site somewhere in search of an answer, ”The Lone Gunmen” won’t get too much of a boost from ”The X-Files” as far as setting up the series. The Gunmen will appear more frequently on ”X-Files.” But Mitch Pileggi, who plays assistant director Skinner, is the only star scheduled for a crossover appearance.

Don’t look for Duchovny, certainly.

Duchovny, who has been missing in action for a good part of this season, after being abducted by what appeared to be an alien space ship in the season-seven cliffhanger, has already been, essentially, replaced by Robert Patrick as Scully’s partner, agent John Doggett.

”This show certainly could come back,” Carter says. ”But I don’t have a contract, and (when) I came back this year, I said I would only do it if I could figure out a way to make it good. That’s the way I would come back next year. So I’m considering it. I’m not saying no, I’m not saying yes.”

The plan, he explains, is to turn the television series into a movie series.

”It’s still kind of in the talking stages,” Carter says of the movies to be. ”We really want to figure out how to wind the TV series down or reinvent it before we do that (next) movie specifically.” (Duchovny would, however, ideally be in whatever big-screen version came next, says the producer.)

Still, though Carter says he loves the job that Patrick (”Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) has done in a difficult situation, Duchovny’s public disappointment and protest over his share of ”The X-Files” dividends has taken its toll.

”This year’s been interesting,” Carter says, ”because there are so many people who are invested in Mulder and Scully. Then all of a sudden you change that. And you hear about it, believe me. There is a lot of mail and a lot of opinions. And, you know, not all of them are positive.”

In fact, he says of the particularly tuned in, known as “X-philes”: “They were ready to hate the show this year. They were going to punish us for changing what they had come to know and love. There’s still a group on the Internet who just will not tolerate what we’ve done — even though I think we’re doing it well.”

There’s simply ”a lot of hysteria right now,” says Carter.

That kind of palpable exasperation from the show’s creator may shed some light on why Carter says ”The Lone Gunmen” is a show (and it is a comedy as opposed to a drama), that stands on its own.

But rest assured, though there are many ”wonderfully lowbrow” moments, Carter says he has no intention of writing down to the audience and the program will operate in the same milieu as ”X-Files.” ”Right now, they’re not dealing with the paranormal,” he says of ”The Lone Gunmen,” which is at about the halfway point in preparation for debut.

Conspiracy theories like the Kennedy assassination will be part of the plot lines, without a doubt. In general, however, Carter says, ”They have more to do with what I’d call contemporary crime and injustice.” Such as?

”The kind of stuff where the government is lying to us,” says Carter. ”Also white-collar crime and we’ve got a story about the legendary water-powered car. We’ve got a story about a philandering senator. We’ve got a story about a possible Nazi war criminal, who is a woman living in America.”

The last one, for a reason he won’t explain, makes him laugh out loud. ”It’s just very funny.” Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service