Posts Tagged ‘vince gilligan’

Vulture: In Conversation: Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad

May-12-2013
In Conversation: Vince Gilligan on the End of Breaking Bad
Vulture
Jennifer Vineyard

[Original here]

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Knee-deep in edits for the final season of Breaking Bad, which premieres in August, the creator of television’s darkest drama talks with Lane Brown about violence as entertainment, the incredible pressure of bringing a beloved serial to an end, and what it feels like to have Dzhokar Tsarnaev as a fan.

How close to the finish line are you?
We’re very close—the shooting was finished April 3, and yesterday we finished editing our second episode of the final eight.

Are you happy?
I feel very happy. There was a great passage of time in the writers’ room where we were a little nervous about the outcome. Well, I shouldn’t speak for them: I was nervous.

In interviews last summer you still weren’t sure how Breaking Bad was going to end. Was this just a matter of specifics? Or had you still not decided whether Walt was going to live, die, or go to prison?
It was everything. We knew very little as of last summer. We knew we had an M60 machine gun in Walt’s trunk that we needed to pay off, and that was about it. We kept asking ourselves, “What would satisfy us? A happy ending? A sad ending? Or somewhere in between?”

You also seemed worried about ending the show badly. If you did end it badly, how would you know?
There are two ways of knowing if something ends badly: If you’re honest with yourself, you just kind of know it. And then there’s other people’s reaction to it. Right now, I am very proud of the final eight episodes. But we could put them on the air in a few months and people could say, “Oh my God. That was the worst ending of a TV series ever.” So then you’re left with that horrible incongruity for the rest of your life. You either think everyone was right, or you start to think, “I’m like the Omega Man. I’m the only one who sees it the correct way and everybody else missed the point.”

Is there too much pressure on a series finale now? Since TV dramas became more serialized and less episodic, and especially since Lost and The Sopranos disappointed everybody, the last few minutes of a show can completely change the way we think about the 60 hours that came first. By contrast, I loved The X-Files, the last big show you wrote for, but I can barely remember how it ended.
There was certainly a lot of self-applied pressure. I second-guessed myself. I was much more neurotic than I usually am, and that’s saying a lot. And there is a different pressure on ending a serialized show versus a non-serialized show. The X-Files is a good example in that it was mostly comprised of stand-alone episodes. But when a show feels like more of a character study, there’s more of an expectation that it will end in a correct and satisfying manner.

And viewers are more sophisticated than ever about storytelling now. TV recappers have made a sport of poking holes in plot work—you have to lay the groundwork for every twist or they’ll hang you. If you were ending Breaking Bad fifteen years ago, you probably could have gotten away with telling us that Walt and Hank had been the same person all along.
Oh, no. At this point, you can parenthetically insert “Gilligan goes pale.”

It helps that I’m not reading what folks are saying online. If I did, there’d be a lot of stuff I’d roll my eyes at, and stuff where I’d say, “Oh shit, we should’ve thought of that.” But the best thing to do, as a showrunner, is to please yourself. It could mean coming up with something that no one will guess. It could mean coming up with the obvious yet satisfying moment. I’m not saying what you’re going to get, but it’s probably going to be a mix of the two. There are things in these last eight episodes that are going to surprise people. There are also things where people will say, “I kind of saw that coming.” But maybe the obvious choice is the right one sometimes.

With shows about difficult-to-like anti-heroes like Walter White, Tony Soprano, or Don Draper, the ending feels extra-­important. The finale is when you, the showrunner, render a final verdict on the character and tell us whether your show is in a moral universe where bad people get punished. So, how vengeful a god are you?
I hope that if I were a god, I wouldn’t be a particularly vengeful one. I’ve realized that judging the character is not a particularly fruitful endeavor on my part, and yet I have done that. I’ve lost sympathy for Walter White, personally. Not thinking, I’ve said to Bryan Cranston things like “Walt is such a bastard. He’s such a shit.” Then I realized this might color his perception of the man he’s playing, so I found myself biting my tongue the last six months or so. And my perceptions of Walt have changed in these final eight ­episodes—I didn’t think that was going to happen.

But this is not a show about evil for evil’s sake. Walt has behaved at times in what could be regarded as an evil fashion, but I don’t think he’s an evil man. He is an extremely self-deluded man. We always say in the writers’ room, if Walter White has a true superpower, it’s not his knowledge of chemistry or his intellect, it’s his ability to lie to himself. He is the world’s greatest liar. He could lie to the pope. He could lie to Mother Teresa. He certainly could lie to his family, and he can lie to himself, and he can make these lies stick. He can make himself believe, in the face of all contrary evidence, that he is still a good man. It really does feel to us like a natural progression down this road to hell, which was originally paved with good intentions.

Why do you think audiences are so enamored of bad guys right now? It’s not just on TV—superheroes are being rewritten as dark, flawed characters.
Our viewing tastes are cyclical. Five years from now, a person like yourself might be asking, “You remember when everybody used to like antiheroes? Now they like the guy in the white hat again. How did that happen? What’s changed in America?” People want what they want, for as long as they want it, then tastes change and something else works. For many decades—and this was reinforced by the broadcast networks’ standards-and-practices department—bad guys on TV had to get their comeuppance, and good guys had to be brave and true and unconflicted. Those were the laws of the business. But people’s tastes are fickle, and now that producers of TV shows can be more nuanced than that, audiences are along for the ride.

Are there any honest-to-God nice characters on TV that you still find interesting?
SpongeBob SquarePants
is a great show, and it centers on a character that is courageously nice. Why is SpongeBob interesting? It’s because he has passion. He has a passion for chasing jellyfish. I’m very glad people love Breaking Bad, but the harder character to write is the good character that’s as interesting and as engaging as the bad guy. My hat is off to the SpongeBob showrunners. It’s like how Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backward and in high heels. That’s kind of the struggle you face when you’re writing the good guy now instead of a bad guy.

Bryan Cranston and Gilligan on set in 2011.

Your original pitch for Breaking Bad was that you were going to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface over five seasons. Have you ever felt trapped by that promise?
No. It’s one of the most inadvertently smart things I’ve ever done. I’m not typically that forward-thinking. But the thing that intrigued me about Breaking Bad from day one was the idea of taking a character and transforming him. TV is designed to keep characters in place for years on end. The best example is M*A*S*H: You have a three-year police action in Korea, and they stretched that out to eleven seasons. It was a great show, but when you think about it, a weird unreality overtakes a television series. You see the actors age, and yet the characters don’t. I thought, Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a show in which the character became a slightly different character? We’ve abided by that for five seasons, and I’ve never felt the slightest bit hemmed in. I think that viewers knowing in advance that they were going to get a free-form character that was always in the process of metamorphosis allowed them to be free-form in their expectations.

In this post-Lost world, it seems like the worst sin a TV showrunner can commit is not knowing where his or her show is headed. Telling us there was a basic blueprint probably made it possible for you to say that you didn’t know exactly how the show would end and not get pilloried for it on the Internet. It’s a little like how Game of Thrones can kill its main character in the first season and not make fans think the show’s gone off the rails, because there’s the road map of the book series.  
The Walking Dead
is another good example—there’s source material for it. The question arises every week: Are they going to stick with what I know, or are they going take another path? So there are those dueling pleasures of “I can’t wait to see something I’ve already read visualized” and “It’s going in a different direction.”

Based on what you know about AMC, do you think it would ever let Rick Grimes lose his hands on The Walking Dead, like he does in the comics?
Does that happen? I’m not up to speed. You ruined it for me!

Sorry.
There are certain realities to making a TV show, and there are the actor’s feelings to consider. If I were the star of a TV show and they came to me and said, “Hey, the comic-book version of this is that you lose your hands,” I’d be like, “Screw that. I need them to act, man. What am I going to do, wear green gloves and you’re going to erase them for the rest of the time I’m on this thing?” It sounds like a big pain in the ass.

You’re in a small club: creators of serialized TV dramas who have elevated the form to art and sustained themselves for five or six seasons—Matthew Weiner, David Chase, David Simon. What do you have in common with those guys?
I know Matt Weiner a fair bit, but I’ve never met David Chase. I guess the short answer is that we all know what we want and we strive hard to get it. I’ve always had a fairly clear picture of who Walter White was, and I’ve got to imagine Matt Weiner knows Don Draper inside and out, as if he’s looking through Don’s eyes.

The other guys all have reputations for being grouchy and difficult. You seem like a nice guy.
I’m putting it on for this interview. I’m pretty dark, as you can guess from watching Breaking Bad. I’ve had my moments where I’ve blown up, but I always feel foolish afterward, like I’ve failed somehow—which doesn’t mean I won’t turn around and do it again next week. But this job is so hard. To work this hard and not be actively endeavoring to cure cancer feels like, What the hell’s the point? Most days, it’s just easier to be nice to people, and it bears more fruit, even if I’m not feeling like it.

Why do you think TV’s been so good over the past decade and a half?
The difference now is that writers are allowed to get away with more. We’re allowed to go darker. Thank God we don’t have what they had in the fifties, which was a sponsor reading all the scripts and saying, “I don’t think this character should be black.” But we could very easily have that situation again, because TV commercials get skipped over on TiVo. Ad agencies could once again take over sponsorship of individual series, and suddenly writers will be answering to them all over again.

But the best thing about cable TV is not the ability to say the F-word or show boobs or extreme violence. It’s the idea that a series lasts for thirteen episodes a season rather than 24. It’s amazing the quality of good work that happened in the fifties when a series would have to turn out 30-some episodes a season—it’s amazing that I Love Lucy was as good as it was! Or The Honeymooners. On Breaking Bad, I get to sit and spend three or four weeks an episode, breaking an episode and taking it apart, before a single word is written. That preproduction time is everything, and cable TV allows for that in a way that network TV can’t.

You seem enormously grateful to AMC and Sony for their support. Have you ever fallen out over anything?
We fight over money—or rather, I apologize for the overages that I incur and they yell at me. But I can point to a good standoff that I lost. We had an executive at AMC, a woman named Christina Wayne, who said I used too much music in my first cut of the pilot episode—I had just brought my iPod into the editing room. This executive said, “Don’t you trust your material? Do you think you need music to sell it?” I got so bent out of shape that I wrote an e-mail to her boss, which I really regret, trying to get her in trouble with him. But in hindsight, she was in the right, and if you watch Breaking Bad now, there’s more silence than music. Show writers can be wrong just as often as anybody else, and if enough people tell you that you’re drunk—or if one really, really smart person tells you you’re drunk—you need to sit down.

One of the criticisms of Breaking Bad that keeps coming up is over the female characters. Skyler White is seen by some as this henpecking woman who stands in the way of all of Walt’s fun.
Man, I don’t see it that way at all. We’ve been at events and had all our actors up onstage, and people ask Anna Gunn, “Why is your character such a bitch?” And with the risk of painting with too broad a brush, I think the people who have these issues with the wives being too bitchy on Breaking Bad are misogynists, plain and simple. I like Skyler a little less now that she’s succumbed to Walt’s machinations, but in the early days she was the voice of morality on the show. She was the one telling him, “You can’t cook crystal meth.” She’s got a tough job being married to this asshole. And this, by the way, is why I should avoid the Internet at all costs. People are griping about Skyler White being too much of a killjoy to her meth-cooking, murdering husband? She’s telling him not to be a murderer and a guy who cooks drugs for kids. How could you have a problem with that?

We’re talking now just a few days after the Boston Marathon bombings, and I’m sure you’ve been watching the news. Did you see that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had tweeted that he was a Breaking Bad fan?
No. Jesus.

He also tweeted, “Breaking Bad taught me how to dispose of a corpse.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Oh, Jesus Christ. No, I did not know that.

Yours is a dark show on which fictional people do terrible things—how much do you worry about inspiring real-life lunatics?
Maybe I don’t worry as much as I should. Jesus. I co-wrote the pilot episode of The Lone Gunmen, which was a spinoff of The X-Files; in it, there was a plot to fly 767s into the World Trade Center. That was about six months before 9/11. I remember when that day came, watching CNN just like everyone else in America, just absolutely horrified, stunned into disbelief. I turned on the TV, and I’m looking at the smoke, and I’m like, Wait a minute. We wrote this. I have no evidence that any of those assholes that did that on 9/11 had ever seen the show. Not that many people had actually seen the show. But you have those moments. Hopefully, it doesn’t need to be said that you don’t want to inspire evil and madness and hatred in any way, shape, or form. It’s not going to stop me from writing. It’s not going to paralyze me. But those moments give you pause.

