X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Cult Times: Black Once Again

Cult Times
Black Once Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.