I am beyond thrilled to bring you this interview with Glen Morgan, a big part of the original X-Files creative team who returned as an executive producer for 2016’s season 10! Glen is a triple threat, really – writing, producing, and directing – and he wrote some of The X-Files’ most iconic episodes along with his partner in crime, Jim Wong. He brought us some great, creepy bad guys, like Eugene Victor Tooms (season 1’s “Squeeze” and “Tooms”) and Luther Lee Boggs (in “Beyond the Sea”), made us cry along with Mulder when Scully returned unconscious in “One Breath”, holds the noble distinction of writing the only X-Files episode ever banned from television (“Home”) and finally got Dana Scully some action in “Never Again”.
Glen was responsible for one of the six episodes of season 10, entitled “Home Again”, a combo title of his two solo scripts, “Home” and “Never Again.” As you may recall, I greatly enjoyed the emotionally resonant “Home Again,” and was incredibly excited to talk to Glen about season 10. (Since his brother, Darin Morgan, is also responsible for writing X-Files fan favorites, I will refer to him as “Glen” throughout.)
Wanting Glen to know where I was coming from – I write and interview as a fan, not just another journalist fulfilling an assignment – I gave him a little bit of my background. I have my master’s in English lit, I love the process behind storytelling, I’ve been an X-Files fan for 20 years, etc. I know all my behind-the-scenes X-Files guys, from Glen and Darin to Vince (Gilligan) to Frank (Spotnitz) to John (Shiban) to David (Nutter) to the dearly departed Kim Manners. I wanted him to know that I came from a place of deep knowledge and love of the show.
I definitely made sure to share fan sentiment with Glen, about a lot of the things we want and need when we return to the adventures of Mulder and Scully in a future season 11. I could have pretty much talked to Glen all day, discussing my feelings on the show and his work, both past and present, but I think I covered a lot of ground in the following interview. Read onward for Glen’s thoughts on being co-executive producer, writing those big Scully scenes, and whether or not we’ll get some making out in the future!
Amy: First of all, I wanted to say that I loved “Home Again”, thank you for that. The line, “You’re a dark wizard, Mulder” belongs in the hall of fame. It was such a great scene.
Glen Morgan: Thank you, that was really all Gillian. She did a great job.
If you want to hear some tumblr praise – “I hereby demand that the Morgans take over The X-Files, with a clause to allow Vince Gilligan to come and go as he pleases.”
I really doubt that will happen! Chris is in a cave somewhere, but he comes out every few months (laughs).
Let’s go back for a minute and talk about your early career. How did you start out, and how did you get involved with The X-Files?
Jim (Wong) and I were old friends from high school, outside of San Diego, and Darin went to the same school, and we all went to film school together. We got a film called Boys Next Door with Charlie Sheen made, and then we starved and ate mac n cheese for five years. Finally we said, how about TV? We ended up with Steven J. Cannell Productions, working on 21 Jump Street, and became close with Peter Roth, who is now the head of Warner Bros. Studios. Then it got to be time to leave, and Peter had left to work at 20th Century Fox, and Jim and I were going to work on the big, hot pilot of the year: Moon Over Miami. Harley Peyton created it, and he had been on Twin Peaks, which is one the greatest things ever made, ever.
He’s [Peyton] a really good guy, so we were set on doing that. Then our agent said, hey, Peter Roth is INSISTING that you watch this pilot called The X-Files, and he did a lot for you guys, so you owe him. So we said ok, and Jim and I were just blown away, we loved it. Well, then we got a problem. We hadn’t seen the other pilot, so we said we’ll see it and it will be good. And we saw that and it was NOT very good, and we kinda backed out of that and got yelled at quite a lot. But it worked out.
Chris (Carter) had done a lot of comedy, a show with Barbara Eden, and he was known as a comedy writer. I imagine that Peter pushed us on Chris, but thankfully we all got along, and we had Marilyn Osborn, who was our story editor that first year.
