The X-Files returns to Fox this week in a six-episode event series. Fans have been waiting 14 years to see Scully and Mulder again and only had one movie sequel, The X-Files: I Want To Believe to tide them over. The cast and creator Chris Carter met with the Television Critics Association to introduce the new series, where Carter revealed he actually wrote a third movie script and scrapped it to conceive this six-episode series instead.
Rotten Tomatoes joined a group of reporters speaking to David Duchovny about his return to the role that made him famous, FBI agent Fox Mulder. When we pick up with Mulder, an internet conspiracy theorist (Joel McHale) convinces him to resume his pursuit of the truth. While back on the FBI payroll, Mulder and Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigate some other new cases too, including a were-monster.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Has it been fun to play Mulder as the skeptical one in a role reversal?
David Duchovny: It’s difficult because Mulder was always the engine of the show, was the guy putting his foot on the gas. It was more familiar to me once Mulder got reinvested in The X-Files after the first episode.
Rotten Tomatoes: Even in the third episode, for comedic purposes, he’s like, “This can’t be a monster.”
Duchovny: That’s a Darren Morgan episode. In these six — and it’s a very interesting thing because we always did it on the show — it was really like doing a different show almost from week to week on The X-Files even back in the day. It’s very tricky as an actor to try to find the right tone all the time on this particular show. A thriller, a horror, a mystery, a quest, a comedy. You’re right to point that out. I was skeptical; I’m skeptical in the first episode and I’m playing it again in a comedic way. Think about it as a gift to the actors and a real challenge to try to play it in different keys.
Q: Do you look forward to playing Mulder more and more, revisiting him again?
Duchovny: When I left the show and when we ended the show, the idea that I was talking about with Chris was to come back and do movies. We did the second one in 2008 and there just didn’t seem to be an appetite at Fox for the movie anymore, which surprises me, because we’re a homegrown property. It’s not some crappy comic book that you’re going to dig up and breathe life into. I’ve never understood. I think there’s probably more money in television, for them. That’s probably why they want to do it. When television reinvented itself in terms of its seasonal quality and the amount of episodes it demands, it became obvious to all of us that we could come back and do it in a way that would suit us at this point in our lives. As much as I would’ve wanted to get away from Mulder at a certain point, I always hoped and knew that if there was a demand we’d be able to come back and revisit from time to time. This would be now.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you ever read Chris’s third movie script?
Duchovny: No, that’s the first I heard of it. I’m going to ask him for that later.
Q: What do your kids think of this? Have they seen The X-Files?
Duchovny: They’ve seen some. My son has seen more than my daughter. They’re excited about it coming on. They’re very excited about it coming on. I’m kind of happy. The last very visible thing I would’ve done is Californication. There’s no way they’re going to watch that. So I’m happy that they’re going to get a chance to see this. Although, they watched Aquarius, but this is more up their alley.
Q: Could you ever see somebody else playing Mulder?
Duchovny: My role? No, I don’t know how you could.
Q: Would you ever want to go back to The X-Files as a series?
Duchovny: Not a full series, no. Not every year. I think we could do more than six. We could do eight or 10. It depends on how it does. It depends on if people really want to see it. I feel like they do. I feel like it’s going to do really well so I imagine I would bet that we would come back and do another iteration. I’m not sure how many but it’ll never be 22 or 24 episodes. We’re just too old to work that hard.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you ever think you’d see the day when conspiracy theorists like Mulder were so prolific and had so many forums to express their views?
Duchovny: That sounds like a nightmare. Is that happening? That is kind of the world we live in, isn’t it? It has its good points and its bad points, I guess. There’s so much information available, and there’s not a real vetting process of what’s true and what’s false. I’m much more old school, pre-Google. We had an encyclopedia in my house. That’s kind of where I got my information. I think I still live in that world.
Q: What was it like going to the cemetery with headstones for Kim Manners and Jack Hardy?
Duchovny: I knew Kim very well. Jack less so. Kim is a part of the show and he’s missed. He’s missed as a person and obviously as a director on the show. It was probably Darren. It might’ve been Chris but it was probably Darin Morgan because it was his episode. It’s sad but sweet as well.
Q: Do you prefer standalone episodes to mythology episodes?
Duchovny: I don’t say I enjoy one more than the other. They have different challenges. It’s just that’s what keeps the show fresh for an actor. It’s a cop show. It’s an FBI show, but it’s not really a procedural in that way. Procedurals can get pretty dull for the actors. Aside from having an interesting relationship to play within the procedural, there’s also, as I said, these changes of tone, these changes of subject matter. The frame of the show itself is incredibly flexible. I can’t think of any other show that had the same actors in it. You’ve got something like The Twilight Zone, that’s different actors. When you think about it, it’s very challenging and interesting to an actor to have to go in and do one of Chris’s episodes and then turn around and do one of Darren’s episodes. I think because it’s natural to us, just because we’ve been doing it for so long, it seems de rigueur, but it’s quite crazy when you think about it, and scary. I would be in middle of a Darren episode and somebody described it as a sitcom. It’s like, “Holy s–t, what are we doing? Is this really working?” We don’t know. It’s a little trippy.
Q: After all these years, when did this new series become real for you?
Duchovny: Just right now. Just this moment. I think when I received the first script, you know, obviously I knew I was going to do it. We were signed to do it at that point. But the work or the kind of imaginative reality of it, which is always, to me, the only reality of it. Probably when I got that first script and started to think about, “How are we going to do this? What do we do? What do we do now?”
Q: Did you have to be convinced to come back?
Duchovny: Well, for me, the experience of doing The X-Files, obviously from the beginning, I had no say in what was going on. It was one of my first jobs, and I was just happy to be working and happy that the scripts were interesting and good. But later on, I had more interest in writing or in adjusting sometimes with the scripts. But the trust that I have in Chris as the runner of the show, as the creator of the show, as the conceiver of the show, is complete. I don’t question Chris. If he says he’s got an idea and it’s going to work, six, eight, ten episodes, whatever, Chris is a serious person and an artist. If he says he’s got a way to make it work, I trust that.
Q: Did you discover anything new about Gillian working with her this time?
Duchovny: I think being able to have that history and to let it play in a scene. I think at this point, having known each other and worked together so much for over 20 years, we’ve gone beyond chemistry into history, which is a really cool thing to play as well, because you don’t have to play either. Well, if you don’t have chemistry, you’ve got to figure out a way to make it happen, but if you have history, we’ve all seen movies and television shows where you see a mother and daughter or father and son and you’re like , “There’s no way. It doesn’t feel right. There no history. It doesn’t feel like history.” Gillian and I actually have history, so we don’t have to play it.
Season ten of The X-Files premieres on Sunday, January 24 on FOX after football. Read reviews here.