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Archive for February, 2002

Cult Times: Black Once Again

Cult Times
Black Once Again

He’s played pretty much every kind of role under the sun, but Lance Henriksen still has a special place in his heart for Frank Black…

In his extensive career spanning over 30 years, Lance Henriksen must have played every type of character under the sun. While still most famous among genre fans for his role as Bishop in the Alien movies, many will also know him from his stint as FBI profiler Frank Black in Millennium. After hanging on a knife edge at the end of each season, Millennium finally shut up shop after three seasons. Does the actor wish it had carried on past this point? “It would have been nice, but believe me, everything worked out for the best,” he considers. “I’m back to films now, there’s no looking back and feeling sad about anything, it’s just the way it is. I never regret anything like that, because there are so many elements of it that are out of my hands.

“I was in a truck heading down [with some crew members] from Vancouver to LA to jump on a plane, and when [the powers that be] said it was cancelled, we cheered. We were laughing and cheering and they were going, ‘Are you laughing and cheering?’ and we said, ‘Yeah!’ They said, ‘Well, we’re kind of sad,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but that’s the way it goes, you know? I mean, what are we supposed to do?’ Honest emotions. We were exhausted, man, we were totally wiped out!

“Here’s the thing,” Henriksen considers, when asked if Millennium’s seasonal format alterations became problematic. “Even marriages don’t work if the people involved in it don’t grow together. How can they expect a corporate thing like a television show to work if there’s no growth? You can’t just keep plodding along; if that happens, you’re wasting your life. And I think it was some of the best television I’ve ever seen, some of those shows that we did on Millennium. I’m not just wagging my own tail, I honestly believe that. Some of those shows were good writing and were shot really well and the actors that came to visit on those shows, some of them were incredible and it went very well. That’s all you can ask for. I just think one of the reasons it went out was because it didn’t grow. Change is not necessarily growth.”

In many ways it was up to Henriksen to keep viewers tuning in, with Frank Black being pretty much the only unchanging element of the ongoing story. Unfortunately, it was something of a case of one step forward and two steps back.

“Yeah, from one show to the next you didn’t know who was your enemy and who was your friend. Yet you couldn’t express it. It wasn’t like they’d let Frank Black sit down and say, ‘You know, I feel like I’m going really insane, one day you’re my friend, the next day I wanna kill you.’ The humour wasn’t allowed, and neither were the street smarts. I really am gonna look forward to doing a show where there’s humour, even in a dramatic thing. We know that five minutes after you almost go off the road in a car and you’re almost killed, you’re laughing. You have to, you have to let it out, and that’s the thing that was missing. I don’t care how much of a dirge anybody thinks sells, it doesn’t, not as well.”

When Millennium finally bit the dust, Chris Carter offered Frank Black and Henriksen the chance to come back for an episode of The X-Files, the Season Seven episode cunningly entitled “Millennium.” Curiously, the story related the news that the Millennium Group were all being killed, only to be reanimated as zombies, leading Mulder to enlist Frank’s consulting help on the case. Fans of the original, however, were wondering how long this had been the Millennium Group’s ultimate, rather ridiculous, plan and what had gone wrong. They weren’t alone, agrees a chuckling Henriksen.

“I gotta tell you, man, the way I got pitched this by Chris Carter, the reason I went on The X-Files, he said to me, ‘This is gonna be closure for Millennium,’ and I went, ‘Oh God, great, Chris, I can’t wait to read the script.’ So the day I got to the set to do the show, I get the script and I’m facing zombies. Now what has that got to do with the closing of Millennium? Absolutely nothing! And I thought, ‘That’s closure for Millennium, all right. Yeah, right.’

“I thought, ‘They’re gonna give dignity to Millennium and here comes a show on The X-Files to give it dignity and it became zombies! I went, ‘Oh shit, I’m going down in flames!'” He bursts out laughing again. “I have to laugh about it, man. But you get sold the bill of goods. If somebody says to you, ‘This is a tribute to something’, you’re gonna want to believe it, and so you go, ‘Oh good, okay.’ And then when you get there and it’s in a taste and style that you’re not interested in, it’s pretty funny. Now it’s hysterical!” he chuckles again.