Have you ever worried that one of Breaking Bad’s violent moments might have gone too far?
The scene I had trouble watching in the editing room—I would actually avert my own eyes—was when Victor gets his throat slit with a box cutter. I found that agonizing to watch. Again, hopefully it goes without saying that moments like that are meant to do the opposite of make violence look attractive or sexy. They are meant to unsettle and upset. People could argue, and I would not argue back, that Breaking Bad is oftentimes too violent. But the only thing that would really trouble me is if anyone said Breaking Bad sells violence in an attractive fashion, like something for young men to strive for. That would hurt, but I don’t think we do that.

Do you think there’s ever a moral imperative to pull back on the violence?
I don’t think there should be any kind of edict or mandate imposed by anyone else. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a writer in my position to know where to draw the line him- or
herself. It’s up to the writer to know the difference between a dark story that is basically instructive and a cautionary tale.

Breaking Bad does seems to be responsible, or at least realistic, in the way it uses guns. On the show, guns are jamming all the time, and characters get killed by their own weapons. When Walt buys a gun, the dealer lectures him on how ineffective it’ll be in a high-pressure situation.
I’m a gun owner, and I grew up in the South. Guns are ingenious mechanisms, the product of many thousands of hours of brilliant engineering. You can ascribe to them evil or good. I’ve never hunted, but I find target shooting very relaxing. But it goes without saying guns shouldn’t be used to murder innocent schoolkids. I’m not anti-gun. I’m not anti–claw hammer either. But I am against having them in the hands of lunatics.

Children are always under threat on Breaking Bad, which makes me wonder: Did you rethink anything that happens in these final episodes after the Newtown school shooting?
No. But Newtown was so fucking horrible. It’s been such a bad few months. You’re watching the news, and you see the Kardashians, and you’re like, Is this the best news people can give us? And then you have a week like this one [with the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt], and you’re like, Bring back the Kardashians!

How do you identify yourself politically?
I’m not real comfortable talking about politics. I’m probably more conservative than most folks in the business. But the best way I can put it to you is, here at age 46, I am less interested in politics than I’ve ever been in my life. Politics don’t serve a lot of good. I’m not talking about government—government serves a lot of good. But politics don’t seem to be reaping a lot of positive benefits these days.

What do you think of the drug laws in the U.S.?
I understand why a drug like meth would be illegal, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our laws. Our country is run by good people, more or less, who want the best for their own families, but as with most things that pass through the filter of politics, things get messed up. The idea of keeping illegal drugs out of the hands of little kids is a sound idea. But I don’t pretend to have any answers about how things could suddenly, instantly, magically be better overnight.

How did you settle on meth as the central drug in the show? It’s obviously not the sexiest drug.
I was on a phone call in 2004 with Tom Schnauz, who was a writer with me on The X-Files. We’ve known each other since NYU back in the eighties. He had read a New York Times article about a meth lab somewhere that was getting a bunch of neighborhood kids sick. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do next, because The X-Files had just ended and writing jobs were few and far between. “Should we be greeters at Walmart? Should we put a meth lab in the back of an RV?” It was in the midst of joking around that this idea struck home: What would an otherwise law-abiding person be doing in a meth lab in the back of an RV? That was the eureka moment for me.

And meth makes perfect sense, story-wise, for Breaking Bad. Unlike marijuana or cocaine, it’s a completely synthesized drug that needs a chemist and not a farmer to make. I liked the idea of Walt being good at chemistry and having a unique set of skills that would allow him to cook the best meth available. And it’s also just a nasty, terrible drug that destroys people and whole communities.

How did you choose Albuquerque as the setting? The Southwest is the fastest-growing part of the U.S., but it’s not often portrayed in entertainment.
It was a wonderful happenstance, but it was borne strictly of economics. Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico have been very welcoming in a way that California has not. In the first script, Breaking Bad was set in Southern California, in Riverside. During preproduction, Sony said, “What do you think about shooting in Albuquerque, New Mexico? We’ll get a 25 percent rebate on monies spent within the state.” I thought, You know what? More money on the screen. How can you turn that down? They said, “It’ll be great. All you’ll do is replace the license plates and call it California.” I said, “No, then we’d be shooting in a town where we can never look east.” We’d always have to be avoiding the Sandia Mountains! So we changed the setting to New Mexico.

Is there any product placement on Breaking Bad?
Chrysler has been great to us. Walt bought Junior a Dodge Challenger. Walt does doughnuts and then he lights the thing on fire and he blows it up. I was amazed they let us do that. Talk about product misuse.

But some of the moments that seem like overt product placement were not. We gave free ad time to Funyuns. We used Denny’s a couple of times, and Denny’s never paid us a dime. I think we had to pay for the privilege. I just love the idea of Denny’s as a place Walt and Jesse would go after having watched a guy get his throat slit. They put him in a barrel and dissolve him with acid, then they say, “Hey, let’s go to Denny’s. We’ll get a Grand Slam.” Chili’s and the Olive Garden turned us down, by the way.

What’s your obsession with fast food? There’s Gus’s chicken restaurant on Breaking Bad, and there’s Home Fries, the 1998 Drew Barrymore–Luke Wilson movie that you wrote, which was set in a burger place.
I spent a lot of time in fast-food restaurants as a kid. God, I remember the first McDonald’s in the little town where I grew up, Farmville, Virginia. When I was about 10 years old, the first McDonald’s went up, and that was like the biggest treat in the world. So I don’t know, maybe it hearkens back to that. I’m not as enamored of it now. I’ve been able to eat at the French Laundry since then, so McDonald’s has kind of paled.

In this issue, our TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz argues that TV has become a director’s medium.
I disagree. There’s a perfectly good medium for directors, and it’s called film. TV is a writer’s medium. I am chauvinistic toward writing because that’s where I came from. And when executives get excited about getting a superstar movie director to direct the pilot of a new TV show, I think to myself, That’s all well and good, but what happens after that? That superstar director goes away, and you’ve still got 100 hours to fill. Who’s the first person on the ground making those 100 hours happen? It’s invariably the writer.

Have shows like yours changed the mission of movies, do you think? A two-hour movie can’t explore a character’s psychology nearly as well as a six-hour TV series. With movies like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, you’re seeing more procedurals that dispense with backstory altogether, presumably because they can’t do the job as well.
I love movies, and I love TV. In TV, you have the time to get deeper into a character, but movies are a two-hour block of time in which we get transported to another place. We’ll always have Paris, and we’ll always have movies. But we’re going through a time, unfortunately, when the big movie studios are run by folks that are more obsessed than ever with the bottom line and who probably love movies less than any studio hierarchy that’s ever existed in my life. Back in the day, when the Irving Thalbergs and Louis B. Mayers ran the business, those guys could bite your head off. Those guys were tough sons of bitches, but they loved movies. They weren’t obsessed with counting beans. The problem with the movie business now is that it’s marketing-driven—driven by demographics, by spreadsheets and flowcharts and all this shit that has nothing to do with storytelling. But the movie itself, the structure of the movie, will always be with us. And occasionally a really great movie for grown-ups does sneak through.

It seems like it’s harder to get a green light for a smart movie than to actually make one.
I learned a great lesson from Michael Mann years ago. I was working on a script for him that became Hancock. It was a rewrite I was doing of someone else’s script, and I said to Michael in one of the first meetings, “What is this about? What’s the theme of it? What do we want to impart to the audience on a subconscious level?” He just looked at me kind of blankly and said, “Vince, come up with a good character, tell the story, and keep the audience engaged. Themes are for professors with patches on their elbows.” I learned not to get hung up on the subtext. Just pay attention to what’s going on under your nose, and the rest will take care of itself.

Which other TV shows do you watch?
I watch more TV than I should when I get home, because I need it to decompress. I invariably wind up watching non-scripted stuff. I don’t mean reality TV—I’m not a big fan of that, because honestly it’s as scripted as Breaking Bad is. I love documentaries. But put me in front of a TV that’s playing Modern Marvels, I’ll watch that for ten hours straight. Like the history of carbon and all its many uses, or tungsten, or how do they strip-mine a mountain, or how they make explosives. How It’s Made is a fun show. I love the Food Network. I love Good Eats. I don’t want politics. I don’t want characters. I want to learn how something is made, how it was created, who came up with it.

There’s also a channel, ME TV, that I watch endlessly—old episodes of Columbo and Perry Mason, which I didn’t know that well. I’ll watch Twilight Zone anytime it’s on the air even though I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’ll watch Lost in Space or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. They’ve got all these fun old fifties and sixties shows that are very well written, and yet because they’re so far in the past, they allow me to just turn my brain off and vegetate, which is something I need when I get home.

I was in a pitch meeting with the head of a network, and I started to pitch Breaking Bad, and he says, “It sounds a little like Weeds.” I said, “What is Weeds?” I’m pretty sure it hadn’t gone on Showtime yet, and regardless I didn’t have Showtime. If I’d known about Weeds, I would have never pitched Breaking Bad.

With Breaking Bad nearly over, what will you do next? How serious is the talk about a Saul Goodman spinoff series?
We’re in early discussions for a spinoff. In my dream version of it, I would help create the pilot and arc out the first season and then basically transition away and let Peter Gould, who created the character, run it.

What would the tone be?
We’re still trying to figure out whether it’s a half-hour or an hour. It’s lighter than Breaking Bad, but it’s not a sitcom. I have a hard time with most modern sitcoms because the structure is so self-limiting. You have to have a laugh every eleven seconds, which is so artificial. It’s like Kabuki theater. It’s so unrealistic to me. Not to cast aspersions toward an entire art form, I just have a hard time relating to sitcoms, except for older ones like All in the Family, which were leavened with plenty of drama.

I rewatched all 54 hours of Breaking Bad last week to prepare for this interview, and I found myself enjoying it more than I did when I was watching week to week. How do you think binge-watching changes the experience of your show?
I don’t know, because I’ve never binge-watched anything. My butt starts hurting too much. But I’ll tell you, I am grateful as hell for binge-watching. I am grateful that AMC and Sony took a gamble on us in the first place to put us on the air. But I’m just as grateful for an entirely different company that I have no stake in whatsoever: Netflix. I don’t think you’d be sitting here interviewing me if it weren’t for Netflix. In its third season, Breaking Bad got this amazing nitrous-oxide boost of energy and general public awareness because of Netflix. Before binge-watching, someone who identified him- or herself as a fan of a show probably only saw 25 percent of the episodes. X-Files fans would say to me, “I love that show. I’m a big fan.” I’d say, “Well, did you see this episode?” “No. I didn’t see that one. Which ones did you write?” And every episode they’d mention would be one I didn’t write. But it’s a different world now.

Having binge-watched, I have to ask: What can you tell me about the ending of Breaking Bad?
In my mind, the ending is a victory for Walt. You might see the episode and say, “What the fuck was he talking about?” But it’s a somewhat happy ending, in my estimation.

*This article originally appeared in the May 20, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.

Chesterfield Monthly: Our Man in Hollywood

November 2012
Our Man in Hollywood
Chesterfield Monthly
Jim McConnell

[Original article here]

Vince Gilligan – L.C. Bird graduate and creator of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” – adds the county’s Bravo award to a long, long list of credits.

Fame never was Vince Gilligan’s ultimate destination. In another life, the 1985 L.C. Bird High graduate just as easily could’ve used his artistic talents to build a quietly satisfying career as a painter, sculptor or animator.

VG_BB_412-413_0607B_00_opt

But when you’re the creator and executive producer of one of America’s most critically acclaimed television series, hanging out in the background isn’t an option. Like it or not, Gilligan has become the public face of “Breaking Bad,” and now everyone wants a piece of him.

“If you had told me five years ago that I’d be doing ‘Conan’ or ‘Colbert,’ I wouldn’t have believed it, and I would’ve been terrified,” Gilligan says during a recent telephone interview from his office in Los Angeles, where he and his team of writers are working on the final eight episodes of the award-winning show’s fifth and final season.

“I don’t have much of a comfort zone,” Gilligan adds with a laugh. “I’m pretty much a worrier. I’m nervous about a lot of things. But over the years, I’ve been able to force myself to do things that have made me uncomfortable.”

