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Archive for April, 2001

Intellivu: Interview with Dean Haglund

Interview with Dean Haglund

Playing computer-hacking conspiracy geek Langly on “The X-Files” spin-off “Lone Gunmen” guarantees that Dean Haglund is constantly in touch with apparent illegal aliens from distant galaxies and other highly unusual fans right here on planet Earth via his www.deanx.com Web site.

“I get some strange e-mail for sure,” says Haglund, 33, who looks the part of a genuine geek with long, shaggy blond hair and really ugly frames for his prop eyeglasses. “The conspiracy theorists are always unusual, including the guy who thinks there is an entire city with back-up military runways for jet fighters under the 5 acres his house sits on. This person hears the rumbling of an underground city.

“The man doesn’t watch ‘The Lone Gunmen’ that much, so I guess he is just trying to rally support for his underground military base – good for him,” Haglund continues, dry as dust. “I also post some of the funny e-mails, including the one about taking Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and substitute it for the soundtrack of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as soon as you hear Leo the lion roar on the MGM logo. Lots of teen-age kids tell me it syncs perfectly and is totally cool.”

Haglund hasn’t tried the “Oz” bit yet (“It sounds like it was discovered by somebody on acid”), but expects to get around to it in the near future as he is a low-grade computer geek in real life.

“I know how the Internet works and get around pretty well, but I’m not a hacker,” he says. “I used to answer my own e-mail, but the volume has become overwhelming since ‘Gunmen’ hit the air. Now, after a 12- or 15-hour day on the set, all I have the energy for is to check the news, look at my stocks and look at the ratings of my friends’ TV shows.”

“Gunmen” was a blessed accident that climbed out of “The X-Files'” primordial ooze during its first season in 1993, according to Haglund.

“The writers came up with the weirded-out ‘Mission: Impossible’ team for one ‘X-Files’ episode, but had a hell of a time casting it. I showed up on the Vancouver set with about 45 other quirky-looking character actors, mostly friends of mine, and got the part along with Bruce Harwood (Byers) and Tom Braidwood (Frohike).”

Creators/executive producers Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz only envisioned the demented trio as a small group of bodies working one day on one scene, then disbanding forever.

“I had never seen ‘The X-Files’ and had no idea what the hell it was all about,” Haglund recalls. “But we said our lines and got out of there, happy it was all done before lunch so we could have the rest of the day off.”

Much to his surprise, Haglund was called back – along with Harwood and Braidwood – the following season for three more episodes. They have done at least a half-dozen shows per year ever since, and the “X” producers started developing “Gunmen” two years ago as a response to heavy viewer interest.

“It’s pretty bizarre,” he says, laughing, “but here we are, eight years later, with our own show, starring in 13 episodes.”

And he finally has a handle on his straw-haired (“I never got around to cutting my hair and that’s the way I showed up for the first audition”) character.

“If you want to be Freudian about it, Byers is the superego, Frohike is the ego and Langly is the id,” Haglund explains. “He is the emotional, irrational and somewhat impulsive guy fighting against ‘The Man’ as a computer hacker. I like to think he is the fighting spirit behind the team.”

The pride of tiny Oakbank, Manitoba, which is separated “by many wheat fields” from Winnipeg, is the youngest of four children born to an iron-willed homemaker and a hard-working mechanic for Canadian National Railways. Both parents are officially retired, but his father still works for various foreign aid organizations as as a senior quality control consultant on distressed railroad systems that take them from Bosnia to Bangladesh for years at a time.

“I still have fond, fond memories of summer train trips across Canada and the U.S. when I was a kid,” he says. “We met a lot of people – and it was a cheap way for us to travel.”

Passing up a certain amount of job security, Haglund decided to become a professional class clown during his very first semester in school. He began private acting studies at the age of 12 and, two years later, made his professional debut as Uncle Sam (“They decided my long blond hair looked gray and gave me a beard”) in a “badly done multi-cultural event” at an obscure Winnipeg theater. It was enough to whet his appetite for more punishment.

Majoring in theater and minoring in modern dance, he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and performing arts in 1991 from Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University.

“I was in a couple of dance shows – it was standing room only,” he says, delivering a bald-faced lie. “They were real esoteric productions involving running around in rubber boots and so on. The audience was composed mostly of fellow performers who also ran around in rubber boots doing similar shows.”