But would he ever return to The X-Files for another try? “They wouldn’t want me on there!” he laughs, continuing, “Listen, I’m a little bit like a boxer. You put the opponent up in front of me and I’ll deal with it, you know what I mean? And I don’t mean The X-Files is the opponent in a negative way, I mean it’s a sport. What we do, acting, is a combination of a love affair and a sport. I’d try anything and I’ll go for it. I’m not afraid of anything.

“I’ve never tried to have a career where I’ve calculated [everything]. It’s been more like a farm where you get up in the morning and you step out and you smell the air and you get out there and you try to grow something. I hear they’re gonna do an X-Files movie and I think they’d be insane not to bring Frank Black into it. Without zombies,” he laughs. “Bring him into the mix, man. He’s a force to be reckoned with, or at least he’s game, he’s adventurous. He’s not just sitting in an office somewhere. He can handle anything.”

While he’s waiting for this offer, though, Henriksen has a nice little sideline going on: he makes and sells his own pottery, each piece hand-crafted. “Everybody needs labour,” he begins, keen to discuss his work. “You do, I do, everyone does. There’s rest in labour, there’s pride in it. You’ve gotta be able to do something, even if it’s just digging in a garden, but you gotta do it every day when you’re not doing the thing that makes you a living. Now, acting is certainly an art form, but pottery for me is spiritual.

“I make pottery, dinnerware and stuff, that people can eat off and use. It’s not just artsy stuff like gargoyles, but when you put food on my pottery, it looks really beautiful, it makes you feel like this is an occasion, and that’s what I work for. I love doing it. We’ve put up a website this year for the first time and it’s paying off because it’s getting exposure. I don’t like galleries. I think galleries are just extortionist. I don’t wanna go that route.

“I took a 1973 military truck and restored it completely,” explains the actor when asked how he’s been getting his work out to the public. It’s not the kind of truck you’d miss either, as the name of the pottery, ‘Screaming Red Ass’, is on the side. “What [that] means,” explains Henriksen, “is during the Second World War there was an American flying fortress; they painted a jackass on the nose of their airplane and put ‘Screaming Red Ass’ [on it]. Pottery just takes itself so seriously, I like to be more blasphemous about it. I don’t wanna be considered one of the old ladies that are making teacups. And that truck, I sell pottery right off the back of it; I get to meet people and talk to them about what they like.”

Of course, making pottery is a useful skill to have when you’re an actor and not always employed. “It’s not only that,” Henriksen reveals, “But I will not sit around and wait for somebody else’s call to live. That’s a big mistake. If I’ve got a movie to do and I have a month to get ready for it, I do it organically. So it’s very important for me to have a good sense of time, time being used well and time just lived. I’m not waiting to live any more of my life.”

The X-Files Magazine: Doggett's Pursuit

The X-Files Magazine [US]
Doggett’s Pursuit
Ian Spelling

[typed by Megan]

Amazed us all in Season Eight, and now he’s for bigger and better things in Season 9 (and beyond…?). Robert Patrick chats about Special Agent John Doggett

“I love our show,” Robert Patrick enthuses of The X-Files. “A lot of people love The X-Files. Hopefully, it’s good diversion. One of the big things about The X-Files is that it’s often about questioning authority and not just accepting everything your government tells you is true. I think a lot of it applies right now, in this new world we’re in since September 11. That’s a big thing. Plus, I’d like to think that our characters are heroic and patriotic and on the side of good. They’re not nearly as heroic as the real police and firemen, but our intentions are good. We, as actors, are trying to make our characters people of virtue.”

Patrick, of course, joined The X-Files in Season Eight as Special Agent John Doggett, the man brought in to head up the investigation into the disappearance of Fox Mulder. Doggett initially displayed plenty of doubt. But based on what he himself saw and experienced – everything from shapeshifters to possible alien babies, from death to rebirth (via regurgitation!) – he is becoming increasingly faced with the possibility that perhaps Mulder wasn’t crazy and that perhaps Dana Scully has every reason in the world to believe in Mulder and his cause. Heck, by the end of Season Eight, after dealing with the imminent arrival of Scully’s baby, interacting a few times on missions with Mulder, and facing the possibility that he himself possesses some sort of psychic ability that may tie into the death of his son, Doggett was very close to becoming, well, less of a doubter…

