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The 11th Hour: Casting Quirks

The 11th Hour Web Magazine
Casting Quirks
War stories from the casting trenches of Hollywood.
by Julie Ng

[Original article here]

THE TV SHOW: The X-Files
THE PLAYERS: Callum Keith Rennie vs. Nicholas Lea
CASTING QUIRK: Giving Away the Role of Alex Krycek

Callum Keith Rennie

Remember the guy billed as ‘Tommy’ from the first season X-Files episode, “Lazarus”? Neither do I. But I do know and love Callum Keith Rennie for his lead roles in some of the best Canadian films made in recent years — Double Happiness, Curtis’s Charm, Hard Core Logo, Last Night… Don’t remember those either? Not surprised. Unfortunately, part of being loyal to the Canadian film industry means no one seeing your work except for your guest spots on Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (if based in Toronto) or on The X-Files (if in Vancouver). Nevertheless, Callum’s few lines as ‘Tommy’ made an impression on 1013 Productions. When the time came to cast the recurring role of double agent, Alex Krycek, Rennie was the first to be offered the role.

So what happened? Rennie flat-out turned it down. “The deal just wasn’t very good so it didn’t work out,” Rennie admitted to the Edmonton Journal. His focus was exclusively on pursuing a film career: “When you sign those [TV] deals you’re hooked up for a long time. If it works out you might get over-exposed and I really worry about that. I worry about being caught on a successful series. It’s like William Shatner, it’s like anybody who was on M*A*S*H. They’re doing dinner theatre.”

At the same time Rennie declined 1013’s offer, he suggested a local colleague who he felt would play a great Krycek — a guy called Nicholas Lea. The rest is history. Lea replaced Rennie and was an instant hit as the man that everybody loves to hate, and the only recurring character who has managed to survive seven years of Chris Carter’s Ain’t-it-fun-to-pointlessly-kill-people-off? tendencies.

Around the same time Lea was probably being crowned and exulted as ‘Ratboy’ by X-Files fans, Rennie was still accepting a bitty part billed as ‘Groundskeeper’ in the second season episode “Fresh Bones”! Now they say that opportunity rarely knocks twice, but it did again for Rennie in 1996 when he was offered to replace David Marciano, who played Benton Fraser’s (Paul Gross) partner Ray in the cult series Due South. Still not wanting to be tied down to a TV series, Rennie took his time giving his answer. One night after a few drinks at a bar, Gross asked him if whether he would ever make up his mind. “I said, ‘This is an important decision, so important, in fact, that we should flip a coin.’ So we did, and the show lost.” recalls Rennie, “I suggested that we go two out of three and I guess that convinced him that I wanted the job.”

Nicholas Lea

In the end, Callum Keith Rennie had to eat his words and joined the cast of a popular TV series. His character, Detective Stanley Kowalski, is easily the role he is most widely known for. He did however, sign a unique one-year deal for his stint on Due South. Either way, had the show been cancelled or not, he maintains the freedom to take roles in great movies that few people ever see. Meanwhile, some people might say that it’s Nicholas Lea who will forever be trapped on The X-Files — armless, sadly under-used, and poorly utilized as Mulder’s whipping boy.

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