‘The X-Files’ Creator Chris Carter on Season 11 and the Show’s Future

From creator Chris Carter, Fox’s The X-Files is back for 10 new episodes, kicking off 25 years since the premiere of the original series in 1993. After the Season 10 cliffhanger, Season 11 picks up with Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) concern over the fact that they aren’t the only ones looking for their long-lost son, William. How that discovery will affect them and whether they will finally be reunited are questions sure to play a large role in this latest installment.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, executive producer Chris Carter talked about approaching each season as if it could possibly be the end, what most inspired Season 11, how the big revelation in the first episode back will affect things, whether his plans for William have changed, over the years, whether he’d like to do another season or another movie, if they get the opportunity to make more of The X-Files, if he’d ever consider doing the series without Gillian Anderson (whose publicly stated that this is it for her), the impact and legacy of the series, and how he’d approach casting, if he were just starting The X-Files today.

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Collider: When you did the last season and left some big questions unanswered with an open-ended finale, did you ever worry about not getting to provide those answers, or were you pretty sure that you’d get to at least do one more season?

CHRIS CARTER: I did not know. That had not been negotiated and we didn’t know what the ratings would be. As has always been the case with the series, I played it as if that could possibly be the end. In fact, when the main titles came on and we got to that last card, instead of “The Truth is Out There,” it said, “This is the End,” because my feeling was that it very well could have been.

When you leave things open-ended and you don’t necessarily provide those answers, do you think about the hate mail you might get?

CARTER: The show has always ended on a cliffhanger, every season, so people have come to expect that. I’m just doing what I’ve always done and that’s worked. Luckily, I’ve always gotten to come back and provide the answers. In the season opener, you’ll see that I didn’t just make it up, out of thin air. I actually knew what the answer was.

Did this season feel like the final opportunity to tell this story? Are you thinking again that this could be it?

CARTER: I’m always thinking that this could be it. I don’t know what the future holds. While I try to do my best, and we did well the last time out, this time out could be different. For me, The X-Files can go on, indefinitely. It’s really how long Mulder and Scully, and David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] want to do the show.

What most inspired Season 11? Were there things in the news or things that you’ve read that personally inspired you, this time around?

CARTER: Certainly the political moment we find ourselves in inspired it. Technological advances inspired it. Those are the two main things that we decided to explore, this season.

The revelation at the end of the first episode back will definitely spark reaction, among fans of the show. Were you expecting that when you wrote it? Should we take the Cigarette Smoking Man at his word?

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CARTER: Never! It’s a big revelation. We also do something that we don’t typically do. We now privilege the audience with knowledge that neither Mulder nor Scully have. Everything that happens to them now, through the ten episodes, will be with that privileged knowledge for the audience. I think that’s an intriguing situation that we find ourselves in.

Would you say that what happened to William, and how that affects Mulder and Scully, is the biggest question you’ll be exploring, this season? And have your plans for William changed, over the years, or is this where you hoped you’d always get to?

CARTER: I had to imagine William’s life and what it would be like growing up, as a kid with special powers and what it would do to him. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and that’s something that we are exploring. It’s not just the question of his parentage, but the question of what kind of boy has he turned into.

While there are plenty of instances of Mulder and Scully going off on their own individual pursuits, over the years, the best moments are when the two of them are together because they can work so perfectly in sync with each other. With the two of them really on the same page this season, what do you most enjoy about watching Mulder and Scully together, and what do you enjoy about watching David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson together?

CARTER: I’ve watched them become Mulder and Scully, for 25 years now, and all of us grew up together. What blows me away is how wonderfully and naturally they stepped into the shoes of those characters. They know them, through and through. They’ve played them for 218 episodes now. That means they’ve stood in front of those cameras, playing Mulder and Scully, for uncountable hours. That’s just what ends up on screen, and is not all of the material that ends up on the floor. There’s all of the takes that you didn’t see and all of the scenes that were cut. It’s the breadth and quality of the work that they do, and have been doing for 25 years, that blows me away.