Haglund started his long, slow climb toward financial solvency with guest shots on U.S. shows produced in Canada, including “The Commish,” “Sliders,” “MacGuyver,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and “Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years.” Since dividing his time between Southern California and British Columbia (“We are what you call ‘West Coast International'”), the laid-back actor added such Hollywood-based shows to his resume as “V.I.P.” and “Instant Comedy With The Groundlings.”

Between straight acting gigs, Haglund adds to his retirement fund by voicing cartoon characters in the TV series “Robocop” and “The Big Guy” – and he provided his vocal chords to Sid in the animated feature film “Tom Sawyer.” But he is most animated while doing his stand-up comedy act at clubs and college venues all over North America when “The X-Files” and “The Lone Gunmen” go on hiatus. Hence, “home” is where his laundry is.

Married for eight years to a woman “who likes her name out of the press” and runs his two TV production companies (that shall remain secrets), there are no children involved yet and thus plenty of time for play.

“We love the outdoors and I’m into mountain biking and kayaking,” says the fitness freak. “For rest and relaxation, I’m also a cartoonist, published quite a few times in The X-Files magazine. I have samples on my Web site. Want to buy a cartoon?”

Montana State University Communications Services: X-Files' creator Chris Carter explores Mulder Montana roots, speaks at MSU April 23

Montana State University Communications Services
X-Files’ creator Chris Carter explores Mulder Montana roots, speaks at MSU April 23
Carol Schmidt

4/11/01 – Writer and producer Chris Carter says he gives very few lectures on college campuses about his long-running television show, “The X-Files.” But an opportunity to look into the Mulder family roots resulted in his scheduling a lecture at 7 p.m. April 23 at Montana State University’s SUB Theatre.

Yes, the truth is out there. It seems that perhaps the deepest secret about the complex Mulder family may not be the long-running conspiracy, but rather that the enigmatic “X-Files” character has roots in the Gallatin Valley.

Loyal “X-Files” fans may know that Fox Mulder, the brainy protagonist played by David Duchovny, was named after Carter’s mother, the late Catherine Mulder Carter. (Scully was named for longtime-Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball commentator Vin Scully – no relation). But very few people know that Carter’s mother was born to a Dutch-American family in Manhattan, Mont.

“I’ve heard about Montana all my life,” said Carter, the originator, producer and chief writer of the deftly-written television show about two rebellious young FBI agents who are assigned the bureau’s most unusual cases. Carter said coincidentally, his father also lived and worked on a Montana ranch for a time before landing in the Los Angeles area where he met and married Carter’s mom. “I’m doing this one (MSU lecture) because I wanted to come to Montana and I was asked by Shari (Mulder) McCoy, who is my cousin,” Carter said. McCoy is MSU’s presidential administrative assistant. Carter said he is also looking forward to visiting his uncle, Norman Mulder, a retired Manhattan banker now living in Bozeman who is McCoy’s father.

According to McCoy, the Mulder family moved to the Amsterdam-Manhattan area from Grand Rapids, Mich. Seven of their nine children were born in the Gallatin Valley and after an unsuccessful turn farming here, the Mulders moved to Southern California to start a feed and grain business in Bellflower, Calif. Norman Mulder was the only one of the nine children in the family to return to the Gallatin Valley. While McCoy and Mulder are Carter’s closest area relatives, there are probably many distant relatives still living in the Gallatin Valley’s Dutch community, McCoy said. She added that the California and Montana Mulders have always been, and remain, close.

“We were the Montana cousins that always spent two weeks in California every summer,” McCoy said. She recalls large, happy family gatherings and recalls that both of Carters parents were very loving parents supportive of their sons’ interests. Chris’ brother, Craig, is an endowed chair in physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The “X-Files” was a fresh but controversial show when it debuted in 1993. With compelling and unpredictable writing, the series quickly became a cult favorite generating millions of fans throughout the world. Soon the offbeat series about two young, renegade FBI agents found its way into the fabric of American life and was the basis for an “X-Files” movie.

In 1997 Time Magazine named Carter one of “The 25 Most Influential People in America.” People Magazine voted Carter one of its “Most Beautiful People of 1998.” Carter is the subject of the cover story of the March/April issue of “Emmy” magazine. “X-Files” has received an Emmy, three Golden Globe Awards for best television drama and the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting. Carter’s latest offering is “The Lone Gunmen,” an “X-Files” offshoot featuring the computer geek characters often seen in “X-Files.” Carter and his Ten Thirteen Productions (named for his birthday, 10/13) is under contract to do one more series for Fox.