“I thought there were a number of important episodes and moments,” Patrick says of Season Eight. “I think there were a lot of stand-alone episodes we did that were good experiences and good episodes. The one that sticks out is ‘Via Negativa’,” he says of the episode which earned The X-Files its second viewer discretion warning for graphic content (the first being for Season Four’s “Home”). “That was the one where Doggett’s mind was possessed by the leader of a religious group that was invading people’s psyches and getting them to commit these atrocities on his behalf. He started to get into my head. That was a great experience as an actor. It was challenging and a lot of fun. So far as specific character moments, I think he gained Scully’s trust and respect. He came through in the sense that he found Mulder. He gained respect for and insight into Mulder and what he’s done. He was a man of his word and accomplished his goal, and all the while he did that protecting Scully, watching after her and her best interests. Even though he loves Scully, he realized that he was there to protect her, and he didn’t intrude on her relationship Mulder. He stood back and respected that. I thought that was a great thing.

“I was also pleased with the scenes between Doggett and Mulder,” Patrick continues. “I thought they were great, and Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz did a great job of respecting both characters, allowing them to get together and find respect for each other. I really loved the way they wrote those scenes.

David Duchovny, the actor who of course portrayed Special Agent Fox Mulder from the very first episode, left the show at the end of Season Eight. Patrick comments on the actor and their brief working relationship. “I think David and I both responded as actors with mutual respect toward each other, and that carried over to the characters. It all went hand-in-hand. You also have to realize that a lot of what Chris and Frank wrote reflected what was going on in real life, in terms of me being a new actor on the show. Mulder and Doggett did a few missions together, but we were bitching in the corners of the office. It’s his office and I have respect for that, but I’m now there and I have a job to do. So what do I do? I can’t not have a backbone. I think Chris and Frank did a great job writing that transition and I commend David for the way he handled it. I thought it was first-rate all the way down the line.”

So, did Duchovny ever approach Patrick and say, either directly or in essence, ‘I’m not coming back. It’s all yours. Good luck’? “David and I had a couple of conversations about it and they went like this,” Patrick recalls. “David said, ‘Man, I’m having fun. This is fun. I’m really enjoying working with you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think it’s great. I want you to come back whenever you want and I hope you know that.’ He said, ‘I do and I will, maybe. I’ve got to see how things progress and how they write.’

“That’s how it went for a while,” says Patrick “Then, as things progressed, I got the sense that he wanted to stick with his game plan of saying goodbye and moving on. But I never got a definitive [answer] until the end. He said, ‘Hey man, you’ve got a great job. You’re doing a great job. Just have fun with it.’

“He probably decided that, after eight years, enough was a enough,” Patrick continues. “I’m not going to speak for him, but I want to convey that it was a great experience working with him. I think he really enjoyed it. But I think as he got back into it, he thought, ‘You know, I said I’m going to walk away and I’m going to stick to that.’ He never flat-out said that to me, but that was the sense I got.”

Once it become clear that Duchovny was not coming back, the fate of the series was thrown into question, and not just because of Duchovny’s departure. Carter, just before the eighth season kicked off, signed a one-year contract. And as of the season ended, Carter hard yet to sign on for year nine. Fans wondered if Carter would relinquish his day-to-day writing and producing duties. He did return, but only at the very last minute, after Spotnitz and company had started work on upcoming episodes.

Then there was the matter of Gillian Anderson. She was under contract for a ninth season, but made it clear in interviews that she’d prefer to move on with her career and spend more time with her daughter. Patrick, meanwhile, stood on the sidelines and awaited word of the show’s fate, though he figured it would all work out.

“I’m going to be presumptuous and say I don’t think there’s ever been a show like The X-Files,,” he says. “It’s an expensive show. It’s a fantastic-looking show. They tell stories no other show tells. They try to do things on The X-Files in 8 days of shooting an episode that are incredibly difficult. The hours are grueling. We hear from other people on other one-hour dramas about their 12-hour days, and we’ll be in our 18th hour. The schedule is grueling. There’s not a lot of free time. There were some times last year when I was really treading water, going, ‘My God, I hope I make it.’ It can be a little overwhelming, not just for me, but also the whole crew because the show is so ambitious and there’s so much money behind it. We sometimes do 80 hours a week. Chris takes two weeks off a year, but otherwise he’s got to eat, drink and sleep The X-Files. The whole thing is on his shoulders. I’m sure he probably gives it some thought. ‘Do I want to continue?’ I know how hard Gillian works. And she’s been there from the beginning. I know how hard David worked. I know how hard I work. That’s why I’m excited that the show is now more of an ensemble show. If it’s an ensemble, there are more people and that senses everyone’s workload. It’s certainly easier than having just two people who are in every scene together. We can spread the workload around. So if Chris and Gillian are tired, it has nothing to do with the show, the subject matter or the enthusiasm we all have for the creative part of the show. I think it’s just the arduous schedule that gets to you.

