The X Files Fox
Courtesy of Fox

The X-Files” has been absent from the small screen for 13 years, which created a particular challenge for series creator Chris Carter, who describes Fox’s six-episode revival as a “a re-entry” into the paranormal world of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). “You had to get back into the characters’ lives, where they’ve been, their relationship…”

At the show’s Television Critics Association press tour presentation in Pasadena, Calif., Duchovny wryly described the new season as “a bento box of ‘X-Files,'” echoing Carter’s sentiment by pointing out, “you have to pay homage to the mythology that we’ve done, as well as introduce the new twist that Chris has created for the series. You have to honor the fans as well as introducing it to people who don’t know anything.”

The reunion between Mulder and Scully has been many years in the making (Carter admitted that he’d previously written a script for a third “X-Files” movie “because I was interested in where it might go,” but felt the concept didn’t fit a series format), but the actors said the reality of the situation didn’t hit them until much closer to production. For Duchovny, it was when he received the script for the first episode, while for Anderson, it was during a Comic-Con appearance right before they started shooting. “It wasn’t until I was sitting on that stage in front of the audience… [feeling] the degree of enthusiasm that there was for it. When the theme music played, it was the first time in my life of ‘The X-Files’ that I completely got what it might be like for an audience to sit on a couch and hear that music play for the first time… the excitement that they felt,” she said.

The new series was originally conceived as eight episodes before being scaled back to six, but Carter said that the short order works well for the format. “Six works; you get a variety of episodes, and two strong mythology episodes.” The creator noted that the original series “never pandered” to viewers, and that he sees the new iteration of the show as “a chance to make good on a promise [to fans]. We’re coming back to do really fresh, original material, not a victory lap — this is an opportunity to prove that the show has more life in it.”

As of now, Carter said there hasn’t been any “talk about spinoffs of any sort just now,” but Fox bosses Dana Walden and Gary Newman did insist that the network is “absolutely” interested in more episodes, pending the actors’ availability. “We would love to do this again, so we’d be on board if schedules can be worked out,” Newman said at Fox’s executive session at TCA.

After almost a decade away from the characters (the duo reunited in 2008 for the show’s second spinoff movie, “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”) Duchovny and Anderson admitted that it took them a while to come to terms with the popularity of their characters and the lasting cultural impact of the show.

“It took me a long time to embrace it when we were done with the series; it took a good decade to start thinking of it as the gift it was and to properly appreciate the opportunity we had and how fortunate I was to play such a great, iconic character in a show that was iconic in itself,” Anderson said.

Duchovny agreed. “It took a while to recognize it as the gift that it is, and that’s why we’re able to come back now,” he said. “It acted as a spur for me to go out and do more work, to keep expanding myself as an artist or whatever I am… to not settle after it was done.”

The actors were also pleased to tap back into the chemistry that always enthralled viewers, which Duchovny said has been deepened by time. “At this point, having known each other and worked together so much over the last 20 years, we’ve gone beyond chemistry to history, which is even better,” he said. “Gillian and I actually have history so we don’t have to play it, it’s there… We have chemistry and history and we’re gonna try and get biology in there.”

One of the biggest changes for Carter in approaching the new series was the political climate. “We’re living in a time where there’s a tremendous amount of distrust toward authority, the government, even the media,” he noted. “I’ve cherry-picked some of the things that are frightening to me and if even one of them comes true, it’ll be a very bad thing for America… It’s an interesting time to be shining lights into the darkness.”

“The X-Files” revival premieres Sunday, Jan. 24 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Fox.

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