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People.com: Interview with Chris Carter

Interview with Chris Carter
Andrew Emmett

X-Files Creator Turns to Light Side

In a room at New York City’s FOX building, Chris Carter, arguably one of the most recognized and prolific producers in television, is sitting back, relaxed and ready to talk. Outside, snow is falling, but Los Angeles native Carter, 44, dressed in a bright-yellow polo shirt and jeans, looks ready for the beach. With piercing blue eyes, shoulder-length blond hair and an ever-present smile, he is surprisingly sunny for a man who has created some of TV’s darker images.

But the truth is, this is the man who had his first job writing for Surfing magazine, and still brings a board to work at The X-Files. “I think it’s interesting that he still surfs,” actress Gillian Anderson, who plays the once-sceptical Agent Scully, comments later in a phone interview. “He’s usually here [at the X-Files set] quite early and leaves quite late. He’s constantly writing and re-writing, yet still comes to work with a surfboard on his car.”

He’s a prototypical surfer dude

Carter was 12 when he began surfing. He and his younger brother Craig, 39, now a professor of physics at MIT, grew up in the middle-class L.A. suburb of Bellflower, Calif., (father William, a construction worker, and mother Catherine, a housewife, are both deceased). After graduating from California State University in Long Beach with a degree in journalism, he got his dream job — Surfing magazine, where he led an idyllic life surfing and writing.

It wasn’t until 1982 when he met Dori Pierson, now 52, a screenwriter, that Carter thought seriously about becoming a writer. Pierson influenced more than his career choice: The two were married in 1987. They live in Pacific Palisades, Calif., not far from the L.A. set of The X-Files. After a few years writing for Disney, Carter signed a deal with FOX in 1992 to create new projects for the network. His first project became The X-Files, the show that catapulted him to superstar producer status, became a film and turned actor David Duchovny into a household word. It’s now in its eighth seaon on FOX.

Now Carter’s in town to talk about his new show, The Lone Gunmen, a comedy spinoff from The X-Files.

“[The three heroes are] loveable geeks, passionate about their operation, which is this little magazine they publish each week that takes on the stories that nobody else believes in or wants to handle,” he explains. So far it sounds similar to the FBI agents of The X-Files, who investigate mysterious cases. But this time Carter has lost the darkness of X-Files and his other series, the shorter-lived Millennium and Harsh Realm. “It’s a comedy with some well-placed heart,” he says. “I think for us it’s just a good storytelling vehicle.”

Godfather for Gillian Anderson’s daughter

A friendly man, Carter enjoys close relationships with the people he works with. He’s the godfather to Gillian Anderson’s daughter, Piper, 6. Anderson says he is “incredibly supportive, incredibly inquisitive and a wonderful storyteller.” Asked if he is a typical “Hollywood type,” she laughs and says, “I think he aspires to be in a sense, but I think it’s distasteful to him at the same time.”

Carter says his relationship with Duchovny is also smooth, despite the suit the actor filed in 1999 against Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (which produces The X-Files) which basically claimed that he was being cheated out of millions in series-related profits. More to the point, Duchovny’s suit alleged that the studio had paid Carter a substantial amount of money to remain silent on the issue.

“I think we have gotten past the misunderstanding, which is what it was, it was where it was really a result of vertical integration of business and friendship getting confused,” says Carter today. “I think that’s now been sorted out.”

For now Carter says he’s happy to be working with the FOX network. “I’ve done good by them and they by me.” His contract calls for him to produce one more series. “More dramatic than The Lone Gunmen,” he adds. When viewers can expect to see it will all depend on what happens with The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen. Right now Carter and his production company, Ten Thirteen, which is named for what he considers his lucky numbers (it’s his birthday, 10/13) “have more work than four men can handle.”

But there’s still time for the four men — or at least Carter — to catch a couple of big waves.

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