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Cinefantastique: FBI Judas

FBI Judas
By Paula Vitaris

Nicholas Lea on playing Krycek, Mulder’s back-stabbing partner.

“Krycek, Alex Krycek.” An introduction reminiscent of James Bond, but in the nebulous world of the X-Files, the heroes and villains are not as clear-cut. In his initial appearance as Mulder’s new partner in the second season episode “Sleepless,” Special Agent Alex Krycek, played by Nicholas Lea, comes off at first like the prototypical Boy Scout, but he seems terribly anxious to worm his way into Mulder’s confidence; no wonder that by hour’s end he is revealed to be a plant of Mulder’s nemesis, the Cigarette Smoking Man.

It didn’t take long for the computer network fans to find something else to call Krycek other than “Alex.” “They’ve named me ‘Ratboy,'” chuckled Lea, who was delighted to hear that other net nicknames for Krycek are “Skippy” and “The Weasel.” He’s happy that the audience dislikes him so, because Lea likes playing a bad guy, particularly a bad guy who in his own mind may be as patriotic as, for instance, James Bond.

“I love playing those kind of characters,” Lea said. “Hopefully I’m not just a guy whos bad, but a guy’s who’s doing something for a particular reason. I don’t think anybody who does bad things really thinks they’re bad. They just think they’re doing what they should be doing. And it’s either bad guys who are doing wrong and not knowing it, or good guys doing wrong and trying to do good. Those are are interesting characters to play.”

Lea’s most prominent role before the X-Files was police officer Nicky Caruso in the Commish. Before he took up acting at age 25, the Vancouver native had a variety of careers: he served in the Canadian navy, sang in a rock band and attended art school. But he had always wanted to be an actor. He quit his job at a clothing store and enrolled in acting class. Soon he began to snag small parts in Vancouver-based television show, including an appearance on HIGHLANDER playing a “low-life alcoholic. “That was a fun show for me. Usually people in Hollywood tend to cast you because of the way you look. They put you in a little box. But this was great. I got to play an alcoholic. I love doing that kind of stuff, but I don’t always get to, because of the way I look, I guess. Playing a real loser, that’s always fun.” Eventually Lea won the recurring role of Caruso on THE COMMISH, which gave him a consistent opportunity to develop his craft. When he started out, Lea said, he was a pretty bad actor, but as roles came along he got “a little bit better and a little bit better. I guess what was a big crack for me was three years on THE COMMISH. That really gave me a lot of exposure in front of the camera, and I studies all the way through that.”

Krycek was not Lea’s first appearance on THE X-FILES. He made his debut in first season’s “Gender Bender,” in a small role as a dance club patron who is the sole survivor of the episode’s murderous gender-switching alien, and his performance stood out for its intensity. Rob Bowman, who directed “Gender Bender,” was particularly impressed with Lea’s acting in a scene where his character witnesses Marty, the alien, shifting from female to male. “During that last shot in the car when he sees that the girl has now become a guy, I thought Nick did a beautiful job walking the line in conveying a turning point in his life. He’ll never be the same again for the rest to his life, after seeing that. And I thought he found just the right level to play that.”

Bowman, who also directed “Sleepless,” suggested bringing in Lea to read for the part of Krycek. He was the only Vancouver-based actor to be asked in, and the audition process was a prolonged one. Lea had to read several times, but, Bowman observed, “Nick was the best of all. He earned the role. He beat out everybody else.”

Lea was thrilled. “It was really great. It told me I was doing the right thing after all.” Once he was cast, Lea began to give some thought to what kind of person Krycek was. As with many of the roles on THE X-FILES, there was no background in the scripts on which to build. “I felt right from the very beginning that Krycek was a guy who is really good at what he does,” Lea said. “He’s aggressive, he had a lot to prove to himself and to the people in his past. He was really just following orders, he was just trying to do his job the best he saw fit. In ‘Ascension,’ the last scene I had with the Cigarette Smiling Man, we were in the car together, and I was saying,’Listen, I don’t know if what I’m doing is right,’ and he said,’Just do it, because you do what we tell you to do.’ Kryeck is just a guy who’s maybe a little over-zealous and doing what he was told to do, following orders, doing his job.”

Lea could not pick out a favorite episode from the three he appeared in during the second season’s opening arc, although he felt his best performance cam in “Ascension.” He did single out “Duane Barry” for the fine script and the “mesmerizing” acting of guest star Steve Railsback. Although Lea’s participation in “Duane Barry” was much smaller than the other two episodes, he did have one memorably humorous scene, when guest star CCH Pounder, as FBI hostage negotiator Lucy Kazdin, tells the eager-beaver Krycek to fetch coffee. Despite being the object of ridicule, Lea was as amused as the viewers. “I don’t know if you notice, but later on in the scene, I’m serving coffee to everybody. It was funny,” he laughed.

Another moment Lea enjoyed occurred in “Ascension.” Immediately after pistol-whipping a tram operator, Lea ran his hand back over his head, making sure every hair was still in place. “That wasn’t the way it was scripted,” Lea said. “I was supposed to crack him over the head, and then as his body falls across the frame, they would cut instantly to the tram going up the track. But when I whacked him, they decided to hold on me. I’m glad they kept that, too. I love those kinds of things, the little movements, the little mannerisms that show you more of the person.”

Lea was planning to return for more of those moments, since Krycek, who had taken a powder at the end of “Ascension,” was due to show up in season finale “Anasazi.” “I couldn’t be happier about that,” he said. “I’d do that show till the sun goes down if I had my druthers. I love all the people that are involved. I worked with David [Duchovny] the most. Sometimes I have a tendency to get a little intense in my work, high energy. David’s energy, although it’s intense, is low-level, and working with him is really great because he makes you just stand there and talk, like people do. I think that’s always good for anybody’s acting, to just stand there and talk and not do anything outrageous. Less and less is called for. That’s really what it’s all about for me, doing a good job and learning.”

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