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by Daniel Carlson
October 23, 2012 11:51 AM
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Chris Carter Talks The Legacy of 'The X-Files,' Returning to TV and Why You Have to Read The Comments

'The X-Files': 'Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose' Fox
Chris Carter is responsible for the nightmares of a generation.

As the creator of "The X-Files" and "Millennium," he shepherded in a new wave of horror and suspense on television, and his legacy can be seen in the success of everything from “Fringe” to “The Walking Dead.” For his contributions to the medium, Carter received the Outstanding Television Writer award from the Austin Film Festival, where he appeared on several panels and presented a pair of episodes from his best-known series. Indiewire got a chance to sit down with him in Austin to talk about everything from the rise of cable to the future of content distribution.

Let’s start with why you chose to screen these specific episodes of “The X-Files” (“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”) and “Millennium” (“Pilot”).

First of all, it’s nice to be here. I’ve never been to Austin, so this is a big thrill. It was an amazing honor today to be among my other honorees, Frank Darabont and Eric Roth. Amazing.

Frank Darabont, Eric Roth, Carter at AFF Jack Plunkett
The episodes I chose were for two reasons: I didn’t want to focus just on “The X-Files.” I thought that “Millennium” pilot stands the test of time. I think it’s a really good, scary episode of television, and I was very proud of it. I still am. It was very nice to see it again today myself.

The other episode I chose [“Final Repose”] was, for me, a high point during [the show’s early years], and I thought it was still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on television. It’s completely original; it was taking “The X-Files” and turning it on its head. The performances were wonderful, the direction was wonderful, the writing was wonderful. I thought it was just an excellent episode in every way.

“The X-Files,” in a lot of ways, paved the way for network genre shows, especially horror. I can’t imagine it was easy to get a show with so many straight-ahead scares off the ground in the early 1990s. Was that a fight with Fox? Was there ever any feedback from them about the content’s grimness?

The good thing and the bad thing about was that there was nothing scary on television then, so when I came in and said, “There’s nothing scary on television, and this is something that we should be doing,” they got that idea. But they didn’t get the idea of two FBI agents investigating the paranormal. That was weird to them, and they didn’t want to do it at first.

'The X-Files': 'Squeeze'
I had to pitch the idea twice to the network, and they finally bought it maybe just to make me go away. I was at 20th Century Fox Television, pitching it to 20th Century Fox network; it was kind of a no-brainer for them, because it’s one hand feeding the other. That was a fortunate thing in the beginning, not so much in the end.

Do you think any shows since then have been that scary?

It’s really hard to scare people on network television. You’ve got to be smart about it. You’ve got to parcel out the scares. I’ve seen a few really scary shows, episodes of them, but I have to say, I took a break from television after “The X-Files” was off and sort of didn’t pay much attention, but I’m back now.

What are you watching right now?

“Breaking Bad.” Love it. A little bit of everything: little bit of “Game of Thrones,” little bit of “Walking Dead.” I’m back into “The Wire.”

Has there ever been a show that’s made you say “I wish I’d been part of that”?

I admired shows like “Six Feet Under.” That was an amazing show. Never boring, always inventive, smart. Loved the characters. Completely original. Those are shows that I admire.

'The X-Files': 'Pusher'

In terms of your writing process, how did you determine what works for you best?

It’s pretty much a regular workday, 9 to 5. That works for me. I’ve worked, believe me, from 4 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night when we were in production, so I’ve done those kinds of hours. I try to sort of have a regular life now, but I’m not in production, so it’s a luxury to have a regular life. When you do have to feed an ongoing production, you have a finite amount of time in which to do the best work possible, so you have to work really around the clock.

Speaking of productions, could you talk a bit more about the status of the project you’re writing for Showtime?

[smiling] The status is, right now, that they like it.

Any descriptions or ideas you can discuss?

I’m sort of superstitious.

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  • Richard | February 19, 2013 11:47 PMReply

    Now that the world didnt end in 2012 with an alien invasion, what happens! Thats how the xfiles ended! So now that it didnt happen, There needs to be a new twist! WHY DIDNT IT HAPPEN!

  • Muldfeld | November 25, 2012 1:36 AMReply

    I hope his new show is political in the way "The X-Files" was. There's lots about resistance to abuse of authority in there and questioning conventional wisdom. He should check out Ronald D. Moore's "Battlestar Galactica" for its great drama in Seasons 1 to 3 (with a greatest finale in Season 4!) but also its incredible political insight.

  • merv | October 29, 2012 1:09 PMReply

    So I assume The After is the show he's writing for Showtime/

  • Kevin Tucker | October 29, 2012 10:49 AMReply

    Great to Chris Carter, I think though it is about time to bring back the X-Files to TV, There is a lot material he can cover still i.e. 2012

  • flo | October 24, 2012 6:01 PMReply

    Great to see him attempting to come back to television. His brilliance needs an outlet.

  • Heidi | October 24, 2012 2:09 AMReply

    It´s great to se Carter back in high creative gear and I hope he will get his projects off the ground, and eventually be allowed to make XF3. The tale deserves an epic mythology ending! XF and Millennium was magic. Thank you CC.

  • Pradeep Das | October 23, 2012 4:04 PMReply

    X-Files is the greatest serial I have ever seen. Want to see all ten seasons once more before end of life....

  • Stupot | October 24, 2012 5:13 PM

    Good luck with that ;)

  • Violet | October 23, 2012 2:57 PMReply

    As much as I enjoyed growing up on The X Files, it's complete bullshit that Carter doesn't mention Twin Peaks once in this interview, particularly at this moment:

    "The good thing and the bad thing about was that there was nothing scary on television then, so when I came in and said, 'There’s nothing scary on television, and this is something that we should be doing,' they got that idea. But they didn’t get the idea of two FBI agents investigating the paranormal. That was weird to them, and they didn’t want to do it at first."

  • Random Reader | November 11, 2012 2:31 AM

    My thoughts exactly. I loved the X-Files, but David Lynch was there already with the core themes (an FBI agent delving into a creepy, scary paranormal mystery that had an UFO thread as well.) Mulder and Scully certainly rock, but Agent Cooper (& Co.) remains the king. :)