Interview with Chris Carter
Shannon T. Nutt
Since The X-Files left the air back in 2002, little has been seen or heard from the sci-fi scribe who also created such popular cult hits as Millennium, The Lone Gunmen and Harsh Realm. But we were able to catch up with Chris at a hidden location and uncover the secret projects he’s been working on. We got the chance to ask him about the impending release of The Lone Gunmen on DVD, if he had any regrets about the way The X-Files or Millennium ended, and…of course…got the latest scoop on The X-Files 2 movie!
DVD Empire: The first question everyone wants to know is what have you been up to since The X-Files left the air?
Chris Carter: I’ve taken a little bit of time for myself and gathered myself before starting something new – which I’ve done. I’m writing two different scripts for two different studios.
DVD Empire: And what is the current status of a possible X-Files 2 feature film?
Chris Carter: It’s currently in negotiations, and things are looking positive.
DVD Empire: There have been rumors on the Net about how far along things are – whether there’s a script, whether there’s not a script…can you clarify that?
Chris Carter: There’s not a script, but Frank Spotnitz and I have worked out a story. Actually, we did that quite a while ago.
DVD Empire: What can you tell us about A Philosophical Investigation? I’ve read that it’s something you and Frank Spotnitz are working on.
Chris Carter: It was a book that Paramount came to me with, and I liked certain things in it – mostly the main character. And I took it to Frank, and he read it and responded to the same things. We took our ideas to Paramount and they liked them enough that we went forward…and we hope to finish that script soon.
DVD Empire: Is that a film that may happen before you get around to the next X-Files movie?
Chris Carter: We’ll finish that script before we finish the new X-Files script. Whether it makes it to the screen…that’s ultimately someone else’s decision.
DVD Empire: I’ve also read that this is a project you’d like to direct?
Chris Carter: When we made the deal, I tied myself into it as the prospective director.
DVD Empire: Another project that I’ve read about is The World Of Ted Serios.
Chris Carter: Yes, I’m working on that and am almost finished with it. It’s taken me a lot longer than I imagined – mostly because it took much more research than I had anticipated.
DVD Empire: Is that a project you also plan on directing, or are you just on as a writer?
Chris Carter: I would like to direct that.
DVD Empire: One of the reasons we requested an interview at this time is because The Lone Gunmen series is about to be released on DVD. Looking back at the show, and the characters – Langly, Frohike and Byers – it seemed like the perfect recipe for a spin-off series, given the popularity of those characters among X-Files fans. I was wondering what your assessment was of why the show didn’t work?
Chris Carter: I love those characters…they are the creation of James Wong and Glen Morgan. They were a nice addition to the show and I thought they were a good idea for a spin-off series. The idea for a spin-off series wasn’t mine though, it was the idea of Vince Gilligan, Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban. And even though my name was on it, it was really their series and I thought they did a fantastic job. The reason the show did not make it I think had more to do with the promotion of that show and the network and studio’s belief in it.
DVD Empire: As far as the DVD is concerned, I know you’ve contributed commentary tracks on releases of your other shows…are you involved on The Lone Gunmen release?
Chris Carter: Yes. I do commentary, but as I say, I’m really an equal partner with all these other fellas who have contributed more to it originally and ultimately their contribution is greater than mine. But that’s not to take anything away from it – I think it’s a terrific series.
DVD Empire: Let me ask you this about the series. I’m sure you recall that the pilot episode featured a scenario quite similar to the events that would happen on September 11, 2001. Were there any concerns from either FOX or those at 1013 Productions [Carter’s production company] about making that episode available on this release or perhaps trimming the footage in some way?
Chris Carter: I think that there have been concerns ever since 9/11. It is a different scenario, although the similarities are clear. I think there’s always been concern.
DVD Empire: The episode from season nine of The X-Files, “Jump The Shark,” which kind of wrapped up The Lone Gunmen storyline is also included on this DVD set. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t seen it, a lot of fans were upset with the fate of the characters. Do you have any regrets about the way their storyline was wrapped up…or, for that matter, the fates of other major characters on The X-Files, such as Cancer Man and Alex Krycek?
Chris Carter: I thought everyone got their fitting end. We thought about this a lot, and we talked about it, and I think we did everything right. I have to say though that Seasons 8 and 9 were – to use a parlance from football – “broken plays,” with things we didn’t anticipate, including the disappearance of David Duchovny.
DVD Empire: Looking back at it…obviously the decision was made that the show was going to continue even though David wasn’t going to be there. I’m wondering if David’s absence – or the absence for most of that final season, since he did return for the final show – changed the way that you wrapped up the series or changed your original ideas for how the show would end?