If you were to make more of The X-Files, would you personally want to do another season or a third movie? And do you think there could ever still be another X-Files movie? 

CARTER: It’s a good question. I certainly think there could be more X-Files, and I certainly think there could be another X-Files movie. Right now, 20th Century Fox has just been sold to Disney, so I think there are way too many question marks and no answers being provided to me about the future of the show.

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Gillian Anderson has said that this season is it for her. Is that a definite decision from her? Would you ever consider doing another season without her?

CARTER: I wouldn’t. For me, The X-Files is Mulder and Scully. I think if it were without Scully, I wouldn’t do it. That’s not my X-Files.

After the series got called out for having a lack of female writers and directors, you added some to this season. What are the biggest strengths that they bring to this season?

CARTER: We added two female directors. One (Carol Banker) had been the script supervisor for four years, when we were in Los Angeles, so she was a natural. She’s a skilled and seasoned director, in her own right, going back to her work on NYPD Blue. That was an easy choice to make. We’re all friends, and the actors know her and like her. The second person was someone that none of us had ever worked with, and we hired her without ever having met her, just based on her reputation. I can tell you that that was one of the best hires I’ve made, as far as guest directors. Her name is Holly Dale, and she’s done over 200 episodes of television, so she brings not only that experience, but she has tremendously good taste. She knows the show and she fights hard for what she wants. That’s exactly what you need, when you bring someone in to a show that is a very large and sometimes untamable animal.

The Cigarette Smoking Man has always been something of a villainous figure in The X-Files, but what sort of foe will Erika Price be, this season? What does Barbara Hershey bring to the show?

CARTER: She brings a strength, an intelligence, a deviousness, and a duplicity that the Cigarette Smoking Man has brought, but it’s in a completely beautiful package.

What can you say about what we can expect to see from Director Skinner, this season, and the tension that we’ll see between him and Mulder and Scully?

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CARTER: As you point out, there is tension. Mulder and Skinner have a shoving match in Episode 1, and that really sets the tone for this season. Is he a trustworthy character or not? What are his interests? Are they selfish or are they altruistic? Can he be trusted? We explore that, in depth, in Episode 6. It comes to play out, all the way to the end of the series finale.

Since, as you’ve said, you never know if the season you’re doing will be the last or if you’ll get another season, what were you most looking forward to getting to do with this season and what do you feel most satisfied about?

CARTER: That The X-Files is taking place in the here and now. It’s not taking place in the past and it’s not taking place in some imaginary television time and place. We speak to our political moment. We speak to the characters and their lives, as if those are lives that have been lived. So, it’s a show for and of its time. It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we’re interested in. Hard or easy, it’s who we are. We’ve always told the stories that are most interesting to us, and the really fortunate thing is that people have come along.

When the season premieres in 2018, that year will mark the 25th anniversary of the show’s premiere. What has been the lasting impact on you, both professionally and personally, and what would you want the show’s legacy to be?

CARTER: The impact on me has been some of the best times of my life and some of the most difficult times of my life. That’s what I’m left with. For the legacy of the show, I think the thing that I’m proudest of with the show is that the stories we’ve told occupy such an amazing range, tonally. The show can go from self-parody to serious mythology episodes to thriller to stand-alone monster-of-the-week episodes to dark comedy to frivolity, and they can do that from one episode to the next. I think that’s what’s made the show popular, over all these years.

If you were starting The X-Files today, who would you cast as Mulder and Scully?

CARTER: I’ve never been asked that question. I would do the same thing. I would cast and look for the best people for the parts, whether they be knowns or unknowns. I think we were very fortunate to go with two unknowns, in this case, because they don’t come with baggage or preconceptions. For me, I think that’s always a good way to go, to create stars and not hitch your wagon to a star. So, I would say that I would do it exactly the same way.

The X-Files airs on Wednesday nights on Fox.

Image via Fox

Image via Fox

Image via Fox

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