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Richmond.com: Southern Fried Sci-Fi – Vince Gilligan

Southern Fried Sci-Fi – Vince Gilligan
Melissa Lee

The “X-Files'” Vince Gilligan may be a big-time Hollywood writer, but at heart he’s just a Southern boy. Gilligan reflects on peach milkshakes, Hardee’s biscuits and all things Southern.

To X-Philes Vince Gilligan is revered as the “writing god” responsible for such memorable episodes as “Pusher,” “Paper Hearts,” and “Bad Blood.” To those who work with him he’s just Vince, the Southerner from Farmville, Va., who lives in Los Angeles, but still considers himself a Virginian.

“I don’t get back as much as I’d like to, but I still have a home there in Powhatan County,” Gilligan says. “I grew up there. I attended L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, and went to church at St. Teresa’s in Farmville. If I could do my job from there, I would. Nothing against Los Angeles, I just like Virginia better.”

When asked what he misses most about the South, Gilligan pauses for a moment. “I miss Hardee’s peach milkshakes and biscuits,” he says. “They’ve got pretty good chicken too. I hear there is a Hardee’s in Compton, but I haven’t gotten down there yet.” When asked if there is anything he likes better in Los Angeles than in Virginia he immediately responds: “Iced tea. They have better tea here than in the South which is kind of surprising. I’d miss the tea if I went back.”

Gilligan considers himself to be a Southern writer. “I think who you are and where you’re from greatly influences your writing,” he says. “It’s not so much that you set out to write Southern scripts, but it’s what you know. It’s natural for that to leak into your writing.” Chuckling he adds, “Sometimes I let a little Southern dialogue slip into Mulder and Scully’s lines. My co-workers call me on it by saying, ‘Hey buddy, you might want to take a look at this. I don’t think Mulder and Scully would say this.”

After three years in Hollywood Gilligan still has a subtle yet distinctive accent. Asked if he believes Southern accents are overdone he hesitantly agrees. “But I think it’s just because they don’t know any better,” he says. “A good Southern accent is really hard to do. It’s a very subtle thing. It’s easier to go overboard than to do it well.”

Accents aside, Gilligan has just inked a multi-year, multi-million dollar development deal with Fox Broadcasting and 1013 Productions. His film career is also taking off. His second screenplay, “Home Fries,” starring Drew Barrymore, was released late last year. His first screenplay to be turned into a feature was 1993’s “Wilder Napalm” starring Debra Winger.

“‘Wilder Napalm’ was a learning experience,” Gilligan says. “I’d never been on a movie set before and had no idea about production. … While on the set I saw some things I didn’t think were right. I just figured they’d fix it in the editing. When I saw the final product, what had looked bad on the set was still bad on the screen.”

Four years and several “X-Files” episodes later he was ready to try again with “Home Fries.” “It was a completely different situation,” he says. “I knew more about production and that helped the writing. Knowing what could and couldn’t be achieved. I wouldn’t have had that knowledge without my ‘X-Files’ experience.”

When asked where he gets his inspiration for the “X-Files,” he admits to reading comic books growing up. “My grandfather owns a used book shop on Broad Street in Richmond. It’s called the Richmond Book Shop. He used to get stacks of comics in and I’d spend the day reading them.” His favorites, he says, were Archie and Richie Rich. “I think I liked them over the superhero’s because they were real people,” he says. “I could relate to them.”

It’s that ability to relate that Gilligan keeps in mind when creating villains on the “X-Files.” “People remember them because they can relate to why they are the way they are,” he says. “They know it could happen to them.”

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