Carter said his first visit to Montana, which may include a talk with MSU film and television students, will be short. Much as he would enjoy it, he said he will have no time to rent a snowboard and head up to the mountains. A legendary surfing enthusiast, Carter got his start freelancing and then signing on as a staff writer and editor for “Surfing” magazine after he earned a journalism degree from Long Beach State University in 1979. He still brings a board with him to the “X-Files'” set most days.

Carter said he plans to give a few prepared remarks when he lectures at MSU, then will open the lecture to questions from the audience.

SciFi Magazine: X-Files' Brave New World

SciFi Magazine
X-Files’ Brave New World
Melissa Perenson

(As the series enters the home stretch of its eighth season, producer Frank Spotnitz takes stock of a year filled with surprises.)

“I’m amazed at how long the show has lasted. Nobody foresaw this.”

In a way, that observation from Frank Spotnitz, executive producer of The X-Files, is surprising. After all, ever since The X-Files debuted back in 1993, its unofficial mantra has been to expect the unexpected. But even Spotnitz is taken aback by the venerable paranormal series’ endurance and resilience now, in its 8th season.

Characterizing the current season as one filled with changes and risks is an understatement. “We took the idea of the series, and we smashed it apart,” admits Spotnitz. “[Doing so] just opened up a whole new lot of possibilities that were never open to us before. But that’s really not something that a studio would want to risk unless they were forced to.”

For so long, The X-Files’ universe has been defined by Mulder and Scully, two characters who are so ingrained in our popular culture by now that they need no further introduction, not even by their official FBI titles of Special Agent. On-screen, the characters were humming along together just fine; in fact, in season 7, Mulder and Scully arguably were more in sync with one another than ever before. Off-screen events threatened to derail the characters’, and potentially the show’s, momentum for good.

Although Gillian Anderson was signed for eight seasons, David Duchovny was not. And Duchovny, whose understated deadpan had come to epitomize Mulder, was bluntly vocal in his desire to move on from the series. Ultimately, his contract negotiations to return for an eighth year went down to the wire, with the actor settling his pending lawsuit against Fox and agreeing to return on a limited basis for season 8 just one day before Fox announced its fall schedule.

Given Duchovny’s self-imposed absence for more than half the season, coming up with season 8’s story arc, and somehow working Mulder into the equation, has been nothing short of a creative and logistical nightmare for the show’s producers. “People at home have no idea of the incredibly complicated jigsaw puzzle that we’ve had here, in terms of the storytelling and actor availabilities,” Spotnitz reveals. “You’re left with a situation where you’ve got to untangle this [already-established story] web, and make use of an actor that you have according to some very bizarre legal formula for a certain number of days here and there. We really had to work around the business realities, and try and make our show feel as organic as possible within those arrangements.”

Concurrent with reinventing the series, Spotnitz and series creator Chris Carter also had to figure out a way to carry on without diluting the significance of the sizzling dynamic between Mulder and Scully. “The importance of Mulder and Scully to The X-Files can’t be overstated. All of us are aware of how crucial the character of Mulder has been to this series, and how much he and Scully and their relationship have been central to everything that has made the show successful,” Spotnitz says. In removing Mulder from the equation, he adds, “you can’t take a bigger gamble in television.”

The gamble, however, is paying off in spades. While some longtime viewers are divisively split over how Mulder’s abduction and Scully’s mysterious pregnancy have been handled this year, the ratings bear up the fact that X-Files’ appeal remains strong, even sans Duchovny. This season’s standalone monster-of-the-week episodes have returned the show to its spooky, if not gory, roots. Anderson has proved more than worthy of her top billing on the series, and the actress has attacked her role with renewed vigor and layered emoting in episodes like ‘Per Manum.’ And thanks to the addition of Terminator 2’s Robert Patrick who came on board as Scully’s interim partner John Doggett, The X-Files has undergone a successful metamorphosis. The series is no longer centered solely around Mulder and Scully.

“Our numbers have held even with the numbers we have had last year,” Spotnitz marvels, referring to the series’ ratings, which remain respectable in spite of being down from their apex in season 4 and 5. “I can’t think of many other series where you’ve replaced one of two leads, and done so with popular success. In Robert Patrick, we hit a home run. He’s somebody who’s very hard not to like, and he’s really accomplished everything we hoped he would do. He brought a different voice to the show than it’s ever had before, and he held our audience and our attention during Mulder’s absence.”

