6:30pm PT by Marisa Roffman
Did 'The X-Files' Just Kill Off a Fan Favorite?
[This story contains spoilers from the season 11 finale of Fox's The X-Files.]
Did The X-Files just kill off one of its longest-running characters?
Throughout 11 seasons and two feature films, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) were able to rely on their boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Although the relationship was occasionally strained — including this season as Skinner kept his reluctant ties to the villainous Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) quiet — no one has been a better ally to the wayward duo. But during Wednesday’s season (and possibly series) finale, it appeared that the character sacrificed himself in a valiant, unsuccessful attempt to take CSM out. (Skinner attempted to shoot CSM and Annabeth Gish’s Reyes; while he was able to get her, CSM drove the car over Skinner … who may or may not have been able to hit the ground fast enough to avoid fatal injuries.)
“When Gillian announced at New York Comic-Con that she was not coming back, I called [series creator] Chris [Carter] and said, ‘If she’s not coming back, how about if Skinner gets killed doing something heroic to protect them? Let’s have him go out in a blaze of glory,’” Pileggi recalls. “And then I started thinking about it: If the show did come back, maybe I better backtrack. So I texted him, and was like, ‘Remember what I was talking about? Never mind!’”
Carter ultimately opted to pursue putting Skinner’s life, at the very least, in grave danger in the finale. “The crew dubbed it 'Skinner Alley,' which I was very flattered by,” says Pileggi. But the production experience didn’t provide him any insights about his future with the show. “As I was shooting it, I didn’t know if Skinner was diving under the car or being hit by the car,” the actor says. For his part, Carter declined to confirm whether Skinner's apparent death would stick should the show return for a 12th season.
Complicating the lingering mystery of Skinner’s fate is the show’s own uncertain future. Anderson has said on multiple occasions that she’s done with the series, while Fox has yet to order another season. “I would miss it terribly [if this was the end]," Pileggi says. “It’s been in my life for a quarter of a century. I would miss the people I worked with, the characters, the story. It would definitely be an empty spot in my life.”
If this does end up being the final episode of The X-Files — or Pileggi’s last hour — the actor was at least able to have an old friend back on set. Grey’s Anatomy star James Pickens Jr., who played boss/occasional foe Deputy Director Kersh on the original series from 1998-2002, appeared briefly to ream out Skinner. (The actors also worked together on Grey's, where Pileggi played Pickens' boss.) “It was exactly what I wanted it to be with him,” Pileggi says. “I love Jim. He’s one of the best people in the world. And every time I see him, I tell him all the success he’s had on Grey’s, no one deserves it more than he does. He’s a good man.” (Pickens, for his part, was equally delighted by the scene: “I was humbled to be asked to come back. Mitch is such a sweetheart. He’s one of my favorite people in this business.”)
Pileggi, meanwhile, is holding out hope that he and The X-Files will return in some capacity. “I owe a huge portion of my career to Chris Carter,” he notes. “If he asked me to come back and play this character, I’d do it in a second. I have no qualms about it. But if certain components aren’t there, it would be tough, it would be sad, it would be hard.”
How would you like to see Skinner’s storyline resolved if there’s a season 12? Click here to read our season finale interview with Chris Carter about the future of the franchise.