In case you haven’t heard, The X-Files is back for another revival season of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigating aliens, nefarious conspiracies, and new monsters of the week. The premiere episode aside, Chris Carter’s latest foray into the world he first created in 1993 has featured a healthy dose of unique (and Darin Morgan-heavy) entries. What’s more, as actor Mitch Pileggi told Uproxx at the 2017 New York Comic Con in October, FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner will finally be getting his due.
There was very little Pileggi could say about the episode at the time, but according to a more recent plot description FOX provided for “Kitten,” which airs February 7th, it involves Skinner “[going] AWOL when his past comes back to haunt him.” A short teaser also suggests it will dive into the character’s time in the military, which may include men seeing monsters and other sorts of horrors. Even so, when Pileggi spoke with us, he was more than happy to tease out a few details from the set of “Kitten” — as well as his finally getting the chance to work with the Morgan brothers while filming season 11.
How are you?
I’m good. Am I spilling any beans I shouldn’t be spilling yet?
Chris Carter said you were allowed to tell any secrets you wanted.
Oh, okay. Well then.
What’s been the biggest surprise about coming back to the world of The X-Files after a long hiatus?
It always feels like I’m coming back home. The scripts, they’re always a surprise. They’re always great. We used to describe them as getting Christmas presents. You open ’em up, like opening up a Christmas present, and finally get to see what they have in store for your character. You get to see what your storyline is. It’s always fun to come back and play with these characters, work with these actors, and work with Chris and everyone else at the show. It’s the gift that keeps giving. 25 years later, here we are.
Depending on what Skinner is or isn’t hiding from Mulder and Scully, he often makes The X-Files feel like a trio.
Well, he’s their support. He’s their champion, at least within the FBI. I think that they were looking for somebody to fill that role and, fortunately, I just happened to fall into it.
What about a Skinner spin-off?
You know what? When they spun The Lone Gunmen off, I went to Chris and joked, “What the hell is going on? Are you spinning them off? What about Skinner? Why don’t they spin Skinner off?” He looked at me and said, “What would it be about?” I had no idea. [Laughs.] Unless it was Cigarette Smoking Man and Skinner going at each other, again and again until they’ve beaten each other to death. But there is a Skinner-centered episode coming up, so I’m very excited about that. It was written by Gabe Rotter, one of Chris’s longtime associates.
Were you involved in developing that?
I’m not a writer. I’m not a story guy. Too lazy. I tried writing and it was painful. Somebody read what I wrote and they were like… [Shrugs.] I thought all the dialogue that I had written was brilliant, then they asked, “Where’s it going?” I had no idea. Unless there’s something in the course of doing a scene, however, I just don’t do it. At one point I was shooting a scene with David, and there was a line in it that just didn’t ring true with the character. When I brought it up, they said “okay” and helped me work something else out for Skinner. They’re very good about that.
Is that encouraged?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily encouraged, but they definitely listen to our points of view. They register our opinions in respect to character developments like that.
How will the dynamics change between Skinner, Scully, and Mulder in your episode?
I mean, we’ve already seen the dynamics between the three of them change. It happened right off the bat in the premiere. But… that’s all I’m going to say for now.
Will we see a younger version of Skinner?
You’ll see. [Laughs.] I can’t answer that.
With a show as storied as The X-Files, the fandom has undergone some significant changes. What sticks out to you the most?
Fans have a lot more access to us. As a matter of fact, I’m going to a fan-based benefit tonight at a comedy club here in town. I have a really good relationship with them. I do a lot of these conventions, and I end up meeting a lot of these people and becoming friends with them. Now it’s a little worrisome because they know me, so when they watch me on the show and they see Skinner, they might think, “This doesn’t ring true.”
I also worry about being active on social media, because I’m just afraid that people are going to become too familiar with who I am. I don’t want them to watch a role I’m playing and confuse it with who I really am. It just doesn’t sit right. I don’t know if that makes any sense. I’ve talked to other actors about it and they’re saying, “Yeah, that’s true, but you can do a lot of really cool things on social media.” Like advancing charities and helping those who need it.
This sounds like an X-Files episode!
[Laughs.] You’re right.
But to your point, the access has undoubtedly changed thanks to the internet. The show itself, the story, has had to adapt.
The internet was pretty primitive back then. You think back about those things now and it seems weird. And yeah, it has definitely had an effect on our stories. But Chris likes keeping the fans close. He likes listening to them and seeing what they have to say, about whether or not something on the show works. The access helps with that. He definitely pays attention to what the fans are saying, and I think you’re going to see the results of that throughout this season. It’s more like old-school Mulder and Scully. It’s back to what they were doing in the beginning, back when the show first began and captured everyone’s attention. And the fact that we now have several generations of fans is something. I go to these conventions and kids who are 10 years old come up to me, telling me they’ve watched every episode. It’s so gratifying to see that. Parents are passing their fandom down to their children.
That’s what he does. He does some really, really interesting stuff. And I finally got into a Darin Morgan episode this season. I’ve been lobbying both of the Morgans about it for so long. His last six, they just weren’t able to because there was so much story they had to tell and Skinner didn’t fit into it all that well. But this time, I got to work with them both, and it was great.
Fans are always arguing about whether they prefer the mythology episodes or the monster-of-the-week entries. Do you have a favorite?
The mythology ones usually involve Skinner in some way, but I have to be honest, my favorites are usually the episodes that I’m not in. I don’t know if that’s a common thing with actors, but I get distracted whenever I see myself on screen and watch my own performance. I just like watching the show and not having to worry about that aspect of it, because I’m genuinely a fan of the show. I think it’s great, and the fact that we’re still doing it 25 years later is pretty awesome.
The X-Files episode “Kitten” airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.