Pacing Doggett’s development has been an interesting twist for the writers, who needed a core character that viewers would care about. “Things are happening much faster for Doggett than they did for Scully. But his skepticism is not rooted in science [as Scully’s is]; it’s rooted in personal experience. There’s a real, emotional investment in his skepticism,” Spotnitz discloses. “That’s a really interesting idea, and not something we’ve ever done before on the show.”

Considering the traditionally precarious balance between Mulder’s believer and Scully’s skeptic, it’s easy to question how Doggett will fit into the equation vis-a-vis the dynamic duo now that Mulder has returned for the final six episodes of the season. However, Spotnitz is confident about the way the new triad is unfolding. “Not surprisingly, it’s a dynamic with a considerable amount of tension, because Doggett has really taken Mulder’s place, both in the fictional life of the show and on the series. So whether they like it or not, they are rivals, and we play with that. But as we head into a big two-hour conclusion that will air the last two Sundays in May, their relationship is going someplace,” he says cagily, with patented X-Files ambiguity.

In some ways, nurturing Doggett along has been an easier task than nurturing Scully’s pregnancy. For much of the season, Scully’s pregnancy has barely registered on the radar as she actively moved from one dangerous case to the next, with little discussion of her efforts to find Mulder. By the time her condition is openly addressed in ‘Per Manum,’ we learn that she’s only 14 weeks along, somewhat surprising considering how much has happened to Scully in the intervening episodes.

The timeline criticisms, in particular, take Spotnitz by surprise. “I saw that on the Internet. And I saw we got a jeer from TV Guide. That was completely and wholly unearned,” he maintains. To set the record straight, “in [the season finale] ‘Requiem’ last May, Scully says she’s pregnant. And in [this season’s opener] ‘Within/Without,’ it’s very clearly the very next day. There hasn’t been an ellipses of six months, in terms of the progress of Scully’s pregnancy.” For those keeping track of the math, three months will have elapsed between episodes 14 ‘This Is Not Happening,’ and 15, titled ‘DeadAlive.’

As for Scully’s tendency to be more impulsive this season, Spotnitz chalks that up less to Scully trying to be Mulder than to the fact that it’s Scully’s turn to take charge. “She’s in the lead now, she’s the head to the [X-Files] unit,” he says.

Keeping Scully true to who she is, while at the same time allowing her to assume Mulder’s role as believer, “has been very challenging to do in a believable way,” he continues. “We honestly have had to feel our way forward episode to episode, because it’s not natural for her. We had to inch her along, and have her be reluctant too. It’s been interesting for us [to write], and I think it’s been interesting for Gillian, because it’s something very different for her to play.”

The decision to embark on the pregnancy arc stemmed from the desire to surprise audiences, as well as the need to resurrect long-buried plot points from early in the show’s history. Having a child, notes Spotnitz, “is something that people do after a number of years. And this is the eighth season [on the X-Files] for Agent Scully. It felt right. We saw how it made sense, and how there was beautiful symmetry to it.”

Artistic symmetry is the ideal, but Spotnitz also realizes that it would be all too easy for the resolution of this arc to fall into a sandtrap of clichés. Accordingly, the production is proceeding “very carefully,” he says with a nervous laugh. “As you approach an event like this that everyone knows is coming, you explore all of the possibilities of what this might be before you settle on the one true path of what it is. I think it is important to do that, because it’s doing justice to the magnitude of what this means to Scully, and what it means to the series. There are an awful lot of possibilities as to what this baby is. We know the answer,” he adds playfully, “but we don’t intend on letting anyone else know until the end.”

The pivotal, if not confusing, mythology episode ‘Per Manum’ used flashbacks to establish the fact that, at some unspecified time in the past, Scully was trying to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization. (Per X-Files canon, Scully’s own abduction back in Season 2 left her barren.) The reasoning for bringing up the in vitro angle at all, Spotnitz explains, was twofold. “One is that [Scully’s barrenness] was a thread of The X-Files’ mythology that had never been sewn up. Back in season 4, we saw Mulder with the harvested [ova] that they’d taken from Scully; but we’d never had an opportunity to address it until now. The other reason was that we have this bombshell with Scully’s pregnancy, but we have no emotional context for it. So it felt good to show the audience the back story for Scully and Mulder, leading up to this news that she was indeed pregnant.”

