NEW GENERATION X (May 2002)
NEW KIDS ON THE X-FILES BLOCK ANNABETH GISH AND CARY ELWES TELL CULT TIMES WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BECOME PART OF SUCH A POPULAR INSTITUTION.
Annabeth Gish is delighted with her stint on The X-Files. "So far the experience has been exactly what I hoped it would be," she claims. The actress joined the show near the end of last season, portraying FBI Special Agent Monica Reyes on a recurring basis, starting with the episode This Is Not Happening. Gish was soon partnered with Robert Patrick, himself an X-Files newcomer in the role of Special Agent John Doggett. As the season wound down, it did so even with the idea that Reyes and Doggett would eventually emerge as the show's new Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). Season nine began with Gish and Patrick as regulars, Anderson still very much in the picture and Duchovny long gone. Oh, and did we mentioned Reyes is into Doggett, who's into Scully, who's into Mulder? And don't forget that there's also Assistant Director Follmer (Cary Elwes) lurking about, and he's very much got Reyes on the brain and in his (possibly) dark heart.
"It's been exciting and challenging to come into an existing show," says Gish, best known as a film actress whose credits include Mystic Pizza, Wyatt Earp, Beautiful Girls, Double Jeopardy and the upcoming indie features Race To Space and Buying The Cow. "Also, I don't think I've ever done anything harder, hours-wise and in terms of what the word has demanded, than The X-Files. It's truly one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's just very challenging to make The X-Files and that goes for everyone involved with it. But it's a great adventure every day, a great growth experience. I'm called upon to execute on every single level, mentally, physically and emotionally. It's kind of like boot camp. I think, after I finish doing the show, I'll be able to do anything."
Despite the new blood provided by Gish and Patrick, ratings for The X-Files continued to decline. It's clear that the long-time fans miss Duchovny and the Mulder-Scully dynamic and are simply unwilling or unable to accept a series called The X-Files that doesn't star both Duchovny and Anderson. One almost wishes that the adventures of Reyes and Doggett had a different name or that it were a brand new show from the wonderfully warped mind of Chris Carter. Unfortunately, that's a mere pipe dream. And it's a shame, because a lot of people are missing some solid TV. Gish is quick to point to a couple of favourite episodes. "4-D, the one with Doggett and the parallel universe, probably revealed the most yet about who Reyes is, emotionally and internally," Gish notes of the show which Reyes and Doggett came the closest yet to expressing their true feelings for each other. "I was just so thrilled with that episode. It was a real acting exercise and a challenge, but it also taught me a lot about her internally. I also liked the earliest episodes with Monica, the one in the eight season where Chris and [co-executive producer/writer] Frank Spotnitz first introduced her. I thought [This Is Not Happening, Empedocles, Essence and Existence] introduced her as a very sexy, interesting, quirky and sunny character who was just a little off. "
"She was a little more remote at the beginning and she's not now. And I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes the remote aspect is more mysterious, but I think that's a part of the parcel thing. Just as Monica was joining the detectives in the basement, Annabeth was joining The X-Files, so there had to be an aspect of detachment. She was the newcomer. She had to be a little detached. Now she has more invested in the X-Files and in the other characters. She has a relationship with Scully that is, I think, evolving nicely. It's becoming a friendship as opposed to just a working relationship. The relationship with Doggett has been interesting right from the beginning and I think it's only going to get more interesting."
"We've also got some interesting shows coming up," Gish continues. "There's one we're just about to start that Chris wrote and is directing. I can't say anything about that one. Anything at all. But we've done a number of standalone episodes, which obviously means that they've been out of the mythology. In those episodes, they've really been trying to present and explore the relationship between Reyes and Doggett on the professional level. And they've also been giving the audience a few personal tidbits. But it's really down to old X-Files stories, where the main characters are trying to solve individual cases and are dealing with mysterious crimes. That's great stuff. Doggett and Reyes get to use their detective skills. We're also seeing a lot of Scully's baby and there's a lot of looking for Mulder. Those are two themes that I think will be pretty dominant all season."
Gish offers only words of praise for all of her co-stars but she saves her sweetest adjectives for Patrick. "Robert is, to me, such a good guy," she enthuses. "It's been a relief working with him, in so many ways. He's such a man. He's so masculine. He's rugged and intense and hardworking and strong, but he also has his kindness and optimism. When I say relief, I mean that it's nice to know a man like him exists in this world. He's truly like a big brother to me. Robert's been such a guide for me, in terms of joining the show and getting comfortable. I think anybody, whether they see him on the set or in the make-up trailer, would say that he infuses everything with such optimism. He's just a positive thinker."