An introvert by nature, the 45-year-old acknowledges that “life has changed a lot” since the first episode of “Breaking Bad” aired on AMC in 2008. Despite a screenwriting résumé that includes three feature films (“Hancock,” “Home Fries” and “Wilder Napalm”) and directorial credits from a stint on Fox’s “The X-Files,” Gilligan could’ve robbed a bank in Hollywood five years ago and many in the general public wouldn’t have recognized his mug shot.

Now he can’t walk down the street for a cup of coffee without someone stopping him to ask for an autograph.

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Actors Bryan Cranston (from left) and Aaron Paul with Vince Gilligan on a rooftop during filming of “Breaking Bad.”

“I’ve found myself adapting to the demands the job puts on me,” says Gilligan. “I thought my job was going to be putting together a good show every week, but a lot of it is dealing with people. You have to be socially skilled. I have to say I haven’t been for most of my life, but I have tried to rise to the occasion.”

This month, he’s receiving a hometown award – a Bravo from the Chesterfield Public Education Foundation – and he makes a point of talking about it graciously. He says he’s “very, very honored” to be receiving it, though he can’t come to the ceremony at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond because he’ll be in Albuquerque, N.M., working on preproduction for “Breaking Bad.”

“I wish I was going to be there,” he says. “Being home is always great. Any chance I get to come back, I take it.”
Youthful promise

George Vincent Gilligan Jr., the elder of George Sr. and Gail Gilligan’s two sons, was born Feb. 10, 1967, in Richmond, but spent most of his childhood in Farmville.

From the beginning, it was apparent his brain operated on a different plane: He already was speaking in clear, complete sentences at age 2 and on his first day as a first-grade student at Cumberland Elementary, he asked his teacher, “Am I going to learn to read today?”

“We knew he was sharp – he had an IQ out of sight,” recalls Gary Lambert, Gail’s brother, who helped cultivate his nephew’s love for science fiction.

Gail Gilligan, who divorced George in 1974, stayed in Farmville and raised Vince and his younger brother, Patrick, while she worked as a teacher at Longwood University’s J.P. Winn Campus School.

“My sons were my most important students,” she says. “Most of the time we had away from school was spent exploring and learning about one thing or another. Vince took to it like a duck to water.”

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Gilligan (left) and Paul, who recently won an Emmy for his role on “Breaking Bad,” on the set of the show.

Another teacher at the Campus School also had a significant influence on Gilligan’s future. Art teacher Jackie Wall, whose son Angus was one of Gilligan’s best friends, frequently gave the boys her Super 8 camera and encouraged them to make their own movies.

Gilligan was 12 years old when he completed his first film, “Space Wreck,” with his little brother in the starring role. A year later, he won first prize for his age group in a film competition at the University of Virginia.

Wall recognized Gilligan’s talent and creativity, and recommended to Gail that he pursue acceptance to the Interlochen Arts Academy, a prestigious boarding school in Michigan. Gilligan earned a full scholarship and he, Gail and Patrick made the long drive from Farmville to the banks of Lake Michigan about a week before he started eighth grade.

It was the first in a series of defining moments for Gilligan, who wasn’t sure he wanted to leave the security of his family to live and study with a bunch of rich kids he didn’t know. His mother immediately sensed his uncertainty.

“Vince, you can get back in the car with me and Patrick,” Gail told him. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do,” he replied.

Gilligan stayed at Interlochen through the end of eighth grade, then came home and spent his freshman year at Prince Edward County High. When Longwood closed down the Campus School, Gail took a teaching job in Chesterfield County and moved the family into the Deerfield Estates home where she still resides.
Her elder son enrolled at L.C. Bird, his fourth different school in as many years. As usual, it took Gilligan less time to make an impression on his new art teacher than for him to develop new friendships.

“From the beginning, he was very inventive and outstanding in his ability to execute his ideas,” recalls Helen Sanders, who taught Gilligan for each of his three years at Bird and nominated him for this year’s Bravo award. “He was different from the other kids. He was always thinking outside the box.”

Gilligan’s report cards indicate he was never an exceptional student, but Sanders notes that his maturity, creativity and intelligence were off the charts.

“He was beyond his years in his thinking,” she adds. “I used to enjoy talking philosophically with him. He liked to investigate thoughts and ideas. He’d create problems for himself just so he could figure out how to solve them.”

Way beyond the comfort zone

As Gilligan began his senior year of high school, Sanders found herself hoping he’d choose a college at which he’d be able to use his talents as a painter or sketch artist. Gilligan had other ideas.

“I’ve been lucky in that I always knew what I wanted to do and what drove me,” he says.

Determined to pursue a career in television and movies after graduating from Bird, Gilligan gained acceptance to New York University’s famed film school. Just as he did in eighth grade, he had to leave behind his family. This time, he traded the slower pace of Chesterfield County for a high-rise dorm in what was a crime-riddled section of Manhattan during the mid-1980s.

There were drug dealers and homeless people by the dozens in nearby Washington Park, which Gilligan crossed several times daily on the way to his classes. But he saw something else in the streets of New York City: opportunity. Movies and television shows were filmed in the city on a regular basis, and he wanted to be right in the center of the action.

Gilligan’s big break came in 1989. Shortly after he graduated from NYU, he won the Virginia Governor’s Screenwriting Competition for a script titled “Home Fries,” which nine years later would become a film starring Drew Barrymore and Luke Wilson.

One of the judges of that competition was Mark Johnson, a University of Virginia graduate who produced the Oscar-winning film “Rain Man.” Johnson took Gilligan under his wing and facilitated a meeting with “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter, who was impressed enough by Gilligan’s freelance “X-Files” script to offer him a full-time writing position on the show.

Johnson advised Gilligan to keep developing projects in Virginia. Gilligan didn’t want to leave. He mulled over Carter’s offer and went back-and-forth several times before he finally decided to take the job.

The thing that worried me the most was that he wouldn’t be able to separate the good guys from the bad guys [in Hollywood],” Gail says. “He’s such a nice guy, I was afraid they’d step all over him.”

Notwithstanding a mother’s natural protective instinct, Gail needn’t have worried. Her son may have been quiet and studious, but he was nobody’s doormat. If he had been, “Breaking Bad” likely never would’ve seen the light of day.

A difficult sell

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Gail Gilligan, mother of “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan, keeps posters and
other mementos from his film and television career in an upstairs bedroom at her Deerfield Estates home in Chesterfield County.

When he set out to pitch “Breaking Bad,“ Gilligan’s success as a writer and the contacts he developed during the seven seasons he worked on “The X-Files” gave him the credibility to get in the door with some of Hollywood’s top television executives. He was excited about the show’s concept and truly believed it could become a successful series. But it didn’t take long before many of those same buttoned-down suits were looking at Gilligan as if he was one of the extra-terrestrials from an “X-Files” episode.

Gilligan chuckles as he recalls trying to sell the story of a 50-year-old high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and begins manufacturing and distributing crystal methamphetamine to support his family.

“After the first couple meetings, I realized how crazy it was and how unlikely it was that the show would ever get picked up,” he says.
Showtime passed. So did TNT. Even HBO, which had previously shown a willingness to push the creative envelope with such series as “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” made it painfully clear that it wanted no part of Gilligan‘s show.

Gilligan stayed busy with other projects, most notably the Will Smith superhero comedy “Hancock,” on which Gilligan was a writer. Then in 2006, Gilligan’s agent, Mark Gordon, finally found a network willing to buy into Gilligan’s vision for “Breaking Bad.”

Six years later, the show has won more than 15 Emmy awards. Gilligan’s handpicked leading man, veteran character actor Bryan Cranston, continues to be hailed for his portrayal of troubled protagonist Walter White. Nearly 3.5 million viewers tuned in for the first episode of Season 5 in July.

“I’m very happy and grateful for his success, but it doesn’t surprise me,” says Sanders, Gilligan‘s former art teacher at Bird High. “He was always very devoted to everything he did. He would take things the furthest he could go to create a dramatic scene.”

The show’s critical and commercial success has vindicated Gilligan, who compares the multiple snubs to a “former girlfriend who calls you a loser.” Asked if he derives any quiet satisfaction from the knowledge that there are TV execs who now regret passing on “Breaking Bad,” Gilligan acknowledges that “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.

“That’s just human nature, I guess,” he adds. “But it’s not personal; it’s part of the job. In the movie and TV business, you get turned down a lot more than you hear ‘Yes.’ I still feel very fondly toward most of the companies that turned us down.”

Other than his family and longtime girlfriend Holly Rice, Gilligan reserves his greatest affection for the cast and crew of “Breaking Bad.” He goes out of his way in interviews to praise others for the show’s success, noting the “astounding” amount of work it takes to produce a weekly television series while suggesting “it just feels right to give credit where credit is due.

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“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan was a gifted art student and drew these
sketches during the three years he spent at L.C. Bird High School.

“I feel proud that, along with the producers, I’ve been able to bring together this incredible group of people,” he says. “It feels like a family. For me, that’s the saddest part of the show coming to an end: Here you have a group of people who have been through the fire together, and when it’s all over, everyone disperses into the wind.”

Success is ‘trickier’ than failure

With just eight more episodes left to shoot, the day of reckoning is fast approaching for both Gilligan and his show’s main character. After all the lies, murders and other assorted treachery, the series conclusion promises to be not very pretty for Walter White.

“I’m just hoping for a strong ending,” says Lambert, Gilligan’s uncle.

What about the man who created Walter and has spent the last five years locked inside his twisted head?

“‘Breaking Bad’ has ruined me for every future project,” Gilligan says with a laugh. “Now I’m going to want everything to be twice as good … and really, how is that even possible?”

Gilligan expects life to be “very interesting going forward” as he deals with the pressure to come up with another successful project and avoid the dreaded label of “one hit wonder.” And he’s under no illusion that it will always be a smooth ride.

“Success is always trickier to deal with than failure,” he adds. “Everybody understands failure. God knows I do. Navigating a path after such tremendous success is far more uncertain.”

True to his inquisitive nature, Gilligan has pursued a variety of interests away from work. He once took a welding class for fun. He bought a motorcycle, flew solo in both a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane and is a certified free-fall skydiver.

“Sometimes it’s easier for me to jump out of an airplane than talk to a stranger,” he says.

Gilligan’s mother believes he already has a head start on some of his Hollywood contemporaries in one respect: He’s managed to maintain a clear sense of self and avoid falling victim to the temptations that come with fame, power and more money than a middle-class kid from Chesterfield ever could’ve hoped to make.

He’s still with the same woman he dated before he became famous. He still prefers jeans and running shoes to suits and ties. While he’s been exceedingly generous to family members and friends – he bought his mom a BMW Z3 convertible and paid to put his brother through college,
among other things – Gilligan isn’t likely to go broke because of an extravagant lifestyle.

“I was a little afraid [Hollywood] was going to change him,” Gail says. “People say, ‘You must be so proud,’ and of course I am. But I’m more pleased that he’s still a good, humble man. He’s still Vince.”

Gilligan’s remarkable success story is one that teachers at his alma mater use as motivation for their teenage students.

“He’s just a regular guy,” says Keenan Entsminger, chairman of the history department at L.C. Bird and a devoted “Breaking Bad” fan. (He says he’s been “beating the drum” for three years to get Gilligan nominated for a Bravo award.) “That shows the kids the goals they can achieve and the opportunities they have are endless in this day and age.”

Salon.com: Vince Gilligan: I’ve never Googled “Breaking Bad”

Jul-23-2012
Vince Gilligan: I’ve never Googled “Breaking Bad”
Salon.com
Erik Nelson

[Original article here]

[Extract]

You went to the “Chris Carter School of the Dramatic Arts” with “The X-Files.”  What did you take away from there? I’m interested, as you now approach the ending of “Breaking Bad.”  Because, I don’t remember “X-Files” really ending.  I remember it just sort of dissipating.  Maybe that is unfair, but I don’t get a sense that there was closure. And is that something you keep in the back of your mind as you approach the end?

I think about it all the time because I can tell you we worked our butts off from that show. And it’s just a function of raw numbers.  We had 202 episodes of that show when we were done, after nine years. I was, I am proud of that show. I have to admit, I’m more proud of “Breaking Bad” because it is my personal baby. But it was a wonderful, wonderful job. But when you have that many episodes, you’re going to have some clunkers, especially when you’re working at the pace that one works at in network television. That’s why people say, “Oh, you know, cable is better than network.” You hear that a lot. Network is the hardest work going. My hat is off to anyone doing a network TV show because they’ve got to do 24 in a season, 25, 26 in a season, and we’re dilettanting around doing 13 or 10 or eight or whatever. And that’s the way I want it, by the way. I don’t ever want to go back.

