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Archive for January, 2001

Written By: A Viral Inspector: The science advisor to Chris Carter's The X-Files takes no credit

Written By
A Viral Inspector: The science advisor to Chris Carter’s The X-Files takes no credit
Richard Stayton

By Anne Simon, Ph.D. (as told to Richard Stayton)

This is Chris’ show. He writes it. He’s the creative force behind it. All I do is help with the science. I’ve occasionally gotten some of my original ideas on the show, but the most is a line, and it’s up to him to use it or not. He’ll call me and say, “How can I tag someone with their small pox vaccine?” I didn’t come up with tagging someone with small pox vaccine. He did. I just gave him some science.

I always say, “Oh, just e-mail it to me. Let me look at it first, and I’ll make sure that the science is correct.” But it’s his storyline. His story. His idea. He writes the scripts. All I do is help a friend.

It’s because of my dad [writer Mayo Simon]. I’m very sensitive to how little control that you have in Hollywood and how upset my dad got when people were taking credit for things that he had written. And in science we really don’t like it when people take credit for our ideas, and we’re very careful to attribute things in science. We’re careful about what we’ve done and what we have not done. I understand the pain that writers go through.

When people take credit for your writing, it’s terrible. You’ll have this wonderful movie, and who gets the credit? It’s the director who did it, and it’s the actors who did it, and who mentions the writers? And it’s ridiculous. It’s the writer who did it. The director is just going from the script, and the actors are just doing what the director says that’s in the script. I grew up with that.

During my book tour, I’d make reporters swear that they would not say that I wrote for the show. “I’m a science advisor,” I’d tell them, “I help with the science.” They end up writing, “She writes for The X-Files.” And I think, My God! I know what my dad would think. So I began the interviews by saying, “You’re a writer. You know what it would be like if somebody took credit for your writing. Well, think about how I feel when people write that I am doing the writing and providing the creative ideas behind what somebody else is doing.”

Contacts and Connections

When I was much younger and living with my parents in Pacific Palisades, Chris’ wife was a friend of my dad’s. So Chris was over at Thanksgiving, Passover, the usual affairs. I got to know him as a really cute surfer, which was what I thought of him. He was gorgeous: blond and always tan. I didn’t think about him as a writer at all. His wife was the writer.

Then when I got my assistant professorship at the University of Massachusetts, I didn’t really think about Chris until five years later. I was going through the TV Guide, seeing if there was anything on, and I read this description for this show on Fox: two FBI agents investigating cases of the paranormal. I like science fiction, and I thought this could be a really interesting show, especially because it describes the woman as a medical doctor and scientist. I was watching the show every week, and about halfway through the first season I get this call from my mother and she says, “Do you know that Chris has a new show called The X-Files?”

Chris is a real fan of science. In another life he would be a scientist.

Once I had corrected a script. But I said, “Do you realize this term is incorrect? Do you want to have it wrong in the script?” He said, “Yeah, it’s more conversational.”

Chris and I discussed whether or not you could have virus in pollen. I said, “Sure, I could do it. It would have been tricky. But you can do pretty much anything.” So he sends me this film script. And I’m number 10 to see it because the scripts were all numbered. Our names stamped on every page. Mine was spelled incorrectly. I got to look at my incorrect name on every single page.

I’m reading the script, and Chris starts talking about how the virus gets into a person and turns into this horrible alien organism. Chris’ idea was that the virus was the original inhabitant of the planet. But when I’m reading it, it’s like the virus turns into this horrible creature. And he’s describing the big black eyes of the virus. And I’m going, “Oh my god!” I work on viruses. Viruses can’t turn into anything. If a virus turns into something, it’s not a virus. I was really horrified. So I read the rest of the script, and I came up with a different science that would only change a few conversations, but it would change the idea of what the virus was. And I had my fingers crossed that he’d go for it. If Chris wanted that virus to turn into something, he would’ve done it whether I wanted it to or not. But he loved the new idea: The virus integrates itself into the DNA of the person. That’s what a lot of viruses do, activate a resonant program in the cell. There’s a program in all our cells, in our DNA that starts with that single egg and turns us into a person. And that’s encoded in our genes, in our genetic makeup.

The problem is that there’s a huge amount of DNA we don’t have a clue about. There’s a whole lot of DNA that we call junk DNA. We don’t have a clue what this junk DNA is doing. My idea was the virus activates a resonant program in the junk DNA, and that the junk DNA is actually there to turn a cell into the horrible creature, which means that we are the aliens.

