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In Conversation with Chris Carter
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          MS: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s a friction, I think, between events that are bigger than the characters and that they can’t control, and then the action that’s being propelled by those emotions of the characters. Did you think about that when you were writing episodes, what’s bigger than them versus what they’re doing?


          CC: Can you rephrase the question?


          MS: The part of it that’s about being in the arc of history versus creating the arc of history – was [taking] action, versus being part of something bigger, something that you would think about?


          CC: If I’m understanding the question, in every show, an idea has to be rooted in reality and be honest to historical incidents.  And within that world, the real world, we have a fictional world, where we have to create lives for these characters in a believable reality.  And we developed what we called the mythology to do that.  It truly is a mythology of sorts, in that it can only be so adherent to reality.  And I think that’s where art and reality intersect.


          MS: What do you think makes a story powerful in general?


          CC: A story? It’s got to of course resonate with the audience, it’s got to scare them, it’s got to move them, it’s got to promote questions. I think that’s what The X-Files did very well,  is that,  instead of trying to give easy answers, it would deal with the hard questions.  And I think that we never got answers at the end of the show, we never wrapped it up in a tidy little bow, everything was left mostly unexplained.  And still we took you through an hour of hopefully thrilling storytelling.


          MS: Episodes that specifically reference certain past films, like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” with Frankenstein or “Triangle” with The Wizard of Oz – what made you want to be in dialogue with those movies, or bring those movies into the world of the show?


          CC: In both cases, those were movies I loved. I was interested in the lore of Frankenstein.  And I have to say “Triangle,” while it referenced The Wizard of Oz, it wasn’t necessarily about The Wizard of Oz.  But I loved that movie – it used to be my favorite movie, like a lot of peopleAnd we never had dealt with it on the show,  and it was, here is an opportunity to harken to it.


          MS: When was The Wizard of Oz your favorite movie?


          CC: You know, when you’re a kid, you watch it every year. You watch it in between episodes of Gilligan’s Island. It works on every level, for adults and for children. It’s wonderful fantasy, it’s wonderful wish fulfillment. It’s singing and dancing and indelible characters – everything you want to bring to an audience as a storyteller.


          MS: You mentioned the lore of Frankenstein – do you mean of the movie, or of the story overall?


          CC: The story, the Mary Shelley story. It’s the basis for so much storytelling.


          MS: Can you say any more about that?


          CC: No, but I just think that people harken to it – creating of monsters in your own image, and sometimes the monster that you create takes on a life of its own.

          I think that could be [laughs] said about childbirth.


          MS: Interesting. My son is four, so I look forward to finding out more about that.

          There’s the extraterrestrial theme in the showand the paranormal theme.  A third theme that comes up a lot is the nature of human evil. Human evil seems to recur again and again,  whether in characters who are in positions of power, or one-off characters – serial killers,  kidnappers. What do you think as a writer draws you to writing about the darkest side of human nature?


          CC: It’s the most interesting side [laughs].  It’s much more interesting to write about evil than it is to write about good. Certainly, it’s a more dramatic place to start.

          We’re interested in good and evil.  But we wouldn’t be interested in it if there weren’t evil.


          MS: There’s always a range of voices in the show, and people express very different points of view and are coming from different places. Were there points of view that were difficult for you to inhabit in your imagination? 


          CC: No – you dream up these characters, and then they’ve got to – you create their interior lives and their actions and their purpose and their values.  So when you do that,  you do it because you have their voices in your head. 

          I was just reading something Vince Gilligan wrote recently [Ed.: Gilligan, an X-Files writer, famously went on to create Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul],  where he said that after he was on the show for a time,  he would actually start hearing Scully’s voice when he was writing her.  And I think that happens to all writers working on shows,  movies,  what have you,  is you start to hear the voices in your head.


          MS: If there was an episode that was the sole episode in which a character appeared,  would that still happen for you – would the voice of the character still come to you?


          CC: Yeah, I think so.  I think that when you dream up something, you – and this is the job of the writer and of the filmmaker is to make that person logical, rational or irrational, but based on something. The character’s rooted in some kind of personal reality.


          MS: Where did the Cigarette Smoking Man come from?


          CC: [Laughs] The show begins with a conspiracy that the government is keeping the truth about the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrials from us, and I wanted someone who represented that beyond-Top Secret cabal.

I was fortunate enough to cast Bill Davis, who said nothing for the first I-don’t-know-how-many episodes – he was just an ominous presence. And then finally Glen Morgan and Jim Wong wrote an episode where he actually speaks, and where he actually does something other than just leer.           And Bill Davis is a fine actor, so we got really lucky by casting this Guild-trained, classically trained actor – he’s actually an ex-acting teacher, so he became more than just what I imagined, which was a threatening presence, and turned into a character in his own right.


          MS: Yeah – I love that episode, and I love his background as a failed writer. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of elements in that episode.


          CC: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!


          MS: Were you already interested in the FBI and its culture when you started out to make the show?


          CC: No – I have to say it wasn’t of particular interest to me, but it became of course my primary interest after I started to write about the FBI and law enforcement.  I would end up spending time at the FBI, and became very friendly with FBI agents.  They were [consulting] unofficially – they couldn’t be officially contributors or references for anything to do with the FBI. 


          MS: Did individual agents who you knew influence the way that you wrote for specific characters?


          CC: No,  no individual agents,  but we would send them material and they would comment on it and make it better.


          MS: Would that be mainly in terms of the internal lingo of the FBI?


          CC: Yeah – basically.  We were of course writing about a division of the FBI that didn’t exist,  so their comments I think were mostly very general.


          MS: Did characters like Skinner and the other Assistant Director later on,  Kersh,  come from studying any historical figures,  or people you actually knew,  or was that your imagination?


          CC: Those were characters that we dreamed up.  And of course, once you dream them up, and you give them a life, you give them a title,  you have to put it on the page.  And that’s where the FBI would come in handy in keeping us honest about protocol and procedure.


          MS: It must have been incredibly intense to be immersed in the world you were creating for all of those seasons and films. The whole time, were you doing lots of research on an ongoing basis, writing and preparing each season?


          CC: I just heard from a person, Katrina Cabrera, who was our research person on the show. That’s when you didn’t have the ability to call up Wikipedia – or just Google something at the touch of a finger. 

          I always say the show wouldn’t have existed without the character of Scully.  It was her hard science that everything was based on.  Everything else was speculative science – but the science fiction was based in science. So we had to do hard research to be honest and accurate with our science, in order to build the science fiction into the show.

          I read everything about the phenomenon I could get my hands on. I was very curious about Dr. John Mack and his research. He’s a person I would go on to meet later on, and spend some time withSo I think that was really my entrée.


          MS: His book Abduction actually came out after The X-Files had debuted if I’m not mistaken, right?


          CC: Right.


          MS: And you didn’t already know him before you began working on the show?


          CC: I didn’t know him before. I met him later on. He came to visit me in Los Angeles.  Something really curious happened. He invited me to speak at a conference that he was hosting, and I agreed to do it.  And then I started getting threatening phone calls from people, telling me that I shouldn’t do it and that it would be bad news for me if I did, and actually I took those threats kind of seriously.  So I told him that I didn’t want to do the convention, and that caused no end of trouble between the two of us.

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Interview III:  The Storyteller

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