With a show like “X-Files,” I learned a lot of lessons. Chris Carter was a great boss, a wonderful boss. And I learned how to produce television. I learned how to write for television. I wouldn’t be doing this job now. Wouldn’t know how to do it if it weren’t for “The X-Files.” But, honestly, ”The X-Files” was a bit of a cautionary tale for me, because we were busting our asses all through Season 9, but the rest of the world, in hindsight, felt like they had moved on around Season 6. They were into other things.  And that was an unpleasant feeling, and it would’ve been even more so, if I had actually created the show. So a big lesson I’ve taken away from it is I want to end “Breaking Bad” as well as I can possibly end it. But I don’t want to end it a season or two or three too late. I want to go with people wanting more. I’d rather go out with people saying, “You are absolutely out of your mind to be ending this thing now. You’re at the height of this thing, you’re crazy to end it right now.” I’d rather have people say that to me with bewilderment, than to hear people in passing say, “’Breaking Bad,’ I used to love that show. Is that thing still on?” One is far worse than the other.

The Hollywood Reporter: Killed Characters, Fired Bosses and Canceled Shows: TV’s Top Drama Showrunners Tell All

Jun-04-2012
Killed Characters, Fired Bosses and Canceled Shows: TV’s Top Drama Showrunners Tell All
The Hollywood Reporter
Matthew Belloni, Stacey Wilson

[Original article]

[Selections only]

This story originally appears in the June 4 Emmys Watch special issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

On a sunny morning in early May, six of television’s busiest showrunners enjoyed that rarest of luxuries: two hours away from writers rooms, sets and, most frightening, blank computer screens. Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), 45, Howard Gordon (Homeland), 51, Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal), 42, Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead), 44, Veena Sud (The Killing), 45, and Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), 52, run some of the most powerful and critically lauded drama series on TV. In a candid discussion about the pressures of their jobs, The Hollywood Reporter heard how some have killed off popular characters, how Mazzara coped with replacing his boss Frank Darabont, the rave reviews Gilligan receives from addicts for his spot-on meth recipes and Gordon’s struggle — shared by the others — to live a life despite “being perpetually haunted by these stories.”

THR: What has been your most challenging moment with an actor?

Gordon: Where’s this running? (Laughter.)

Gilligan: I remember a good learning moment for me. It was on The X-Files, and I had written the scene where Gillian Anderson was about to get an ice-pick lobotomy by this crazy guy who’d strapped her to a dentist chair. I wrote that she was coming out of some deep anesthetic, and the scene needed to be scary. But I’m like, “This is not scary, because she’s not scared. She is drugged!” So I had to ask them to reshoot it. She was very upset with me. I don’t blame her. I sent her flowers. I learned from that that you got to be careful what you put on the page.

The X-Files Magazine: Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood

Apr-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood

It’s the last night on the set for actors Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood. There is an air of impending sadness, because this could be their last night of shooting on any episode of The X-Files. So far, however, the mood is light. The actors and crew stand in clusters, chatting and laughing, as they wait to begin filming another scene. Several crew members ask for pictures with the cast of The Lone Gunmen. But later, the tone of the set will switch, as the cast and crew shoot close-ups for the trio’s final scene, which just happens to be the characters’ death scene. The script reads: Jimmy slowly lays his hand on the glass. The Gunmen do the same… three hands side-by-side opposite Jimmy’s, whose eyes now well with tears. This is goodbye. Reactions are mixed among the three actors. They all agree that the deaths of Frohike, Byers, and Langly while sad are fitting. “I’d already mourned the fact that the show was ending,” says Bruce Harwood, who plays John Fitzgerald Byers. “The fact that we were being killed, I don’t think made too much of a difference to me. It doesn’t surprise me that we go out this way.”

“Isn’t that how we all want to go?” remarks Dean Haglund, who plays Langly. “Well, maybe not so painfully,” he laughs.

Tom Braidwood, who plays Melvin Frohike, was not enthusiastic about the ending at first. “I guess I was a little disappointed,” he admits. “I don’t quite see why it had to happen.” Braidwood, who worked on the Vancouver set of the series as an assistant director for Seasons One through Five, is able to see the producers’ need to wrap up The X-Files characters once and for all. “In the end, it’s right for them,” he surmises.

Choosing to have the Lone Gunmen die at the end of “Jump the Shark,” did not come easy to co-writers of the episode, executive producers Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban. “It was actually a really hard decision to make,” explains Spotnitz. He exposes his fondness for the Gunmen, saying, “It’s funny, because they’re fictitious characters, and the show is coming to an end, but we really have a lot of affection for them.”

Spotnitz says that he, Gilligan and Shiban wanted to give the Gunmen a special ending, one that could only be achieved with such a dramatic climax. “It felt like the right thing to do,” he says. “We could really make them into big heroes and give them their moment to shine.”

Although they did not, at first, know how they wanted the Gunmen to meet their fate, the writers had definite ideas about how it should play out. “We just knew that we wanted it to be unequivocally heroic,” Spotnitz wholeheartedly.

Chris Carter’s announcement that this season of The X-Files would be the last came just as the writers were plotting out this one storyline. That was when they knew what they had to do. “It gave us the impetus to do this kind of ending,” Shiban says. Although a bit traumatic to comprehend at first, Shiban found himself excited at the story prospect. “If it is done well, there is no more heroic thing to do a character,” he says. “It seems just like the perfect end for the unsung heroes of the world.”

The producers did consider the effect on loyal Gunmen enthusiasts. “The ending is going to be challenging for fans of the Lone Gunmen,” guesses Gilligan. “It makes part of me sad, but it’s hopefully a noble end.”

Shiban has his own rationalization. “They die to save the world, and that to me is a fitting end.”

The guest actors in this episode are also well-versed in the Gunmen mythology, appearing in both The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen series with the conspiracy-debunking cabal. Stephen Snedden and Zuleikha Robinson make a reappearance (see ‘Shooting Co-Stars’ box-out), while Jim Fyfe also returns, having played Jimmy the Geek in The X-Files episode “Three of a Kind” and also dead Jimmy’s twin brother, Kimmy the Geek in The Lone Gunmen. Fyfe recalls his fondness for the three actors, as well as their on-screen counterparts. “I love them,” he says. “As guys they’re great, and as characters they’re great.”

When Fox canceled The Lone Gunmen in 2001, executive producers Gilligan, Shiban and Spotnitz were sure that they still had a story to round out. “It was such a big cliffhanger sitting out there,” Gilligan explains. “And we knew we wanted to resolve it.”

The ninth season of The X-Files was the obvious place to tie up those loose ends. “Within the X-Files context, we sort of vowed to ourselves to make this work,” states Shiban.

The return of this plot meant that they had to wait a whole year from the last episode of The Lone Gunmen to write the resolution. Gilligan admits to having some trouble when he actually had to sit down at the computer. “I spent a lot of time building it up in my head,” he says. “The whole time saying, ‘This has to be the greatest episode ever. This has to serve two masters – The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen series – and marry them together perfectly. It has to be beautiful.'”

While crediting Spotnitz with making sure that the episode would get done at all, Gilligan still toiled with developing the plot. “It’s taken me the longest of about any episode to work my way through,” he says. “It’s been a tricky one.”

The writers agreed that they could not simply make this show a continuation of The Lone Gunmen finale episode, “All About Yves.” “I was thinking along those lines,” Gilligan acknowledges, “but Frank rightly said we can’t exactly do that because this is a whole different television series – one that we’re using as a platform to finish this story.”

The writers also had to bear in mind that many X-Files fans may not have tuned in to the Lone Gunmen’s series. “It would have thrown The X-Files audience too much,” says Spotnitz.

The three put their heads together to figure out just where exactly the audience would find the Gunmen and their cohorts after a whole year. The story they came up with reunites the Gunmen, Jimmy, and Yves with arch nemesis Morris Fletcher (played comically and astutely by Michael McKean) was pivotal to The Lone Gunmen finale. Fans of The X-Files will also remember the character from the “Dreamland” two-parter and “Three of a Kind,” both in Season Six. In “All About Yves,” Fletcher orchestrated a dramatic con job, kidnapping Yves and leaving the Gunmen in a secure, underground bunker. Naturally, the Gunmen are none too thrilled to encounter Fletcher again.

In “Jump the Shark,” Fletcher first draws Agents Doggett and Reyes into Yves’ case by teasing them with the claim that she is a Super Soldier. The agents then bring in the Gunmen. The episode moves quickly out of the realm of Super Soldiers and into that of international terrorism, biological agents, and shark cartilage. Yes, shark cartilage. Sharks were incorporated into the story after the title of the episode was chosen. “Jump the Shark” is an entertainment web site launched in 1997, named for the famous Happy Days episode in which Fonzie jumps over a tank full of sharks on his motorcycle. The creator of the website, Jon Hein, christened the term to portray the moment in a television series’ run when its originality has begun to go downhill. Spotnitz calls the title, “a funny joke at our own expense.”

Gilligan agrees. “I kind of like it when a show ribs itself, and the idea of jumping the shark is sort of fun.”

The producers arranged for Hein to have a walk-on role in the episode, but unfortunately, his schedule did not allow for the appearance. Hein, however, was delighted to hear of his creation’s use as the episode’s title. “I thought it was great,” he declares enthusiastically. “The X-Files has always ‘got the web’ and actively incorporated it into the show with a great sense of humour and cleverness.” The X-Files is the site’s second most popular vote-getter. Most of Jump the Shark’s voters feel that the show has never, in fact, “jumped the shark.”

After the writers secured their title, they looked for ways to incorporate sharks into the episode. Gilligan recalls that the writers liked the image of the shark in the first shot of the show. They came up with the teaser that features Fletcher on a boat in the Bahamas.

“We threw out the teaser for a long time because it felt, at first, that it got us off to the wrong start,” says Shiban. After several sessions of working out more traditional X-Files teasers, they came back to the original, more comedic one.

“We wanted to start it off and truly tease the audience in the classic sense of a teaser, to get them intrigued,” Gilligan opines. “Michael McKean does that.”

McKean is a favourite of the show’s producers. “When an actor exceeds your expectations, it’s great,” says Spotnitz. “He is a surefooted actor, period. Be he’s also a great comedic actor, with great comedic timing and instincts.”

“He’s just a delight. He so embodies this character that it’s scary,” Shiban gloats about his guest star. “One of the reasons he’s such a good fit with both The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen, is because, as comic as he is, he carries himself with such a sense of reality.”

Also praising McKean, Gilligan says simply, “He so gets it.”

The Lone Gunmen themselves are also exciting about reuniting with McKean. “We’ve been talking Spinal Tap, and I switch from fellow actor to annoying groupie,” jokes Haglund.

“Micheal’s great,” agrees Braidwood. “He’s a character and a very funny man. He’s a lot of fun to work with.”

Gilligan likens the character of Morris Fletcher to Louie DePalma from the television series Taxi. “He’s the guy you love to hate,” Gilligan laughs. “But you don’t really hate him. Deep down you sort of love him.”

After Fletcher’s humorous entrance, the story gradually becomes more serious, culminating in the Gunmen’s touching final scene with Yves and Jimmy. Balancing humour is something The X-Files writers have done numerous times throughout the series’ nine seasons, especially when the Lone Gunmen are on hand. In this episode, however, it was especially challenging.

“In the writing, we did a number of revisions around that very issue,” Shiban states.

“The world in which [these characters] live is not funny,” Spotnitz elaborates. “We had to make it more real.”

Over the course of writing The Lone Gunmen series last year, the producers, according to Gilligan, found the show “worked best when there was actually a little more drama rather than a little less.” He thinks they achieved this tone best in the series finale. “That episode struck a nice balance between comedy and sort of high stakes seriousness,” he recalls wistfully. “We tried to strike that same tone in this one.”

Admittedly, this episode hits both ends of the spectrum. “It is a balancing act, and we’re watching dailies every day and walking that tightrope,” Shiban confesses.

Another challenge was the actual melding of the two shows. Once they got into the writing of it, it became very difficult to merge the two series together. Spotnitz refers to the combination of the two shows, something they have done before with the Millennium series crossover in the seventh season X-Files episode, “Millennium,” as a “massive headache.”

