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It’s been a whirlwind year for The X-Files creator Chris Carter.
Fox first announced its hopes to revive the groundbreaking series during its winter TCA session; the order was official by March. Because of stars David Duchovny (Mulder) and Gillian Anderson’s (Scully) busy schedules and other commitments, the series started filming only a few months later. And about six weeks after production wrapped, the team premiered the first hour with splashy — and high-stakes — debuts at MIPCOM and New York Comic Con.
Now, with nearly three months to go until its Fox run kicks off — and new promos being released regularly — the pressure is on for the series to maintain its buzz.
Carter sat down with The Hollywood Reporter at New York Comic Con to talk about bringing the iconic Fox series back to television, its future and more.
Given the many ways shows can be revived right now, what appealed to you about this particular format?
I jumped at the idea when I found out the actors were interested. I can tell you the idea of a reboot wasn’t the way I wanted to go. I didn’t want to come back to do a victory lap, to do sequels or anything like that. I wanted fresh, new material and that’s what we’ve done.
The show is aiming to tell a lot of stories in only six episodes. What kind of balance were you able to strike?
We have a lot to do in the course of six. We try to make an arc: bookend it with mythology episodes, and the four in the middle are standalone episodes. [But] there is what I would call an arc within those episodes. We tried to make everything integral. But the first episode and the last episode are really a two-parter. In [the other episodes] we follow the characters emotionally, but they don’t have to do with the conspiracy.
You’ve mentioned that there is the possibility to continue on with another revival in the future. If that happens, is there the possibility to expand the episode count to 10, 13, 15 hours?
It really would be indicated by the actors and their schedules.
Is that challenging for you as a writer to have to dictate the story based more on scheduling versus finding an authentic tale and shaping the count towards that?
No. Every time now the challenges are new and different.
What has been the biggest challenge?
It’s a new thing, just doing six. It’ll be eight months of my life, where it used to be 11 and a half months to do 22 or 25 [episodes]. Once the negotiations were done, we had to get up and running quickly and hire people. I looked to hire people I worked with before, but over time many of them had moved up [from their original positions], so we hired some new people. You couldn’t put the band back together, perfectly … [but] it was good fortune we were able to hire the people we were.
With the time crunch and the shorter order, what was the balance you had to achieve with writing and directing?
We thought we were going to have more time, but it ended up I was writing when we were filming. I had hoped not to be. It was business as usual for me; everyone else had a chance to write and direct their own episodes. I had that [combination] for the first episode, but not the next two.
The X-Files series continued on after Duchovny left. Can you see doing revivals without him and Anderson being a part of it? Or is their tale the only one you have interest in telling?
Right now, when they want to do it, I think it’s David and Gillian.
How familiar were you with the other revivals/reboots that have aired? Did you check out 24: Live Another Day or Heroes Reborn?
I didn’t see Heroes, I didn’t see 24. I didn’t see anything. I’m doing this kind of blindly, if you will.
What kind of ratings expectations do you have for the show?
I think Fox is doing a superior job marketing it. We’re still going on three months [from premiere] at this point. Marketing is completely different than it was when I was on the series originally because of social media.
Do you feel you need to be a part of that social media world since you’re promoting a show in 2015?
I don’t think I have to take that step. Sometimes it’s fun to do it. But on Instagram [which Carter joined when the revival started filming], I’ve only done it a couple of times. I’m just busy. We’re still not finished. We locked the final episode and now we have a lot of post-production.
One of the other out of the box ideas the network/studio had to promote the series was showcasing the first hour, “My Struggle,” to fans at New York Comic Con. What was your take on that plan?
I wasn’t crazy about it. I thought it was maybe too early. But it generates buzz, and you can’t deny that. We’re a ways out here. I just hope if the excitement is building it stays steady.
What is your concern level about spoilers?
As far as I’m concerned, this episode, everyone’s seen it now because everyone will be online talking about it.
Looking at the event series as a whole, there were a number of people who you approached — Robert Patrick who played Agent Doggett, James Pickens Jr. who played Kersh — who weren’t able to be a part of the project due to their previous commitments. How did that impact the storytelling you were able to do? And can their stories be held until any future revivals?
We played the hand we were dealt. People are busy. That’s a fact of life. It actually worked out. The people we did want to work with desperately were available, so our storytelling didn’t suffer.
As for the show itself, Mulder and Scully are in a very different place in their relationship. How has that been for you as a writer?
In a way, it’s back to the Mulder and Scully we were so familiar with. While they had come together in 2008, all is not well. There’s a rift and we deal with that.
How is it impacting their work relationship?
I think there’s some sarcasm. And they go to different homes.
What kind of insight will we be getting into what led them to split?
I think you get some insight.
How did the absence of the planned alien takeover in 2012 impact Mulder and Scully’s mindset?
We reference it, and it’s a part of the mythology.
One of the new faces the show introduces is Joel McHale’s Tad. Were you looking to cast someone who was a really recognizable face to the audience?
Yes, we were. We were lucky to get Joel McHale. I cast him after seeing his White House [Correspondents’ Dinner hosting]. I thought he was just great.
What can you say about how he plays into the show?
He brings [Mulder and Scully] back together. He’s instrumental in kind of building a bridge between the two of them.
Was there anything you weren’t able to get into these six?
It would have been nice to get Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa back, and some of the other writers. Frank Spotnitz couldn’t work on the show. We did our best. We worked with the resources we were given.
The revival also includes a slightly adapted version of the credits that ran for the first seven seasons of the show. What kind of discussions were had about that?
There wasn’t really that much discussion about it. Everyone felt that to mess with the credits was wrong and sacrilege if you will. So we went with the credits that are familiar.
The X-Files event series premieres Jan. 24 on Fox. What are you hoping to see in the revival?
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