Once Scully was so upset when she had this horribly deformed baby that she accidentally misspoke and called the illness an autozomal dominant disease when it’s really an autozomal recessive disease. There’s a huge difference because if it’s dominant, the parent had to be dead at birth. And that can’t happen if you’re talking about the baby, so obviously you can’t get around that. But there are some people who nitpick and say, “The writer obviously made this bad mistake here.” But I say, “So what? Writers aren’t scientists. I see plenty of mistakes in grant proposals from professional scientists.” It’s not my job to sit here and go through the problems. These are not scientists. They do a terrific job of making the science look real, and occasionally there’s a little problem. So what.

Anne Simon, Ph.D., is Professor and Associate Head of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department at the University of Massachusetts and author of The Real Science Behind The X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants.

Horroronline: Frank Spotnitz Interview

Frank Spotnitz Interview
Melissa Perenson

So far, we’ve seen gore, gotten chills, and been downright scared. The X-Files has returned to providing regular frights on Sunday nights–but it’s not the same series that first hooked audiences some eight years ago. Missing from the scenario is Fox Mulder, whose alter ego David Duchovny negotiated a long break from the show after a highly visible and complicated contract negotiation last year.

This year, The X-Files returns to its roots, though, with darker stories, and fresh characters through which the writers get to explore themes from years past anew.

“It’s really what we said our intention was from the beginning, which was to get back to the heart of what made the show successful in the first place,” explains executive producer Frank Spotnitz, who himself wrote this season’s spooky Via Negativa, and is penning an upcoming episode as well. “It just didn’t feel appropriate given the new character or the absence of Mulder to do anything but these scary, dark stories. We also felt we had something interesting to play with these scary, dark stories again, because we had a new character. We’d done it so many times with Mulder and Scully that it didn’t feel interesting to us. But it felt interesting again with Doggett, because it was a new set of eyes on these things, and he had something different to say than any character we’d had on the X-Files before.”

Choosing Robert Patrick for the role of Doggett, he continues, “We saw many fine people for this part–several of whom made us wonder whether we should change what we’d imagined this character to be, altering it somewhat to fit the specific actor who’d come in and impressed us with his ability and his presence.” Ultimately, though, Patrick-and the producer’s original conception of the character-won out. Doggett is the skeptic now to Scully’s reluctant believer, and it’s a switch that works. “It’s interesting, because the paradigm–which was so clear cut in this series and was so well conceived by Chris [Carter] from the beginning, of believer and skeptic–is much more cloudy and nuanced,” Spotnitz observes. “And honestly, it changes from episode to episode. You really see a change in Scully and Doggett, and the way they respond to these things from case to case over the first half of the season.”

In the second half of the season, yet another new character looms on the horizon, and she’s expected to shake things up some more-especially with respect to addressing Doggett’s backstory. “You’ll see more unfold about his character–who he is and where he came from. We sort of hinted at that in one episode that we saw, when he took out a picture of a little boy, and we didn’t know what that meant to him,” says Spotnitz. “But now we’re going to find more about him and people he knows. And we’re going to meet this new agent, named Monica Reyes and played by Annabeth Gish, in episode 14, who has some history with Doggett. For us it’s exciting, because it’s new things to play, and it changes the dynamic of the show.”

Aside from changing the balance on the show, the addition of Gish brings yet another viewpoint to the series. “She, like Doggett, is completely unlike anybody we’ve seen on The X-Files before. We’d never had somebody like Doggett, a kind of a working-class cop, before. And Annabeth is also a completely different element on the show. Reyes smiles, laughs, and is a little off-center; there’s a slightly neurotic quality to her. She’s an FBI agent from the New Orleans field office, I’d say she’s more a believer than a skeptic. So when you have Mulder, Scully, Doggett and Reyes, you’ve got two and two, if you will-if you still count Scully as a skeptic. While Scully believes in a lot of things, I still think she approaches things from that side of the world, as a scientist.”

But don’t fear: The upcoming episodes don’t revolve around the new-kids-on-the-block. “We’re getting into a run of episodes now that we’re very excited about, which are really the episodes that lead up to Mulder’s return, and the episodes subsequent to his return,” promises Spotnitz. “Starting with this Sunday, and certainly all throughout February and when we return in April, there are a lot of very, very strong stories. I’m really excited about what’s coming.”