In the absence of pre-existing context for season 8’s dramatic surprises, the writers relied instead on flashbacks tailored to fit this year’s narrative. “Had I known there would be a season 8, I would have preferred to salt in all of the clues about these flashback episodes last season,” says Spotnitz of how he dealt retroactively with fitting in Mulder’s illness and Scully’s. “But there really is no way to unravel these mysteries in my mind, and make use of David in the time that he was available to us, without having some flashback episodes.”

Conveniently, though, there’s a long-standing precedent that these characters’ private lives are just that, and they’re played out off-screen and away from the prying eyes of viewers. “We’ve always been very stingy with showing anything of their personal lives,” agrees Spotnitz of their strategy. “Chris felt, and I think he’s right, that these [stories] are about paranormal phenomena. It’s very hard to make those personal on a week-to-week basis.”

Still, as much as The X-Files typically leaves volumes unsaid, after eight years no one should underestimate the strength of the bond between Mulder and Scully. “I think they mean everything to each other,” affirms Spotnitz. “They love each other, on a profound level such is rarely found in life. I think people sense that, and that’s why they love these two characters and they love them together. They’d do anything for each other. They’re soul mates.”

What lies ahead for Mulder and Scully, though, and for the series itself, remains to be seen. But The X-Files, which began life as the little cult show that could, seems set to continue its pattern of beating the odds. By all indications, the series will likely return for a ninth season, although a number of variables need to be nailed down to guarantee X-Files’ return. Many of the elements necessary for a ninth season are already in place: The series continues to pull in solid ratings, Anderson’s renegotiated contract keeps her on board for another year, and Fox has made it clear that it isn’t ready to lose one of its flagship television shows just yet. Among the uncertainties: What role, if any, Duchovny might play in the series.

Meanwhile, Spotnitz and Carter are focusing their attentions on making the most of what’s left of this season, while planting enough seeds to carry on the next-generation mythology should there be a season 9. “There are names from the past and ideas from the past that are going to be woven into the episodes that are coming in the next few months,” promises Spotnitz. “When the decision was made to continue with the series this year, we were forced to consider what’s next. What are the aliens up to now in the wake of the death of the Syndicate? What are the people in the government who know about aliens doing in the wake of that collapse?” As of the February sweeps episodes ‘Per Manum’ and ‘This Is Not Happening,’ Spotnitz notes, “we really have begun another chapter in the alien story.”

Where will the new mythology lead to? The X-Files is betting that viewers will be willing to wait and see. After all, no matter how frustrating the show’s seemingly endless questions may be, as Spotnitz notes, “Questions are our stock in trade. But I do think that what happens in the season finale will be the end of something, and it will be satisfying to people who’ve been patient all of these years.”

Emmy Magazine: The Chris Carter Workout

Emmy Magazine
The Chris Carter Workout
Barry Garron

Maybe he’d rather be surfing, but since the success of his X-Files, Chris Carter’s idea of hanging ten is keeping both hand on the keyboard. Now with two series on the air. Those long days keep getting longer.

Let’s start with this: Chris Carter says he’s not a workaholic. If you can believe that-and many people have trouble doing so-the rest of the story is going to be fairly easy to swallow.

That’s because the rest of the story is about how Carter, creator and executive producer of The X-Files and, as of March, The Lone Gunmen, crafts his series and his beliefs that (a) TV is a business that’s comfortable with failure and (b) Hollywood is a place that eschews hard work. Sure, those propositions are debatable, but not as much as Carter’s notion about his affinity for work.

Being a workaholic, he says, suggests a compulsion to work. As he speaks, Carter sits in his production office on the 20th Century Fox lot in West L.A., where you can usually find him between six-thirty each morning and evening. “My compulsion is to make something good and right-to be as good as it can be. So I’m a quality-aholic,”

It’s a distinction that probably matters more to Carter than the rest of the world. According to him, if he didn’t have to spend all those hours getting things right-if he wasn’t so afraid of failure-if he didn’t have to thoroughly satisfy himself that the hard work of his production team was going to have a satisfying payoff for viewers-well, he’d be out the door and down at the beach in Santa Barbara, surfboard in hand.

Fat Chance.

“I don’t see anyway around it if you want to make a successful television show,” he says of the long hours. And each award and scrap of praise makes him work all the harder, he adds, if only to live up to the accolades.

