Part of the truth is out there: We know The X-Files is returning to Fox for a limited, six-episode run. We know it’s being shot in Vancouver, where the first five seasons of the series were shot. And we know David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will reprise their roles of Mulder and Scully. To find out more, The Globe contacted X-Files creator Chris Carter, who is “basically shackled to his computer,” he said, working on the project. It will shoot through the summer and likely air in early 2016, he says.
In addition to being a huge television phenomenon with a fiercely devoted fan base, The X-Files was also a key contributor to the development of Vancouver’s film and television industry.
And on April 29, National Canadian Film Day, Carter will be in Vancouver for a VIFF Industry celebration marking the occasion.
Western arts correspondent Marsha Lederman reached him at his farm in Carpinteria, Calif.
I imagine there’s been interest in an X-Files reboot for some time. Why is it happening now?
David Duchovny kind of got behind this and when the actors get behind a project, it seems to move faster. That said, it took about five months to negotiate the deal. So I’ve known about this for the better part of a year and it’s a good time to do it now. I think the times we live in present good storytelling opportunities.
The times we live in are so different from when the series was on TV. How will that be reflected in what we see?
We live in a Citizenfour world and I think you’ll see that reflected in the story.
So you’re going to be borrowing from real world events?
Certainly from a real world context, if not those events.
What are the advantages of approaching this as a limited TV run as opposed to an open-ended series or even a feature film?
I don’t know how interested the actors would be in doing it for any more than a short run with their careers as they are. When you do 22 episodes a year – and we often did 24 or 25 – you devote your life to it; you can’t do anything else. So the nice thing about doing six episodes is for the actors it’ll be three months of shooting time; for me it’ll probably be eight months of my life when it’s all said and done. So these short runs present an opportunity do other things with your life.
TV has changed so much, too, since The X-Files aired. What sort of ground do you think the original show broke for the rise of the sort of sophisticated cable offerings we see now on HBO and AMC?
I don’t know what it broke for cable. The X Files is a broadcast network show and I think it worked best as that with the restrictions and limitations that are put on those shows in terms of language and imagery. If it broke new ground, I think it’s that we kept the level of quality high. It shows you could tell a saga with mythology and stand-alone episodes and a combination. I think that we helped to build a foundation for other shows that were built around a mythology.
The relationship between Scully and Mulder – how do you get that magic back in the reboot? Or does it happen automatically because of the chemistry that’s there already?
When you create a show and write the characters and cast the actors, you’re lucky if you saw those same actors in the same room together more than once. But you really hope for the chemistry. And in the case of The X-Files, the magic was there from the day those actors started to work together. It’s not something that anyone does through will or design or manipulation. The chemistry is either there or it’s not. And if you write good material, it helps to build the chemistry.
Do you think the show could have worked if you had cast anybody else?
Who’s to say? Who’s to know? I’m sure glad I didn’t.
Obviously getting the original cast back for this was key. What about crew members? Will you be working with any of the original crew on the reboot?
Yes, I’m trying to put the band back together as much as I possibly can. We’ve already got the [director of photography] who shot the last two years of the show in Vancouver coming back; I’ve got a production designer who worked on the last X-Files movie from Vancouver. Casting is from Vancouver. I’m working with a new Vancouver producer. For me, it’s coming home again.
Why did you decide to shoot in Vancouver?
I love shooting there. It’s a natural place to make a show like The X-Files. Right now there are certain financial benefits but for me I always say the reason I come to Vancouver is the crews are so invested in the work; the work ethic is very strong and I’ve benefited from that commitment to doing good work.
Any chance of ever actually setting the show or part of it in Vancouver?
It’s funny; I’ve really never had to think about that because we’re dealing with the FBI and rarely would the FBI have reason to venture outside its borders. That said, that’s another thing that’s happened since 9/11: the FBI’s mission is now global; no longer just domestic.
So is that a yes, maybe?
Can you give us any hints about the storyline? How far have you gotten in the writing process?
We’ve broken all the stories. I’m working with some of the writers that were originally on the show, which is a thrill. We are being honest to the passage of time, honest to the mythology and honest to the characters’ relationship as it believes it stands now.
When you go back at this, are you at all concerned about living up to the mythology; the huge devotion to the show during its run, but also since? When Arrested Development came back with a season on Netflix, some of the original fans were very disappointed. Do you carry the weight of that possibility?
Always. You would never want to upset the people who are the reasons that you are coming back. The hard-core fans are the people that you’re doing it for. That said, you want to also allow for new viewers. You also want to allow for the possibility that the show could come back for another run.
Is that a possibility?
Again as a limited TV series?
I’ll answer that last question with the truth is out there.
In terms of supporting cast, are we going to see the return of some of the characters that people have been curious about?
Yes. And I won’t spoil it by saying how you might see those people – the familiar extended cast.
Will storylines be wrapped up?
Because it’s The X-Files, I’ll say there’s a distinct possibility that they will not.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Chris Carter will be in Vancouver for the Canadian Film Day VIFF Celebration on April 29. That same day, the Van City Theatre will screen six Canadian films, including Songs She Wrote About People She Knows, Violent, Mommy, Being Canadian, Ben’s At Home and The Valley Below.