Shiban remarks that it was difficult to communicate the complicated back-story that would have become The Lone Gunmen mythology had the series continued. “We kept running up to these moments where the three of us would be working on the script,” he recounts, “when we asked ‘Does The X-Files audience need to know this? Is the back story too complicated?’ You have a whole world for a series, but this is just one episode.”

The writers were now faced with the daunting task of communicating this world to a viewing audience that may not be familiar with The Lone Gunmen series. Calling it a “necessary evil,” Gilligan explains that they tried to keep exposition to a minimum.

Another challenge to writing this episode was, as Spotnitz puts it, “striking a balance in screentime between the Lone Gunmen and Doggett and Reyes.” Add Morris Fletcher, Jimmy Bond, Yves Adele Harlow, and Kimmy the Geek to the mix, and you’ve got a full plate for any writer.

“It’s an exercise in trunk packing,” says Gilligan. “You have to use every little bit of available space.”

Shiban, while discussing the difficulty of working Agents Doggett and Reyes into the initial story, says that he found it just as problematic as having to incorporate the characters into the X-file into any script. “The X-Files is a hard form to master,” he muses, “which is partly what I think makes it so good when it clicks. But we struggle every week.”

“We realized very early that our Act IV would mostly be the Gunmen, because we’re doing a story about how the Gunmen are unsung heroes,” Shiban says. “We want them to be heroic in the climax. Therefore, we knew that [Doggett and Reyes’] role would be diminished at some point, and that made it easier in some ways.”

The producers are happy with the final script as a tribute to the Gunmen, but they understand fan reaction will undoubtedly be mixed. “Some will hate us for it,” predicts Shiban. “But I bet the ones who say they hate the idea will cry when they see it.”

“At the end of the day, if the fans of The Lone Gunmen series are the ones pleased, that’d be enough for me,” sighs Gilligan. Although he hopes that all X-philes will enjoy it, Gilligan offers up some morsel of completion for the fans of the canceled series. “They stuck with us through thick and thin, and I wanted to see something resolved for them.”

As the late night on the set draws to a close, the actors reflect on the end of the Lone Gunmen, bringing up feelings about the end of The X-Files series as a whole.

“I’m really sad to see it go,” says Fyfe of The X-Files. “I think all successful shows become a part of the culture in a way. I’ll miss it.”

The cast and crew once again laugh together between takes. Although the sentiment of the episode is bittersweet, everyone on set is having fun with the one last go around.

“What I’ll miss are the people, because they’re all great to work with,” Braidwood reflects. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

The X-Files Magazine: One of a Kind

Feb-??-2002
The X-Files Magazine [US]
One of a Kind
Joe Nazzaro

[typed by MarieEve]

Long-time X-Files writer/executive producer Vince Gilligan chats to Joe Nazzaro about the future of the show, his personal favourite X-Files episodes, the cancellation of The Lone Gunmen, and much, much more.

For the better part of a decade now, writer/executive producer Vince Gilligan has been trying to push the envelope as far as what could be done with an X-Files episode. “Hungry” came from the idea of telling a story completely from the bad guy’s point of view; the groundbreaking “X-Cops” is a letter-perfect homage to the pseudo-reality show “Cops”, right down to the cheesy production values and bizarre camera angles; and “Bad Blood” managed to combine Rashomon-style flashbacks with a goofy vampire parody.

Gilligan began writing for The X-Files with “Soft Light” at the end of Season Two, eventually landing a staff position and working his way up the show’s production hierarchy. His episodes range from the terrifying (“Unruhe”, “Paper Hearts”) to the comedic (“Small Potatoes”, the aforementioned “Bad Blood”). More recently, his time has been divided between script rewrites on The X-Files and working on the short-lived spin-off series The Lone Gunmen, the unexpected cancellation of which still dismays and puzzles him to this day.

This season, Gilligan has written the psychological thriller “John Doe”, and is preparing to write and direct episode 18, the first time he’s directed for the series since Season Seven’s “Je Souhaite”. And finally, he’ll be teaming up with fellow staff writers frank Spotnitz and John Shiban to tie up some of the threads from The Lone Gunmen, which means the next several weeks are going to be rather busy. Just before sitting down to write episode 18 (a story he couldn’t reveal), Gilligan sat down to talk about his work on the series…

Do you find the current season easier to write because you’ve got new characters and situations to work with, or is it more difficult without the Mulder/Scully dynamic ?

In some ways it’s easier, and more difficult in others. It’s easier to come up with new ideas and new situations to put our two new characters in, by virtue of the fact that they’ve been in so few episodes compared to Mulder and Scully. And it’s challenging and exciting to come up with ideas for them because they’re such interesting and original characters as far as I’m concerned. I absolutely love the character of john Doggett, and the way Robert Patrick play him. The same goes for Annabeth Gish who plays Monica Reyes. They’re two very unique characters, and they have, in my mind, a lot of striking differences from Mulder and Scully, so it’s great fun to write for them. On the other hand, with every X-Files episode we write, that’s one less idea that we can no longer go to when it’s time to come up with another episode. So it gets trickier with every episode we write, to come up with something new plot-wise, but on the other hand, yes, it’s easier in a sense to write the new characters.

Do you think the X-Files concept is strong enough in Season Nine without Mulder and Scully ?

I believe so. I know for a fact that there are many fans who would disagree with that, but in my mind, the basic idea of The X-Files is more than sound enough with a different cast. Provided the two new characters are just as strong and interesting as the old ones were, that is. At the end of the day, I think the show can be just as interesting with a new set of characters.

Is it easier concentrating your energies as a writer on just one show right now ?

To my mind, the only goof thing about The Lone Gunmen being cancelled is that we have half the work to do this year. Last year was the roughest single year I’ve had working on this show, because we were doing double duty on every-thinking, ‘Boy, I don’t want to get cancelled, but how the heck are we going to do this again next season ?’ Fox solved that problem for us very abruptly by cancelling the series, and I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. I enjoyed the show and its characters, and truly loved writing for it. Having said all that, I don’t know how we would have got through another year, because if we’d been doing it this year, we would have had 20-22 episode order, and we barely got through 13.

Why do you think the Lone Gunmen show didn’t catch on ?

That’s the question I’ve asked myself every day, because I’d love to know the answer. Maybe this was a show that had a specific time it should have come out and we missed that window. I don’t know what that window would have been, but I’ve got to think there was enough interesting plots and humor, and the characters were likeable and noble enough. In my mind, and I’m the most biased person you can ask, my thing was always, what’s not to love ? Maybe there wasn’t enough sex or sexiness or something. Maybe three guys hanging out together in a basement, maybe people need more romance; I don’t know what it is.

Tell us little bit about tour latest episode, “John Doe”.

This episode went through a lot of permutations, and wound up being a story about memory loss and amnesia. It’s about a character who can suck people’s memories right out of their head. In the teaser, Agent Doggett wakes up in this abandoned warehouse, where a crack addict is trying to steal the sneakers right off this feet. Doggett chases this guy out in a very bright landscape that turns out to be a Mexican border town, where Doggett promptly gets arrested, and we realise that our hero has absolutely no memory of who he is or he got here.

The bulk of the episode is about Doggett trying to remember who he is and falling in with some characters who lead him to believe it’s probably in his best interests to lay low and not to go back to the US where he imagines he’s from. It’s a different sort of episode. At the heart of it, the one little glimmer of a memory that keeps coming back to Doggett is something to do with a little boy who comes and wakes him. He imagines this little boy is his son, and that’s the emotional part of the episode, because as fans of the show know, Doggett lost his several years before he joined the X-Files unit, so that’s the key to him getting his memory back.

So it’s more of a psychological piece ?

There’s a fair bit of action to it, but it’s definitely a psychological piece, and not your standard X-Files. It was interesting to write, because the teaser and the entire first act is just Doggett in Mexico. We’re wondering the world, but it takes until act two for us to catch up with our other heroes in Washington and see what’s going on there. I always like to try and construct a different kind of structure, and “John Doe” is a different kind of story.

What made you decide you wanted to direct again this season ?

I feel like I’ve been lucky my whole life in that I’ve always knows what I wanted to do, even since I was a third grader. I always wanted to make movies, and in my mind, I wanted to do everything – I wanted to write and direct them, I wanted to do the special effects and make the costumes, and all these years later, I’ve been very lucky to have seen that dream fulfilled. Writing is a wonderful career, and I feel very blessed to get to do it, but I wanted to try directing as well. The first time I directed (on “Je Souhaite”), my plate was already full, and I was really nervous. In the back of my head, I thought, ‘Maybe I should call this off, what if I screw this up terribly and waste 20thCentury Fox’s money ? What if everyone just thinks I’m a fool and completely screw me up ?’ But something kept me going, and I guess it was the self knowledge that if I didn’t take this golden opportunity when I had it, I would forever be looking back and kicking myself in the butt for not having at least tried and failed. Now that I’ve done it, I’ve still got so much to learn, and that’s one of the reason I want to do it again.

So you’ve taken some lessons on board from that experience, which you’ll be using when writing and directing ?

Yes, and hopefully I can come up with something good. I’ve got a bit of an idea, but I really need to nail it down, because the clock is ticking and I need to get going on that script. I’m hoping to get going on that on that one sooner that later so I have time to polish it and make it the way I want it. That’s always our concern, are we going to have enough time ? Somehow it always works out, although there’s a lot of nervousness and a lot of ulcer-causing stress related to this job, but I guess we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Are you looking forward to tying up the threads from The Lone Gunmen later this season ?

As I said, I was so disappointed when it was cancelled, and I want to do right by the fans and the characters, so I hope we do it justice. It’s so hard to wrap something up perfectly in just 42 minutes and 26 seconds, which is all the time we have in an episode, but I hope we do a good job. I really don’t want to disappoint anybody, including us, and I don’t want to disappoint Bruce or Dean or Tom, our three Lone Gunmen, because all three of them are great guys, as are Steven Snedden (Jimmy Bond) and Zuleikha Robinson (Yves Harlow). All five of them are wonderful actors, and wonderful people to work with, so I hope we don’t disappoint them either.

What do you look on as your strengths as a writer on The X-Files ?

Well, I can tell you where my strengths don’t lie. I definitely don’t have a facility for the mythology episodes. There was only one that I was actually involved in as a writer, and that was the quasi-mythology episode, “Memento Mori”. I’ll be honest, I love watching the mythology episode, but I watch them as a fan. I don’t have that much to do with them. They’re a different king of story-telling, and a very good kind, but one I don’t feel particularly equipped for. If I had strength on the show, it would be for the stand-alone episodes that don’t deal with the mythology or the over-arcing mythology of the series. That would be both my strength is the actual sitting down and writing of an episode. I say that because we as producers have a lot different hats to wear during the course of production on an episode. We have to come up with a story and beat it out brick by brick before anyone starts writing. And then we have to cast the episode and edit it and listen to the music, give input into the visual FX producers, and all of these things are part and parcel of our job. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about those aspects, but I guess my strength lies in actually taking a finished ‘board’ – which is the hashed-out beat by beat plot of the story – and turning it into a finished script. If I have a strength, that’s where it lies.

Looking back over the many episodes you’ve written for the series, are there any particular favourites that come to mind ?

That’s a good question. The truth is, I don’t really have a favourite. I’ve never been the kind of person who had a favourite food or soft drink or a favourite anything. I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to pare anything down to one favourite, and that goes for the episodes I’ve written. As far as episodes I’ve written but just enjoyed as a viewer, I’d be hard-pressed to say which one is my favorite.

Do you have a shortlist ?

Of mine ? Well, “Bad Blood”, “Pusher”, “Paper Hearts”, “Hungry”, “Je Souhaite” just because it was so much fun, along with “X-Cops”. One that I was actually really proud of is “Folie à Deux”, which I don’t think was as enjoyed by the fans as I would have hoped, but to this day is still one of my favorites.

Any you’d like to forget ?

I feel very fortunate in that the episodes I’ve worked on or rewritten, there are some I’m not as proud of. But I can honestly say there’s not a single episode of this series that I would abscond with and bury in the middle of the woods. I’m just so proud to be a part of this series that was great before I got here, and to this day, nine years later, is still great. It was a show I was a fan of before I ever had anything to do with it, and I’d still be a fan of it today if I’d never joined the staff. I think it’s a strong show regardless of anything I ever did, but I’m also proud of what I’ve done while here as well. I’m very proud of this show, and I’m biased I’ll admit, but I hope it’s going to have a place in TV history.

The X-Files Magazine: John Doe

Feb-??-2002
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.”