“As I said last year, when I started on the show, I focused on the work, did the best I could and figured ‘Whatever happens, happens.’ And I kind of feel I stuck to the game plan and it worked, thank God. The fans stayed tuned and they seemed to accept Doggett as a new character. I don’t think his being there threatened anybody. I think people, even the Mulder fans, felt that Doggett was there to support all the good work that Mulder had done. And that worked dually, as characters and actors. I think the fans also realized that I was there support David and all the good work that he’d done.”

Season Nine got underway in November with the “Nothing Important Happened Today” two-parter and the show had indeed morphed into an ensemble series. Doggett is partnered with Special Agent Monica Reyes, a relationship that’s complicated on several fronts. On the professional end of the equation, they work well together. She believes in Doggett and does her best to support him, both on the usual investigations into the unusual and also in Doggett’s pursuit of Deputy Director Kersh. Kersh is emerging as a major nemesis, a shadowy figure not unlike Assistant Director Skinner in the early days of The X-Files.

On the personal front, Reyes seems well aware of Doggett’s suppressed psychic abilities and might just be in love with the guy. That last point’s a sticky wicket, for Doggett seems to be interested in Scully, Scully still feels affection for Mulder (even though he’s on the run from the aliens and had to leave baby William behind) and Reyes is fending off the unwanted affections of her snide and oily former beau, Assistant Director Brad Follmer, who looks to be as out to get Doggett as Doggett is out to get Kersh.

“I like what’s going on,” Patrick enthuses. “I want to continue on with this theme of Doggett having virtue, being morally sound and patriotic. He believes in his country and yet he’s willing to question authority and question everything, really. There’s a find line in that. I keep talking about the fine line that John Doggett walks, and I want that to be defined more. I also think Doggett’s going to have to deal better with the situation involving his son and the premonitions. I didn’t realize, going into the show last year, that Doggett had some sort of questionable paranormal experience relating to his son. That happened about midway through the season and it was a good thing. Maintaining your knee-jerk skepticism when you’re taken a shotgun blast, been spit out by a shaman and come back to life… how can you got [sp] through that and maintain your skepticism? That’s been one of the challenges on my job. Doggett has to stay somewhat skeptical, but hopefully that will help him be able to be a little more open to some of the things he comes into contact with as a result of being the ‘X’-Files.

“I also think he’s going to have to resolve some things with Scully and Reyes. There’s a lot going on there. I’ve gone to Scully for some help and she doesn’t want to help me. Doggett find himself alienated. Nobody wants to help him out. The only person on his side is Reyes. So, in effect, Doggett and Reyes are the new Mulder and Scully. I want to see what happens with his relationships with them.”

Might that entail Doggett engaging in a romance with either of the ladies? “I would really like it,” Patrick replies playfully as the conversation comes to an end for now. “Doggett would really like it, I should say. You know what I mean? It would be great for the character.”

The X-Files Magazine: The Next Files

The X-Files Magazine [US]
The Next Files
Martin Eden

[typed by MarieEve]

Executive producer Frank Spotnitz chats to Martin Eden about the progress of Season Nine, Mulder/David Duchovny’s return, and the end of The X-Files.

Can you tell us how the decision to end the show came about ?

It was difficult and emotional for us, because we all love the show so much and it’s been our live for a very long period of time – eight years for me, 10 years for Chris (Carter). Chris, John (Shiban) and Vince (Gilligan) have all worked together for a long time, so it’s like breaking up a family.

The reality was that as much as we believe in the show, and we really do, the audience this year just wasn’t what we hoped it would be. I don’t think it’s a verdict on the show, or on Robert (Patrick) or Annabeth (Gish), because it was really from the first episode out of the gate – there was just a certain portion of viewers who didn’t show up. And at some point you need to decide : do you want to fade away and struggle against the ratings or do you want to try and go out strong?

Have you been checking out the online reaction to the news of the show’s cancellation ?