And, clearly, Annabeth Gish is also a positive thinker. Though she's previously admitted that she's "disappointed" about the show's lacklustre ratings, Gish loves the gig. Asked if she would have liked to have come back for more X-Files next year, barely a second flits by before Gish responds. "I would, absolutely," she concludes. "Absolutely."
What's a nice Brit guy like Cary Elwes doing as the emotionally detacted, very American, fairly disagreeable and possibly even dastardly Assistant Director Brad Follmer on The X-Files? Even the actor himself isn't quite sure. "Chris Carter told me after he hired me - I guess he didn't want me to get too big-headed in the room - that he'd been watching my work and that he thought that he'd written the part for me." Elwes explains. "So I was really flattered by that. He didn't know if I really wanted to do it, so he didn't mention anything in the room with [co-executive producer] Frank Spotnitz when I first met them." But, of course, Elwes wanted to jump right into the X-Files fray and he promptly signed on for a six-episode stint as the recurring character. "Who didn't know at least something about The X-Files?" the actor wonders aloud. "You'd have to have been living under a rock in Sardinia not to know about The X-Files. And they might even know the show in Sardinia. It's just one of the shows that captures the imagination the minute it aired and became a cult phenomenon."
Follmer first appeared in the two-part ninth season opener This Is Not Happening, and then was on hand for 4-D and the mid-season mythology two-parter Providence and Provenance. The character essentially answers to Director Kersh (James Pickens), who was determined to keep an eye on Special Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) as they veered dangerously close to becoming the new Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). Follmer added a bit of intrigue and a touch of menace to the proceedings, as nobody - Doggett, Reyes, Scully or Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) - could make heads of tails of the guy. He proclaimed that he sought only the truth, but the truth according to whom? The added wrinkle, of course, was that Follmer and Reyes once dated. However, while Follmer still carries a torch for Reyes, she's now attracted to Doggett.
"I thought of Brad as anything but one-dimensional, but I didn't really want to have an opinion on him going into the shows," says Elwes, a respected film actor whose many credits include The Princess Bride, Glory, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Twister, Kiss The Girls and Shadow of the Vampire, as well as the upcoming features The Cat's Meow, Comic Book Villians and American Crime. "If you go in and have an opinion on a character, very often you will mimic that in your performance. SO I try not to judge my characters as I play them. I let their actions and motivations become what people use to judge a character. In fact, I walked to Chris about that. I said, "I'm more interested in the gray area of this guy," and he said. 'That's exactly how I feel.' He didn't want to pass judgment on Brad either. He just wanted to see what happens. We'd discussed his past. We knew that he'd been an agent for a while and that he'd been involved with Monica. We discussed that there would be obviously by some jealousy there with Doggett. Chris, Frank and I basically said, 'Let's throw him in the mix and see what happens. Will he end up being benefit to the main characters or a problem for them? Let's see how his emotional side will affect his judgment.' That's been fun to play, fun to explore."
Fair enough, but given that Follmer doesn't come across as the warmest guy on the planet, what the heck did Reyes ever see in him? "I think they were both young," replies Elwes, whose additional genre experience encompasses The Bride, Bram Stoker's Dracula, the animated fantasy drama Quest For Camelot and an episode each of Batman Beyond, The Outer Limits and Night Visions. "I think they were both interested in the idea of being co-workers and at the time having an intimate relationship. I think he saw more in their relationship than she did, obviously. He clearly thought there was a lot there. So that's been interesting to play, because this guy who comes across as so emotionally detached, or tries to come across as emotionally detached, is so full of emotion in his scenes with Monica. It's all very clever. I find it incredible how these guys tie everything in together. You'll get a story in one episode that also has bits - either relationship bits or mythology bits - that tie back to episodes a few weeks back or a few days back. That constantly impresses me. And I have to say that I've loved working with Annabeth. Most of my scenes have been with her and she's really good, very professional. We've had a great time."
Unfortunately, time is running out. The X-Files - that strange universe of aliens and FBI agents, super-soldiers and Syndicates, bees and mutant humans, and on and on and on - will close it's doors for good (or at least until the next feature film, which Carter has said will be a standalone, non-mythology story). Elwes is set to appear in one more episode [Release], but he points out that this is not the series finale. "I'm shooting one in February and that will be my last, so I don't think I'll be in the finale. I'm sad that it's now almost reached its end. But I guess all good things have to come to an end sooner or later. Chris and Frank obviously felt like they've reached the point where they can't add anymore. I said to Chris, 'The X-Files will play forever in the syndication.' They've had an incredible run and I'm proud to have been even a small part of it. To get to be a part of a classic is a rare opportunity.
"So," Elwes concludes, "I'm glad I did it."