David Duchovny speaks his truth about the latest chapter of ‘The X-Files’ revival

January 2, 2018

by Carla Hay

David Duchovny at 2017 New York Comic Con in New York City
David Duchovny at 2017 New York Comic Con in New York City (Photo by Carla Hay)

The next mind-bending chapter of “The X-Files” is a thrilling, 10-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 assistant 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 (the show’s 11th season) premieres on Fox on January 3, 2018. The upcoming event series will encompass a mixture of stand-alone episodes and those that further the original show’s seminal mythology. Picking up after the last event series’ cliffhanger, Mulder and Scully learn that they aren’t the only ones desperately searching for their long-lost son, William. The very fate of the world may depend on it.

“The X-Files” originally premiered in September 1993. Over the course of its original 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 show was revived for a 10th season, which aired in 2016. The all-new episodes for 2018 will feature appearances by guest stars, including Joel McHale, Lauren Ambrose, Haley Joel Osment and Robbie Amell. This what Duchovny said in a roundtable interview that he did with me and other journalists at 2017 New York Comic Con.

What can you say about the relationship between Mulder and Scully in this new season of “The X-Files”?

I don’t know what I’m allowed to tell. It’s as it was. Chris [Carter] was smart from the very beginning. When you have a serialized television show that’s had well over 200 episodes, you’ve got to parcel the goodness little by little. As much as fans think they want this or that, once you cross the line, it’s hard to go back over to the other side.

I think what’s interesting about the relationship is their working partnership. They’re quite reliant on one another. They [the viewers] may want a sex scene, but they really don’t, especially at the age we are at right now.

Does all this fan expectation of a Mulder/Scully romance inform how you play your role?

Absolutely not. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the fans, but that’s not the way I approach my job. If I was to write [an “X-Files” episode], I might think of the relationship. In fact, the ones that I’ve written, I’m kind of comfortable loosening them up outside of the work. But as an actor, if I start thinking about that kind of crap, then I’m lost. When you see your [significant other], do you think, “How is this being perceived by others?”

As an actor, you’re constantly guarding against any kind of self-consciousness. That’s the death of acting: somebody watching themselves. If you start thinking about people watching you, it’s a back door to your own self-consciousness. [He says jokingly] I have to forget this conversation by the time I get back on set.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from Chris Carter that’s helped you understand the Mulder character over the years?

I don’t know. I’m kind of headstrong about it. At some point, I do the lines as they’re written. But at some point, I decided I knew who this guy was, and this was my character. I was playing it, and I owned it. And that could to be to the detriment of my work. I don’t know.

In retrospect, the characters I’m attracted to playing seem to be people who speak the truth, no matter what the consequences. The first time I did that was probably with Mulder. So I think that I learned something about what I’m drawn to as a performer.

To me, that was the inherent basis of the character: He was a guy who didn’t mind being a fool. I could trace that back to Chris, for sure.

What can you share about Season 11 of “The X-Files”?

The last time we did [a season of “The X-Files”] it was six episodes, and the last time we did an “X-Files” movie was in 2008. We had a lot of exposition to cover. That took two episodes. And then in the end, we had to wrap it up. That took an episode. So that left us with three episodes, which is not enough.

So now, we have 10 episodes. We do have some [things] that get us out of the mess we got ourselves into at the end [of Season 10, but that’s dispensed with rather quickly, so that we can do the show we always did, which was less self-consciously about the show itself, which is unfortunately what those episodes tend to be.

Even if they’re interesting mythology, they’re about the show. It was tough getting everyone on the same page in the same city. This time around [the season’s film took] four months. It’s tough, but we pulled it off, and here we are.

How do you think Mulder has evolved over the years?

I don’t know. He might be a little “anti-scientist.” He might be a little bit like a guy who says, “Fake news,” which is unsettling to me. I think it’s interesting to think about the show in this political climate.

In terms of how a character has evolved over the years, it’s an interesting question for an actor to approach. I did it slightly with “Twin Peaks.”

If you could give any advice to Mulder from the first season of “The X-Files,” what would it be?

“Wear comfortable shoes. It’s hard to run in dress shoes.” Maybe Mulder has changed. There’s a certain kind of fearlessness to the guy. We have more than 200 episodes that we’ve done, and he’s solved zero cases, so he’s the worst FBI agent of all time. If he was on “Law & Order,” there’d be no order.

I feel like his resilience is great. I feel like he can believe what he believes, even though he’s never gotten the truth. It’s kind of phenomenal, when you think about it.

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