Chris Carter: Well, although I had clear plans in my mind of how I would wrap up the series, I could not have imagined nine years of the show way back when. It’s hard to say that anything was changed – we just dealt with the problems, assets and issues as they presented themselves to us and we tried to do the best job, as we always did. So, it’s hard to say if anything would have been done differently. We did what we thought was best at the time and I’m happy with the results.
DVD Empire: FOX has also been releasing season sets of Millennium. I’d like to ask a couple questions about that show…the show started as a very gritty drama about serial killers and very much grounded in reality; and then in the second season, Morgan and Wong came in as executive producers and the show had much more of an X-Files kind of feel to it. Would it be incorrect for me to say that the show took a different course than the one you had originally intended for it?
Chris Carter: When Morgan and Wong came on, they had very strong ideas. They had done such great work on The X-Files, I entrusted them to take the show in the direction that they saw fit. The show was a big enough ratings winner to get picked up for a second season, but it wasn’t as big of a hit as The X-Files was. I was very delighted when I heard they [Morgan and Wong] were coming onto the show, and knew they would come on with very good and strong ideas, as they always do. And they basically took the show in the direction they saw fit in the second season. Then they left the show for the third season, and I came back and – as I did with The X-Files – I dealt with the problems and pieces as they were presented to me, and that’s why I think maybe you get…it’s not a discontinuity…but there were certainly thematic changes through the course of the three seasons.
DVD Empire: Following up on the same question I asked about The X-Files earlier – you probably had a good idea about halfway through Season Three that Millennium wouldn’t be picked up for a fourth season – did the show end the way you would have preferred or do you think it was a missed opportunity?
Chris Carter: I think it was a missed opportunity. I think if FOX had to do it over again, they would have kept that show on the air. I actually knocked myself out of the box with Harsh Realm. It kind of stole away from Millennium [Harsh Realm replaced Millennium in its time slot in the fall of 1999]. Millennium’s ratings were actually better than anything that appeared in that time slot for quite a while.
DVD Empire: It seems to me that given the popularity of shows like C.S.I., as well as a renewed interest in religion after 9/11, that a show like Millennium was almost ahead of its time and would probably be quite successful today. Did you ever have any thoughts about revisiting those characters in some type of format, whether it be theatrically or perhaps a television movie?
Chris Carter: Because the business is a forward moving business, I think that they didn’t want to move backwards with Millennium. But yes, I think when you look at franchise shows like C.S.I. and N.C.I.S. and people go back and watch the Millennium pilot, they’re going to see the direct connection visually and I think thematically with the serial killer stories. That’s not to take anything away from C.S.I. I think one of the problems may have been the religious element…the apocalyptic element…which C.S.I. is not encumbered with. The mythology, if you will…it’s something they benefit from [not having], and something we may have suffered from.
DVD Empire: Looking at The X-Files and Millennium and the other shows you’ve been involved with, it seems to me that the ‘look’ that you brought to television – kind of the idea of making an hour-long ‘movie’ rather than just another episodic TV program – has kind of influenced all the popular one-hour dramas we see today. Every show we see now is moody and dark, and seems to have borrowed that look from The X-Files.
Chris Carter: Thank you for saying so. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know and I wouldn’t want to take credit for it. There are so many talented people out there. If you look at the shows now on HBO and some of the beautiful shows on network television – they are all done by people that may not have been X-Files fans, so I don’t know…but I’ll tell you this – this is the secret to being a successful television show: the people that you hire. From your writing staff to your producers to your production designer to your D.P. [Director of Photography]…these are all critical positions, and I got very lucky and hired very, very good people.
DVD Empire: Because of the projects that you’ve done and the projects that you’ve been successful with, people tend to associate you with science fiction. Do you worry about forever being associated with the science fiction genre, and is there a burning desire to be successful in a totally different genre?
Chris Carter: No, I don’t feel pigeonholed at all. Really, it’s up to me to show people with my work the range of my abilities. It’s up to me to succeed or fail, to be honest. And so I don’t worry about that at all. I never considered The X-Files to be a science fiction show in the beginning, I considered it to be speculative science show…more of a science show than science fiction. But, you know, people call it science fiction. I think the supernatural does interest me…and people are going to label you no matter what.
DVD Empire: For my final question, I wanted to give you the opportunity to tell our readers about The Carter Foundation – which is a scholarship you set up for students who want to pursue the study of science.
Chris Carter: My brother, who is a scientist, and I put together this foundation and we selectively have given monies to people…kids…who would not normally have access to these funds for the pursuit of their education.
DVD Empire: Chris, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us, and wish you all the luck with your future endeavors.
Chris Carter: Thank you.