Meanwhile, even though X-Files spinoff The Lone Gunmen is premiering in March, Spotnitz and Carter also have a feature project brewing in their spare time. Last spring, Carter’s 1013 Productions optioned the rights to Dr. Jule Eisenbud’s book, “The World of Ted Serios: Thoughtographic Studies of an Extraor.” Carter and Spotnitz are slated to co-write the screenplay for Miramax’s Dimension Films, and Carter will likely direct the film as well. “They’re really waiting for us, very patiently, because we’re late, to write the script,” laughs Spotnitz, noting that when the deal was struck, no one knew X-Files or Gunmen would be airing this season. “What we’ve been doing in our spare time is amass research, because this, unlike anything we’ve done before, is based on a true story, and we want to be respectful of the real people and the real historical events. Very much a part of the story is the fact that it did take place in the 1960s, and the backdrop of the 1960s is important as well.”

Carter’s agent brought the book to his attention, and, recalls Spotnitz, “we read the book and we were immediately drawn to it-despite the fact that it has a lot to do with The X-Files. Honestly,” he chuckles, “we were weren’t looking to do something that close to The X-Files as a movie. But what really intrigued us about it was that one, it was a real-life X-File, and it raises the question of was he or wasn’t he proof of the paranormal, or of extrasensory perception, or whatever it was that gave him the ability to throw his mind’s eye images onto a film negative. But more than that is the human story, the personal story, about this therapist, Dr. Eisenbud, who really put everything on the line because of his belief in this man, Ted Serios. And he paid a great price for it, personally and professionally. He never really did get vindication. Even now, it’s highly disputed whether there was anything to Ted Serios.”

Ironically, Serios’ ability was alluded to by Mulder in the fourth season X-Files episode Unruhe, written by Vince Gilligan. Serios was a Chicago bellhop (among other odd jobs) who had an unexplained, and long disputed, ability to concentrate with a Polaroid unexposed film negative, a Polaroid camera, and a gizmo in hand, and produce an image on the film negative. “Sometimes they would just be white flashes or blotches. But other times they would actually be images of buildings and cars. Very remarkable things would appear, and it’s unexplained how he could do this,” explains Spotnitz. “Now, if you accept that he really was able to do it, it changes everything. I mean, it says that our minds have the power to travel places out of space and time, and to physically manifest thoughts on film negative. It’s an incredible scientific discovery.”

The timing of the Serios project will likely hinge, in part, on the fate of X-Files. As for the future of the series, Spotnitz says, “Anything is possible. You might see four, three, who knows how many agents will be around if the show continues next year. Whatever happens-whether Mulder appears next season or not-something is coming to an end at the end of this season. There’s the Mulder abduction storyline, which gets resolved, and there’s also the Scully pregnancy story line that gets resolved. And I think a big chapter is going to close in those final two episodes. And the series will be different, whoever comes back for it-if there is another year. We’re still working out what that final story is, but there are a couple of elements that we know are going to be in there. And those two elements close the chapter.”

The X-Files Magazine: Risky Business

The X-Files Magazine [US]
Risky Business
Chandra Palermo

[typed by Donna]

Nestled conveniently out of the way of bustling crew members, a small machine noiselessly churns thin streams of smoke through a confined police station set’s cramped hallways. The severe light emanating from the set’s interrogation room cuts through the diaphanous haze, giving the busy corner of Stage Eight on the Twentieth Century Fox lot a spooky, surreal air that smacks of The X-Files. In fact, the hustle can indeed be attributed to production on the 14th episode of The X-Files’ eighth season, “This Is Not Happening.”

Suddenly, the hustle comes to a stop and the typical behind-the-scenes din fades to silence, as Kim Manners strolls into the interrogation room, his face tense with deep concentration. Taking a seat at the tiny room’s table, the director watches Gillian Anderson rehearse the upcoming scene. Anderson runs through her lines several times, stopping now and then to discuss her character’s demeanor through the weighty sequence. An easy dialogue springs up between the actress and the veteran helmer–who have worked together countless times throughout the past several years–concerning Scully’s fragile state of mind as she questions a man who may know Mulder’s whereabouts.