So great to hear that a woman was involved, considering how few wrote and directed X-Files episodes [sidenote: out of 208 episodes and 2 feature films, only 7 episodes were written by women and only 2 were directed by women. Those two women were Gillian Anderson and Michelle MacLaren. MacLaren went on to do Breaking Bad with fellow X-Files alum Vince Gilligan and now she is developing her own TV series.]
Yes. Michelle MacLaren came on after I left, she’s a great, great director. We had Marilyn and Sara B. Cooper, she went on to write Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
What was it like seeing your name come up on the credits, “executive producers Chris Carter and Glen Morgan” for the first time?
I was shocked, and I begged him to take my name off, I said that’s not right, 200 episodes with just him were already set. I thought Frank Spotnitz had done much more to keep the show alive and more than I ever did. I don’t think Frank was there at the end, even. But I watched those later episodes when doing my homework on William.
Did you, Chris, Jim and Darin sit in a room and plan out these 6 episodes of season 10? Was there a collaboration with the overarching William vibe of this season?
Chris and I met in a bar, he doesn’t drink, but I do. It had been like a year before it was public. It was a secret, the deal was very hard to put together. Finally, Chris and I got together and he said he’d written the third movie on his own, and then he had elements that he wanted to do, but he never showed me that script. I told him what I wanted to do and what Darin wanted to do, and he wanted to see those scripts to see what we were going to do, before he did what became episode 4 and the last one.
“Babylon” and “My Struggle, Part 2”?
That’s right. We would just sit in my backyard and tell each other what we wanted to do, and we used the system of putting index cards with the plot points on a big board and we set them out and everyone would say, what if that went there, what if this went here. We really were trying to be encouraging to each other and be supportive.
There seems to be a divide – the three episodes that you, Darin and Jim did, and the three contrasting Chris Carter episodes. You can see the differences depending on who’s writing, especially with only six episodes total. You notice it going back and binge-watching the show on Netflix in a way you might not have noticed week to week or season to season during the original run. You can see the difference in style. I don’t know if you’ve read the critics, but Chris’s episodes were NOT fan favorites, and critics didn’t like them either. Have you read any of the reviews?
I really have not, I value my sanity. I worked hard to stay away from it. I read one time that Ron Howard has his assistant collect all his reviews and he reads them three months later. So he can learn from them when its not emotional. I think that seems pretty good.
So you’ll read them eventually?
No, probably not.
My Struggle 1 and 2 were disjointed – we got introduced to a Roswell doctor we never saw again, we met Sveta and she was blown up and not mentioned again, Mulder and Scully were apart both professionally and personally. Where was the continuity with those two? They did not feel like they had the core tone of the classic X-Files episodes, which was Mulder and Scully as partners, solving cases.
The one thing that was so nice about this for us was having TXF come back, and – you know how Vince (Gilligan) is a brilliant great writer? The fact that he’s at AMC under executives that allow him to do that, and do what he does, is so wonderful. Along the way, I’ve been on shows and made movies where there were executives that just hammer you and ruin it. I made a movie, Willard, that was that was ruined by being cut to a PG13, execs give notes and they’re wrong, and you try to be a good sport and do your best. My point here is that Dana Walden and Gary Newman (at Fox) gave us total freedom. We didn’t have to run anything by them, there were very few people that were over us.
It was something we weren’t going to do to each other, either. Each writer went off and did their own thing and Jim or Darin would call or run things by me for counsel, but we weren’t going to give each other grief for some things. Chris has a larger plan in mind. That is only shared with select people. I know some stuff. Right now people are complaining, they will go oh, that’s what that was. They’ll see.
He divided Mulder and Scully professionally as well as romantically. People wanted to see them pursuing the truth together.
You agree that he should have put them together?
I’m not putting down what Chris did, but David and Gillian are this thing now – they are now Seinfeld and Kramer, they are iconic. I don’t want to watch The Honeymooners with someone other than Jackie Gleason, it won’t work.
