The X-Files Panel at NYCC Asks Hard Questions about Love, Conspiracy, and The Lone Gunmen

They asked us not to record or spoil anything, so I won’t tell you anything about the episode except: A.) It’s really good. B.) I think fans of The X-Files will dig it. It’s also a genuinely surreal experience to watch an episode of the most paranoid show in history while black-suited security guys stalk through the halls looking for pirates. What I can talk about is the fun and emotional panel that followed the screening – click through for highlights!

Our moderator was Kumail Nanjiani, the X-Files superfan and host of The X-Files Files podcast (who is also currently starring on the brilliant Silicon Valley, and is neither the guy from The Big Bang Theory nor yet the guy from Harold and Kumar, despite what the media would have you believe…). He was a perfect moderator, because he started out as overcome with happiness just to be there, but slowly his comedian personality took over enough that he was able to snark the panel a bit, and deal with the audience Q&A in a way that was funny but also understanding of the fans’ nervousness.

I’m also going to do something a little unorthodox by beginning this post with the last question from the Audience Q&A. When asked whether the new season would be concentrating on mythology or monster of the week episodes, Chris Carter replied that the new season will begin with a mythology episode (the one that was screen at NYCC) and end with a mythology episode, but that the middle of the season would MOTWs. These MOTW’s were written by Glenn Morgan, Darren Morgan, and James Wong, and as if that wasn’t enough, oh yeah, three gentlemen collectively known as The Lone Gunmen will in fact be making an appearance. Now, having dropped all of those bombs, I invite you to check out the highlights of the panel.

First, Nanjiani asked us to take a picture of the screen, and said that he’d pay thousands of dollars for a shot of him with the panel. Then he asked what his panelists thought of the episode.
Pileggi: I thought it was great!
Duchovny: I’m in shock, actually. Not that I doubted, but it looked really great.

Nanjiani: Well, I have 300 questions, and we have 20 mins, so this might be tough. I’ll try to make it fit. First, how was it watching it with these guys? (indicates the audience.)
Carter: It’s strange, because of course I wonder how they’re enjoying it…
(The crowd screams, reassuring him that he is their god.)
Pileggi: Well, poor David, I kept asking him to explain stuff to me “Scully still loves you? You still love Scully?” It must have been frustrating.

Nanjiani replies that he always felt that the great unrequited romance is between Skinner and Mulder. Then he turned to Carter and asked, “Why now?”
Carter: I got a call from 20th Century Fox, and they said David was into doing it, so I thought that could be interesting if we got everyone back on board.
Nanjiani: We’re in a very paranoid time, with surveillance, people like Edward Snowden, with Monsanto… I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that word…was that also an impetus?
Carter: Now is the perfect time to tell X-Files stories.

Nanjiani (to Pileggi and Duchovny): How was it getting to play…(both actors are looking intently at Nanjiani, and he breaks up laughing.) What, I’m hanging on by a thread, here! You guys have no idea what this is like for me. Don’t look at me! This gets a huge laugh from the audience, and Duchovny comes in to let Nanjiani off he hook.
Duchovny: Just the fact that everyone was there…we have a group memory, so when we get together we can check in with each other. There’s a certain…we know when we’re getting the characters right again. It’s instinctive, and we feel it when they’re right. I can’t put words around it, it’s a feeling.
Pileggi: it felt right.
Nanjiani: I think of Skinner as the strict father. He loves Mulder, but he’s not going to give him a hug, he’ll be like, “I know you can get better.”
Duchovny: He never once told me he loved me.
(An audience member screams “I LOVE YOU” to lots of applause.)
Pileggi (to Duchovny): I love you
Nanjiani: Now say ‘I love you Mulder’ and say it in a Skinner voice.
Pileggi (growling): Goddammit, Mulder!”

Nanjiani (to Pileggi): We just met today, and, you know, Skinner’s very intimidating, but you’re a very warm person, and completely the opposite. How do you create the character of Skinner?
Pileggi: The character is similar to my father. He worked for Department of Defense for years, and his voice and mannerisms seeped into Skinner. When I watched the show with my mom and my sisters and brothers the first time they recognized it. They all said “That’s Dad,” and my heart swelled. My dad gave me a wonderful character.
(“Awwwws and applause from the audience.)

Nanjiani then referred to the scope of the new episode, which covers almost 70 years of U.S. history, tackles the rise of Glenn Beck-style conspiracy theories head on, and even introduces a new conspiracy. “Was that a conscious effort for the return of the show, to make it more cinematic?”
Carter: I think we have to come out and punch ‘em in the mouth. We knew we needed to be bold and show we were back.

Finally, we came to the question that was clearly the most troubling for the audience, as Nanjiani hesitantly said, “Mulder and Scully don’t seem to be involved as much as they were…”
Carter: …this is when the sniper gets me. We wanted to be true to the passage of time, and they’ve… had their difficulties.
(The audience doesn’t quite boo. The reaction is more as if several thousand people were just informed that each of their parents were divorcing.)
Nanjiani tries to soften the blow by saying he appreciates the growth of the characters. “It’s not like they freeze in carbonite when we’re not watching them. And Mulder is my favorite character but he’s probably not easy to be in a relationship with. Duchovny bristles at this, but Nanjiani continues, saying,

“Honey, where are the Cheerios?”
“I WANT THE TRUTH!”

They turned over to the audience for questions, which were mostly very good, and punctuated by lots of “I love yous” and occasional crying. One fan said “We love Mulder because he wants to find truth, and we love Scully because she’s more scientific and speculates about what the truth could be. What do you believe, and what do you speculate about?” Pileggi immediately copped to believing in extraterrestrial life, Duchovny snarkily declared himself a “Belieber”, and Carter replied (say it with me now) “I want to believe.”

The next question came from a fan from Manila, who had been watching the show since she was about ten, and often had to wait for long periods between seasons for her country to get the show. (She promised to start her son on the show as soon as he’s old enough.) She made the case that Mulder and Scully should still be together, because “after everything they’ve been through, they’ve earned it.” Carter’s reply was philosophical. “While we were filming, I was driving under abridge, and someone had painted it to say, ‘Life has many bumps in the road.’ They’re going over a bump.” The questioner, however, came right back with, “Don’t you think they’re stronger than that?” which was met with wide applause. Clearly, the fanbase of The X-Files wants to believe in the power of love.

The next question asked if there were any particular moments of “surreal nostalgia” during filming. Duchovny replied, “For me it was the first day. The first day was the long speech with Tad, (Mulder and a new character, Tad O’Malley, trade conspiracy theories at one point) and I hadn’t been Mulder for years. I was searching for what we used to call the “Mulder flow” and for a while I didn’t have it, and then at a certain point it finally clicked, and I felt it. I was Mulder again. And then it clicked.” This was met with applause, obviously, but even more touching was Mitch Pileggi clapping Duchovny on the back and yelling “You nailed it!”

Carter assured another fan that was keeping in touch with the creators of the IDW X-Files comics, and that, while the continuities were a bit different, they each knew what the other was doing. And finally, in response to Nanjiani asking if there would be more miniseries in the future, Duchovny turned to Carter and said, “You have my number.”

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