Cinescape: The Scares Are Out There

Nov-??-2001
Cinescape
The Scares Are Out There
Melissa J. Perenson

[typed by Megan]

While The X-Files originally started out as a cult series focusing on the paranormal, over the course of eight years the genre mainstay has managed to deliver more thrills, chills and scares than any other network series on television. Most of those jolts came during the show’s initial four years (as evidenced by our lists here) …which is probably later seasons for not being scary enough.

The all-time creepiest X-Files episodes ever

5) “Tooms” (season one) Writers: Glen Morgan and James Wong | Director: David Nutter Plot: A sequel to the series’ third episode, “Squeeze”, it’s the return of the liver-eating mutant who can hibernate and elongate his body.

Why it’s scary: Among other things, Tooms is crushed to death by an escalator.

Origin: “Tooms’ was just about trying to get it right,” says Morgan, who wasn’t pleased with how “Squeeze” turned out. “That [idea] came about when I was Christmas shopping at the Thousand Oaks Mall and these guys were working the elevator. The base of the escalator is a metal plate and you lift it up and these guys were inside of it. And I thought, “That would be great if somebody lived down there.”

4) “Pusher” (season three) Writer: Vince Gilligan | Director: Rob Bowman Plot: Robert Modell, also known as Pusher, can get into people’s minds – literally. That’s handy for bending his victims, not to mention the police and the FBI, to his will.

Why it’s Scary: The concept of a killer who wills death on his victims, making it look like suicide, is scary enough, but the fast-paced, tautly written script heightens the drama.

3) “Die Hand Die Verletzt” (season two) Writers: Glen Morgan and James Wong | Director: Kim Manners Plot: A high school in a sleepy New Hampshire town is riddled with occultists and dark forces.

Why it’s scary: Take your pick from the cornucopia of topics here – devil worship, repressed memories, a teenager’s suicide, a high school parents’ association filled with members who practice Black Magic.

Origin: For his last hurrah before leaving The X-Files, Morgan thought it would be appropriate to do a horror episode. “The idea of a satanic PTA just struck me as funny,” recalls Morgan who adds that its most vicious moment is when a snake eats a human being. “People talk about ‘Home’ being the most violent episode. I think ‘Die Hand Die Verletzt’ is the most disturbing.”

2) “Unruhe” (season four) Writer: Vince Gilligan | Director: Rob Bowman Plot: Killer Gerry Schnauz generates psychic photographs of his victims – whom he has lobotomized with an ice pick.

Why it’s scary: Again abducted by a killer, Scully is bound, gagged and at a madman’s mercy; in this case, Pruitt Vince plays the madman to perfection. Mulder find his partner in time – but just barely.

Origin: Gilligan explains that the story sterns from the world’s first modern mass-murderer Howard Unra who was a war vet from New Jersey back in 1947. “He came home and took his stolen German world for unrest is unra; so, the guys name literally meant unrest. The finished story had nothing to do with that, but the idea, originally, was that somehow the word keeps coming up and then people start to kill.”

1) “Home” (season four) Writers: Glen Morgan and James Wong | Director: Kim Manners Plot: A grotesquely malformed infant is discovered in a shallow grave and the FBI is called in.

Why it’s scary: The incestuous plot is disturbing enough, but Manners’ crafty shooting makes this one of the most horrifying and notorious episodes ever aired.

Origin: After creating the short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, Morgan and Wong returned to the show wanting to create a truly scary episode. “I had no idea it would create the ruckus it did,” admits Morgan who was inspired by a passage in Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography for this episode. “[Chaplin] had been traveling in a musical theater vaudeville circuit in England and had stayed at a place that was like a tenement and the family that ran it took a liking to him and they said, ‘Come on in here, we’ve got to show you this.’ So he goes upstairs to this one-room tenement with a cot, and from beneath the cot they wheeled out a boy with no arms and no legs. They lift him up and the family starts singing and clapping and the kid starts dancing. The family thinks this is really some special treat and Chaplin is just horrified. I thought, ‘This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard and we should do some variation of that.'”

In spite of the reaction to the graphic nature and disturbing concept, Morgan hoped to bring the characters back while executive producing Millennium. “[The idea was] the mother and the one kid survived and Frank comes across them,” says Morgan. “It would have been great, but then FOX put a ban on ‘Home’ forever.”

Looking back, Spotnitz muses that the commotion generated by the episode was really a case of much ado about nothing.

“There were a lot of notes and a lot of things cut out,” he says of the episode. “The ideas were very disturbing, but what was actually shown? It’s actually very artfully done.”

The dirty secret at the heart of the FBI, a project no one at the prestigious law enforcement agency wants to talk about. The X-Files are the morass of unsolved cases whose details are too perplexing for modern investigative methods to crack. Dealing with subject matter too embarrassing or irksome for the establishment, they were left to languish in the basement until Special Agent Fox Mulder assumed responsibility for that section, sacrificing his reputation in the process. Special Agent Dana Scully was assigned as his partner shortly thereafter, to debunk his investigations on scientific grounds and keep an eye on “Spooky” Mulder.

Unfortunately, during the course of their adventures – now popularized through a successful FOX network television series – Scully began to tolerate and later adopt many of Mulder’s wild theories on alien abduction, mutant maniacs, magical and supernatural phenomena and complex government conspiracies aimed at assisting an alien race with the subjugation and colonization of the planet Earth. Naturally, most of their so-called investigations have ended with inconclusive results and would be laughed out of every court in the nation.

Perhaps realizing the futility of his crusade, and feeling he had achieved closure in his decade-long search for his missing sister (who he believed was abducted by those same aliens!). Mulder has left the X-Files. They are now the domain of Agent Scully and new Agents John Doggett and Monica Reyes. As Agent Scully once said, “The truth is out there – but so are lies.” Those two newcomers will no doubt be hearing some big ones very soon.

The X-Files Official Site: Chat with Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban

Mar-31-2001
The X-Files Official Site
Chat with Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban

Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban all serve as executive producers on The X-Files, as well as on The Lone Gunmen.

Mutato1121: Is writing and planning the story lines for The Lone Gunmen any different than from when you do The X-Files scripts?

Vince: It’s different in that it’s a comedy. But we find the plotting to be just as intricate as when we do an episode of The X-Files.

John: In some ways it’s more difficult than The X-Files because you not only have to have a great story but it has to be funny too.

Frank: Let me put it this way, most weeks when we turn in the scripts the crew in Vancouver wants to know what we were smoking. So I’d say in many ways the scripts are even more out there than The X-Files.

JNewton: I loved the episodes “Unusual Suspects” and “Three of a Kind” on The X-Files. Is that basically what LG episodes are going to be like?

Frank: Absolutely! If you like those shows, you’ll love these.

Vince: Plus, with the new shows, we have two great new characters…Yves Adele Harlow, who is a wonderful femme fatale, and Jimmy Bond, who in some ways will become the fourth Lone Gunman.

SamanthaJ3: Will TLG be strictly comedy? Or will it have drama, too?

John: You’ll laugh and you’ll cry! We consider this show Mission Impossible with geeks…so you’ll have adventure, thrills, but also some pretty wild humor because our three leads, the Lone Gunmen, their world is upside down from The X-Files.

Frank: Hopefully you’ll know when to laugh and when to cry.

Vince: It’s definitely a comedy but we have a couple episodes coming up that have some nice emotion to them. Actually they all have a certain amount of emotion to them…and we feel it balances nicely with the comedy.

Oliver: Isn’t it ironic to launch a spin-off comedy during this gloomy season of TXF where desperation, adversity, boredom, and ultimately (so far) tragedy prevail?

Frank: Good point. Uh-oh!

John: You mean to say alien babies aren’t funny?

XPhreak: Alright, spill it: WHO’S THE FATHER OF SCULLY’S BABY?

Frank: We’ll learn in The Lone Gunmen that Frohike is the father of Scully’s baby. Stay tuned!

jaybfox: Do you have a particular character you like to write more than another? For instance, do you have a preference amongst the Lone Gunmen?

Frank: We love them all!

Vince: The more we like them, the more we realize how unique each of their voices is. Byers is the voice of reason, the moral center of the show. Frohike is a curmudgeonly man of action. Langly is kind of a smart aleck. And Jimmy is a big goofy guy with a lot of heart. Yves, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery at first. But we learn that underneath her hard shell there’s something else going on.

Frank: John relates best to Frohike. Because he knows what it’s like to be a sex symbol against your will.

John: Yay!

Sarah: What about Harlow, then? What voice is she?

Vince: Yves has many layers. She comes across as tough and sarcastic and because of that she’s fun to write. Sarcasm is always fun to write. As the series progresses, we’ll see whole new sides to her, which I don’t want to elaborate on too much here. It would spoil the fun.

Frank: It involves dancing.

LauraCap: Byers got a crack at Suzanne Modeski. Will Langly and Frohike ever get lucky in love?

Jewlz: Will there be any love interests for the gunmen?

John: Langly has a very interesting moment early in the season with a cow.

Vince: Actually a bull.

Frank: That story is autobiographical.

Vince: But it didn’t go on my permanent record. I was under 18 at the time.

xfmegan: Are there any plans to correlate the X-Files mythology into the Lone Gunmen?

Frank: The brain surgery required boggles the mind. However, there will be crossovers in terms of characters and some storylines that involved the Lone Gunmen when they were on The X-Files. So you’ll see some comic characters from The X-Files crossing over, as well as some serious ones getting a chance to show how funny they can be.

jaybfox: Can you tell us anything about the LGM episode that Skinner appears in?

Vince: Case in point. Mitch Pileggi, our own favorite assistant director of the FBI, Walter Skinner. He’ll be joining The Lone Gunmen in an upcoming case.

Frank: It’s top secret. But you get to see Skinner like you’ve never seen him before.

Vince: That’s for sure!

jaybfox: Are we going to get to find out more about the backgrounds of each Lone Gunmen? Like…is Langly’s name Richard and Ringo’s a nickname and why…that kind of thing?

John: We get glimpses of their past. Early on you get to see them as children.

Frank: You also see their characters fleshed out in greater detail than ever before.

John: You’ll even get to see where they sleep at night.

Vince: By the way, Langly’s first name, Ringo, doesn’t come from Ringo of the Beatles.

Frank: What??!

Vince: In my mind, he’s named after the John Wayne character in Stagecoach whose first name of course was Ringo.

John: Naturally, when you see Langly, you think John Wayne.

Vince: Either John Wayne or Fabio.

Erynn: So do they sleep in the same room?

Frank: You’ll have to watch to see. Picture the three little bears.

Vince: We promise a scene in which at least two of the characters spoon. Ratings will immediately drop afterward.

albinopigeon: Do we get to see frohike in his jammies??

Vince: We definitely get to see him in his Hugh Hefner bathrobe.

John: You get to see him in Leiderhosen.

Frank: You actually get to see him in the pink, taking a bath. With a woman scrubbing his back. If that doesn’t draw viewers…

Vince: Survivor, look out!

lizascorner: What are TLGM’s cases gonna be like? Will they be x-files weird or something more everyday-like?

Frank: They are definitely not “every day.”

John: But they are not quite the cases Mulder investigates.

Vince: So far they are not paranormal. Instead they are real-world cases involving big business and foreign espionage and evil scientists….

Frank: And midget wrestlers and tango dancers and super-intelligent chimpanzees.

Vince: Like I said, “real world.”

maddict: Where do they get the money to pay for all the techo gear? Do they have other jobs?

Frank: They trade for sexual favors.

Vince: Just kidding.

moonpunkie: What type of gadgets will the LGM be playing with?

Vince: In one episode, they’ve built themselves a pretty nifty MRI machine out of spare TV parts.

Frank: Just about every week they’ve got cutting-edge technology that’s either where the real world is right now or where we will be soon.

Vince: And Yves has some gadgets that make the Lone Gunmen pretty jealous. She’s got a few tricks up her sleeve that they don’t have.

Mutato1121: Now that we have seen Chris Carter and Mark Snow in front of the camera, are any of you guys planning on taking a little role in The Lone Gunmen?

Frank: We are waiting for the right moment to spring ourselves on the American public.

Courtney_fanofVinceG: Hey Vince, are you going to direct any episodes of TLG? I love “Je Souhaite” and it would be a shame for your talent to go to waste.

Vince: Thank you very much! I would love to. I think the three of us in the future will all be directing Lone Gunmen episodes. At least I hope so, but right now we are all busy with just the writing of the show and the post-production, etc. But hopefully next season. Provided there is a next season.