That was a big part of why I didn’t like seasons 8 and 9. David left and it was Scully, and they brought in Doggett and Monica, who I truly dislike. The heart of the show is – and you did this well in “Home Again” – is Mulder and Scully together, supporting each other.
It’s interesting, David and I will text each other a few times a year, ask ‘how are you doing’, etc. I talked to Gillian in passing at the Comic Con event and we’re friends, but we’re not like, hanging out together. But when The X-Files comes, she and I have this connection. I’m writing for Gillian. I always thought she was a very good actress, and in the interim years she’s become a great actress. “Home Again” was for her. She’s great.
I feel like Chris is still making TV for 1999 and not 2016. Especially “Babylon,” which was reviled for the anti-Muslim sentiment. No one really liked it.
I felt that what his point ultimately was, was that we are all here for love. The mother having a kid be born into violence, which isn’t what a mother wants. I was very vocal about this, asking very definitely if this was a subject matter worthy of this series. That’s (terrorist violence) been part of our world for the past 15 years or more. I really didn’t get more adamant about it, because I felt that it was more about how we’re not all here to blow each other up. It’s about the underlying love.
Speaking about the mother aspect of it and Scully’s journey with giving William up, I’m adopted. I just had an article publish on the Mary Sue about my experience seeing one of my favorite characters go through that. Seeing her struggle with her mother’s last words, having them be about William. In filming the adoption narrative, I’m very interested in that, and I wanted to hear your thoughts.
As a writer, you start by putting yourself in the character’s shoes. Then you start looking around, and I know that by my age you see the women around you are getting older and its more difficult to have kids. Adoption becomes an option and a discussion. I did some research, I talked to some people who were adopted, and the continuing emotions and thoughts that arose out of that. Then I imagined how Dana Scully would feel from that.
I’m so glad you went about it that way, talking to adopted individuals. I look forward to seeing it play out. Regarding Scully and her mom, you’ve said in previous interviews that “Home Again” was based on your mom passing. That Maggie’s quarter necklace was the same as one you found after your mom died.
Yes, it was. And the prop department made an exact copy. I gave it to them and said, I want this back. I guess when I was a kid there was somebody had passed away and had a similar thing as well. My father’s family is from Pennsylvania – [here I interrupted to say, “hey! I’m from PA!” Holler to the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County!] My dad’s family is from Scranton/Wilkesbarre. My grandmother would have liked you a lot, being a Pennsylvania girl. [Aw! Glen’s grandma would have liked me, you guys.]
I shot a show in Pittsburgh once and loved it there. I miss it now. I watch all the sports teams. I set “Home Again” in Philly, I was going to do Baltimore but then I didn’t want to go to Baltimore because I feel like The Wire owns that.
Did you see that the 76ers were tweeting Mulder gifs for a few days after? Since he insulted them?
No, that’s great! Also, I didn’t really realize that “Never Again” was set in Philly too!
It wasn’t intentional? I could have sworn it was intentional.
It wasn’t! A friend who is a big fan and works on the show pointed it out to me and I was like, oh wow. So that was a good coincidence.
Let’s talk about “Never Again – Scully is having a feminist moment, saying, this is my life, these are my decisions. I really appreciated you writing that for her. Even though it freaked me out as a kid, the whole dragging her down to the incinerator room wrapped in a sheet! (He laughs.) I wanted to know what your motivation was for writing that for Scully. It was so different from any other episode, really.
