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Chris Carter and Cast Explain Why ‘The X-Files’ Revival Is ‘a Trip Down Memory Lane’

The truth is still out there and, after an over-thirteen-year hiatus, the search continued Tuesday at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Iconic series “The X-Files'” original cast members David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, William B. Davis and Mitch Pileggi were joined by new additions Joel McHale, Kumail Nanjiani, Robbie Amell, Lauren Ambrose and returnee Annabeth Gish, who co-starred in the last two seasons of the series. On the premiere red carpet, Variety played compare and contrast with the new and returning actors about what gave them deja vu this time around and what, if anything, about their “X Files” experience surprised them.

Anderson had a strong sense of deja vu from a particular location: “There are a few locations in Vancouver that we spent a lot of time in, including an old abandoned insane asylum that we spent many episodes in, so that was probably the biggest deja vu, the most unfortunate deja vu.” As for surprises, Anderson said, “It surprised me how challenging I found it at the very beginning to slip back into her. I was expecting it to be easier than it was. I don’t like first and second days in general; I always have a hard time. I expected that that wouldn’t necessarily be the case with this and I was wrong.”

Pileggi felt the deja vu in his office. “The furniture’s moved around,” he said. “There’s a new president on the wall. We went through three presidents: Clinton, Bush and now Obama’s on the wall.” Pileggi confessed he stole some of the knick-knacks from his office set to take home when the show ended in 2002. “Originally, there was a bulldog on my desk and it’s on my desk at home now.” As for surprises, Pileggi smiled and said, “Nothing surprises me in life now. I’ve seen a lot.”

Davis felt the rush of deja vu when he was “face to face with Mulder.” Davis also teased, “The wardrobe was fine, it was the makeup that was the problem. And I’ll say no more about that.”

Gish returns in the role of Monica, a role she originally played near the end of the original series. “Monica is and has always been a complicated woman,” she said. “She’s always been a believer, not a skeptic, but I think she proves she’s more complicated this go around. I was surprised by the boldness of how far they’ve gone with the story. What Chris has always done with Gillian and David and Robert (Patrick) and I when we joined, there’s nothing boring. Just when you think you know what will happen, the unexpected happens.”

The newbies:

McHale is still incredulous that he’s now part of one of his all-time favorite shows. “I think it’s the procedural crime drama but no one understood that back then, because you cared so deeply about these characters,” he relayed. “I think with a lot of procedurals, that all falls away.” McHale joked (or so it seemed) about how he was approached to be part of the revival: “Chris Carter used a quill pen and wrote a long screed on a scroll in Latin and I replied with my carrier pidgeon. My reaction was jumping up and down.” And what surprises did McHale encounter while working on the super-secret episodes? “I just didn’t think my character [Tad O’Malley] would be so sexy.”

Nanjiani is another superfan of the show, and his podcast “The X-Files Files” is a must for diehard fans. Nanjiani got an email from one of the show’s writers, Darin Morgan, who said he’d written an episode and asked if Nanjiani wanted to be in it. “I waited 30 seconds to respond, and said, ‘sure, of course.’ Then I sat there silently for five minutes. Then I told my wife,” he said. “It took four months before I was sure I was doing it. I had to go through all the approvals of Fox and Chris Carter.” Was it easy for the “Silicon Valley” actor to shift gears for “The X-Files”? “No, I’ve never done a sci-fi/horror thing like that and my character is a guy who’s scared, so I just channeled how scared I actually was being on “The X Files” — don’t mess up! There was real fear and I was intimidated — not by David and Gillian, because they’re not intimidating. I’ve been watching them since I was a kid.”

Amell is in two episodes of the revival, playing FBI Agent Miller. Amell has had experience with shows that have fervent fans; he guested in episodes of “The Flash.” Amell shared, “The nice thing is, it’s a similar demographic. It’s a world I enjoy being a part of, but the fandom level of ‘The X-Files’ is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I was in a bar and a guy walked over and said ‘Have a good night, Agent Miller’ — and this was a week after the announcement had been made. The fans of this show are fans to the utmost level. It’s debatedly the most iconic show in TV history. Being onscreen with David and Gillian is something I’ll never forget. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.”

Show creator and mastermind Chris Carter said going back to Vancouver was “a big sense of deja vu.” “We started there 23 years ago, and to go back home again, we were welcomed,” he said. “We got to hire some of the same people and go to the same locations. It was really a trip down memory lane for me.” As for surprises, Carter says the weather provided the biggest change-up: “We used to shoot in the winter, spring and fall, and we’d get interesting weather and long nights and short days. ‘The X-Files’ being a scary show, you want atmosphere. We shot this one during one of the most beautiful summers in Vancouver.”

Variety can attest to the fact that the atmosphere and the spooky is still there, but audiences can tune in January 24 and 25 on FOX to see for themselves.

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