Thirteen years after the original series run, the Fox series The X-Files is back as a six-episode event series from creator/executive producer Chris Carter. With David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson re-inhabiting their roles as iconic FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and Mitch Pileggi back as FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner, the event series will encompass a mixture of stand-alone episodes, both funny and scary, and those that further the original show’s seminal mythology.
During a panel for the show at the TCA Press Tour, co-stars Duchovny and Anderson talked about when this revival became a reality for them, agreeing to return to the show before there was even a script, why it was hard to find their groove again, the structure of this season, how much fun they’ve had working together, and coming to appreciate that they’ll always be remembered for these roles.
Question: At what point did this revival become a reality for you?
DAVID DUCHOVNY: I think when I received the first script. Obviously, I knew I was going to do it. We were signed to do it, at that point. But the imaginative reality of it, which is the only reality of it, was probably when I got that first script and started to think, “How are we going to do this? What do we do now?”
GILLIAN ANDERSON: I did a Comic-Con right before I was about to start shooting, and it wasn’t until I sat on a panel in front of the audience, with the degree of enthusiasm that there was for it, and then the theme music played, that I completely got what it might be like for an audience to sit on a couch, if they ever do that anymore, in front of their television and hear that tune again, for the first time, when a first episode is going to be aired. I got excited with them, and it occurred to me that I was starting shooting that next Monday.
Since you agreed to do this before there was a script, what convinced you to sign on?
DUCHOVNY: For me, in the beginning, I had no say in what was going on. The X-Files 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 sometimes adjusting the scripts. But the trust that I have in Chris [Carter], as the creator and runner of the show, is complete. I don’t question Chris. If he says he’s got an idea and he’s got a way to make it work, I trust that.
In addition to the creative writing, it was the chemistry between the two of you that really sold the show. When you were shooting the first scene back, what was the chemistry like, in that moment?
ANDERSON: I hate first days. First and second days, I wish I could give them back. Everything that we do, I wish I could do over again, so I am unusually nervous and weird and forget lines and don’t behave like the character, for the first couple of days. So, there wasn’t a, “Woo-hoo, here we go!,” thing that happened for me.
DUCHOVNY: It was hard to come back. Mulder can’t stammer, or hem and haw. He has all his facts right at his fingertips. It’s gotta be real and fast and right there. That’s not easy to do, especially on a first day on the show.
There are two mythology episodes in these six, with four stand-alone episodes in between. How do you feel about the structure for this season?
DUCHOVNY: I think you had to pay homage to the mythology that we’ve done, as well as introduce the new twist that Chris has created for this series. You had to honor the fans, as well as introduce people into it that don’t know anything about it. So, there had to be a mythology episode to begin with.
David, did you ever think you would see a day where the Mulders of the world, who are the conspiracy theorists, would not be underground, and that they would be almost mainstream and have so many forums to present their opinions?
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 where I got my information. I think I still live in that world.
How has your relationship with each other evolved, since the first time you did this show together?
ANDERSON: We’ve always had fun together. There was always laughter.
DUCHOVNY: At this point, having known each other and worked together so much over the last 20 years, we’ve gone beyond chemistry into history, which is a really cool thing to play, as 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. It doesn’t feel like they have history.” Gillian and I actually have history, so we don’t have to play it.
Gillian, since The X-Files ended, you’ve done very different work. Was that important to you?
ANDERSON: Well, when I made the decision to be an actor, the kinds of things that I was interested in doing fell more in line with the stuff that I am doing now. I was a huge fan of Merchant Ivory films, and I always saw myself in something like Prime Suspect. When I was cast in The X-Files, it was science fiction and just a little off to the left of where I had seen my career choices to be, and I got swept up into that. Afterwards, it’s been about refocusing on my original idea of what I wanted my career to look like and the kinds of things that I wanted to do. I’m sure that part of that is, you play a character for nine years and it’s nice to be able to challenge oneself to do other things and to keep it interesting. Living in England, I get a mix between film and theater and TV, and that suits me just fine.
With some of these classic genre shows, there’s sometimes a period where the actors feel typecast by their role and they have to come to terms with the fact that fans will always see them as that character. Was there ever a period like that for either of you?
ANDERSON: I think it took me a long time to embrace it, after we were done with the series. It took a good decade for me to suddenly start thinking of it as the gift that it was, and to properly appreciate the opportunity that I had and how fortunate I was to play such a great, iconic character in a show that was iconic, in and of itself. It could have been something that I hated or had bad reviews, so I was very lucky. It suddenly hit me, some time later. But, I’ve never really gotten involved in the trajectory of the character or the trajectory of the show. I also have a huge amount of faith in Chris to determine what the tone mood is, and what is best for the audience. I feel like he’s done that with this, certainly with how we re-enter. It was quite a tall order, if you think about it, and he certainly accomplished that.
DUCHOVNY: I would agree with a lot of what Gillian says about the typecasting stuff. It took awhile to recognize it as the gift that it is, and that’s why we’re able to come back now. It acted as a spur for me, going out and actually doing more work, to keep expanding myself as an artist.
The X-Files airs on Monday nights on Fox.