Well, thanks. Motivation is Gillian. Mulder is like – and you’re a literature scholar – Mulder is the more ‘fun’ character. He’s going against the norm, he’s being a smartass against the norm, he’s fighting the establishment. She is, kind of in the first couple years, part of that establishment. Gillian was, you were right earlier when you mentioned it, kind of in a boys club. There weren’t a lot of women around, she was it. Producers, crew, etc. So I thought, what can I do for Gillian? And on the other side, I had just gone through a divorce and was kind of going through what the character that Rodney played was going through. The similarity of it. I talked to Gillian about it, she got wind of what I was doing and she sat down and said, I’d like to do this, this, and this, and I said ok. Again, they changed the order [“Never Again” was supposed to air before “Leonard Betts” and Scully discovering she had cancer, but it was moved due to the Superbowl]. She was doing it because of herself, not the cancer situation. I think that is more bold.
It is not a reaction to having a life threatening illness.
No, its not.
Will Scully ever get a desk? And a nameplate?
If you look closely, the UFO at the end of My Struggle II is dropping a nameplate onto the bridge that reads “Dana Scully!”
(Ha, ha. Way to go for the non-answer, right there!)
“Home” and “Home Again” had a mirror image – the conversation on the bench. It was perfect in the way it was shot. Even her hands are the same! Did you look at that scene beforehand?
Yeah, you’re filming in a hospital intensive care ward, it was over a weekend, and I was like, what am I going to do with this thing? We had a set, and I thought – we could go down there, down the hall, they would want to talk away from everybody. There’s a bench! And I knew what the bench talk meant to fans. And I wanted to pay my respects to Kim Manners, so I pulled it up on Netflix or something, and I just screengrabbed and put it on my phone and went to Joel Ransom (the cinematographer) and to David and Gillian and said we’re doing this!
In “Home,” Mulder says, “I’ve never seen you as a mom before,” and it is so weird seeing that now that everything’s gone down. It is so interesting to go back and watch a show after it ends, go back and see what it’s all leading up to.
Yeah, and so much of that is a lot of accidents.
A lot of unintentional, happy accidents?
Gillian would tweet that “the conversation on the log is coming,” the scene at the end of “Home Again” sitting on the log with the ashes at their feet, so I was excited to see this conversation. And I noticed when I went back and watched it a second time that David actually doesn’t have a single line! I was shocked because his presence was so supportive. It’s just Gillian talking, and she even said, “I want to believe” and she called him “Fox” too, she delivers it so perfectly and it’s not cheesy at all, it’s perfect.
You know, they’re incredible. It was that log and a grey morning. I did a show called “Intruders” for BBC that nobody watched, and I shot on the exact same log a year before. They had to come and get hairdryers and blow that log dry so they could sit there. It had rained so we were like, go, just go. We did two takes and it started raining again. We had to sit there under tents for 45 minutes. We went back and she (Gillian) could sit down and pick up right where she left off – boom, in one take, it was done.
I love hearing stuff like that, I’m a nerd for scene setting and camera angles and takes. Is there anything about “Home Again” that you haven’t shared yet? Maybe your favorite part?
I am an enormous Rancid fan, I listened to “Out Come the Wolves” every day on my drive to Fox. Probably when I filmed “Home” I was listening to them. My kids and I go see them every time they’re here, and to approach them, I had Tim (Armstrong, front man for Rancid) in mind when I wrote it. And I didn’t know him, I didn’t know if he was going to be a jerk or really bad or what, but I had a gut feeling that it was going to be good. He’s such an interesting person, I knew if I could get him it would be good. He said that Rancid were huge X-Files fans, it was the only thing they could all agree on watching when they were in the tour bus.
So you were listening to them and they were listening to you, in a way.
Yeah! We’ve become really good friends. And when I wrote the letter, I just sat there looking at my computer going, I don’t know if I want to send this email because if they say no, or they hold me up for money, or they’re jerks, which is 9 times out of 10 what happens, I didn’t want it to happen that way, because I just love that band. And I want to keep seeing their shows so much! But I sent it and it was all good.
Ok here’s a big question from me and the fans. It’s been 23 years, we’ve been waiting a long time, do you think we’ll get a make-out scene? You gotta give it to us!
(laughs) That’s not up to me!
