As Mul­der and Scully re­turn to TV screens, Tara Ben­nett in­ter­ro­gates the stars to dis­cover what awaits us

SFX - - The x-files -

On the spec­trum of im­pos­si­ble things, the chance of The X-Files re­turn­ing to TV with orig­i­nal stars David Du­chovny and Gil­lian An­der­son seemed about as likely as Cig­a­rette Smok­ing Man pack­ing in the Mor­leys. Well, Chris Carter’s era-defin­ing con­spir­acy saga is back this month as a six-episode event se­ries, re­unit­ing for­mer FBI agents Mul­der and Scully for new ad­ven­tures chas­ing the truth be­hind se­cret gov­ern­ment ca­bals, alien ab­duc­tions and a whole mess of other zeit­geisty weird­ness. SFX speaks ex­clu­sively with An­der­son and Du­chovny about re­turn­ing to the se­ries that changed their lives…

Did you want to have a say in where you imag­ined your char­ac­ter would be now?

GA I’ve never been col­lab­o­ra­tive about the di­rec­tion of Scully. Other char­ac­ters I have played, definitely, but not Scully. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s that Chris [Carter] al­ways had such a clear vi­sion of how she was go­ing to be into the fu­ture, or I never really had any in­ter­est or didn’t see any room for it. It’s one area that I’ve never really pitched aside from the episode that I wrote and di­rected (“All Things”).

DD The char­ac­ters are set af­ter so many hun­dred episodes that we did. That’s not go­ing to change. Mul­der now is not ex­actly who he was in the pi­lot so there has to be some kind of nod to the pas­sage of time. I think Chris un­der­stood that and we could play that on the day we were shoot­ing it too.

Did the pos­si­bil­ity of di­rect­ing an episode ever come up?

DD It was a mat­ter of see­ing what the sea­son would look like. I as­sumed it would be 12 episodes and then it be­came 10, eight and then six. At that point it be­came clear to me that the only way I could write and direct an episode would be if we did at least 12 be­cause it wouldn’t be fair to make my­self light in one out of six. At that point, I bowed out of writ­ing or di­rect­ing one but if we would do say 10, I would be happy to write or direct one.

It’s been eight years since you last played th­ese char­ac­ters. Was that a good span of time to be away from them or did it make it harder to find them again?

DD I think the long time be­tween do­ing it was good for me be­cause I got to re­dis­cover it my­self as we went along and not try to do the same things with the char­ac­ter. Just in terms of my com­fort as an ac­tor, go­ing back to the pi­lot in 1993, it was our first jobs. Now we’re much more com­fort­able in ex­tend­ing our­selves in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. I would say it took the first three or four years to start to know what we were do­ing as pro­fes­sional ac­tors. Now, it’s a dif­fer­ent equa­tion. It’s a much more com­fort­able place to be in to try to do good work.

GA I think I pushed her so far away to make room for other char­ac­ters that she was harder to find than I had ex­pected. It didn’t help that I was need­ing to wear a wig and it wasn’t the right colour or shape at the be­gin­ning. Find­ing my way to her past all that was chal­leng­ing. But we got there.

Was it sur­real be­ing back on set in Van­cou­ver with a lot of the same cast and crew?

GA Yes, but the thing that feels dif­fer­ent is the thing that is most ob­vi­ous in that we’re older [laughs]. We have dif­fer­ent life con­cerns and dif­fer­ent ways of look­ing at things. Do­ing this with grown up and vary­ing ages of teenage chil­dren is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from what it was at the be­gin­ning so all of that plays into it. It was dif­fer­ent in that re­spect but great to see and have the op­por­tu­nity to work with many of the same peo­ple. Many of the peo­ple who started on our show were in [Van­cou­ver] work­ing on the Star Trek fea­ture so they’ve moved up and I got to visit a few of them. It was nice to see ev­ery­body and have that level of tal­ent alive and well up there.

How was it work­ing again with David af­ter all this time?

GA It was dif­fer­ent be­cause we are older and more ma­ture and more un­der­stand­ing of our own process. Also the dif­fer­ent pulls and tugs that are on us as hu­man beings, out­side of the fact we are ac­tors, all of those things are help­ful in main­tain­ing a friend­ship and work­ing re­la­tion­ship. I feel like we bet­ter served each other this time around than we did in the old days. It was fun and great to have him as a com­pan­ion walk­ing that same path as a friend. It was cool.

And Gil­lian?

DD What we have is ac­tual history where we spent eight or nine years to­gether work­ing for many, many hours and the life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in terms of a show that gave us ca­reers and pro­files. We have a long-stand­ing, deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion and friend­ship for each other be­cause there is no­body else on the planet that really un­der­stands ex­actly what we went through. If you have that, you don’t really

The cor­ner­stone of the se­ries is the na­ture of their re­la­tion­ship

have to act. You just stand on your mark, look at the other per­son and al­low it to be.