I’ve really learned over the years to take all the online chat with a huge grain of salt. I think it can be a distorted view of what fans are thinking and feeling. Over the last two years, there’s been a very vocal negative chorus on the internet which has been unpleasant to read. I have read it though, and I continue to read it because I want to know what people are thinking, but I have never for a moment thought it was representative of the audience at large. And now that the decision has been made to end the show, a lot of the same people who’ve been kicking us in the teeth online are shedding tears and I find it hard to take seriously.

I think a certain number of people will start to be sorrier when they realize that the show’s coming to an end, because there’s so much unexplored territory with Robert and Annabeth that really could have been explored for years to come.

I king of look forward to syndication. That’s where I believe we’ll have vindication, because so many of the show we’ve done over the last two or so years are outstanding and will really age very well.

Will we see Robert and Annabeth in the next X-Files movie ?

I don’t really know. We haven’t even started to talk about what the movie will be other than in the broadest possible terms. Whether they are or not, I really hope I get the chance to work with both of them again because they’re not only extremely talented actor, but they’re also extremely nice people and they’ve been great to work with.

What have been your favourite episodes of Season nine so far ?

I liked “4-D” an awful lot, and “John Doe” and “Trust No 1”. There’s some that are coming up that I think are gonna be highlights as well. Episode 12 sees the return of Leyla Harrison, the fan/agent, and it’s all about comparing Doggett and Reyes to Mulder and Scully, so it’s kind of a fun episode. That’s written by Tom Schnauz. Episode 13 is an episode called “Audrey Pawley” and it’s a very far-out idea for an episode. It’s really a kind of “Twilight Zone” sort of episode, but really emotional, powerful story for Doggett and Reyes. And then Chris Carter is writing and directing episode 14, and I think it’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before. It’s kind of unique in the way that “Post-Modern Prometheus” was unique. And then episode 15 is our kind of valedictory for the Lone Gunmen. We’re gonna bring back characters from their show and it’s really gonna be kind of summation of their nine years on The X-Files.

I was interested to see Terry O’Quinn return to The X-Files universe in “Trust No 1”. How did that come about ?

We couldn’t resist! He’s just one of our favourite actors. He can do no wrong in our eyes. We’d used him in Season Two’s “Aubrey” and we used him in Millennium and The X-Files movie and in Harsh Realm. We missed him and we wanted a chance to use him and we did it despite the fact that many, many people would recognize him, especially from The X-Files movie.

Is the Season Nine finale going to be a two-parter?

Yes. Chris Carter is going to be writing it.

I’ve heard it’s going to be a cliffhanger …

That’s not really true. Mulder and Scully will be left able to go on to do movies, but beyond that it’s not a cliffhanger. We’re still working on what that story’s gonna be, because we only decided last week to end the series this year. It will hopefully have a very big satisfying conclusion.

And will David Duchovny be reprising his Mulder role for the finale, as had been rumoured?

Yes. He wants to and we all want him to, and now it’s just a matter of making the deal and seeing if he’s available, because he’s got a movie career. The truth is we’d been talking to him about coming back to do some work on the show even before the decision. So the conversation sort of just changed direction once the announcement was made.

How do you feel Reyes character has been shaping up ?

Annabeth Gish is doing great job and I think the character is growing nicely. I think it’s been a challenge because she’s not one of those characters who came into the series with a full biography. People have had to discover over time who she is and what her past is. We’re slowly learning more about Monica Reye’s past, how she was raised, and her relationship to Doggett. Some of the episodes we’re writing now are gonna explore that more deeply. She’s one of those characters where the more you get to know her the more depth you realize she has and the more you like her.

Some of the theories she’s coming out with are more far-out than some of Mulder’s theories. Is that something that you had in mind from day one ?

Yeah. I think we’re always thought she’s a little looser, funnier, quirkier, more neurotic than Mulder was. We didn’t just want to have another Mulder, we didn’t just want to have another Mulder, we wanted a type of character we’d never seen before and we have quite an elaborate back-story worked out for her. Unfortunately I don’t know that we’ll ever get chance to find out what that was because this’ll be the last year of the show.

Is Reyes proving popular with the fans ?

I think she has a growing contingent of support, especially after the episode “4-D” was broadcast. People really saw what Annabeth Gish could do, and they saw a new side of this character too. But I think in the beginning certain people were scratching their heads, because they weren’t quite sure who she was. I also think you can’t ignore the fact that there was resistance from a lot of people to anyone coming in to the show after Mulder and Scully, and I think she’s really worn down a great deal of that resistance. I think by the end of the season people will love and miss her character greatly.

