NYCC: Anderson & Duchovny Discuss ‘The X-Files’ 20th Anniversary
After four days of festivities celebrating anime, television, film and comics, New York Comic Con drew to a close with its final presentation on the Main Stage: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny talking all things X-Files, and taking one very special fan request.
As incredible as it seems, 20 years have passed since the show made its debut on Fox back in 1993. But when The X-Files stars took to the stage, it seemed no time had passed as the elated crowd broke out into giddy applause. Sadly, show creator Chris Carter couldn’t attend, but Duchovny made sure he wouldn’t miss out. After telling the audience it was Carter’s birthday, he asked that the audience sing, while he recorded video of it for Carter. Of course, the audience — all fanatics of the science fiction procedural Carter had spun out over nine seasons and two movies (The X-Files, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe) — was quick to burst into “Happy Birthday,” many singing at the top of their lungs.
The raucous atmosphere never really mellowed as fans repeatedly bellowed out catch phrases, proclamations of love, and other random exclamations throughout the Q&A. Anderson and Duchovny played along with the informal tone, teasing a fan who cosplayed as Duchovny’s Californication character Hank Moody, asking the crowd for a tissue (Anderson) or gum (Duchovny), and improvising a modern Mulder/Scully scene at audience prompting that quickly turned sexual and awkward like something out of fan fiction.
It began innocently enough as Anderson said, “Mulder, it’s me.”
“What is it, Scully? What’s up? What have you got?” Duchovny replied, before breaking character to ask, “Are we on the phone? We’re on the phone. We’re on the phone in this improv? What are you wearing? Scully, what are you wearing?”
The audience exploded into squeals, then Anderson responded, “Well, Mulder, on my little legs I’ve got–”
“Hold on a second,” Duchovny as Mulder interrupted. “I’ve got to get comfortable. Go ahead. What?”
“Actually today,” Anderson began again, “I’m wearing a purple lycra pantsuit. Does that turn you on?”
“Slow down,” instructed Duchovny, adding, “You had me at purple…Lycra? It doesn’t breathe.” Anderson began to laugh, and brought the scene to a close saying, “I’m sorry we’re breaking up.”
Of course, there were more serious questions, some of which the two are so used to hearing they didn’t need to hear the whole query before answering. “We’d love to. Chris would love to,” Duchovny said when the inevitable inquiry about third X-Files movie arose. And he sidelined any talk of their other projects, saying “I don’t think people want to talk about the new stuff — they want to hear us talk about The X-Files.” Still, Anderson did get a cheer from Hannibal fans by assuring them she would be back for season two.
Asked about how they were involved in the development of their characters. “Once a character gets handed to an actor, he or she becomes the caretaker of them, the boss of that character,” Duchovny began. “And they can write whatever they want pretty much, but it’s up to you, it’s up to me, it’s up to Gillian, to make it consistent with the guy or the girl that we made.”
For her part, Anderson said she found some inspiration for Scully in Jodie Foster’s portrayal of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Early on she spent time researching all the big words in Scully’s dialogue, but as the seasons went on, and she grew more comfortable with the character, the research fell away. “And then I stopped and just acted,” she said.
According to Duchovny, his research was more about learning to use firearms, though he admitted Mulder was not your typical FBI agent in just about any other respect. “It was a procedural show…but the procedure it wasn’t that important to get it so right,” Duchovny said. “That wasn’t really wasn’t the heart of the show. That’s not an excuse. It’s just our focus wasn’t on that. We probably actually broke just about every rule the FBI has. I think we were horrible FBI agents. I know we would get fired, and aside from the fact we never ever solved one case.”
Anderson got unexpectedly political when one fan asked for the craziest conspiracy theory she has ever heard, and she answered, “The most ridiculous conspiracy theory I have heard lately is that Obama is trying to ruin America with a health care plan. Is that crazy enough?”
Later, Duchovny explained a bit about the show’s visually dark look, saying, “In the beginning our DP [director of photography], a fellow by the name of John Bartley, was a really good DP. The decision to make the show as dark as it was, was one necessitated by budget because there was really nothing to see. They couldn’t afford to make something to see.”
“Is that true?” Anderson asked.
“Yes,” Duchovny continued, “Bartley and Chris (Carter) decided on this very dark look for the show … by the third season, the show was actually getting quite expensive. As the show went on, it became a very expensive show to make, and you saw more. I don’t know if that makes it a better show but by the end of the show it was probably the most expensive show on television, I’d imagine, technically.”
This explanation prompted a question about whether the pair would be doing commentary tracks for a new DVD release. They both said they had done some, though they couldn’t recall if it was for the show or movies. Then they agreed that no one would want a commentary track from them now, as they’d forgotten so much. “We don’t really remember it well enough to give you good stuff,” Duchovny explained.
But Duchovny, speaking for them both, said they’d be happy to reteam with former X-Files writer (and Breaking Bad creator) Vince Gilligan, who penned 29 episodes of the series, including the controversial “Home” as well as Anderson’s personal favorite, “Bad Blood.” “We knew Vince was a really talented writer when he was on the show,” Duchovny said. “Some of his episodes were some of our favorites … We go by material, not by people. And Vince makes good material so of course, yeah, we’d work with Vince probably, depending on the material.”
Gillian added that she and Duchovny had discussed the day before how Darin Morgan, another X-Files scribe, was among their favorite writers on the show, and how they’d like to “do something funny together in the future.” But Duchovny noted, “I love Darin, but he takes a long time.”
After being thanked for the show by a questioner and then the crowd’s applause, Duchovny responded, “We would like to thank you on behalf of everybody who created the show because we acted in it but there were 200 people that made that show at any given time. The show that went out into the world is the product of all of us. We can sit here and say, ‘You’re welcome,’ but we’d like to say we’re welcome from all of us.”
At one point, Anderson was clearly cold, and Duchovny chivalrously removed his coat, and draped it around her shoulders, inciting more squeals from the crowd. Later, when Anderson talked about Mulder and Scully’s slow-burn romantic relationship, a simple touch drove the audience wild. “I personally enjoyed the fact that they didn’t get together for a really long time,” Anderson said. “I thought that the writers were clever enough to drag it out. In later seasons even the touch of a hand, or a hug or whatever was meaningful.” Then, Duchovny placed a hand on her shoulder, igniting hoots from the crowd.
But for all the fan love that was showered upon Duchovy and Anderson, the moment that got the audience of nearly 3,000 people on their feet came with the final fan question, which wasn’t for them at all. After thanking Duchovny and Anderson for coming to do the panel, Miguel Acuna from Elmsford, New York, said, “What I take away from the show is how important it is to have a really good partner. Either it’s someone who challenges what you think and is your complete opposite, or thinks the way you do as well, and always supports you. So with that I actually have a request and a question. The request is if I could have your blessing, and my question is actually to my girlfriend.”
The audience roared and rose to their feet, turning to see Acuna walk away from the mic and drop to his knee before his girlfriend Morgan Childs. In the video here, you can barely make out his proposal over the crowd, but you can see Childs nod yes. After this, Duchovny said, “I think what we should do, you asked for our blessing, you guys should come up here.” The fiancés took to the stage. While the DJ played “Chapel of Love,” Anderson and Duchovny congratulated them as the audience gave them a standing ovation.
As the couple left the stage, the panel drew to a close with Anderson auctioning off her t-shirt for one of her charities. The bids quickly rose from $20 to $300. Ultimately, the winner bid $700 for the shirt that Duchovny noted “has Scully DNA on it.” The auction was closed and Say Yes got a hefty donation thanks to NYCC and X-Files fandom.