Tshe: Will all the LGM be stand-alone episodes? Or will you have a continuing storyline?

Frank: Eventually we will have continuing storylines and mythology separate to The Lone Gunmen. But having said that, I think there’s a great deal of continuity in The Lone Gunmen series, and you get to see how the relationships, particularly with the new characters, develop over time.

amyh: Is the plan for the Lone Gunmen series to be an alternate universe type situation from TXF, where nothing from either show dovetails, or are there some crossovers? If so, where should we be looking?

Vince: I wouldn’t call it an “alternate universe” — these are the same 3 guys who help Mulder and Scully. But in this show we see what they do the other 99% of the time.

John: We like to think of The Lone Gunmen series as their day jobs — what they do when they are not helping Mulder, Scully or Doggett.

Vince: As you will see, they get by pretty well on their own, which is why you won’t see a lot of Mulder and Scully, because the Lone Gunmen are heroes in their own right and they solve their own problems themselves.

Frank: Plus, we can’t afford Mulder and Scully.

Vince: That’s the real reason!

sdana: Will we see John Gilnitz or will we hear about him…? We’d love to put a face to the name!!

Frank: Oh, yes! He’s an (expletive deleted)!

eire_scully: How much input (if any) has Chris Carter had?

Frank: Chris Carter loves the show and has been as involved as he can be while doing two TV series at once. He wrote the fourth episode, “Three Men and a Smoking Diaper,” which should go a long way toward destroying his reputation for quality television.

Charybdis: Hi guys. I’m really looking forward to the show, but I worry about TXF losing 3 of its best writers! Will you all still write eps for TXF if it continues?

Frank: We don’t know about next year, if there is a next year. But this past year we’ve all been killing ourselves trying to make both shows as good as possible.

Vince: All three of us love both shows. But it’s been awful hard to do both simultaneously. But we really want this new series to get a shot on the air. It’s very close to our hearts.

ChiA_PeT_20o1: Wow, this is the coolest! When did the idea first hit you to do a show on the TLG?

John: After the two X-Files episodes “Unusual Suspects” and “Three of a Kind” that starred the LG, we all immediately saw — especially after “Three,” which is a model for the series. When we saw how the characters carried the show, all three of us thought they could be stars and that this show would work.

mully23: Will there be an “antagonist” like the Cigarette-Smoking Man on LGM?

Frank: You’ll have to wait and see. As we said before, the mythology of this series rolls out slowly.

bliss2001: Will the LGM travel around the US? (like Mulder and Scully)

Vince: Yes, they will travel, but only as far as their 1972 VW Microbus allows them.

John: Gone are the days of Mulder and Scully’s expense accounts.

Vince: These guys have it tougher because they don’t have guns. They don’t have power of arrest, and they run out of gas occasionally.

Frank: But they do have sex appeal to spare!

Vince: At least Frohike does.

Delmo456: Looking at the titles of the Lone Gunmen episodes, it seems like you guys are doing parodies of a lot of movies (which will be great). Is that a correct assumption?

Vince: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. One funny title we have, which is “Like Water for Octane,” is an episode about a water-powered car. One of our staff writers came up with the name and we loved it when we heard it, although it has nothing to do with the Mexican magic realism or the plot of the movie Like Water for Chocolate.

Frank: Do expect to see a parody of a very popular one-hour drama on the FOX network.

albinopigeon: Are you going to parody the x files?

Frank: Refer to the previous answer!

Dilby: Speaking of the 1972 VW microbus, just how many…enhancements…are in that thing?

Vince: Well, I’ve been lobbying for nitrous oxide, a tank that would boost its maximum speed to 160 mph, but so far Frank and John won’t let me put that in.

John: Let’s just say their van is their home away from home. Imagine the Lone Gunmen office on wheels.

Vince: So far, one thing we know about it is that it’s got a pretty cool periscope camera in the roof.

KATEDVM: A mattress in the back maybe? LOL

Frank: Ha ha ha. Season 2!

deedee77: Will there be time-stamps, and will time play an important role, as it does in The X-Files?

Frank: Yes. We at Ten Thirteen don’t know how to tell stories without them.

Vince: We call them “legends.”

Frank: In our own minds! Chiller: How are the boys adjusting to having their own series?

Vince: There’s an awful lot of squabbling over who has the biggest trailer. Just kidding!

Frank: Actually, we’ve beaten up the most on Frohike, who is not surprisingly called upon to do the most stunts. But I think they are all having a good time and it’s quickly become an ensemble of five actors who enjoy working together.

Vince: All five are a pleasure to write for and to work with.

ak47deadly: Are they going to get to the bottom of the Florida election crisis?

florence: Will the LG ever go back in time and try to uncover the killer of JFK?

Frank: Very dead-on questions.

Vince: We do have a character named Chad. Does that count?

Jewlz: How many episodes will be in the seasons?

Frank: Only 13.

Vince: Lucky 13, we hope.

JTR555: Could we possibly see Frank Black appear? THAT interaction would be a riot!!!

Vince: That would be great because, of course, Frank Black is a hilarious character. Actually he would be a pretty good straight man, come to think of it.

KATEDVM: When will you know if you get picked up for next season?

Frank: Probably not until May, officially. Although, if the show is a massive hit, that’s a foregone conclusion.

Mutato1121: Would you guys like to spill any juicy tid bits about The X-Files to us Philes while we wait a month?

Frank: To all those online people who are furious at Ten Thirteen for killing Mulder, please remember that David Duchovny is contracted to appear in the rest of the episodes this season.

Vince: It’s going to be a lot like Weekend at Bernie’s. Mulder will be dragged from investigation to investigation. Occasionally, Scully will tie him to the roof of her van.

Frank: I’ve been touched by the love and support of those fans who complained about us killing Mulder.

Madison: Is the X-File finale written yet?

Frank: We are in the process of writing them now.

John: We already told you that Frohike is the father.

mully23: Do you guys put personal notes into the story lines like Chris Carter does with 11:21?

Frank: We often put the names of friends and loved ones into our scripts.

Vince: I try to put some reference to my girlfriend Holly into every episode I write. I do this because it makes everyone say “Awww!” when they hear it. And also because it helps me get chicks. Just kidding, Holly!

Jewlz: Like in XF, with episodes “Post-Modern Prometheus” and “X-Cops,” these were shown in a unique camera-style etc. Will there be any in the LG show?

Frank: No. This show is pretty much hack work. Just kidding…we have a superior DP (director of photography) and crew, almost all of whom we have worked with before, on either X-Files, Millennium or Harsh Realm. As with each of those shows, we are always trying to do the best work possible and I think, visually, we are extremely ambitious for what is primarily a comedy series.

Sarah: Any chance that Braidwood will get a chance to direct?

Frank: Did Braidwood ask that question?

John: Is that Tom Braidwood logging in?

Frank: We would love for him to direct one. We just don’t know when we can afford to lose him as an actor to make that happen.

KATEDVM: Does that mean that the Gunmen won’t be in an X files movie if there is one?

Frank: No way! We would love to have the Gunmen in the next X-Files movie and they will continue to be in The X-Files TV series.

Oliver: Frank – you said in an interview that The X-Files’ mythology will be wrapped up by the end of the season. Can you confirm that? Where does that leave you creatively – and us as fans – in the event of a Season 9?

Frank: What was I thinking? Whatever I said, what I mean to say is that 8 years of the series will come to a close this May, regardless of whether there is an X-Files next season. I actually believe most of the important questions about the mythology have already been answered, believe it or not, and you will see some new ones asked in upcoming shows.

StarlightM42: Can you talk about the scene where Doggett first meets the LGM? It was a classic!

Frank: I wrote that scene and it was very long and I felt sure that we’d end up having to cut it, but Doggett proved a great straight man to the Gunmen. We ended up using almost every line.

Vince: Doggett would be a fun guy to get on The Lone Gunmen show. Hopefully that will happen at some point.

Mutato1121: Are any of you working on anything other than The X-Files or Lone Gunmen series?

albinopigeon: How many hours do you work a week??

John: How many hours are there?

Frank: I figure each of us works at least 70-80 hours a week, which leaves very little time for doing anything else.

Max42: Will we be getting any closure for Byers and Susanne Modeski in the new series?

XPhreak: Will Susanne Modeski make an appearance?

Vince: I’d like to see Susanne Modeski come back at some point. She’s a fun character and Byers’ unrequited love for her would be interesting to address. Look for it in an upcoming episode. Provided we go past this first season.

Adamrs: Will Morris Fletcher be on “The Lone Gunmen”?

Frank: I wouldn’t be surprised!

Vince: I wouldn’t be surprised either too!

John: I wouldn’t be surprised either too!

Erynn: What’s the most evil thing you’ve done to the gunmen so far?

Frank: There are so many….

Vince: But it’s done with love.

John: Each week we try to top ourselves.

Vince: But not to give anyone the wrong idea. We don’t want to torture them. It’s just that we find ourselves putting them into increasingly bizarre situations in the hopes of it being funny.

Frank: One thing you will realize about the Lone Gunmen in their own series is that as smart as they may be behind a computer, they are extremely inept at many other things in life.

Vince: Just like the three of us are.

John: Speak for yourself!

Vince: This is the first real power any of us have had in our lives, and we’re using it, baby!

Erynn: What has been your favorite episode so far to write?

Frank: I have truly loved every episode we’ve done. They’ve all been funny and sweet and exciting. I particularly like two we did recently, one involving death row and the other involving the tango.

Vince: I have to agree. Every episode that we’ve worked on becomes more and more fun. One thing I should say, too, is that this show is really sweet at its core, meaning that we love and respect the characters even though we get them into some odd situations. But in our minds, at least, it’s never mean-spirited.

John: Each episode is different in so many ways that it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. They are all great for different reasons.

Scully7: How long does it take you guys to come up with a kick ass script?

CRSJ: Does it take the same number of days to create a LGM episode as an XFiles episode? I heard you work very long hours to make an XFiles episode.

John: In TV production, you write as long as you can before shooting, so as the season goes on, you have less time to make as good a script. It’s not how long it takes, it’s how long we have.

Vince: That’s why as the season progresses, the episodes get crappier.

John: Vince is very tired. It’s time for his medication.

florence: Did you ever write something that the actor refused to do?

Frank: No, but I’m still trying.

florence: How did you come up with each Lone Gunmen’s name?

Vince: Glen Morgan and Jim Wong initially created the characters and gave them the last names Frohike, Byers and Langly. For “Unusual Suspects,” we gave them first names. John Fitzgerald Byers is named for JFK, of course. That was part of the plot for that episode. He was born the day after JFK was assassinated, hence the name. And the names Ringo and Melvin we just kind of pulled out of a hat.

Courtney_fanofVinceG: I skipped my calculus homework just to spend the evening with you three. What do you think of how devoted we x-philes are?

Vince: God bless you! Now, DO your homework… No, seriously, we love all the fans because we wouldn’t be sitting here doing this chat without them. We wouldn’t be employed! I’d be spraying Windex on the sneeze-plate at the salad bar at Wendy’s. Frank would be selling shotguns at Walmart, and John….

John: I’d go back to male modeling.

Vince: Yes, the underwear section of the Sears catalog. Your work is quite good.

Max42: How’d you guys come up with the idea to make the show so “interactive,” with the e-com-con site and what not?

Frank: We have a brilliant Internet producer named Robin Benty. She comes up with all these great ideas and then we pretend like they are ours.

Chiller: Do you ever have trouble keeping all the pieces of the conspiracy together in your heads (and scripts)?

John: It’s easy because it’s all true!

Frank: Yes, are you kidding? Who doesn’t? I am amazed and confounded that people have been willing to follow The X-Files conspiracy for 8 years now, not only willing, but still very interested. I can’t believe such a large audience is interested in such a complicated, even convoluted, storyline. It’s been so rewarding.

FOXcom_Host: Thanks to Vince, John and Frank! Say goodbye to them!

John: Tune in Sunday night!

Vince: Watch our show! We don’t want it to die a horrible death like Harsh Realm did.

Frank: It’s been wonderful chatting with you. We love this show and we hope you do, too!

The X-Files Official Site: Fox Chat with Vince Gilligan

Nov-30-2000
The X-Files Official Site
Fox Chat with Vince Gilligan

FOXcom_Host: Okay, all you X-Philes, now’s your chance to chat with one of the big guys… Welcome, Vince!