Has it been a different type of atmosphere on set with the new cast members ?

Oh sure, it’s been very different. It can’t help but be different when you bring in new actor and new characters. It’s also very exciting for us because when you do a series for a long period of time it becomes more and more difficult to find fresh things for actors and characters to experience, and suddenly with the addition of Robert last year and Annabeth a little bit last year we had this whole new range of possibilities and ideas and emotions and situations that we could play. So for all of us it was very exciting.

There’s also an interesting process between the writing staff and an actor. It’s like getting to know each other and saying “Oh wow, look how well he or she does that’ and then you start to write things in response. It’s like a conversation between the dailies and what you’re writing now. They’re both just terrific actors, and very different from David and Gillian, but just as appealing and talented in their own ways.

Finally, are thoughts now starting to turn toward the next movie ?

We had been offered the movie before the season had even begun, and we expressed an interest, but the deal has just been on hold because of everything that’s been on hold because of everything that’s been going on. But I think it will happen. I don’t think it will happen until 2003 at the earliest but I actually think it’s a good thing to get to the end of the series, to catch our breaths and recharge, and then come back and look at the movies franchise with fresh eyes and decide where we’re going.

The X-Files Magazine: John Doe

The X-Files Magazine [US]
John Doe

Season Nine’s seventh episode “John Doe” finds Doggett dazed, confused and completely oblivious of his own identity in a gritty Mexican town. Did The X-Files cast and crew leave the country to shoot this show? Almost. Robin Benty went on set to discover the secrets south of the border.

Dusty streets, stray dogs, clothes-lines. Buildings crammed together, none more than a couple of stories tall, none built after 1950… A few flies buzz. Broiling sunset slants in through the cracks… We can practically smell the p’ss… This ain’t the Ritz…

And it ain’t a travel brochure for a lavish resort. These vivid images come straight from Vince Gilligan’s script for X-Files episode 9X07, “John Doe”, which is set in a dilapidated Mexican town. The episode not only adopts an innovative visual, but weaves a unique stand-alone story. However, the premise of the episode was somewhat different in its early stages.

“Setting the show in Mexico came late in the game,” reveals Gilligan of the episode’s origins, on the set of “John Doe”. “The original idea was about a ‘memory vampire’ who steals memories.” This “vampire” was going to live in the United States, having been raised in an orphanage as a ‘John Doe’. Knowing nothing of his past, he sought to learn about his identity. In the process, the vampire would steal memories from other people and leave them as vegetables. The victims were to have ranged in age from 30s to 60s, but all his prey would have woken up believing that it was 4 July 1972 – the stay the vampire was born: he stole their memories up until that date. In fact, Gilligan’s original episode title for “John Doe was “July 14, 1972”.

However, all the months of development went out the window (along with Gilligan’s scripted teaser and act one) when the writing team began mapping out the plot. “We got halfway through the storyboards and it just didn’t feel right,” Gilligan explains. The producers felt the story would be scarier if one of the show’s heroes had his memory eliminated, but in Gilligan’s original version, there would have been no turning back. It was when executive producer Frank Spotnitz suggested that the episode be set in Mexico that the pieces began to fall into place. Gilligan, however, held onto the intrinsic nature of the story that had fascinated him in the first place when crafting the second version.

“The interesting thing is this idea of someone who has no memories,” Gilligan says eagerly. “Would you still have the same morals and character? Would you still know right from wrong? I think you’d still be the same person.”

First-time director (and current X-Files co-executive producer) Michelle MacLaren responded to this concept whole-heartedly when she read the script. “Doggett has no memory, but underneath it was important the instinct and morals of who Doggett really is come out,” she says. “His training may have him throw someone against a bus, but he would never overstep the line to actually hurt Reyes or kill a person without just cause. It’s very physical and extremely emotional on many levels.”

As an amnesiac, Doggett tries to figure out what is going on, but his only brief memories are of his wife and son – and it is only with Reyes’ help that he is able to remember Luke’s shocking fate. MacLaren loved the raw emotions of that set-up. “There are the frustrations, anger and sadness of someone who not only does not know who he is, but knows that he left a son behind somewhere. Then has to relive the knowledge that his son has died,” she says.