Robert Patrick, added to The X-Files cast this season with the reduced presence of David Duchovny, professes amazement “at how easy Chris is to find. All you have to do is call his office. He’s there every hour of the day. That poor guy works his ass off.”

So maybe it’s a lost cause for Carter, forty-four, to deny his addiction to work. If it’s the truth, it’s out there anyway. Besides, this soft-spoken, intense, idealistic, fiercely loyal, often demanding storyteller has no shortage of other thoughts worth considering. For example, about TV: “It’s a business where they dare you to succeed and, if you take that dare, you’re taking the chance of failure. I’m just kind of realistic about that.”

That sounds straight forward enough-until you remember that Carter, despite his oft-confessed fear of failure, refuses to play it safe. Cop shows, medical shows, lawyer shows? Forget it. Carter wants to do shows about FBI agents who investigate the paranormal (The X-Files), about an FBI agent who sees through the eyes of the criminals he pursues (Millennium), about a soldier trapped in a life-and-death world of virtual reality (Harsh Realm), and, now, about a team of bumbling but earnest investigative reporters who uncover amazing crimes and conspiracies (The Lone Gunmen).

The X-Files, for which a ninth season was under discussion at press time, has achieved TV legend status but, like most unconventional shows, selling the premise wasn’t easy. Fox executives had to be persuaded that viewers would rally round a series that capitalized on fear and that Carter’s chosen leads-Duchovny and, particularly, Gillian Anderson-were right for the parts.

“The X-Files is the result of my setting out to do something that wasn’t on TV at the time, which was a good, scary show,” Carter says. “I would say that the idea of the show has always been to scare people.” Not surprisingly, among his favorite shows growing up were Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the classic mystery anthology series; Night Gallery, the supernatural anthology series with host Rod Serling; and The Night Stalker, the mid-seventies fantasy series in which a reporter stalked a new, mysterious murderer each week.

As X-Files developed, he realized that it also must be about Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, the believer and the skeptic who became instant hits with viewers. “I think the show succeeds best when it succeeds with these characters,” he says, “and it succeeds wonderfully when it succeeds in its storytelling and its character development.”

Millennium lasted three seasons and Carter considers it a success, too, though clearly not of X-Files proportions. Harsh Realm is another story, though. Introduced last fall, it lasted only three episodes. Doug Herzog, then Fox president, failed to nurture or promote the show, Carter says, and likely didn’t understand it. The producer concedes that in fulfilling a network request, he may have tried to pack too much background and exposition into those early episodes, asking too much of viewers. “It was a huge disappointment because I think we had done good work and nobody ever knew the show was on.”

He has a different sense about Lone Gunmen, a spinoff of X-Files, though hugely different in tone. “You can feel when a show is working and you can feel when a show is inspired,” he says, “and this feels inspired. The stories make you laugh just hearing the log lines.”

While The X-Files is a drama with comedic elements, Lone Gunmen – starring Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Stephen Snedden and Zuleikha Robinson-is a comedy with just enough drama to provide the framework for the plot. Viewer exposure was guaranteed by a launch on the popular Sunday-night Fox schedule. “It’s about misdeeds at all levels of society,” Carter says. “But it’s really about the disenfranchised little guy or some injustice that’s overlooked or buried. These guys pick up the cases that no one wants to take.”

Because Carter is not a producer who abandons one creation for another, he found himself doing double duty much of this season, splitting his time between the two shows. “We don’t just write these scripts and hand them to someone to produce them,” he says. “We spend a lot of time talking about what we should see when, where the camera should be, delivery of information.” Let the camera tell as much of the story as possible, Carter maintains, but don’t make it a character. “These shows are very cinematic in their approach,” he explains. “They require a relationship between the crew, the production personnel, the director and the writing producers. It’s a very collaborative and cooperative endeavor.”

Although Carter keeps tabs on every step in the process, most of his time is spent writing, which becomes more challenging with each succeeding episode. But this is where he shines. He has the ability to focus instantly on the material and filter out all distractions. Yes, it’ll take time to get it right, and he tries not to rush the process.

“I always say that we don’t just write the scripts for some future audience,” Carter says. “You’re writing for the crew, you’re writing for the cast. You’ve got to keep them entertained. And if [you do], most likely, you are well on your way to being successful.”

Though there was no way of predicting that Carter would become one of TV’s leading producers-or, for that matter, one of Time’s twenty-five most influential people in America and one of People’s fifty most beautiful people-his propensity for hard work and writing were obvious from an early age. He grew up in the working-class L.A. suburb of Bellflower and graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 1979 with a degree in journalism, having taken a semester off to help a carpenter friend build a house from scratch.

