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After Mulder

November 26, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The future of "The X-Files" was in limbo last season. Though Gillian Anderson was committed to the Emmy Award-winning Fox series for another two seasons, co-star David Duchovny didn't have a contract to continue into an eighth season.

Plus, Duchovny had sued 20th Century Fox Film Corp., producer of the sci-fi series, alleging the studio gave its own broadcast stations and its FX cable network sweetheart licensing terms instead of going after the highest bid in a competitive situation. And last, but not least, executive producer and the series' creator Chris Carter wasn't sure he wanted to return without Duchovny.

"This all lead to a lot of general anxiety about how to end the show or not," admits Carter. So with the series' future a big question mark, Carter and executive producer Frank Spotnitz fashioned an episode that could double not only as a season finale but also a series finale--Duchovny's Mulder would be abducted by aliens and Anderson's Scully would learn she was pregnant.

After down-to-the-wire negotiations in May, Duchovny's lawsuit was settled and he agreed to return for 11 more episodes. Carter then told Fox he'd devised a way to do the series with Duchovny in a limited role--giving Scully a new partner to help in the search for Mulder.

Carter knew from the beginning he didn't want Scully's new partner to be cut from the same cloth as the alien-obsessed Mulder. So the latest member of "The X-Files," FBI agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick), is the anthesis of Mulder--a by-the-books federal agent.

The presence of Patrick, best known as the evil Terminator in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and as an obsessive gambler on "The Sopranos," has invigorated the series, Carter believes.

"He's a great actor," says Carter. "Several years ago [Patrick] came in to read on something else and I said, 'This is a guy I am going to work with."'

When Carter and company first sought out Patrick for the part, he was tied up in a contract. "We read a lot of people, but ultimately we pursued Robert Patrick because he was the right guy to play the person we were really feeling the show needed to go on," says Carter.

Patrick, already a fan of the series, has been enjoying working with Anderson, as well as Mitch Pileggi, who plays assistant FBI director Skinner.

"I know what I was hired for, what Chris Carter expects for me, and I try to stick to that," Patrick says. "There's a certain energy he wanted me to bring to the show through the character. Chris describes this guy as sort of an old-school hero."

A hero, Patrick adds, in the vein of Dirty Harry. "He's a guy who is pretty confident in himself. He's not seeking approval from anybody."

Carter admires actors like Patrick who have a very centered quality. "He has this tremendous intensity about him and there is a lean, dangerous quality to him too," says Carter. "It translates so beautifully on screen--those piercing eyes and that gravely voice serve to make the character believable and also different from Mulder."

Though the main focus this season will be Scully and Doggett's search for Mulder, they will also be assigned other cases.

"The beauty of the show is that Doggett is now going to be confronting all sorts of things that are not normal," says Patrick. "I'm going to be relying on Scully to sort of help me understand things and yet I will also do my detective work and present her with facts."

Aspects of Doggett's personality and past will also be revealed throughout the season. "He's a vet, a former New York City detective," says Patrick. "He's got his masters and doctorate from Syracuse. He's an interesting guy because he's street smart and yet he's done the books and educated himself."

Carter says the addition of Patrick has been a plus for the series. "Everybody likes Robert Patrick and the character," says Carter, adding "at the same time I think everybody misses David and Mulder."

*

"The X-Files" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Fox. The network has rated it TV-PG-LV (may be unsuitable for young children with special advisories for coarse language and violence).

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