Gilligan agrees: “We figured that it would be a great ending if, by the time Doggett remembered Luke’s name, he then realized his son has been murdered. We knew that scene could bring down the house.”

Overcoming the story obstacles, the production department tackled its next hurdle – achieving a whole new style in one episode.

“Most of our shows are dark, smoky and gloomy,” Gilligan explains. “This one is the opposite.”

The writer was inspired by some recent movies. “I have to say that I was thinking about the movie Traffic when I was writing; specifically the scenes in Mexico.” Director of photography Bill Roe and his crew took their cue from both Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic and David O. Russell’s Three Kings, by over-exposing the daytime exterior shots on the camera to help give it a golden-yellow, washed-out feel.

MacLaren’s directorial preparations were quite similar to Gilligan’s. “I thought about running across the border to refresh my mind about Mexico, but decided against it because of the current national situation.” Instead, MacLaren rented movies, turning to Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado and El Mariachi, as well as other, older movies for encouragement.

Production designer Corey Kaplan also went the cinema-study route, using Billy Bob Thornton’s All the Pretty Horses, and films native to the country for imagery. “Since they know their own terrain, it’s more exciting to see how Mexican directors get it right,” Kaplan adds.

“I hate to admit that most of what I know about is from the movies,” Gilligan confesses. “That’s why the contributions of the Locations, Art and Construction Departments are so crucial.”

Those three divisions of the large X-Files crew were tasked with transforming Southern California into the country that lies just south of it. Location manager Ilt Jones proposed the idea of recreating the fictional Mexican town in the San Gabriel Valley city of Pamona, California. Although it was far away from the Los Angeles set, it did have a bare bones street that the show took over and turned into the ‘Sangradura’ of Gilligan’s script. With MacLaren’s lengthy list of specific directions of Kaplan, the Art Department filled an entire notebook of research to capture the feel of the border town. The goal, however, was not to duplicate cliché notions.

“They can keep the piñatas to themselves!” Kaplan exclaimed as her mantra.

Then the painters and the plasters arrived in Pomona to turn it into the seedier side of Mexico. They added sand, aged the buildings by hand, and redecorated 30 shop fronts.

The director was overwhelmingly pleased with the exteriors her crew provided. “It breaks my heart that we can’t shoot the entire show in that town,” MacLaren says of the move back to the interior soundstages on the Fox lot.

Yet The X-Files stages were just as resplendent as their Pomona counterparts. Layers of plaster thickened the set walls to recreate the Mexican Adobe architectural style. The Art Department designed a cantina that was two stories high to permit the important choreography of the actors in the scenes. (They added one velvet painting for fun.) For the prison scenes, Kaplan tried to recreate the decrepit jail from the Alan Parker film, Midnight Express, with enough space so that the camera could capture the Calabozo station from many angles.

Despite the numerous movie influences, the production was lacking in the one thing that feature films have plenty of: money. “It was even more fantastic that they did that on a television budget, which is not the kind of money any old feature would have,” Gilligan proudly states. “In my mind that makes their accomplishments all the more important.”

With the words and sets in place, MacLaren turned to her actors, especially Robert Patrick, for whom she has total praise. “Robert is a dream to work with. He is so unbelievably talented and he loves the process.”

To support Patrick, MacLaren had to find a cast of unknowns that were believable. “We tired to keep it as authentic-looking as possible,” says casting director Rick Millikan, who required every actor who was submitted be fluent in Spanish. The lines in the script are written in English, and these actors read them in Spanish for the audition. Nobody on the show’s side of the casting table, however, spoke a lick of Spanish.

“We could always tell if there was emotion behind the words,” Gilligan remembers. “We knew whether it was fake or forced, or whether this person was really a good actor.”

Although it was MacLaren’s first casting session in the director’s chair, she knew she had found her primary leads immediately. “When Frank (Ramon) came in, he blew us away, and we knew he would be ‘Domingo.'” she says.

Another actor, Ramon Franco, read for the same part, but MacLaren and company were confident he would play better as ‘Nestor.’ “Bother were a slam dunk,” she says.

Gilligan, too, is overjoyed at the selections. “This is one of the best guest casts we’ve ever had on this show,” he says happily.

In keeping with the theme of authenticity, a dialect coach named Allyn Partin-Hernandex was hired to assist the actors – as well as the director.

