Just over 20 years ago, a little science fiction drama named "The X-Files" premiered on Fox in the television wasteland that is the Friday night time slot. Experts can argue over when today's "golden age of television" officially began, but to ignore the impact that "The X-Files" has had on TV since the first little gray alien scampered across our screens would be a mistake.
Stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny first met when the future Dana Scully asked the future Fox Mulder to run lines before their audition. The duo reunited at the Paley Center for Media in New York on this past weekend to look back at the hit show that lasted nine seasons and spawned two movies (with fans crying for a third). Here are ten things we learned at The Truth Is Here: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson on "The X-Files."
The red Speedo was Duchovny's idea. In the season two episode "Duane Barry," Mulder emerges from a pool in a skimpy red Speedo. Shots from the episode have since made their rounds the internet and adorned many a computer background. Duchovny explained that not only was the Speedo his own personal suit, but sporting it was his suggestion. "Chris Carter wanted me to wear board shorts 'cause he's a California guy. I said, nobody swims laps in board shorts," Duchovny said. "I said, let me wear my own suit. And I have regretted it ever since!"
They thought the show would bomb. It took until season three for Anderson and Duchovny to realize that their show might survive. "I thought it would tank," said Anderson. To them, they were working actors who took a gig. "We needed to live," said Duchovny. "We just wanted a job." Turns out Duchovny also correctly predicted fan frustration. "I thought eventually we'd have to see the alien. People are going to be pissed if we don't see the alien."
Gillian Anderson loves the comedic episodes. Anderson relished the times when skeptical Scully could cut loose. "I love doing comedy," she said. "It was a wonderful break for us among all the seriousness of life and death."
There was once a penis puppeteer on set. The season two episode "Humbug" had the duo looking into a series of attacks within a community of sideshow performers. The show used an actual circus troupe which included a member who was talented with his own member. "That guy could do all of those penis tricks," Anderson recalled fondly, to which Duchovny replied, "He didn't do those in the episode!" Anderson burst into laughter and described the puppeteer's talents. "Wind surfer, flying squirrel, hamburger. All good!"
They were never that into the mythology. Anderson and Duchovny both admitted that it was even hard for them to understand what was going on throughout the show's run. "The mythology stuff I never followed," Anderson said to which Duchovny added, "Well, they were making it up as they went along," leading to gasps and applause from the audience. He continued, "Gillian getting pregnant and having to go away for an episode or two was really the motivator of the whole mythology thing. I don't think Chris ever had an idea that that would be part of the show, let alone the part of the show that people liked the most."
Duchovny thanked Anderson for being there for him when he directed. Anderson chose to show a clip from the season six episode Duchovny directed called "The Unnatural" where Mulder and Scully play baseball together. "I never said this, but when I was directing, I knew she was tired," Duchovny said. "And there were times when we would be more prepared or less, let's say, than others. She really was there and you can see it in that scene that she was just doing wonderful work for me and I recognized it and I don't think I ever told you that."
But he wasn't that into "William." The season nine episode "William" which examined the uniqueness of Mulder and Scully's son, was also directed by Duchovny, though it's the one episode of his three that he said he's not that attached to. "It was servicing the plot of the year," Duchovny said. "It wasn't very personal."
Anderson knows how baby William came to be. During audience questions, one fan asked, "How was William conceived?" Anderson replied, jokingly, "Do I really have to explain this to you?" Duchovny interrupted with, "A bottle of red!" But Anderson has her own theory: "Does it make sense that it would have been during 'all things'?" she asked of the season seven episode that she wrote and directed. Moderator Keith Uhlich chimed in, "It could have also been the miracle baby thing," but both Anderson and Duchovny groaned at the suggestion.
Mulder and Scully might have given each other dirty gifts. Another fan asked what might have been in the Christmas gifts that the characters gave each other in season six's "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas." Anderson snapped, "I know what I needed." To which the fan pointed out the gift Mulder gave Scully was, in fact, cylindrical and Scully's present to Mulder was "VHS shaped," hinting at Mulder's infatuation with pornography.
Gillian Andserson wants to appear on "Californication" with the best idea ever. "As a Scully-impersonating stripper," she said to Duchovny. "That you have sex with!"