Local actors made their marks in five B.C.-filmed seasons
A steady throng of Vancouver actors turned up as guest stars during five B.C.-filmed seasons of The X-Files. The more memorable among them were brought back as recurring characters.
Not even onscreen deaths will keep some of those recurring characters from showing up again in the upcoming six-episode X-Files reboot.
“As we say on The X-Files, even when you’re dead you’re not dead,” Carter said. “I can tell you that there’s a distinct possibility that you will be seeing many of the regulars that you came to know, whom we cast in Vancouver.”
Carter likes to keep secrets before filming, but word slipped out that one character set to make a comeback in the reboot is the Smoking Man, the mysterious puppet master played by William B. Davis.
Davis said things weren’t looking good for his character in the 2002 X-Files season finale.
“When last we saw him, he was old, he was decrepit, he’d had a tracheotomy and he was smoking through a tube,” Davis said.
“He was at the end of a long tunnel, and coming towards him was a rocket. His hair was in the air as the wind of the rocket was blowing against him. Things were not looking good at all.”
Davis was a journeyman actor, director and teacher in his 50s when TV stardom arrived unexpectedly. He appeared in the series pilot, a figure in the background wordlessly smoking a cigarette and leaning on a filing cabinet as FBI agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) conferred in an office with one of her superiors.
“Being a tall, lanky guy, the cabinet was at elbow height, so I leaned over, crossed my feet, and found a position rather like a preying mantis,” Davis said. “That’s how it began. Everyone got a little more interested in who this person was. Gradually, they brought me in a bit more and a bit more, and the character got bigger.”
The role boosted Davis’s onscreen career away from the show. He’s been busy ever since with movie and TV roles while continuing the stage work that was his earlier mainstay. Davis wrote an autobiography in 2012, Where There’s Smoke: Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man.
He currently plays a similarly enigmatic character on the Canadian-produced Showcase network time- travel series Continuum.
The Lone Gunmen — the trio of wacky conspiracy theorists played by Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund and Tom Braidwood — became fan favourites for the touch of comic relief they brought to the frequently gloomy X-Files stories. The trio even had their own short-lived spinoff series in 2001. They died in a Season 9 X-Files episode.
Alex Krycek, the FBI agent rival to Duchovny’s Mulder, wasn’t so fortunate. He came to a bad end after his long, action-packed run on the show.
“They shot him right in the head,” said Vancouver’s Nick Lea, who found worldwide fame playing Krycek. “Skinner (Mulder’s boss, played by U.S. actor Mitch Pileggi) shot me right between the eyes.”
Lea wouldn’t say whether he’ll be back playing Krycek in the reboot, but given what Carter said, don’t rule it out.
The X-Files made all of its players household names around the world. Lea remembers being on a frenzied European publicity tour with castmate Pileggi in the late 1990s.
“In Scotland, Mitch and I had to be ushered out the catwalk of the building next door and stuffed into a car because there were hundreds of fans chasing us down the street.
“It was like The Beatles — bizarre. I’m just a guy on a show and I’ve got a guy with a walkie-talkie saying, ‘OK, you’re going to go through the door, there’s going to be a red Mercedes with the door open. Get in and close the door quickly.’
“We get in the car and close the door. People are banging on the windows, the car is surrounded and they’re crying. They’re trying to pass things though the window to us.”
Lea worked steadily before and after his X-Files role, but he said the glow from The X-Files still lingers. He noticed it when he toured with the Vancouver-produced stage play Helen Lawrence last year in Europe.
“I continue to be stopped by people who recognize me,” he said. “The show really had an impact. I’m not suggesting that I did, but the show certainly did. It was burned into people’s minds.”
Lea’s Krycek frequently found himself in a jam, which made for an interesting day’s work.
“Every time I opened up a script it was kind of like Christmas, because I never knew what was going to happen,” Lea said. “I was running from an exploding car, or being hung from 17 floors up by one arm, which was incredibly exciting and scary.
“They put a rig on me, a body harness that went up my arm, and a cable that went up my arm. I thought, ‘I can do this, no problem.’ I was out there for no more than a minute and I was like, ‘OK, I’m done, did you get it?’”