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Chris Carter Talks Returning to The X-Files in 2016 

Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.
Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.

Whether you’re picking up The X-Files again or for the very first time, you can appreciate the Herculean task series creator Chris Carter had in revisiting his characters and mythology 22 years after their story began. We had the chance to join a press call with Carter just before the premiere, where he talked about what the return meant for him and the show.

I asked about the decision to invert everything Mulder thought he knew and how that would play out across these six new episodes. “In a way, all six explore it because they are told in a contemporary context.  They turn the mythology not necessarily on its head, but the mythology takes a big right-hand turn and that plays most actively in the first and last episodes,” he says. “[Now, there is] what I would call a very strong undercurrent of distrust for government, authority, and for the picture we’re being sold.”

“Anyone who’s picked up a newspaper recently, or gone on the Internet, knows that we live in an era of tremendous amount of suspicion and distrust of not only our government leaders but world government.  So that’s an interesting time to tell an X-Files story. When we went off the air in 2002, there could not have been more trust in government and institutions, and we allowed a lot of our rights and liberties to be abridged in the name of security. I think that we’ve all witnessed now the abuse of that trust and The X-Files wants to point a very bright light at some of those dark corners that have developed.”

Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.
Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.

“I see it as now part and parcel of a conspiracy that has actually mushroomed…it’s not as if we are saying what Mulder once believed can be thrown out the window.  It’s now what Mulder once believed is a fraction of what looks like a much larger picture that had been kept from him. He’s got a heroic quality. He’s the most unlikely hero, but he does have a kind of heroic quality, in that sense, and the mythology that developed around him gave him a kind of savior-like quality.  That said, I would never label him a savior, but I would label him an agent of change.”

Mulder and Scully are the lifeblood of The X-Files and Carter says it was important to capture who they are now that they’re back in the same space, after a deliberate decision to be apart. “As you see, they’re no longer together. They’re not under the same roof, I should say, so that provided an interesting point of departure dramatically and I think that it made the characters interesting to explore because that’s how they began their lives together,” he explains. “Their lives changed.  They were a couple and now they’re apart, so as we’ve lived our lives, they have lived theirs.  That’s the way we’re playing it.”

“[We thought] that Mulder and Scully would have had a very hard time living under the same roof based on their personalities and their passions. I see Mulder now as probably because he’s got Google and the Internet and search engines, he probably spends a lot of time sitting at home in front of his computer in his underwear. I didn’t imagine that would sit well with Scully who is a serious scientist and doctor, so I…believe it would spell a bump in the road for them, which is why you find them not together.  But I think you’ll see, through the course of these six episodes, that they begin to be drawn closer together through not just their investigations but through…a deep love for one another. [William] does not appear again in the series, but he is important to the arc of the stories going forward.”

Carter’s opening and closing episodes are titled “My Struggle,” a specific nod to The Knausgaard series of novels. “I really look at Mulder’s life as becoming very tedious and very confined and…I think he’s been struggling with some depression,” he says. “I saw the Knausgaard title as really, for me, indicative of how I was looking at Mulder’s life and how he may be looking at his own life.”

Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.
Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.

He says that when the series was rebooted, Fox had some ideas, but they didn’t impose a specific mandate on him. “They were very respectful that the producers know what they’re doing and what we’re doing. [but] they were very specific about where they wanted to do it, which was Vancouver, which was music to my ears,” he says. “[Even better was] when they called me they said David and Gillian wanted to do it.  I wouldn’t have done without David and Gillian.  I think there’s this idea that I own the show and I don’t.  I’m…a stakeholder in this show but Fox can do anything they darn well please.”

“There was a tremendous amount of respect. Fox was very hands-off in almost all respects.  That’s not to say they didn’t have notes, they didn’t have ideas, they didn’t have suggestions, they didn’t have good direction…They have done a fantastic job marketing this show, but it’s funny that we came back to do six episodes which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t seem like very many.  I can tell you that I’ve worked as hard on these six episodes as I ever worked on this show and my involvement with Fox was as…collaborative as I’ve ever experienced.”

