INTERVIEW: David Duchovny Talks THE X-FILES Revival

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The wait is finally over and the truth is still out there. The X-Files returns to TV tonight on FOX with the first of the six episodes in the highly anticipated revival event series. We caught up with star David Duchovny at New York Comic Con in October to talk up the show.

It goes without saying we’re pretty excited to see Duchovny reprise his role as Fox Mulder from the iconic sci-fi series along with Gillian Anderson as FBI Agent Dana Scully. We had the opportunity to sit in on a roundtable with Duchovny where he talked about coming back to the series and what fans can expect.

QUESTION: It sounded like you drove this project. That you called Chris and said, “Want to do this.” I know he saddled you with that. Tell us a little bit about that-

DAVID DUCHOVNY: That’s not true though.

QUESTION: Tell us then how it really happened.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: Cause he’s- he’s joking. He’s very deadpan. How did it happen?

QUESTION: And why?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: We’ve always talked about it. You know, the three of us will talk occasionally about doing more. We did the movie in 2008 I think it was, and then there didn’t seem to be any appetite from Fox for another movie. I assumed it was dead. People have talked about doing it on television. I would say, “Of course not,” because I thought of television as 22 episodes, 25 episodes, and we’ll never do that again. I’ll never do that again. Uh, anything. So, I assumed it was dead and then, uh, with the rise of cable, and then the new model of the cable season, and a limited series run. Then networks catching on to that idea. I mean Aquarius, that’s 13 episodes. The Following. These kind of limited run now on networks. On the cable model. Then it became obvious to Chris and I, like, “Oh, well maybe we can do it on television. Maybe this actually a really good format for telling a ten hour story. An eight hour story. A six hour story.”

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QUESTION: Do you feel that it’s more impactful when you have a limited amount of time. More than two hours but kind of less than 24?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: Yeah. Who knows what the right amount of time is. I just know that I see the kind of storytelling that you can do over multiple hours, uh, that’s less than multiples of 25. I mean, there’s a happy medium somewhere. 25 is too many for a human being to create high quality drama entertainment a year. Maybe Aaron Sorkin can do it. I don’t know, but if we can do six, if we can do eight, if we can do 13.13 seems to be a lot.

QUESTION: How is it different doing The X-Files in 2015 when there’s so much more attention to things like conspiracy and Edward Snowden. You talked about this a little bit in the panel, but how did that inform the show in the six episodes?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I don’t think about any of that kind of stuff when I’m working. I kind of have to be in a cone of silence you know. I don’t listen to what the fans want, and I don’t say that because I don’t appreciate the fans. I do. I just say it because I think our job is to make the show, and the best show that we make is when we focus on making our show and doing our jobs the best that we can, and not paying attention to if people want to see Mulder and Scully’s kiss or whatever, and stuff like that. So in terms of the conspiracies and stuff like that, I think it’s really a question for Chris because he wrote the wrote the lion’s share of the shows. I didn’t write any of these, so I hadn’t put my head into that kind of a thought process.

QUESTION: It’s only been one episode, but seeing the new version of Mulder kind of felt like he had a little bit of Hank Moody in there. And it might be some of the stuff we’ve seen, we haven’t seen off camera, and the time spent between the last movie and a little bit of depression he’s gone through, and self loathing. Did any bit of that character you channeled in this new version of Mulder that we’ve seen?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: No, I think you’re just reacting to stubble and longer hair. It’ll change in the next episode. When I get back to work, I’ll look more like Mulder again.

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QUESTION: Have you thought a lot about, I don’t know if it’s covered in the show or not, but where Mulder’s been from where we went back to where we are now?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: No. That’s another thing. I do my work, which is private and secretive and it’s my prerogative to keep it private and secretive. But I haven’t come up with any story about the broad strokes of what you know. I mean you see that his marriage has not worked out. You see that he’s living alone in some house in the middle of nowhere. You see he’s not shaving. You see he’s not going to work. I mean, [laughs] you can fill in the blanks what’s been going on.

QUESTION: You mentioned you and Gillian worked together for so many years. What did you miss the most about not working together and then coming back?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I think the amount of time that Gillian and I put in together enabled us to create a kind of working relationship that was very intuitive and instinctive. We kind of intuitively knew how to make scenes that were dry or about exposition. Also relationship scenes, between a man and a woman or two people. I think that’s one of the great things about the show is that we were able to spend that much time together and figure out how to do that.

I think that when people react they want Mulder and Scully together. I think the great thing about the show is it never really went fully. It’s not Grey’s Anatomy, you know? I don’t want to see Mulder and Scully on the couch at the therapist’s office. But if we do our jobs well, there’s going to be an aura of a relationship working or not working even when we’re talking about aliens and the crap that we talk about. So, I feel like that’s kind of magical and that’s a function of having been doing it for so long.

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QUESTION: In the panel, I think it was Chris said that when you talked to him, you said you wanted to punch him in the face for the first episode, with the series.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I don’t even remember saying that either.

QUESTION: [laughter] It’s a good line.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I know, well, that one I’ll take.

QUESTION: All right, take that one.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: The first one, I was like, “What the fuck are you talking about?”

QUESTION: Talk about that process of how did you react to that seeing it today, but also playing the part on a day-to-day basis and seeing it unfold. Or not.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: Well, I think there’s two different answers because one is, as an actor playing that character, the danger would be for me to run out and want to come out and punch you in the mouth with difference. Like, we’re doing it different, this is a whole new thing. When in fact the stronger move is to do the same guy. It has to be the same guy. It’s the same character. Yeah, maybe he’s got a little stubble, maybe he’s fallen on hard times. But it’s the same guy.

The other stuff, the punching in the mouth stuff is really the money on the screen. What I thought Chris did really well about the tweaking an apology was to put everything that The X-Files fans or people that know the show believe, kind of turning it slightly. I think that’s very smart. I think the show looks great. I mean I wasn’t even present for most of the spaceship stuff. I thought it looked great.

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QUESTION: Joel McHale plays a big part in the pilot. It was a big role. He’s on the screen just as much as you and Gillian. Were you involved in the casting of that part at all? What did Joel bring to the series?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I was slightly involved in the casting of that, but just kind of peripherally. I enjoyed working with Joel. I thought he brought a really good kind of new energy to that kind of a Glenn Beck-ish kind of character. It’s a tough character to play and I like what he did. I like seeing him up there today. I thought he did a great job.

X-Files-Group-NYCCQUESTION: Did it feel good to hear all those cheers today when you guys appear on screen?

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I felt like the pencils got the biggest cheer of the night, and that made me feel a little weird.

QUESTION:   But they gave us the mythologies.

DAVID DUCHOVNY: I know. No, it’s gratifying that people like the show so much. I just don’t want to trade just on that, you know? We didn’t come back just to throw six in-joke episodes winking at your face. I didn’t want that. Chris didn’t want that. Gillian didn’t want that. So as much as we love the fact that people respond to what they know, we also are very interested in making it move.

The X-Files returns tonight with the first of the two-night premiere at 10PM and January 25th at 8PM. David Duchovny returns along with Gillian Anderson. Joining them are Mitch Pileggi, Joel McHale, Robbie Amell, Annabeth Gish, Lauren Ambrose, Kumail Nanjiani, Annet Mahendru, Rhys Darby and William B. Davis.

Jim Kiernan
Founder and moderator of Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel. Steering this ship the best I can. Lifelong opinionated geek & pop culture enthusiast. Independent television & film professional. Born & raised New Yorker. My dog Nicholas is awesome.

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