A devotee of surfing from age twelve, he took his first job after college as a writer and editor for Surfing magazine. Starting at the keys of an IBM Selectric taught him the discipline of writing. “It’s not necessarily that I learned to be a writer there. I learned that an enormous part of being a writer is keeping your butt on the chair and your fingers at the keyboard.”

His father, a foreman on a construction crew, took pride in being the hardest worker on every job. The lesson wasn’t lost on young Chris and his younger brother, Craig, now a science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The truth is, I work in what I consider to be a very blue-collar business. It’s a very hard-working environment, and if anybody takes on the air of king or prima donna, you’re in big trouble. My management style is always to work as hard or harder than anybody. My forebears were dairy farmers and flower growers. They were up early and working early. And I say to my wife sometimes, ‘I feel like I’m just doing another version of milking the cows.’ I feel that those hours are the hours I’m genetically disposed to keep.”

One can sense a sort of pride in the amount of time he spends at work. But if you ask Carter what he’s really proud of, he’ll say it’s the longevity of The X-Files and the team he’s assembled at Ten Thirteen Productions (named for his birthdate, October 13, and for his lucky numbers). At the same time, he knows that, to some extent, his philosophy makes him an outsider in the industry where he’s been so successful.

“There is an attitude that effort is vulgar,” he says. “I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s a pervasive attitude. Hard work is for those guys, somebody else. If you can’t be a deal-maker, and if you can’t be out there in the trades, you’re just a content producer. And that’s kind of an irritant to me.”

Another irritant is what he calls the “dabblers” in television, the Hollywood hotshots of the feature world who descend from the film equivalent of Mt. Olympus to dip their toes in the TV waters. They have an idea and maybe a script, and maybe they’ll even direct the pilot. Then someone else runs the show.

“This is not a business for dabblers,” Carter says. “I think that’s why there’s a lot of failure, why television gets a bum rap sometimes. If you look at the good television shows, they are not created by dabblers.”

In 1985, Carter signed a development contract with Walt Disney Studios. Later, he moved to NBC, the result of a meeting on the softball field with Brandon Tartikoff, the late president of NBC Entertainment. Carter went back to Disney in 1989 but, three years later, signed an exclusive deal with Peter Roth and Fox to develop new series. His latest deal with Fox, signed in September, 1998, reportedly spans five years and is worth as least $30 million. Industry experts have speculated that, with all profits from TV and film factored in, it could be worth as much as $100 million. Carter has his own perspective, though.

“The truth is, there’s not a whole lot I want in life,” he says. “I’d love to go surfing when I want to go surfing, where I want to go surfing. I’d like to make sure my wife [screen-writer-novelist Dori Peterson] [sic] has everything she wants in life. That’s very important to me. Beyond that, it is just insurance. You’re forced to be motivated by money in Hollywood because they make it about money. The deal is dishonest and everyone knows that. You are working with a [studio] partner and, in success down the line, there’s going to be a problem because this is a business of not just manufacturing, but a business of accounting.”

Hollywood is about more than dollars and cents, Carter says. “Money is a certain form of justice in Hollywood and no one is an idiot. If they said they were lopping off a few million dollars, would I work as hard? Basically, the virtue of being a hard worker is people get to take advantage of that. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid for it.”

In 1998 Carter turned The X-Files into a feature film, and a successful one at that. Reportedly, the movie, shot on a budget of $63 million, had a worldwide gross of $185 million. Carter would like to make more movies, including a second film based on the series. He also plans, sometime this summer, to write the first of two novels for Bantam Books.

And then there’s the Carter Foundation, begun last year, which has issued several thousand dollars in scholarships to needy college freshman who intend to pursue a science major. Carter plans to double the amount this year.

“You know where the money’s going in big universities now?” he asks. “Film schools. Everybody wants to be a film-maker, so they’re pumping money into film schools but they’re not doing anything for science programs. I figure that anything I can do to turn the tide on that would be a smart thing.”

Not long ago, Carter was asked what advice he would give to aspiring writers. His answer should come as no surprise. “Work really, really hard,” he said. “A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I want to write.’ And I always say, ‘What’s stopping you?’ It’s a matter of sitting down in front of a computer, a notepad, a typewriter and doing it. You’re about 90 percent of the way there if you can do that.”