From the mouths of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter, and more. Plus an exclusive clip.
THE ORIGIN STORY
After the 2008 film The X-Files: I Want To Believe flopped among critics and barely eked by at the box office, any thought of another reunion was far from any of the principal cast members' minds. In fact, for Gillian Anderson, who plays FBI Agent Dana Scully, the very notion made her sick.
"The first time I heard the idea of continuing The X-Files mentioned was at New York Comic-Con in 2013, when we appeared to mark the show's twentieth anniversary," Anderson recalls. "Somebody from the audience asked about the possibility of us doing more movies or shows, and I think I threw up. Or at least I had such a strong negative reaction to the idea that that's the way I remember the moment."
Take that Dramamine, Gillian: On January 24, Mulder, Scully, Skinner and the gang get back together to star in The X-Files miniseries, six brand-new episodes of alien-conspiracy fun.
It all started when the show's creator, Chris Carter, made note of the huge audience reaction to that Comi-Con question. So when Fox called to say that David Duchovny had expressed interest in reprising his role as Agent Fox Mulder, Carter jumped at the chance to do what some of his favorite recent shows—Breaking Bad, the first season of True Detective and Mad Men among them—were doing: Telling more impactful stories in shorter seasons, rather than the usual 20- to 24-episode network run.
"I can tell you this: It's the Golden Age of television," Carter says. "It's drawn in so much talent: Writers, directors, actors, producers. So I saw that call as an opportunity to pull talented people that I really care about and love working with back into my orbit. Which, for me, was the sweetest thing about doing this."
"We've always talked about it," Duchovny says. "But when people talked about doing The X-Files for television, I assumed they meant the usual 24 episodes, and I'll never do that again. So I assumed it was dead. But, like Chris, I saw that a new model of cable season was becoming a great new way to tell stories, and that the networks were catching on to that idea, too. And so it became obvious to Chris that we could bring The X-Files back to television and that this is a really good format for telling a five-hour story."
Anderson, on the other hand, took a little convincing.
"The next time I heard about it after Comic-Con was at breakfast with Chris," she says. "He and I were meeting, I thought, for something entirely different, and also to catch up because we hadn't seen each other in awhile. He brought it up in conversation. And I guess I threw up less than before. [Laughs.] What I told him was that the only way it could remotely work would be if a long list of things were to happen. And somehow, between that conversation and us actually doing it, enough of the boxes were ticked that we were off to Vancouver."
The reboot picks up in present day, with Mulder and Scully having moved on with their lives. Or, at least, have tried to.
"You see that Mulder's marriage has not worked out; you see he's living alone and has a house in the middle of nowhere, and that he's not shaving and you see he's not going to work," Duchovny says.
"When you used to see Scully in her apartment, she was completely happy, self-sufficient, with her dog, watching Breakfast at Tiffany's," Anderson says. "This time around it seems she's made some decisions: She's getting on with her life and is doing what is meaningful to her. She's showing up and being assertive. But you sense, even though she's self-sufficient, that there's a hole. And I like that it sits there, not filled, and that eventually, as she and Mulder start to work together again, the sense of something missing goes away. What was missing in her life is back."
But if the intervening years have been hard on Mulder and Scully, it hasn't hurt the onscreen chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson, always one of the true draws of the show. "I think the amount of time that Gillian and I put in together enabled us to create a working relationship that is very intuitive and distinctive," Duchovny says. "We knew immediately how to make scenes that on paper were dry or full of exposition into scenes that were also about the relationship. If we do our jobs well there's going to be an aura of the relationship, even if we're talking about aliens or the rest of the crap that we talk about."
GOING IN WITH A BANG
"When we first met to discuss doing another series, David said to me right away that he wanted to punch the audience in the mouth with the first episode," Carter says. And thus it is so: the plot comes out swinging with the biggest conspiracy Mulder and Scully have faced.
"I'm glad that the writers got that formula right," Anderson says. "I'm glad, too, that Chris has created what I think the audience wants. That's the most important aspect of all of it. If that tone wasn't right we'd be dead in the water."
Carter says that the biggest challenge was creating a show that's all about big reveals in the age of instant news and social media. "In this day and age you're in charge of marketing as well as doing a television show. The studio actually invited us to a marketing meeting before we set out. I thought it was going to be the usual group of five or six people. It was 50 people! Social media has broadened the scope of the marketing of any show, but especially one as big as The X-Files. It didn't affect the storytelling at all, it did affect my job. Because every step of the way the studio wanted to leak things; they wanted to tweet things; they wanted to Instagram things. They want to titillate the fans."
GOING OUT WITH AMBIGUITY
As for the future of The X-Files, everyone seems amenable to doing it again.
"With all the conspiracies in the world, there's a lot of material for Chris to feed off of," says Mitch Pileggi, who reprises his role as FBI boss Walter Skinner. "I mean, there's some bad shit going on out there. There are some really bad people running this world. It lends itself to story lines for this show."
"Every time I open the paper I see something that would make an interesting X-File," Carter says. "So I write things down. I make notes. I'm paying attention to what's going on online about talk of a New World Order and a lot of conspiracy ideas. And I go to conventions. I went to a convention in San Jose that was about the secret space program. So it's not like I'm making this up. As long as David and Gillian are game, I'm game."
"Resolution is an illusion, isn't it?" Duchovny says. "Closure doesn't exist. It is gratifying that people love the show that much that they want more, but I don't want to trade just on that. There's no reason. We didn't come back just to throw together six in-joke episodes, winking at the audience. I didn't want that, Chris didn't want that. As much as we love the fact that people respond to what they know, we're also very interested in making it new. If we can keep doing that I'll always be interested."
"Well, it has to be all those boxes ticked," Anderson says. "And we do want it to be good and not just repeat ourselves. But David and I enjoy working together. So it's worth another conversation."