X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Archive for March, 1997

Dreamwatch: Never say never again

Never say never again
David Hughes

In The X-Files, things are hardly ever what they seem. Unfortunately, right now, things at the show itself are precisely as they seem, as the triple Golden Globe winning show suffers from what writer/producer Vince Gilligan would describe as ‘unruhe’ – trouble; strife; unrest. Hugh Davies reports on recent troubles at Ten-Thirteen, home of The X-Files and Millennium.

Signs on The X-Files first showed signs of going south during the preparations of the fourth season when creator and executive producer Chris Carter began to devote most of his time to launching his new show, Millennium.

Eager to shake off his one-hit-wonder potential (the ghost of Gene Roddenberry looming large in his eyes), Carter virtually handed The X-Files over to first season veteran Howard Gordon, despite the fact that the show had already lost Emmy award-winning cinematographer John S. Bartley, visual effects supervisor Mat Beck and writer Darin Morgan at the end of season three, and badly needed Carter’s direction.

Carter did manage to secure the brief return of the show’s ‘dream team’, Glen Morgan and James Wong, albeit with conditions. “Basically the understanding was that we were going to do four shows early on to get the staff squared away,” says Morgan. “I said [to Chris], ‘I’m doing four shows and I’m putting all our Space: Above and Beyond actors in ’em, and he said, ‘Okay.'”

Nevertheless, new executive producer Gordon was faced with not only following the series’ best season yet – a season in which its rating grew steadily, and it converted more of its Emmy nominations into awards than any other show – but overseeing its transfer to Sunday nights to make way for Millennium, a move Carter was less than thrilled about. “I wish it wouldn’t’ve stayed where it was,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “Friday night is a good night to be scared.”

Within a week of the Millennium pilot’s impressive performance, Friday nights began to give Carter his own reasons to be scared, as ratings plunged lower than Gillian Anderson’s neckline at a photo shoot. The audience halved between the pilot and the first episode proper, and began to slip further, a trend that alarmed the network which was sinking more than a million dollars into each episode, since every ratings point slip means a potential loss of $100,000 of advertising revenue.

Mark Snow, who was busy composing music for both shows, highlighted the problem, saying “They can’t keep doing the old story every week – going after bad guys, killers, and finding body parts strewn all over the place, and variations of that.” Aware that Millennium was in trouble, Carter began to spend more and more of his time shoring up The X-Files’ subsiding sister show, and less supervising the series that made Millennium possible, and pretty soon viewers began to notice.

The first signs that all was not well were the enormous problems Herrenvolk suffered at the hands of cinematographer Bartley’s replacement, Ron Stannet, whom sources close to the production say was fired mid-way through the season premiere’s shoot for “lighting the show like a soap opera”. John Hoffin eventually took over, but so much time had been lost that Carter ran out of script revision time, leaving Herrenvolk a confusing follow-up to the excellent Talitha Cumi.

The next indication that problems were mounting at Ten-Thirteen was the colossal continuity problems of Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man. Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were reportedly delighted to learn that an entire episode would be filmed without them, giving them a much-needed ten day break – “It’s like the fourth season and they’re really burned out,” commented James Wong at the time. “And we thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a show that they’re not even in?” – but writer Glen Morgan was less than happy, for several reasons. Firstly, that no-one on the staff had picked up on the errors; secondly, that Carter had changed the original ending, refusing to allow Morgan to kill off Frohike, whom Morgan had created; finally, that Carter had dismissed the entire story as being apocryphal as soon as the continuity issue was raised.

The fans, understandably, went ballistic, calling for Carter to come back and take control of The X-Files before it went completely off the rails. By this time, Millennium was an increasingly dirty word at Fox, the final damnation coming when a re-run of the pilot show scored the network’s lowest ever numbers for a prime time slot. It was likely that if it were not for the fact that Fox would not do anything to prejudice their relationship with Carter while The X-Files star was in its ascendancy – and the spin-off movie had yet to be made – they would have canceled Millennium at the mid-season mark. (They had, after all, taken the ill-fated LA Firefighters off after four episodes, as it was scoring the same kind of numbers as Millennium.)