“This Is Not Happening” opens with the reappearance of abductee Theresa Hoese, who was taken around the same time as Mulder in the Season Seven finale “Requiem.” Other abductees have been turning up, many barely alive like Hoese, but many others dead. The man being interrogated, Absalom, has been seen at the sites of these discoveries but claims he’s only concerned with helping Jeremiah Smith [the shapeshifting alien healer from Season Three’s “Talitha Cumi” and Season Four’s “Herrenvolk”] nurse the abductees back to health. “And whereas Scully’s approaching it as there may be something to it, Doggett is approaching it strictly as a cop and wants to know why [Absalom] tortured Theresa Hoese,” Manners explains. “It’s kind of an interesting scene to see the different dynamic between Scully and Doggett.”

Yet the cause for concern over perfecting Scully’s every nuance lies not in her developing relationship with Doggett, but rather in her vulnerability as she prepares for a possible resolution to her search for Mulder. The cameras won’t roll until Manners and Anderson devise what seems most apt for the character.

“It’s an emotional story for Scully,” Manners says. “I mean, we’ve been looking for Mulder and we now have hope, seeing as Therea Hoese’s been returned, that we may indeed find Mulder. It’s an emotional roller coaster for Scully’s character, so I have to concentrate on what we’re doing with Gillian and her side of the story. [Plus], Doggett is a non-believer, but he doesn’t want to see Scully hurt, so I have to concentrate on what Robert’s doing. And Skinner’s got an investment in this, as well. At the same time, we’re also introducing a new character. So, I have my work cut out for me here, a lot of bases to cover. It’s tricky.”

The new character Manners mentions is Monica Reyes, an FBI special agent from the New Orleans field office who specializes in ritualistic crimes. Doggett, who worked with Reyes on a prior case, calls upon her expertise to help explain the source of the returned abductees’ horrific wounds. Scully resists Reyes’ help at first but soon begins to appreciate her open-mindedness. Partly created to, according to executive producer Frank Spotnitz, balance the believer/skeptic dynamic and prevent Doggett from becoming a third wheel once Mulder returns, Reyes is very much unlike the show’s other characters.

“I think she’s going to bring a lightheartedness [to the show],” Manners says. “Whereas Scully and Mulder have always been so guarded in their true feelings, this is a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve. She speaks the truth maybe sometimes too freely, too easily. She’s a free spirit. She’s not flaky, but she’s kind of by the cuff. She works spur of the moment. Maybe she and Doggett can find something interesting together.” Thrilled to sink her teeth into such a meaty, important role, the actress chosen to portray Reyes, Annabeth Gish (Buying the Cow, Beautiful Girls, Mystic Pizza), is counting on this enthusiasm to help her adjust to the series’ notoriously long days and nights of shooting. “My first night of shooting was on location in Simi Valley, sort of out in the middle of no man’s land,” Gish says. “And as I was driving up, I saw that little gathering of generators and the big crane that’s the false moonlight, and [I felt] all of the energy on the set. It kind of reminds you of why you’re an actor on movies or television. There’s such an energy to it that, no matter how many hours you’re working, there’s still that magical little excitement that we’re telling a story and we’re pretending. It’s really cool, and it’s kind of eerie and surreal.” Although Gish has so far signed on for only a three-episode arc, there is a good chance Reyes may become a recurring character. With this in mind, Manners has been paying close attention to how he handles her introductory scenes.

“I’m taking it slow and, with each performance, weighing every line,” he explains. “When I yell ‘action’ I literally try to concentrate on every line of dialogue and every expression and make sure that it’s right for the character–after talking to Chris [Carter] and Frank and Annabeth about who the character is. And we’re just trying to discover it together You can’t rush it.” Manners is not the only one to struggle with the episode’s many competing interests. Spotnitz, who co-wrote the episode with Carter, describes s number of concerns they wrestled with in crafting the compelling tale.

“We knew that everybody knew Mulder was coming back, so we didn’t want his return to be what you’d expect,” Spotnitz explains. “How do you make that unpredictable, despite the fact that everybody knows it’s happening? And aside from the desire to make it as suspenseful and surprising as we could, there’s the fact that we were cognizant we were reopening the mythology of the show and creating a new chapter with what the aliens are up to, and so we had a lot of long term thinking to do about that. It was a very complicated puzzle.”