“When they made a mistake in their Spanish dialogue, I didn’t even know,” MacLaren admits. “Once Allyn came up to tell me that one of the actors swore in Spanish on camera. I had no idea. Of course, I had them redo the scene.”

Partin-Hernandex based each character’s dialect on historical show facts. She listened to Doggett’s Spanish in Season Eight’s “Vienen” to match the dialogue for this episode, and then made a cassette tape of the new dialogue for Robert Patrick to study. Since Monica Reyes is supposed to have grown up in Guadalajara, Mexico, Allyn translated dialogue for Annabeth Gish to match that region. Yet MacLaren wanted the cartel players to sound different from the locals. Partin-Hernandex chose a Tampico, Mexico dialect for the locals as opposed to the internationally-sounding cartel men.

“In Mexico, they use an upwardly-gliding intonation that is quite musical,” explains Partin-Hernandez. “The ‘locals’ are using a dialect indicative of the Gulf Coast, which sounds more like a Caribbean variety.”

In many Latin American dialects, the ‘s’ at the end of a syllable sometimes gets turned into an ‘h’, but that is not pervasive in Mexico. “I told the actors to be more aggressive with their s’s,” Partin-Hernandez giggles.

Make-up Department Head Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf and her team then enter the process to overhaul the guises of the actors to match the authentic sets and Spanish language. “Vitamin E oil has been sprayed on everyone to create sweat,” reveals Montesanto-Medcalf. “It’s nice and oily, stays on all day, and it’s good for your skin.”

The three consecutive Emmy-winning staff also worked their magic on Robert Patrick. They applied a method called ‘stretch & stipple’ to make his skin look wrinkled, and attached gelatin eye bags to make him appear tired. Facial hair was also added by hand. One particular item of make-up proves vital to the storyline – Doggett’s tattoo. The image is the US Marine symbol, and Spotnitz and Gilligan created the brief words underneath the emblem to convey the characteristics of Doggett’s military service and move the story along. Unfortunately, they later realized that Patrick’s arm had been visible in prior episodes, so some reshoots were done for the two episodes of the season.

Although the basic image was only drawn once throughout the shoot, Montesanto-Medcalf aged the tattoo with skin tone paint so that it looked like Doggett had had it for 13 years or so. “Robert loved the tattoo,” Montesanto-Medcalf says. “But we haven’t done it again on any episodes since then, because Doggett always seems to wear suits.”

Her team also distorted Luis Robledo, the actor who plays ‘Crackhead’, from a handsome man into a starving junkie. Montesanto-Medcalf created one swollen eyelid, to make Robledo’s face look asymmetrical. The make-up crew then rotted his teeth, put dark circles around his eyes, weathered his skin, dirtied his hair and made his lips appear extra-dry with burns, so that he seemed to have been charred by a crack pipe. Before he went on-camera, they blew a tiny bit of menthol crystals in his face, cause his eyes to become glassy.

“He looked gross!” laughs Montesanto-Medcalf about Robledo’s transformation. “People didn’t know who he was when he arrived on the set. He thanked us over and over for helping him become his character!”

Perhaps one of the best makeovers on the episode, however, was Michelle MacLaren’s transformation into a director. She is only the second female to have taken the helm of an X-Files episode (the first being none other than Gillian Anderson), and she impressed the entire staff, especially Gilligan.

“She’s doing a wonderful job, and it is a tough proposition to ask a first-timer to come work on The X-Files,” Gilligan extols. “She has great taste as a director, and she pays fine attention to details.”

MacLaren returns the compliment to Gilligan’s writing. “I was excited that it was such a different and a great script. I feel so lucky to have gotten that script for my directorial debut.”

To take a break from her daily career of producing the show, MacLaren pays gratitude to a number of people at Ten Thirteen. “(Producer) Harry Bring has really stepped up to the plate to cover my producer duties,” she says.

MacLaren also credits the advice of show directors Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, Kim Manners and Tony Wharmby. As well as office assistants Ginger Wadly and Stephanie Herrera for lightening her workload.

“The whole crew has been supportive and have let me focus on being a director. I can’t say enough about how wonderful everyone is,” she beams.

But will she give up her day job? “I wouldn’t say I’d ever leave producing,” says MacLaren. And sounding like a grizzled X-Files veteran, she adds, “This is my first shot at it. Although I’ve been learning a lot, I still have a lot to learn.”