A further blow came when the Directors Guild of America foiled attempts to have Quentin Tarantino direct Morgan and Wong’s final episode for the show, the appropriately titled Never Again. When Tarantino was on board, the writers abandoned their original outline – described by Wong as “sort of Lincoln’s ghost in the White House type of thing” – in favor of something more suited to the director of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. “It just didn’t seem like Quentin’s style,” Wong commented last November. “We wanted to do something more gritty…something he was familiar with.”

Instead, Morgan and Wong began work on a new story featuring a killer whose tattoos talk to him, a plot inspired by Gillian Anderson’s own tattoo. “Gillian has a tattoo,” Wong explains. “And she said, ‘Why wouldn’t Scully get a tattoo?’ And we said, ‘Let’s make it so she can – if you get the situation right, let’s see if we can get this character to the point where she can get a tattoo.'” They succeeded. “It’s just a tiny little scene, [and] it ties into the plot and everything.” The episode would eventually become a solo investigation for Scully, co-star Duchovny being rewarded with another week-long break, following his calls for a shorter season this year. And while it may have lost one ‘name’ participant in Tarantino, it does feature the voice of another star, Academy Award winner Jodie Foster, in a guest voice role.

By the new year, Carter was spending almost no time on The X-Files, and it should have come as no surprise when he announced his intention to leave both shows, The X-Files after season five and Millennium after season two (reportedly the most that Fox had promised him). “I think five years is a good length of time to do something,” he said. “I have said to David and Gillian that I just want to do five really good years and then be able to look back and say that we did our best work. Anything past that is gravy to me.”

Carter is leaving to take up one of the many offers he has allegedly received to direct feature films, the first of which may very well be The X-Files movie itself. “Fox would like to do the feature before the finish of the run of the show,” he said. “There are no real details, though I have some ideas as to how I want to incorporate a movie into the show’s mythology arc and also have it be a stand-alone [story] worthy of the big screen.”

Although Carter implied that he would prefer for the show to end upon his departure, Fox responded to his announcement by commencing a search for his replacement – after all, stars Duchovny and Anderson are contracted through to the end of season six, and although Fox has already sold the show into record-breaking syndication deals, it has no plans to kill the only series that continues to show growth.

Less than a week after Carter’s announced intention to quit The X-Files, Gillian Anderson ‘upstaged’ him with an announcement of her own: her separation from Clyde Klotz, her husband of three years, a former X-Files set builder. Anderson had expressed doubts about her marriage as early as last summer; holidaying alone in Italy, she made it clear to the local press that she was very unhappy. Nevertheless, Anderson’s announcement insisted that the split was amicable, despite typically scurrilous tabloid reports that the actress had left her “boring” husband and taken up with a “toy boy,” British actor Adrian Hughes – actually four years her senior – who had played one of the abnormal Peacock family in the early fourth season episode Home. Both parties insisted they were merely “good friends”, not lovers. “There’s nothing in these love stories – our relationship is purely platonic and nothing more,” Gillian was quoted in one newspaper while her alleged lover said bitterly, “Gillian and I are friends, but my relationship with my girlfriend and my relationship with Gillian may be coming to an end because of all of this.”

The show’s surprise triple win at the Golden Globe Awards – closely followed by three nominations from the Screen Actors Guild – did nothing to defuse the situation; on the contrary, the awards seemed to justify the acres of tabloid space being devoted to the private lives of the stars, rather than the show itself. The fact that less outlandish stories than those published around the world have been investigated by Mulder and Scully themselves does not seem to deter the publications in question from their wearying quest to find anything out there – truth or otherwise…

X-Posé: Nicholas Lea Profile

X-Posé Special #1
Nicholas Lea Profile
By Jesse James Garrett

He’s the bad guy X-Files fans love to hate. Alex Krycek has at various times been an ally to Agent Mulder, a pawn of the conspiracy, a free agent selling gorvernment secrets to the highest bidders, and a spy for the KGB. Throughout, he has displayed the same self-serving duplicity that has made him one of the show’s most popular villiains. Credit for the enduring appeal of Krycek must be given to actor Nicholas Lea, who defied the odds in more ways than one to land this juicy part.