Several tall lamps with large, circular heads shine brightly behind an immense backdrop, illuminating its Giegeresque design and bringing to life the alien spacecraft where we last saw Mulder-strapped to a demonic-looking chair and subjected to a host of tragic tortures. David Duchovny’s stunt double, Mike Smith, removes his robe and slippers and settles into the imposing chair, as Manners and stunt coordinator Danny Weselis discuss the camera movement for the next shot. Luckily for the X-Files’ crew members, Mulder’s story picks up right where it left off, so the so-called “limbo” set they toiled on for the season’s opening two-parter, “Within”/”Without,” gets to see at least one more episode of action before being indefinitely packed away in storage.

“[The limbo set] was a huge undertaking.” general foreman Billy Spires says. “It’s an intricate set that really involved everybody–special effects, company grips, construction, a lot of different crafts. That was probably our most intricate set so far this season.” Even though “This Is Not Happening” ranks as one of the toughest episodes this season from a writing/directing standpoint, it’s a relatively laid back one for the rest of the show’s team. Despite the enormity of the storyline, the series’ department heads insist it’s a fairly light, straightforward episode from their individual standpoints.

“Its not light in reference to the amount of work that needs to be done, it’s that there’s nothing outlandish,” property master Tom Day explains. “I’m not trying to figure out how to get 500 rats to all go from one jail cell to an other one on cue. That type of challenge isn’t there. But to be perfectly honest with you, after some of the stuff we’ve done on stand-alones, we don’t mind a little bit of a break on this stuff. We’ve had some bizarre things.” Of course, as with any episode, there’s still the occasional bump or two in the road. For instance, stage space has become an endangered species this year, and the only place to create the dilapidated cabin where Absalom gathers and cares for the unfortunate abductees is inside an already existing set originally created to house the nuclear reactor structure featured in Season Seven’s opening two-parter “The Sixth Extinction”/”The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati.”

“It’s been 30 to 40 sets since then, but we’ve always left it standing,” Spires says. “It’s our only huge, permanent set that we always turn into something else, whether it’s a basement laundry room, the hull of a ship or a Plexiglass prison cell. But this time we’re filling the entire set with an other set.”

“This compound is a really tricky thing,” set decorator Tim Stepeck adds. “We’ve got to put 60 people inside that one little space and try to make it look bigger than it really is, so we’re doing a lot of trick stuff with the set and hanging plastic and giving it depth.” Also tricky was staging the episode’s teaser, which features a high-speed chase between a beat-up old car and a UFO. Weselis worked with an aerial coordinator to make a helicopter and its bright “night sun” light double for the saucer–until it can be added later via CGI by the show’s visual effects wizards. “We had the helicopter pilot shining the night sun back and a stunt double for [UFO-obsessed character] Ritchie chasing it,” Weselis explains. “He was going about 70 to 80 mph down this dirt road chasing a helicopter that’s probably six feet above the ground. And we did close run-bys at high speed and numerous shots coming over rises.” Ambitious stunt sequences and set construction aside, what crew members really want to talk about–what they’re most excited about–is the return of Mulder and the show’s continuing storyline. After a string of stand-alones, everyone seems to relish the chance to create another installment of the X-Files’ mythology. And this episode’s shocking revelations and jaw-dropping cliffhanger had most of them feeling like X-Philes glued to the edges of their seats on a Sunday night. The consensus is clear: “This Is Not Happening” is an instant crew favorite.

“It is, in my humble opinion, a great episode,” Day says. “And that character Jeremiah Smith-cool character. As a matter of fact, one of the coolest things about episode 14 for me is that, when we do an episode like this, I need to research characters like that. So, I’ll get a hold of the tape from the office from the first time we saw this Jeremiah Smith character, and I’ll take it home and watch it in case there’s any personal props or any little insight I can gather. It’s a great episode, and my wife and I were watching it and got hooked 100 percent. But it gets to the end and says, ‘to be continued.’ And I don’t have part two! So every night when I get home from work now, my wife says, ‘Honey did you happen to get the tape of part two?'” Outside the protective confines of Stage Eight, a torrential downpour rages as the temperature steadily drops. Constant requests for umbrellas and parkas dominate CB discourse, but a drastic shortage of the desired items plagues hair, makeup and wardrobe technicians. Now adorned in soaking wet attire, the crew expresses shock and dismay over the nasty weather change.