“I think everyone had a very good experience.  I think everyone’s happy with the way it worked out.  I think, now, it’s waiting to see if we build it, will the audience come?  I hope they will.  It seems as if there is a viewership out there but, you know, we live in a different world now where the viewership is fractured.  Fox has fewer viewers.  They are able to market, do on-air promotions [but that] reaches fewer people. Everyone’s got to get the word out there in order to get the ratings that will promote more episodes.”

“Right now, we’re so focused on this [and] there are no talks about doing anything else.  I can tell you, there is a constant drumbeat to bring back Millennium, and I’m just always so taken by that, also that hardcore group of fans out there who would like to see it back.  I have ideas how it might come back but, it’s really, once again, it’s a Fox show.  They own it,” he says. “It’s really up to them whether or not they would ever want to go down that road.  But, you know, I also think Harsh Realm would deserve another chance.  I’m not sure if The Lone Gunmen would ever see the light of day, but Unique would be a show I would love to see done, if not at Fox, someplace else.”

Now that Carter has put six more hours to the story of these characters, his plans for other projects with them have evolved. “I like doing the television show because it gives me a chance to tell a lot of interesting X-Files stories.  I probably wouldn’t want to do the third movie that I wrote.  I think I would have to rethink it,” he shares. ” I might use some elements of it.  I can tell you that if and when we do a third movie, I wouldn’t do it if it were not the proper budget and the proper release date.  I feel we didn’t have either in the last movie, so I’d be looking to do something more like the first movie.”

“There’s [also] an episode that I’ve wanted to do for about 20 years and one day I actually may do it, but it didn’t work out in this series.  You know, when you only have six, you have to be very selective of the kinds of stories you tell and they’ve got to work not just individually but kind of work together as a whole and so I think that’s why you’re seeing the episodes that you’re seeing now.”

Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.
Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Co.

Getting the OG team back together with Glen and Darin Morgan and James Wong happened organically. “I don’t remember specifically calling them and asking them.  It kind of happened—Glen and I share an agent, so it kind of happened through our agent and then the same agent told me that Jim was interested. Glen told me that Darin was interested,” he recalls. “The band kind of folded back together in the most natural way.  Everyone had good ideas. Jim and I are tennis players.  We played tennis one day, sat down and talked about his episode, but Glen and Darin both had very worked-out ideas when we first met in Glen’s backyard way back in the spring of last year.  So the band came back together as if no time had passed at all.”

Another OG team we’ll see again are the Lone Gunmen, but Carter would only tease that “I would only spoil it for you if I told you, but I can tell you that they come back in a way that you will absolutely never expect. If I gave you 100 guesses, right now, you’d never get it.”

Another treat for old-school folks is the wink, nudge of Easter eggs, and Carter says we’ll see those throughout. [I can vouch you absolutely will tonight]. “When you do a show that has been off the air for 14 years, it’s funny that…you do unintended Easter eggs,” he says. “There are specific ones and then there are the unintentional ones that come just because the show has to be self-referential in order to tell these stories.”

Carter was aware that with these six, they had to navigate between casual fans, new fans, and hardcore fans. “It was important to us to actually be mindful that there’s an audience out there that we know, they know the show.  They know it better than I do, to be honest, and this series is for them.  But if there are to be more of these episodes, we have to be inclusive of a casual viewing audience, people who may have seen it, may have known about it in the past, but…I have to tell you that I’ve had a number of times kids say to me that they loved the show and I look at them and I realize that they weren’t even born when the show was on,” he says. “Maybe some of them were not even born when the show went off the air, so we’ve got another audience out there that we need to make sure that we don’t forsake going forward.”

The X-Files airs Mondays at 8/7c on FOX. Click here for a preview of tonight’s new episode.

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