Well deliver a message for me – the fans that have been here for 20 years are not here for black oil or conspiracies, they are here for Mulder and Scully.
Believe me, I know that. I hear you. Loud and clear!
One other fan question about the Cigarette Smoking Man and where we ended the show this season. Why is he still alive? Why hasn’t Mulder put a bullet in his head?
Good question. I kind of – and Bill Davis is a great guy – but I would love to write the scene. Here’s the danger. You’re a lit major, you know what I mean. The CSM is really one of the great villains in TV history. And you better have a better villain – not an equivalent villain, a better villain – when you eliminate him.
I think you’re up to the task, Glen, you could do it! And speaking of that scene, I wanted Skinner to come in instead of Miller and take Mulder back to Scully.
I’m not trying to start trouble, but I wanted it to be William!
To come in and save Mulder?
That would have been awesome! Well maybe he’s on the spaceship above the bridge. That’s my guess.
That’s a good idea!
I really enjoy Skinner! I felt he was underutilized in this season.
He’s a great guy, and Darin and I didn’t have him in our scripts and I was in the gym in our hotel up there [in Vancouver] and he comes in and starts giving me shit because he wasn’t in our episodes. I was like, sorry Mitch, I’ll talk to you later, I’m sweating here. I was trying to avoid that!
Definitely not enough Skinner. When I saw I Want to Believe, I had broken my kneecap a few weeks before, I was miserable. I had a giant brace and was in so much pain but I HAD to see the new X-Files movie on opening day. It was definitely an opening day audience, everyone was excited to be there. When Skinner came onscreen, after Scully had yelled at some incompetent agents to get someone who knew what was going on, and Skinner came out of the car, everyone in the theater whooped it up, they loved seeing him. He’s a fan favorite.
He’s a great actor and I think that becomes, with a show a like that, like Star Trek or Game of Thrones…I definitely know with Star Trek, there are fan favorites. A show that has been around for 50 years like Star Trek, this is 25 years for us almost, you have fans that want too see their favorites. Fans who want them to make out, you have fans that never want to hear about the romance again, you have fans that want a monster show, an alien show, etc. It is different for each fan.
(I stump again for my romance) You need payoff once in a while! (He is amused. Hmph. I AM SERIOUS HERE.)
Will you be back as executive producer for season 11, if we have season 11, which we better?
If I didn’t annoy Chris and he wants us back, yes! And if we can get David and Gillian together. There’s a whole complicated thing to work out.
Thank you again, and good luck with your new project, whatever you’re working on, I don’t know if you can talk about it –
It’s a whole spinoff – it’s nothing but 60 minutes of Mulder and Scully making out!
YOU MADE MY DAY, GLEN! I would watch the heck outta that!
So now you now that Glen Morgan toyed with my fragile shipper heart. But seriously, how awesome is he, to support independent bloggers and grant me this interview? Plus, we got dark wizards and the Conversation on the Bench: Part 2 plus a Conversation on the Log! Not to mention some great stomping around in the dark with the flashlights out and the guns ready. After all – “back in the day IS NOW.”
Things I did not ask or tell Glen, but wanted to:
- Season 1’s “Squeeze” and “Tooms” are two of my all time favorite episodes, with quotes that lived on my wall on a teen – “you don’t always agree with me, but at least you respect the journey” and the iced tea/root beer, love/fate stakeout
- Why did Carter break up Mulder and Scully only to have them behave like married people in “Home Again”? If we had to sit through Mulder’s acid trip, why wasn’t Scully in it?
- “Beyond the Sea” (also Season 1, and co-written by Glen) featured Brad Dourif as a serial killer, and he scared me so bad I had nightmares (I was 12 or 13). When he appeared on Star Trek: Voyager several years later, I ran yelling from the room.
- Why did you kill both of Scully’s parents, and why did Darin kill her dog? You guys are so harsh!
- Tell Darin I love him and love his episodes. That is also the way I like my Mulder.