When the show was filmed in Vancouver, cold rainy conditions were the norm. Certainly, there would have been no lack of umbrellas back then. But The X-Files has now been in Los Angeles for almost three seasons and, pampered by the land of sun and fun, cast and crew were caught unawares. The series has traveled a long and winding road since that move took place. Many of its successful conventions remain intact, but a great deal has changed–mostly during Season Eight alone. And “This Is Not Happening” marks a definite turning point in this transformation. Although the return of Jeremiah Smith links the episode to previous events in The X-Files’ mythology, its story takes the arc to the next level, opening new horizons to be explored. Obviously the addition of the Reyes character speaks volumes to the writers’ willingness to experiment with the show’s successful formula. Of course, it did help that the introduction of Doggett had already proven the fans to be open to new cast members.

“I thought that our fanbase would take a little while to warm up to Robert, but they didn’t,” Manners says. “I guess I shouldn’t be [surprised by that] because Robert really brings a lot to the character of Doggett. He’s a very likable character, he’s a hell of an actor, and I think he brings a really refreshing dynamic to the series. I know that he’s inspired myself and Gillian and all of us to reinvigorate our work, and it’s been exciting. I look forward to the same kind of thing with Annabeth.”

But the changes don’t solely involve new characters. As they did in Season Eight’s opening two-parter, Scully and Skinner again demonstrate a conversion, cementing the fact that they now, like Mulder, accept alien abduction as a possibility – automatically assuming this to be the cause of the episode’s strange events.

“It’s kind of a relief because for so many years we had to work so hard to maintain Scully’s skepticism,” Spotnitz says. “Once we let Doggett into the show, it gave us the latitude to relax that. And for Skinner, I think it’s just absolutely liberating for the character because he had been in the middle for seven years and finally gets to be on one side. And I think for Mitch [Pileggi] it’s been very gratifying to be able to play that.

“But I think Scully’s a believer in her own way still,” he continues. “We’re cognizant all the time as we’re writing these scenes of how she would say it. If you notice, when she talks about aliens like Jeremiah Smith, there’s still some qualification there. She believes, but she doesn’t but it wholesale. She doesn’t leap into things like Mulder does. So, it still feels like her character, even though she’s come a long way.” And of course, the manner in which Mulder is reintroduced will have a significant ramifications for the show. But that secret may not yet be revealed and so surely won’t be spoiled here. Suffice to say, it should defy any expectations.

“I think it’s a big surprise,” Spotnitz says. “There’s twists and turns about how he’s returned and what happens when he gets back. The show will not be the same old show once he gets back. I think it’ll be more interesting than it’s been in a long time because everything is up for grabs.”

The X-Files Magazine: Agent in Training

The X-Files Magazine [US]
Agent in Training

[typed by Donna]

It’s a cold, rainy day in supposedly sunny L.A., but the weather can’t dampen Annabeth Gish’s spirits. While the precipitation grows steadily more tumultuous, the Iowa native calmly prepares to be transformed by The X-Files’ hair and makeup technicians into Special Agent Monica Reyes. A noticeable glint flashes in Gish’s eyes as she sits comfortably inside her trailer parked outside of Stage Five on the Twentieth Century Fox lot describing her new role on the series. Although it’s only her second day of shooting on the show, she’s already more than familiar with many aspects of the character.

“When I was reading the script [for ‘This Is Not Happening’], I thought, ‘Who’s been watching me in my life?’ because it seems really fitting for my personality,” explains Gish, who is perhaps best known for her roles in Double Jeopardy, Beautiful Girls, Shag and Mystic Pizza, and who can be seen this year in the PBS adaptation of A Death in the Family and the feature films, Race to Space, Pursuit of Happiness and Buying the Cow. “She’s open and spiritual, and she’s not a skeptic or a believer. She’s riding that line.

It’s something that appealed to me personally because [if you] go and look at all the books on my bookshelves and next to my bed, it’s such an eclectic display of spiritual searching and physics and science and all of that. There’s a real spiritual aspect to this character, and to tie my acting skills to something that I also am personally intrigued by is exciting. That’s the most exciting thing to me-knowing that I’m going to go on a journey as much as my character is.”

An FBI agent from the New Orleans field office with a master’s degree in religious studies and a specialization in ritualistic crime, Reyes is introduced in “This Is Not Happening” when Special Agent John Doggett, who has a past with her that will be explored more fully in future episodes, requests her help with a strange case. Although Reyes’ spiritual openness is in direct contrast to Doggett’s knee-jerk skepticism, the character was created mainly as a complement to Doggett. Executive producer Frank Spotnitz says he feared Doggett may become the odd man out when Mulder returned to the show.

