Interview: Chris Carter talks 'X-Files,' maintaining mystery of Mulder, Scully

TORONTO - "The X-Files" creator Chris Carter returns to Vancouver this summer to shoot a new batch of his sci-fi tales, which pick up eight years after we last saw paranormal experts Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

In addition to returning stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, Carter says fans can expect Mitch Pileggi to return as Walter Skinner and William B. Davis as "The Smoking Man," even though that character had been killed off.

"As we say in 'The X-Files,' even though you're dead you're never really dead," says Carter, adding there's "a big chance" the Lone Gunmen will also return.

Carter is set to attend a Vancouver International Film Festival industry reception Wednesday in honour of National Canadian Film Day.

Reached by phone in Santa Barbara, Calif., earlier this week, the veteran showrunner discussed his long relationship with the city, returning to TV after a long hiatus, battling "puritanical" TV limits, and steering clear of a Mulder and Scully love scene.

The Canadian Press: You're credited with building so much of the Vancouver film and TV industry, do you feel a kinship with the Canadian scene as well?

Carter: Definitely. I had a place up in Vancouver for a long time, friends in Vancouver, I loved to work there.

CP: What does shooting in Vancouver lend to the series?

Carter: It gives you a tremendous natural environment to shoot in and also a free atmosphere.... You get long, dark nights in the wintertime. "X-Files" is a show that a lot of it is night-time work, you get a moodiness, you get oftentimes a greycast that really helps the look of the show.

CP: I gather that tone will be back for the reboot?

Carter: It's funny because we'll be shooting in the summertime so what we get is the beautiful Vancouver summer for this shoot.

CP: What will we see in these six new episodes — are they standalone or serialized?

Carter: You really get what you have come to expect with "The X-Files," which is a combination of the ongoing Mulder and Scully conspiracy saga, relationship and standalone episodes that will come interspersed. That said, it will all be of a piece, meaning that it won't feel disconnected. It'll all feel as if it's taking place in what I would call television "real time."

CP: What is their relationship now?

Carter: As we saw in the second movie they were together, not married. Living together. But when we come back we will find that relationship is not where we left it.

CP: Such a big part of the show was the will they/won't they storyline and fans still haven't gotten a proper love scene. Mulder and Scully obviously had a child together, why was their relationship never explicitly consummated?

Carter: It was part of the mystery of "The X-Files." That relationship was kind of mysterious. Did they get together? Didn't they get together? If they've got a child together, when did they get together? These are questions that we will deal with and answer in good time.

CP: In these six episodes?

Carter: In a way.

CP: So does their son William figure into the new episodes?

Carter: There's always a possibility that you might see him. Or certainly he'll be referred to.

CP: How much have you written?

Carter: I'm just going over the first draft that I'll be turning in today to the studio and to the network and also to the other writers. Everyone will be able to take out their big red pen and have their way with it.

CP: Is that nerve-racking or exciting?

Carter: It's both. I've been here a few times before so I'm familiar with the process. Although I'm sitting here with my wife and we're going over it line by line and I find myself defending my choices because I've thought long and hard about them.... I toyed with an idea during the last eight years so I did have a chance to write some Mulder and Scully dialogue and scenes, but I haven't had to do it in a command performance in about eight years. So it took me a little bit of time to sort of get the feel of it again.

CP: How have they changed?

Carter: They've grown up. They've matured, their sensibilities have matured, their relationship has matured and evolved.

You know during the course of the show, Scully the skeptic actually became the believer and Mulder the believer actually became the skeptic and then that switched back. So there have been many changes.... These characters who are true to themselves have gone through many changes and we'll play that in this series of six.

CP: The pacing is different today on TV, things seem to move much faster.

Carter: I'm mindful of tolerances and changes. That said, I still think we approach the show in the same way.... One thing that's changed in format is that it's now a five-act format rather than a four-act format.

I think the running time is about the same but we had to get a special dispensation to do the approach that we had taken originally with the show, which was a teaser — a little two or three minute segment in the beginning that sets up the show. They had done away with that approach on Fox so they allowed us to go back to, I would call it, old-style.

CP: Network TV in general seems more permissive, though. Shows like "The Following" and "Hannibal" really seem to be pushing how weird and dark prime-time can be.

Carter: I honestly don't feel that. I think in a way it's become a little bit more puritanical. What "The X-Files" has always tried to do is scare you and we've had to do that with the restrictions of language and imagery that are imposed on you by broadcast standards.

CP: Was that a regular battle during the first run?

Carter: Absolutely. With every script I think we wore out several standards and practices executives with the show. We were always pushing, just pushing, pushing, pushing — what can you show? What can you say? What is allowed?

We could never show someone actually getting a shot — a needle could never be seen going into someone's arm.... You'll see Scully taking blood from a patient in one of these episodes and I'm actually concerned about how restrictive they will be in letting me take Scully through what I would call a basic medical procedure.

CP: You were adapting Annie Jacobsen's book "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base" for AMC. Is that still happening?

Carter: It may be, but I think they're moving forward, trying to maybe take a different approach.

CP: How much have you written? Was there a dispute over the scripts?

Carter: I wrote two scripts.... I took a small part of (the book) and wrote about that. And I always sensed that what they wanted was an adaptation that was more true to the book and not true to the particulars of the book.

CP: So it seems AMC has put "Area 51" on hold and Amazon decided to drop your other proposed series, "The After" — is that disillusioning at all?

Carter: It's part of the business. You live with this. Everyone has their ideas about how things should be done. And so if you have a strong idea and you believe in it, that's what you should go for, but if that's not their idea, or I should say, your patron's idea, sometimes you just part ways.

CP: And that's the case with both of these shows?

Carter: Yes. I have very strong opinions and a very definite way that I see things. And I don't pander and I don't chase an idea if it doesn't feel natural to me. And in every case — not just these cases — in every case I stick to what I feel is right because I'm ultimately the person that's got to put pen to paper and make it breathe.

CP: Except now you're returning to the industry as a proven quantity and yet you're still coming up against these battles.

Carter: Maybe my ideas don't fit with what I would call a new paradigm. That's always a possibility.

CP: Did taking eight years away from the business hurt your ability to return as smoothly as you might have hoped?

Carter: No. I can tell you that what it's done is I try to do big ideas now. With "The After" I wanted to do Dante, I wanted to do the "Inferno" and it's not a genre piece and so what's scary to people is if it's something they don't recognize. If it's something new or something original.

And of course when something original works, then everyone wants to copy it. But if you're trying to do something that no one's ever seen before it's frightening. And I can understand that.

— This interview has been condensed and edited.

FONTE: Brandon Sun (CAN)


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