Vince Gilligan: Hi everybody!

miggie: Hi Vince! Do you consider yourself a shipper?

Vince Gilligan: LOL! I don’t really think of it in those terms. But I do love the relationship between Mulder and Scully. I have since I became a fan of the show way back in 1993!

Michelly36: have you always wanted to be a writer, or did it just happen?

Vince Gilligan: Yes I always wanted to be a writer. It’s something I naturally gravitated toward back in elementary school. And I always loved movies. So back when I was 10 or 11 years old I would write little movie scripts that I would shoot on Super 8 film with my brother Patrick as the star.

amyh: Vince, you’re the best — well, you and John, and Frank and Chris… I’m sure this is an unfair question, but what’s your favorite episode that you’ve written?

dave: Out of all the episodes you’ve written, which one is your favorite?

Vince Gilligan: Good questions… Unfortunately, I don’t really have a single favorite. For what it’s worth though, I can mention one that I was very proud of… That other people don’t usually consider one of my best and that was “Folie A Deux.” I had a lot of fun writing that one.

Zotzirene: How were you hired for the XF?

Vince Gilligan: I was writing movie scripts back in 1993 and making a living doing that, when I mentioned to my agent that I was a big fan of this new TV show called The X-Files. She got me a meeting with Chris Carter. This was in the middle of season two of the series. And I came in to meet Chris and Howard Gordon, basically just to tell them both what a great show I thought they had. One thing led to another, and I pitched them an idea I had come up with in the hotel room the night before. That pitch turned into the episode “Soft Light,” which aired late in season two.

jan281986: where do you get your ideas from?

Vince Gilligan: That’s always a good question, and also the single toughest question to answer. The best I can say is they just sort of come to you when you’re desperate for them. In other words, it’s our job to come up with these episodes and we’re always attuned to new ideas, and they come from the unlikeliest places, or sometimes they just pop full-blown into our heads. But invariably I come up with an idea for an episode, and then promptly forget where exactly it came from. That’s not counting ideas that Frank Spotnitz or John Shiban comes up with. I can’t speak to how they do it!

miggie: Vince, you’ve written some of the most popular episodes among fans, like the wonderful “Bad Blood”, “Small Potatoes” and “Je Souhaite.” One of the reasons these episodes are popular it’s the dead-on characterizations for Mulder and Scully. How do you see them in your… er… head?

Vince Gilligan: I guess it helped that I started my relationship with The X-Files as a fan. I loved the dynamic between Mulder and Scully from the first episode I watched of the series. I love them because they have great affection for one another and great respect for one another, and it’s clear they enjoy each other’s company. To me, they’ve always been the kind of characters I wish I knew in real life — the kind of people I’d love to sit down and have a beer with. I guess that’s why their voices come easy to me, if in fact they do.

Chris_26: Hi, I was wondering if you know Gillian or David well. Or are you strictly a behind-the-scenes guy and disappear when the camera rolls?

Vince Gilligan: I love to visit the set every chance I get. Unfortunately these days all of us writers are so busy that we don’t get to do that very often. But David and Gillian are both wonderful people. David is very funny and Gillian is a sweetheart. I can’t say I know them extremely well, but what I see of them on the set makes me respect them both very much.

Sullivan: Did you enjoy directing “Je Souhaite?” Will you do it again?

Vince Gilligan: I loved directing “Je Souhaite,” and I would love to direct another episode. I can’t tell you how nervous I was in the month leading up to directing that episode. It was a very scary time for me. But once I got on the set, and the crew was so wonderfully supportive of me, and David and Gillian were so great to work with, that I just started to relax and have a good time. Directing is a very hard job, but it’s definitely something I’d like to attempt again.

foxandrat: Vince, what inspired “Roadrunners?” A lot of fans have been comparing it to season one’s “Ice”. Did you take inspiration from that episode or from something entirely different?

Vince Gilligan: Actually, “Roadrunners” is a bit of an homage to the Spencer Tracy movie Bad Day at Black Rock. It’s a wonderful movie in which Spencer Tracy visits a small town in the desert, and quickly realizes nobody wants him there. He winds up uncovering its dark secret, although that secret has nothing to do with Giant Messianic banana slugs. If you’re not familiar with this movie, by all means go out and rent it. I won’t ruin the ending for you.

anna: Some fans were disturbed by the violent sexual imagery that was used to portray Mulder in “Without” and Scully in “Roadrunners” Is this the way the writers prefer to show them as sexual beings, rather than allowing them to be sexual in the context of a romantic relationship?

Vince Gilligan: I think you’re reading too much into it.

emm_phx: A number of fans, especially women, are disturbed by the “dumbing down”, submission, and victimization of Scully, ESPECIALLY during “Roadrunners.” Are you aware of these concerns? Is Scully’s dumbing down vis a vis that manly-man Doggett intentional?

Vince Gilligan: I disagree completely. I think Scully is extremely smart in that episode, just like we endeavor to make her in every episode. It sounds like what you’re responding to is the scene where she is held captive against her will. That definitely is a disturbing scene, but my take on it is that the very same thing could have happened to Mulder, a male figure. And in fact, Mulder has probably been held against his will and had terrible things done to him as many times in the past as Scully has.

DanaKatherineScully: how come you come up with all the stomach churning episodes?

Vince Gilligan: I thought I came up with all the funny episodes! Seriously though, “Roadrunners” was pretty disgusting, I’ll admit…

amyh: Love your work on the show — and Home Fries of course! How would you define the dynamic between Mulder and Scully? Conversely, how would you define the dynamic between Doggett and Scully?

Vince Gilligan: Good question….As I said earlier, Mulder and Scully’s relationship is one based on great mutual respect. Of course, it’s a little early to tell yet, but I hope Doggett and Scully’s relationship will be based on the same kind of shared respect for one another. This is not to say that Doggett will replace Agent Mulder! No one could do that. Mulder will no doubt always be the most important person in Scully’s life, but that shouldn’t rule out her having a work relationship with another FBI agent — one based on mutual respect.

Foxfire: In “Pusher,” as in so many of your episodes you find Mulder and Scully pushed to their psychological limit. As a writer I find it difficult to empathize with the characters, how do you manage it?

Vince Gilligan: Good question… I guess it helps to love the characters you are writing, as I said before…That’s the real trick to writing — putting yourself into the heads of the characters you are giving voice to. Maybe it comes down to common ground: Always finding a way to identify with the character you are writing. And to understand his or her hopes and fears and loves and hates.

silent_alien: I loved “Pusher!!” It was very creative…What made you think of it?

Vince Gilligan: Gosh, it was so long ago, let me think… As I recall, the teaser came first. I stole the idea for the teaser from the ending of an old movie script that I had written the previous summer. At the end of that movie the good guy uses post-hypnotic suggestion on the bad guy to make him pull out in front of a truck in his little sports car. I never wound up actually writing that scene in the movie script because I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in. But then I remembered the idea months and months later. We added the supernatural twist of telekinetic mind control, and it became “Pusher.”

Jewlz: “X-Cops,” which I love by the way, was right on target! How many episodes of Cops did you watch in order to prepare for the making of “X-Cops?”

Vince Gilligan: I had been a fan of Cops even longer than I had been a fan of The X-Files, by virtue of the fact that it has been on the air longer. I couldn’t tell you how many episodes I’ve seen over the years. But the big thing I did in preparation for writing that episode was to spend an 8 PM to 3 AM shift with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. I rode along with a deputy who kept apologizing for how slow the “action” was that night. Nonetheless, he wound up pulling his gun on no fewer than five occasions! It was very exciting — better than Disneyland! I even got to wear a bulletproof vest.

Zotzirene: How did David Duchovny’s 11th hour decision to return to the show affect the writing staff?

Vince Gilligan: It made for a tough close to last season, I’ll admit. Not just for the writing staff but for the crew as well. As no one was sure whether or not it was time to move on to new jobs. But I understand it was a tough decision for David to make and I’m glad that this series I love so much is still on the air. And I’m glad David will be back, at least for half a season. T_Hoese: Any clue about Mulder’s return? Do you know ANYTHING you can tell us? :o)

Vince Gilligan: Yes I know a little bit about Mulder’s return, but I’m not telling YOU!! You’ll just have to wait and see. It’s more fun that way, don’t you think?

PamalaX: Do you miss Mulder as a fan?

Vince Gilligan: I love the character of Mulder, as I’ve said, and I do miss him as a fan. However — and I know a lot of you won’t want to hear this — as a WRITER, I love the character of Agent Doggett. This is because he is an entirely new voice that I get to write for.

scully001: what do you think of the addition of John Doggett?

Vince Gilligan: He is a good, interesting character to me, and it’ll be fun to see where he winds up. Also the actor who plays him, Robert Patrick, is an exceptionally nice man who seems to feel truly honored to be here. Again, I know a lot of you don’t want to hear that, but I don’t think that has to take away from Mulder.

Adamrs: Chris Carter had said that this season’s episodes would focus on more “magical realism” and maybe sequeling some old episodes. Does this still stand?

Vince Gilligan: I never heard that quote. I wasn’t aware that he had said that. All I can tell you for sure is that we’re going to try to go back to our roots to a certain extent. We’re going to try to make this season one of the scariest ever.

Sullivan: Did the fact you became executive producer of The X-Files this year changed something to your work?

Vince Gilligan: No, because I’m doing the same job I’ve always done. I definitely appreciate the bump up in title, however. It makes me very proud to have attained that title on this show that I enjoy working for so much. And working on so much. But at the end of the day I’m doing the exact same job, just with a better title.

Tootles: Are you going to write at all for The Lone Gunmen spinoff?

Vince Gilligan: Absolutely!

foxandrat: What can you tell us about The Lone Gunmen series?

Vince Gilligan: I’m very excited about it too, as is Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz and John Shiban. I can tell you that the show is very funny. It’s sort of like a comedic version of Mission Impossible — except that the Mission Impossible team in this case has no money and has to drive around in a 1969 VW Microbus. I think this show is going to be a kick. I think people are going to enjoy it very much — at least I hope so. But it’s a real ball to write.

bear: Why do you think there have never been female writers (besides Gillian)?

Vince Gilligan: That’s not true, actually. When I joined the writing staff in 1995, we had a female writer named Kim Newton. Before that we had a woman named Marilyn Osborne, who went on to write for Touched By An Angel. Since then we’ve had the Mayhew sisters — Vivian and Valerie. And I wouldn’t want to forget Sara Charno, who wrote a couple of my favorite episodes, “Aubrey” and “The Calusari.”

gordon715: how about a female director?

Vince Gilligan: Also this year for the first time I’m proud to say we’re going to have a couple of female directors. One on The Lone Gunman show, and one on The X-Files. We have a wonderful female writer on The Lone Gunman show as well — a woman named Nandi Bowe, who we think is great.

sully: do you see the cigarette-smoking-man re-entering the picture?

Vince Gilligan: As a fan, I’d love to see CSM come back. I couldn’t really answer that however because his character has always been used in the mythology episodes that Chris and Frank write. I’ve never really had a hand in writing any mythology episodes, save for “Memento Mori,” which I guess you could count. But I don’t think I’ve ever actually written for the CSM. So I leave the answer to that question up to Chris and Frank, but unfortunately they’re not here.

dmdcash: Any news on the future of Mulder/Scully and the baby? We need some good news to look to…

chesire: There is much speculation over the paternity — and even species! — of Scully’s baby. Any hints? 🙂

Vince Gilligan: Let me ask you something — Do you go sneaking around the house on Christmas eve, trying to figure out where all the presents are hidden? What fun would it be if I told you that the father of Scully’s baby was none other than Frohike? Whoops! I’ve let the cat out of the bag… I’m just kidding everybody!

FOXcom_Host: Unfortunately, we have to say goodbye to Vince now…

VinceFan: Vince, first of all, I wanted to say: I am a big fan of you! I live in Brazil and we haven’t watched any 8th season episodes yet and I’m a bit nervous about it, but I trust you to continue making great episodes as always…

Vince Gilligan: Thank you so much for being fans of the show! I know many of you are nervous about the direction things SEEM to be taking, but just know that nothing is necessarily as it appears in The X-Files. Also know that all of us here are fans of the show, as well as big fans of Mulder and Scully. We’ll do our best to do right by them, and by Agent Doggett as well.

FOXcom_Host: Goodbye, Vince, and thank you for being here!

Vince Gilligan: Best wishes to everyone and have a great and safe holiday season!