“We were looking at a series with three leads-Mulder, Doggett and Scully-and thought it would be awkward,” Spotnitz explains. “It felt like the believer/skeptic weights were off balance, and we needed somebody else in the believer column.”

Needing to find an actress to portray Reyes in a hurry but not wanting to rush the character’s development, Spotnitz and Chris Carter decided to kill two birds with one stone and let the casting of Reyes influence the evolution of the role.

“We had [casting director] Rick Millikan bring in all the actresses in town who would be interested in doing something like this, but we didn’t have the character yet, so we couldn’t tell them anything about the character,” Spotnitz says. “They didn’t have lines to read. They just came in and we talked to them. We looked for somebody who had an interesting personality to set alongside David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] and Robert [Patrick]. And Annabeth Gish was the clear choice. We met a lot of wonderful actresses, but she was the one who had this kind of spark to her that just seemed like it would be really interesting. And it’s gonna change the show again, which I think is a good thing for the series. She’s the type of character we’ve never seen on The X-Files before. She’s kind of looser, funny, more of a free thinker, and it gives the show a different feel.”

Rather than be intimidated by the expectations set upon her character, Gish is thrilled by the challenge. “Robert’s addition has infused some new energy into the show this year, and it’s exciting to think that I can try to do that, too,” she says. “Not that there’s any lack of anything already, but [it’s great] just to throw another piece of paint on the canvas.”

The X-Files Magazine: The Next Files

The X-Files Magazine [US]
The Next Files

[typed by Donna]

Executive producer Frank Spotnitz has his work cut out for him this year. While he’s been busy shaping and perfecting the mid-season spinoff The Lone Gunmen, at the same time he’s had to concentrate on carefully introducing the many new changes to The X-Files. Recently, Spotnitz took a rare break from his duties to talk about the fruits of his labors.

The X-Files Official Magazine: How is The Lone Gunmen shaping up?

Frank Spotnitz: I have no idea how the public will respond to it. I’m just so happy with it. I laugh out loud watching the dailies. It’s just a pleasure, I think the guys are doing great. They really have shown what they’re capable of, and I think they’re capable of far more than anybody would have guessed. And the new characters we’ve added, played by Zuleikha Robinson and Stephen Snedden, are funny and charming. It’s so unlike The X-Files where you watch the dailies and [if it’s scary and tense] you’re very gratified. [With The Lone Gunmen], you watch it and you laugh every day. It’s a different experience-not one I’ve ever had before.

The X-Files Official Magazine: What kind of feedback have you gotten about the introduction of Robert Patrick to The X-Files and about all of the other changes this season?

Frank Spotnitz: I haven’t heard a single bad thing about Robert Patrick. People have said he just seems to fit. He’s a great actor, he’s a great guy and he’s a pleasure to work with. He’s truly, from our standpoint, an unqualified success. I think the only negative things I’ve heard are people just missing David, missing David’s character, missing his sense of humor, missing his presence.

The X-Files Official Magazine: Has the process of integrating the many changes, especially the addition of the John Doggett character and the absence of Mulder, been an especially difficult one?

Frank Spotnitz: It’s been really interesting for us. It is a new challenge for us this year, which is welcome after seven years of doing a show one way. Part of the challenge is figuring out how Doggett fits in, howScully goes about being the reluctant leader of this investigative unit, how the two of them develop their relationship. Actually, it’s getting more interesting now with Mulder’s return and the introduction of this character of Monica Reyes, played by Annabeth Gish. It’s a different set of issues than we’ve ever had to face before. This has always been a two-lead show. You’ve had Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man and all these other important characters, but it’s really gonna be an ensemble for a while.

The X-Files Official Magazine: What will David Duchovny’s involvement be for the rest of the season?

Frank Spotnitz: He’s in [episodes] 14 and 15, and then after that, I believe he’s back full time. In some way, shape or form, he’ll be in every episode from 14 to the end.

The X-Files Official Magazine: Aside from Mulder will any other recurring characters return to the show before the end of the season?

Frank Spotnitz: Krycek will be coming back in April, and Covarrubias will be coming back a little after that. And then the big news is the introduction of Monica Reyes, who we’ll meet in [“This Is Not Happening.”] And she has some kind of history with Doggett, which we’ll learn more about later.