Nic, as he prefers to be called, was born near Vancouver on June 22, 1962. He has spent most of his life in his hometown, with the exception of some time as a young man spent in the Canadian Navy. He attended art school in Vancouver in preparation for a career as a professional illustrator, but his long time fascination with performing kept pulling him away from a more traditional career.

For five years, Nic played guitar and sang as the frontman for the Vancouver “alternative rock” band Beau Monde. But a chance meeting led to an acting line of work. The next day, he quit his day job in a local clothing shop and enrolled in acting school.

His timing couldn’t have been better. Vancouver was rapidly becoming a hotbed of film and television production, and Nic’s boyish good looks naturally made him appealing to casting directors looking for local talent. His first major role, in the 1983 biography of model Dorothy Stratten, Star 80, ended up being cut from the film. Undeterred, Nic took a few more small parts in TV shows and films before landing the job he would later describe as his real acting training.

From 1991 to 1994, Nic played the recurring role of Officer Ricky Caruso on the cop show The Commish. On the set of that show, he met Melinda McGraw, whom he dated for several years. (MacGraw would later appear in several episodes of TheX-Files as Agent Scully’s sister Melissa – that is, until she was killed by the nefarious Krycek.)

Nic’s first appearence on The X-Files was not in the role of Alex Krycek. He appeared briefly as a night club patron victimized by an alien who shifts from female to male in the first season episode Genderbender. Nic’s performance in that episode made such an impression on director Rob Bowman that when series creator Chris Carter was casting the role of Krycek for a three-episode stint the following season, Bowman recommended Nick for the part.

Carter was hesitant. Major roles were usually cast by the producers in Los Angelese, with Vancouver actors being brought in only for much smaller parts. But Carter had been unsatisfied with the actors who had read for the part so far, and he agreed to let Nic audition. Nic’s audition went so well he was offered the part that very same day.

Nic infused Krycek with little mannerisms that made thecharacter so eminently despicable. He was an immediate hit with the fans,who nicknamed him “Ratboy” and clamored for his return. Carter obliged, putting Krycek on the run from both the FBI and the conspiracy in the second-season finale, “Anasazi.” Krycek has becomep erhaps the most physically demanding role in the X-Files pantheon, as Nic has had to dangle from balconies, dodge explosions, and take numerous beatings from Agent Mulder over the last three years.

It’s been good practice for Nic, who takes on a new challenge this fall starring in the syndicated action series Once A Thief, based on the TV movie he filmed last year with acclaimed director John Woo. But X-Files fans need not worry that Nic’s new status as a leading man will take him away from the role that made him popular – the show’s producers have promised that Alex Krycek will soon be back to his old back-stabbing, double-crossing ways.

Scarlet Street: Inside The X-Files: Nicholas Lea

Spring 1997
interviewed by Danny Savello

As double-dealing agent Alex Krycek, handsome Nicholas Lea has become one of a select band of recurring X-FILES characters whose appearances are eagerly awaited by hard-core fans of the show. Lea first showed up in the episode “Gender Bender” not as Mulder and Scully’s nemesis but as a horny young man involved in a threesome — with only one other person! That landed him the role of sly, conniving Krycek, who began his treacherous career as Cancer Man’s strong right arm and most recently lost an arm in Russia. SCARLET STREET recently tracked down the elusive Krycek — and the not-so-elusive Mr. Lea — for this exclusive interview.

SCARLET STREET: You didn’t originally plan to be an actor.

NICHOLAS LEA: Well, let’s put it this way: I’d always wanted to be an actor, but it took me a long time to get there. I was in art school for two years, and I sang in a band for about five. Then I met an acting coach, I quit my job the next day, and I started studying. But I’d always been in loved with actors and actresses and movies. My friends would be going out and I’d stay home to watch movies.

