Two X-Files Veterans on Mystery in their Careers and the Show

Photo by Scott Moss
Photo by Scott Moss

The life of an actor parallels the life of an X-Files character in a lot of ways, according to stars Jerry Hardin and Nicholas Lea as they spoke to a nearly full room Friday afternoon in the Hilton Grand Ballroom West. As character actors and as occasional guest stars, both related to the highs and lows of not necessarily knowing the mysteries behind their characters, or whether they’d ever even show up again.

“Acting is a career of dealing with the unknown,” Hardin explained.

“It’s a little like Christmas when you’d open a script you were in,” Lea said. “You never knew, so it was a real adventure.”

With bit parts early on, both actors said they never knew when their characters would reappear, but neither said that was necessarily a bad thing.

“It worked out perfectly because I was working a lot, then,” Hardin said. Sometimes, he said, he’d fly in, shoot a scene with David Duchovny in a parking deck and fly out to another job the next day. “That’s the nature of being a character actor,” he said. Hardin also said that he would often speak with Duchovny about Deep Throat’s importance to the conspiracy.

“David and Gillian [Anderson] really welcomed me and made me feel comfortable,” Lea said. Both actors explained that dropping in as a small character was a challenge, but that the X-Files team really made a point of welcoming new actors to the team. While both acknowledged the challenges of coming in just for one or two scenes here and there, Lea explained it was always fun. “As a guest star,” Lea said, “you can do something really crazy, really out there.”

Both agreed they fought to keep their characters on the show. Hardin explained that he wanted to stick around because of the show’s quality writing. “It was wonderful to have this material,” he said. “Such good material is unique.”

Lea agreed. “As an actor, you want to work on a show with longevity, quality and integrity. It’s a blessing, for sure.”

On set, the show was a chance to live out fantasies. “You get to be a kid all over again,” Lea said, talking about the times he got to run around with guns, explosions, and crazy plotlines. He talked about one particular event where he had gone to a long safety meeting and then found himself in a car that was packed with gasoline. All of the seats had been removed except for the one he was sitting in. On his cue, he jumped from the car and ran. When he crossed a line a certain distance away, a crew member was to press a button to set the gasoline off and explode the car. The first time they did it, Lea crossed the line and nothing happened. He looked at the crew member who was fervently pressing the button and looking confused. They reset and were able to get it on the second shot. Lea said that he was nearly knocked off his feet and could feel the heat up his back.

Exploring the intricacies of a character over years of development was fascinating, as well. “Who wants to be just a bad guy? Who wants to be just a good guy?” Lea said.

Both actors raved about the quality of the show’s fans, Hardin even going so far as to read a letter he received recently from a fan in Ukraine. “This is for a show that’s 22 years old,” he said. Lea jumped in with an anecdote of standing on a corner in Havana, Cuba, and a guy fixing a motorcycle looked up and said, in Spanish, “Aren’t you Krycek?”

Lea explained another incident where he was handed a note by a child in Northern Ireland, asking if Mulder and Scully could come save their country. “There’s a responsibility to being on a show like this,” Lea explained. “People believe in it.”

Near the end of the panel, Lea dropped a bombshell. “So, I’m not in the show,” he said, talking about the upcoming series reboot set to air in January 2016. “I didn’t want to lie [coming here].”

Hardin added, “Chris Carter has not called me.”

Authors of the article

Jessica spends her days advising college radio, magazine and newspaper staffs, and balances the rest of her time binge-watching TV and binge-reading nonfiction.

Max sees to the needs of her kitty overlords; polices the grammar on all kinds of published material including signage, menus, and food packaging; and cuddles with her wife while watching her favorite shows (Our Flag Means Death, Killjoys, Sense8, and Doctor Who among them). She continues to be far too excited to be working for the Daily Dragon.