The X-Files Official Magazine: Any word on the possibility of a Season Nine?

Frank Spotnitz: I think everybody feels like we’ve gotten a new life this year. We certainly feel that there’s a momentum that could easily continue on for at least another year.

Canadian National Post: Lone Gunmen Tom Braidwood Interview

Canadian National Post
Lone Gunmen Tom Braidwood Interview
Howard Howell

VANCOUVER – It”s payday for three Vancouver actors, the stars of an X-Files spin-off series called The Lone Gunmen. Shooting begins this week at North Vancouver”s Lions Gate Studio, which was home to The X-Files for five years before production moved to Los Angeles.

The new show will feature Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund and Bruce Harwood, the paranoid, computer-hacking triad of nerds on The X-Files. Fox has ordered 13 episodes, the first of which, the pilot episode, has already been shot.

“We”ve taken a huge step up in having a series built around us,” says Braidwood, sitting outside the set. “We always joked about it, the three of us that played the parts, but I don”t think any of us in our wildest imaginations thought they”d do a series about it.”

At the studio, Braidwood gets a lot of congratulations and handshakes from the cast and crew of other shows using the lot. For Vancouver, a city perceived predominantly as a service town to the Hollywood film industry, The Lone Gunmen series is the move everyone”s been waiting for. All the show”s stars are Canadian.

Braidwood, a small, unassuming man with bushy eyebrows and big glasses, began his career in experimental theatre in Vancouver in the 1970s. When he moved into the film industry in the “80s, he focused on directing and producing, never giving much thought to acting.

But in his role as hacker Melvin Frohike, the 52-year-old father of two now has his face on coffee mugs, T-shirts, trading cards and hundreds of Internet sites. He even has his own “estrogen brigade,” a female Internet fan base that calls him “adorable” and “a real softy.”

The story of how Braidwood, an assistant director on The X-Files, came to play the part of Frohike is now a Vancouver legend. The director, when casting the role, said he was looking for someone slimy, like Braidwood.

Braidwood explains that he rarely shaved and often wore the same clothes to work. Frohike”s own trademark wardrobe — black fedora, combat boots and fingerless gloves — wasn”t far off the mark from Braidwood”s unique, real-life style.

Braidwood, Haglund and Harwood all expected their parts, conceived as an homage to Internet-based X-Files fans, to be a one-time deal. But the popularity of the Lone Gunmen characters was an unexpected surprise. The Scully-lusting, conspiracy-craving Frohike became a particular fan favourite, an eccentric figure whose one-line witticisms, such as “My kung fu is the best” (“80s slang for hacking), were an unexpected hit with the audience.

With the new show, which Fox will begin airing in March, Braidwood is certain to gather more fans. But being a star is not a role he feels comfortable with. He says he still doesn”t understand the appeal of his character and the success of his role.

“I wonder myself who will watch the show,” he says.

Braidwood, who will continue to perform in The X-Files, says there will be some crossover between the original series and its spin-off.

“Some of the same characters will show up,” he says. “But it will be more government conspiracy and less supernatural, science fiction. You will get to see more of what the Gunmen do in their lives.”

Executive producer Chris Carter and much of the old X-Files crew will be involved in the new show. They”ve added a woman, a hacker, who Braidwood says “is more attractive than we are,” and another guy, not a hacker, “who will be the hunk.”

“I guess we weren”t handsome enough,” says Braidwood, who is constantly joking about how funny looking and weird the Gunmen are.

But perhaps the biggest kick for Braidwood is how American the show and the Gunmen themselves are. “It”s perfectly clear that we”re Americans in the show,” he says. “We live outside of Maryland and we talk about Uncle Sam. They”re not playing the show like it”s Canadian. And it”s quite a hoot that three Canadian guys are doing this American thing.”

On his way to the dentist to get a mould for a scene he won”t explain except to say that it will be “really funny,” Braidwood admits such a large role for Canadians also comes with a lot of pressure. “We have to do a good job. I certainly don”t think we can be lazy about it.”

After all, even if he won”t admit it, the reluctant star is having much more fun as Frohike than he did as a slimy assistant director. The Hollywood service industry may be a good way to make a living, but it”s also an easy way to get stuck doing the same thing for years.

But Braidwood isn”t worried about getting stuck now. Even if he ends up playing Frohike for decades (and he”s already been at it for seven years), there will likely be nothing but surprises — at least if his career path so far is any indication.