SS: Before THE X-FILES, were you in any other series?

NL: Yeah, I did about two-and-a-half years recurring on a show called THE COMMISH. I’ve done some fairly low-budget films in Canada and a lot of series stuff. I did LONESOME DOVE; I did SLIDERS and HIGHLANDER.

SS: You actually made your first X-FILES appearance as an altogether different character in the “Gender Bender” episode.

NL: Exactly. I did the first episode as a sort of guest star. Rob Bowman, who was directing the show, really liked what I did and, when it came time to cast Krycek, Rob really pushed for me strongly. They saw about 30 guys in Los Angeles and I was the only guy they saw in Vancouver, so it was a great experience for me. It was a very nerve-racking experience, because there was Chris Carter and all the producers. My girlfriend was working out down the street. I went running down the street to the gym, found her on the second level, and yelled, “I got it!” Everybody turned and stared! It was great! So it was Rob Bowman who gave me my big break and every time I see him I give him a dollar. (Laughs.)

SS: You had to walk a fine line in your “Gender Bender” performance after the alien shifted from female to mail in the car. Was it very difficult to convey your character’s emotional distress without making him appear homophobic to gay viewers?

NL: You know, that was never an issue to me; I never thought of the homophobic ramifications of it. I suppose some people could say, “That guy freaked out because he thought it was a man.” But, he didn’t freak out because he’s making out with a girl and then found out it’s a guy; he freaked out because she changed directly in front of him. It was also an interesting angle, that the guy was so very macho and then he’s lying in a hospital bed scared out of his life. Really, it was more important to me to play a guy who’s terrified. I try to be responsible about the things I do, so that I don’t have to worry about choices — are they right or wrong, are they gonna offend anybody? It’s actually one of the scenes I’m most proud of that I’ve done.

SS: At the very beginning, we knew very little about Alex Krycek’s background. Did you create one for him?

NL: Yes, I did. They’re such great writers that there’s not a lot of work. What I tried to inject into it was the guy is young and in way over his head. I made the decision that he came from a military background; his father was in the military and he was trying very, very hard to fill up some big shoes. I can draw on my own life about my relationship with my own father, and how you’re constantly trying to live up to somebody’s image of what they think you should be. Krycek doesn’t know he’s being bad; he’s just trying to get ahead and trying to please all those people in his past. He’s just doing what he’s doing to survive.

SS: Do you have a favorite Krycek moment?

NL: There’s a scene in “Ascension,” where Mulder is going up the tram and Krycek tries to kill him. The way it was originally written was that I bring up my gun and whack the tram operator. You see the guy get knocked over instantly and the camera cuts to the gondola. What I decided to do was whack him and then shake it off and fix my hair a little bit. I thought it would say a little something about Krycek, that he was trying to keep himself together and that he was very cool. They kept it in and I was really happy about that. It tells me that my instincts are right.

SS: You’ve gotten some fairly unflattering nicknames from fans — in particular, Rat Boy.

NL: Oh, well, I think it’s great, actually — though I must say, it’s a little daunting still being called “boy” at 33. But it means people are watching it and enjoying it and that’s the important thing. Dave Duchovny is Special K.

SS: At least the name hasn’t turned up in the show itself. Speaking of cast members with memorable nicknames, what is it like working with William Davis, who is better known to devoted X-Philes as Cancer Man?

NL: Bill is a great guy. He’s so different than you see him on television. He’s extremely soft spoken and very funny, actually. Everybody’s great. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Mitch Pileggi because we went over to England to do some promotion for the show. We’ve become friends since the show started, anyway, but now we get to travel and do all these great things together. It’s a real treat. Doing an episode is like going home to see your family, because now I live in Los Angeles and whenever I go back to do the show I get to go to my hometown and see my friends.

SS: So then, who says you can’t go home again?

