David Duchovny, who was an obscure 33-year-old character actor when he was picked to play outcast, UFO-obsessed FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files, appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman this week, revealing that the two supporting characters will be return for the new series.
The upcoming and still mystery-shrouded X-Files six-part mini-series will feature both “Walter Skinner” and “The Cigarette Smoking Man,” two of the most popular supporting characters from the landmark show’s original nine-season run on the Fox Network, from 1993 to 2002 — according to Duchovny.
Duchovny and Gillian Anderson — who was also mostly unknown at the time — played Mulder and Dana Scully, a mismatched pair of agents who investigate “The X-Files,” the FBI’s supposed secret files on paranormal events, frequently coming into conflict with the agency’s top brass and other mysterious forces as they move closer and closer to the elusive “truth.”
“There’s Gillian and I, we’re original. Mitch Pileggi will come back, and the cigarette-smoking man — if that means anything to anyone — will be coming back,” Duchovny told Letterman.
Pileggi played Walter Skinner, a high-ranking FBI official torn between his sympathies for Mulder and Scully and his loyalty to the bureau and its regulations, which the two agents flout on a weekly basis.
The “Cigarette Smoking Man” was the shadowy villain of The X-Files, played by Canadian acting teacher William B. Davis, who was originally cast as an extra on the show. But his sinister demeanor was so compelling that series creator Chris Carter made him a regular character and, in fact, the primary bad guy of the series.
The X-Files was one of television history’s most significant and groundbreaking series, defying initial expectations of many critics to become one of the first major hits for the then-fledgling Fox Network.
In addition to its highly cinematic photography and measured pacing — features common today in high-end cable dramas such as Mad Men, The Wire, and Breaking Bad — The X-Files also introduced the idea that a weekly, episodic series should have a “mythology,” that is, a unifying storyline that ties together even widely disparate weekly episodes.
The “myth arc,” as it’s now known, has since become almost a requirement for successful TV dramas.
In fact, a number of more recent hit series have grown directly out of The X-Files, many of whose writers and directors went on to highly successful careers. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, for example, wrote several X-Files episodes, and got the idea to cast Bryan Cranston as the lead in the later series from Cranston’s guest-starring role in an X-Files episode.