David, you left the orig­i­nal se­ries be­fore Gil­lian. Were the things that frus­trated you back then still an is­sue this time? DD No, the strug­gle I may have had once upon a time with the pro­ce­dural as­pect of the show, which can be very dry as an ac­tor, I ac­cept that now. At one point, that was all I was do­ing work­ing on the show for 10 and some­times 12 months a year. I know I wanted more as an ac­tor than to crack the case. But as an ac­tor, I’ve learned how to bring it in while we’re do­ing that and Gil­lian has too. Even if some scenes are dry or have ex­po­si­tion, we can bring life to them, I hope.

In sea­son opener “My Strug­gle” we meet a Mul­der wrestling with a new level of world­weari­ness. How did you get him there? DD World-weari­ness gets a lot eas­ier to play as you get old. It comes nat­u­rally [laughs]. Say­ing that, Mul­der was al­ways the one who drove the show with his be­lief and we start this it­er­a­tion where he doesn’t have that. It’s tricky to start the car with­out the mo­tor and then the mo­tor has to pick up quickly.

Was the es­trange­ment be­tween Mul­der and Scully some­thing that made sense to you, given they were a lot closer the last time you played them? GA It made sense to me the di­rec­tion Chris was tak­ing them. The cor­ner­stone of the se­ries is the na­ture of their re­la­tion­ship. It holds the di­a­logue to­gether, it holds the mo­ti­va­tions to­gether and it holds the sto­ries to­gether so it made sense that Chris would re-es­tab­lish us back in that dy­namic again rather than where we had left off in the film where it was a much more in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship. I wouldn’t even know how to be­gin with that un­less we ended up in a Thin Man sit­u­a­tion, which could work too but it’s not what we’re about, so I got where he was headed.

What sort of sto­ries should The X-Files be telling in the 21st cen­tury? GA The sub­ject mat­ter in the first episode that con­tin­ues into the next one is cur­rent and pre­scient and im­por­tant. Con­ver­sa­tions about pri­vacy and se­cu­rity and drones and war are the top­ics. How our gov­ern­ment deals with those top­ics has al­ways been fod­der for our writ­ers and it will con­tinue to be that way, I imag­ine, for some time given the way history is de­vel­op­ing. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see the cli­mate, es­pe­cially in Amer­ica, and what the tem­per­a­ture is to speak openly and be forth­right about opin­ions. DD I don’t really know be­cause I’ve never been a science fic­tion guy my­self. It’s really about the hu­man­ity of the world of the char­ac­ters and that’s what res­onates with this show. I don’t think the show ever tried to be in fash­ion and I think that’s what makes it fash­ion­able. Con­spir­a­cies will al­ways be in­ter­est­ing drama and they have al­ways been with us. The science of it has al­ways been in­ter­est­ing to me and to Chris. He sur­rounds him­self with peo­ple who have given him cool science to spark his imag­i­na­tion so there are dif­fer­ent sto­ries to tell. In the last movie, we had head re­place­ment and Chris was sure this would be hap­pen­ing in a few years but he’s ob­vi­ously wrong. We jumped the gun a lit­tle on head re­place­ment but that’s the kind of thing you can do as science fic­tion be­comes science. That’s really the game Chris is play­ing – tak­ing smart science fic­tion and say­ing, “This is science.”

Would you come back for more? DD I don’t know. I hate to dis­ap­point but I take things as they come. Each day on the set had its own chal­lenges and charms and prob­lems. But when I sat down and watched it, I saw that the show still worked and the char­ac­ters still worked. I have never not be­lieved in the frame of the show as be­ing so flex­i­ble as to be al­most in­fi­nite. We have a show that can be com­edy, drama, science fic­tion, mystery, thriller, hor­ror and not feel like it’s a dif­fer­ent show. Do­ing six is maybe not enough to show that flex­i­bil­ity so maybe we have more to do. I don’t know, we’ll see. Hav­ing gone through it again, I think we’re all okay with mov­ing for­ward with more. I don’t want to speak for ev­ery­one, but I would. GA It’s pos­si­ble but not prob­a­ble. It will be an on­go­ing con­ver­sa­tion. We have to see how it does and if peo­ple are en­thu­si­as­tic about it and have the same in­ter­est. I think it’s all de­pen­dent on that.

The X-Files re­turns to Fox in the US on 24 Jan­uary, and will air on Chan­nel 5 in the UK.

Scully’s still happy to get her hands dirty in the lab.

Er, he doesn’t look a day older.

Re­united: but how close are they to each other now?

Men in hats are al­ways con­spir­acy the­o­rists.

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