NL: And it not just my friends. I really look forward to seeing David and Gillian and the producers and crew; it’s a real treat and it’s just fun. As an actor, you hope you can work on a show that you’re proud of, so I”m really fortunate that I’m involved in THE X-FILES.

SS: The inevitable question about life on other planets: do you believe that we are not alone?

NL: Oh, yes, absolutely! I think it would be egotistical to believe that there isn’t more intelligent life out there. I to believe it, because it gives me some hope as well. Things aren’t exactly going swimmingly well on this planet. So it would be nice to know there’s something else out there.

SS: Can you tell us what’s in store for Krycek or would Carter have your head — that is, in addition to already taking one of your arms?

NL: Carter would have my head! (Laughs)

Caption under one of the photos: “Nicholas Lea has become so well known by the name X-Philes have christened him — Rat Boy — that he’d be Hollywood’s top choice should they ever decide to remake WILLARD.”

The X-Files Official Magazine #1: The Rat’s Back

Spring 1997
The X-Files Official Magazine #1
The Rat’s Back

On the Internet, he’s Ratboy. But actor Nicholas Lea, who plays THE X-FILES’ Alex Krycek, has another nickname for himself: the Everlast bag.

He has a point — the double-crossing Krycek seemed to get a serious body blow every few minutes during “Tunguska.” “I’ve never finished a job and felt like I needed a holiday, but I did on this one,” says Lea.

And the physical challenges didn’t stop there. At one point during the filming of “Tunguska,” the actor hung suspended by a cable from the top of a 16-story building. “I won’t try to kid you, it was pretty frightening,” he recalls. “When I got there, they had a platform for me to stand on. They were going to shoot me down to the knees, so it would look like I was hanging there, but you wouldn’t be able to see my feet. I said, ‘You should be able to see my feet there so people know I’m really hanging.’ So they took the platform away, and we did it that way.”

Soon after that stunt, the actor met John Neville (The Well-Manicured Man) for the first time; according to Lea, Neville said, “‘Oh, you’re Nick Lea. I’ve heard you’ll do anything.'”

Whether or not Lea will do anything is open to question, but it certainly seems that his alter ego Krycek will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Yet even Lea isn’t certain what motivates the character. “I think that he’s driven by a certain degree of vengeance,” he offers. “There’s a speech I had in ‘Tunguska’ where I said, ‘All I want is to find the man who tried to kill me,’ and I think he really believes that.”

Whatever Krycek’s motivations are these days, he’s no longer the fresh-faced agent recruited by the Cigarette-Smoking Man to spy on Mulder and Scully. “He started out as a covert agent,” Lea notes, “and then became more or less a free agent just trying to keep himself alive. And now it seems that he’s possibly working for the Russians. Physically and mentally, he’s undergone some big changes.

“When I did my first three [episodes], ‘Sleepless,’ ‘Duane Barry,’ and ‘Ascension,'” the actor continues, “I pretty much went with the story that was available: He was a young guy, fresh out of the [FBI] Academy, who was chosen to infiltrate [the X-Files]. But the story tends to change, so I kind of go with what I have at the time.”

Despite his character’s duplicitous ways, Lea doesn’t think that Krycek is “as cold-hearted as he appears to be. But I do think that he’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive and to get done what he has to do.”

One of the things that Lea had to do during the making of “Tunguska” was learn a lot of Russian dialog, a chore he doesn’t recall with much pleasure. “It was brutal to learn — it’s a language with no connection to English at all. And it takes three or four Russian sentences to say one short English sentence.” In the end, he adds ruefully, a lot of that dialogue eventually got axed.

Yet Lea, who will be seen next fall in several countries (but not in the U.S.) on the syndicated TV series ONCE A THIEF, enjoyed making “Tunguska” — even when things got a little ugly. “I have a great time [on the X-FILES set],” he enthuses. “Whenever I hear I’m going to be in an episode, I can’t wait to get there. Those people are all my friends, and David [Duchovny] is a very good friend of mine, and Mitch [Pileggi] as well. It’s really [a case of] getting beaten up by your friends.” — MR