The next mind-bending chapter of “The X-Files” is a thrilling, six-episode event series from creator/executive producer Chris Carter, with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson re-inhabiting their roles as iconic FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Mitch Pileggi also returns as FBI asst. director Walter Skinner, Mulder and Scully’s boss, who walks a fine line between loyalty to these investigators and accountability to his superiors.
This marks the momentous return of the Emmy-winning pop-culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history. In the U.S., “The X-Files” revival debuts on Fox with a special two-night event beginning Jan. 24, 2016, and continuing on Jan. 25, 2016. The upcoming event series will encompass a mixture of stand-alone episodes and those that further the original show’s seminal mythology. In the opening episode, Mulder and Scully take on a case of a possible alien abductee.
“The X-Files” originally premiered in September 1993. Over the course of its nine-season run, the influential series went from breakout sci-fi favorite to massive global hit, and became one of the most successful television dramas of all time. The show, which earned 16 Emmy Awards, five Golden Globes and a Peabody Award, follows FBI special agents Scully and Mulder as they investigate unexplained cases — “X-Files” — for which the only answers involve paranormal phenomena. The all-new episodes will feature appearances by guest stars, including Joel McHale, Robbie Amell, Lauren Ambrose, Annabeth Gish, Annet Mahendru, Rhys Darby, Kumail Nanjiani and William B. Davis, who reprises his role as Cigarette Smoking Man. Three of the episodes are written and directed by Carter, with the remaining new episodes written and directed by original series veterans Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan and James Wong. Here is what Duchovny said in a roundtable interview that he did with me and other journalists at 2015 New York Comic-Con.
What’s going to happen between Mulder and Scully in the return of “The X-Files”?
I don’t know. I’m not the writer.
How much did you and Chris Carter talk about where you wanted the story to go?
It was a long process to get to six episodes. It’s not where we started. We started at 10, 12. And when it was 12 or 10, I was going to maybe write and direct one of them because I can be light in one or two.
But when it became six, there was no way I could be absent that much. It would be fun for me, but it wouldn’t be good for the show. When it became six, all of sudden, we were going, and Chris just took over with the story. He had Darin [Morgan] and Glen [Morgan] and Jim [Wong], who were going to come in and write their own episodes.
Will the end of this six-episode run be open-ended so that there’s potential for there to be more “X-Files” episodes in the future?
It’s always open. Even if we died in an explosion, we could come back. I don’t know. To me, it’s always open.
How have Scully and Mulder changed since the last time we saw them on screen?
What’s interesting is Gillian and I come to it years later more confident in what it is we do as actors, and we can bring that to bear on what we do with these characters. To me, that’s an interesting challenge, an interesting change in coming back in the present day.
How do you feel about the impact that “The X-Files” and Fox Mulder have had on pop culture?
It’s not something I think about. I do my work. I love doing the show. It’s a great show. I like the [Fox Mulder] character. I like trying to figure out how to play him.
I go back to the beginning. I like his willingness. He’s like Don Quixote. He’s just keeping on, trying to win, trying to prove. I like that. There’s something beautiful in that.
In the past, you’ve said you weren’t interested or available to go back to “The X-Files” TV show. What made you change your mind?
I always wanted to continue on doing [“The X-Files”] movies. We did the second one [2008’s “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”]. It did OK, but not great. And then, it seemed like the appetite at Fox for [another “X-Files”] movie was gone.
And to me, that seemed like the end of the show. That was it. If we weren’t going to do another movie, we weren’t going to do the show. That was in 2008.
And then, cable [TV] became what it is now. And the whole model of what a television season looked like changed. And then the network started doing 12-, 13- [episode] runs.
I do “Aquarius.” It’s 13 episodes on a network. And then it became obvious to Chris and me: “Oh, we could do a limited run.”
That might be even stronger than doing a movie at this point. It would tell a six-hour or eight-hour story. It won’t be limited to a two-hour story. It might work for the show.
It’s really the transformation of how television is produced and consumed in the last five or six years. And the lack of appetite at Fox for continuing [“The X-Files”] as a movie franchise, which I never really understood. I saw it as a really viable movie franchise.
We see aliens in this new “X-Files,” which is a big change from the original “X-Files.” Can you talk about that big change?
You have to remember the point of view of the person looking at. You’re not seeing the truth; you’re seeing somebody’s version of it. When you see those aliens, you’re seeing what I remembering or what I was told. I’m sure we’re going to get different versions of whatever that story was. In terms of actually seeing the spaceship or the aliens, I think it’s a function of the better technology that we have available to us, the storytellers, what’s computer-generated.
We had no money when we started doing the show [in 1993]. Aside from the computer-generated effects, there’s no way we could’ve been able to afford any of it. So it’s a function of all those things. Chris and I were talking this. In the beginning of the show, he was given advice: “Don’t show too much” — not this time around, but way back in the beginning — “Don’t give it all away.” I think times have changed. I think people are used to seeing a lot more. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but that’s the way it is.
How would you describe the older Mulder at the beginning of the new “X-Files” show?
Part of it is when you grow older, you fit into different roles. Maybe when you’re a certain age, you play Romeo, then you play Hamlet, then you play King Lear. You can’t have a 19-year-old play King Lear. So I’m somewhere along that continuum in my life.
It’s a question of bringing different qualities to Mulder when he’s a different age. He’s going to be a different person, by virtue of his age. And it’s the same for Scully and Gillian, as I would imagine.
He’s kind of down-and-out. He’s alone. He seems to be a shut-in. He’s not working at a job, not the FBI or any kind of job. He’s not shaving. He’s not cutting his hair, but things will change. It will pick up. Business will pick up.
Did you go back and watch any of the old “X-Files” episodes?
Are we going to find out more about Mulder and Scully’s son?
Yeah. Mulder wants to know too.
What was it like to step back into “The X-Files” world?
I think at first, it was a little rusty and a little tense. None of us really knew what to expect and how it would feel. But then, it just took maybe half a day, and then we fell into a rhythm.
We spent a lot of time together — Chris, Gillian and I — we did a lot of work together. It’s like being in a band. It’s like playing music with someone you used to work with.
You’ve said that you cried when you read the script for “The X-Files” returning storyline …
It was nostalgia, just to see Mulder and Scully on the page. I wish I’d never said that [I cried]. Put it this way: It’s like reading a letter from camp that you wrote when you were 15. It’s nostalgia. I felt emotional.
For more info: “The X-Files” website