Quirky characters supply sinister support

'X-Files'

Rounding up the usual suspects for another episode of “The X-Files” means that — more often than not — the most UNusual usual suspects will come out of the dark.

Cancer Man might round a corner to pollute the noirish atmosphere with his secondary smoke. The ever-quirky Lone Gunmen might be called upon by the writers to come up with another cracked conspiracy theory. Or FBI agent Alex Krycek might be back to annoy Scully and Mulder.

The always ambiguous Assistant Director Skinner lends an off-center spin to most of his scenes. And it might not even be far-fetched if X, Mulder’s reluctant deep-background informant — who was killed off in an episode — might re-appear, because, well, you never know what’s in store on “The X-Files.”

“It’s like Chris Carter says: ‘Nobody truly dies on ‘The X-Files,’ ” says Steven Williams, the actor who inhabited X. Williams, like the other actors who play or played recurring supporting parts on the series, enjoys the recognition of the popular and critically accepted Fox show.

“I don’t think any of us realized how successful this show would be,” says William B. Davis, who plays the hardened and repressive chain-smoking Cancer Man. “When we did the pilot, we joked that we hoped it would go series. Right — a paranormal series a success. And then the phenomenon. Who knew?”

The show has meant more to some careers and lives than they had previously suspected.

“This show means a lot,” says Mitch Pileggi, who plays Skinner. “I met my wife, Arlene, on this show — she’s Gillian’s (Anderson’s) photo double. The financial aspect, the freedom I have, the opportunity to work with wonderful people — all of these things have come from the show.”

Nicholas Lea, who plays Krycek, feels that the show “pretty much changed my life on every level.” He says, “It’s given me much visibility within the business, allowed me to understand that I can play on an Emmy-nominated show, helped my bank account and gained me some close friends. I’m pretty fortunate and pretty proud. I’m just lucky to be here.”

Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund and Bruce Harwood play the ambiguously labeled Lone Gunmen — Frohike, Langly and Byers, respectively — who publish their theories in “The Lone Gunman” newsletter. The popularity of the series and of their recurring roles surprised them all.

“The show took on a life of its own and it’s been bemusing to watch the whole thing unfold,” says Braidwood, who’s also one of the first assistant directors on the show.

“The director of that first season show, (William H.) Billy Graham, asked me to do it and it’s tremendously easy for me to say yes to him,” Braidwood says. “And the writers have done a good job filling in gaps, expanding the depth of our roles.”

“It’s been a joy,” Haglund says. “But a bone of contention with me is that we get labeled a science-fiction show. We’re not science-fiction. We’re not warping around and beaming up. We’re a science-reality-based show.”

Williams feels that the fact that everything and everyone in the show is “usually on edge and off-center” is a reason for its wild popularity. “Also, it’s ridiculous anymore to consider that we are alone in the universe. And this show addresses the question of the existence of governmental conspiracies.”

“It’s fun to be part of a series that I enjoy to watch,” Harwood says. “The Lone Gunmen are usually shot in this dark basement with two dinky lights. The trick is not to smile. But David (Duchovny) is always cracking jokes of some sort.

“We’re always scheduled as the last thing to do that day and you get some weird things happening. One episode, they decided to put the Lone Gunmen on skates. So production in L.A. called up and asked if we could all skate. And someone said, ‘Sure, they’re all Canadians.’ Well, none of us could, except Tom a bit. I fell down and sprained my wrist and had to have ice packed on it all day.”

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