All right. Let me geek out here a little bit.
Back in the day, that day being the late 90s and early 00s, when The X-Files was in its initial airing, I was a huge fan. And I still am. I still think it was one of the best shows ever made.
So about a year ago — before I had any idea that Chris Carter was thinking of bringing back The X-Files, I decided to re-watch the whole series. Giant cell phones and shoulder pads aside, I was delighted to see the writing still stands the test of time. There’s just something about The X-Files that draws me in, every time, whether the mythology or MOTW episodes. (Fellow X-Philes know what I’m saying here.)
When I was maybe somewhere in Season 5 on my rewatch, I heard the news: The X-Files is coming back! I was giddy. I finished my rewatch and waited. And then when #TheXFiles201Days rewatch was announced (watching one episode a day every day for the 201 days leading up to the new series premiere in January), I watched again. (I will neither confirm nor deny that it took me far less than 100 days to watch the 201 episodes both times.)
And in the course of watching, I was reminded of The Lone Gunmen. Oh, The Lone Gunmen! How could we not love the three quirky, funny, charming in their own way, cynical but kind, blazingly smart conspiracy theorists who helped Mulder and Scully on their quest for The Truth? There was Melvin Frohike, there was John Fitzgerald Byers, and then, of course, there was Richard Langly.
On a whim, I emailed Dean Haglund — the actor who portrayed Langly with the perfect blend of wit, sarcasm, and flair. Would he be willing to do a Q&A with me?
When I got an email back from Dean saying he was willing, I have to say, I may have squeed a bit. Because COME ON!! That is some serious awesome right there. I gathered myself up to try to pretend to be professional about this.
Dean came through with some fantastic answers, thoughts, and insights. He was last on my personal radar back in the days of The X-Files … It’s amazing how much can happen in fifteen years. He’s been busy!
Note: If you haven’t seen the original The X-Files series, there are some spoilers here. But you’ve had more than a decade in which to watch it, so I’m going to say the statute of limitations on spoilers has passed. You’ve been warned.
Also, I have to apologize for the length of this post. I got so excited about talking with Dean that I asked him a ton of questions, and he, being awesome, answered all of them. I thought about splitting this up into two or more posts, but I decided that personally I hate having to remember to go back later and find part 2 of anything. So here is the full Q&A in all its lengthy glory!!
Thank you, Dean!
Q: Hi, Dean! Thank you for taking the time to Q&A with me! I appreciate it so much.
Let’s start with The X-Files. I know you’ve signed a confidentiality agreement and can’t say much about your/The Lone Gunmen’s appearance(s) in the January 2016 X-Files Revival series. What can you say? For starters, how many episodes are you in? Sounds like you did a one- or two-day whirlwind trip to Vancouver from Australia to film one episode?
A: Just one episode for us. It was a whirlwind trip. Originally they had me getting off the plane and heading straight to set to shoot our scene, and THEN I’d get to the hotel to check in long enough to shower and grab a nap, and then head back to the airport to fly home.
Luckily, that changed, and I had a few days in Vancouver for wardrobe fitting and time to see some family. That was good, but the macho part of me wished for the first schedule just so I could have an awesome war story to tell.
Q: The Lone Gunmen died at the end of The X-Files … heart wrenching, of course. But we all know no one really dies on The X-Files. Can you tell me, are The Lone Gunmen alive as real live living fully human human beings in the Revival?
A: Hmmm … “real live living fully human human beings” — were the three of them EVER that? The joy of The X-files is how it plays on so many different realities never knowing what is the truth and what is the deception. So my approach to my character has always been that we are alive and have always been alive, and were never “killed off,” but held a fake funeral in “Jump the Shark” to get the heat off of us.
Q: In your podcast, you said a couple of rather intriguing things:
- “It’s probably a final chapter for the characters we know, and maybe introducing some new characters.”
- “We [The Lone Gunmen] are in this season wrap-up, but that may be the last time you see us. Make way for the new kids.”
Any further comment on that?
A: If I were an executive at FOX, I would know that this X-Files comes with a pre-built-in marketing campaign that takes care of a lot of the heavy lifting that is required when you launch a new series. So if there was a rare occurrence of all the schedules of all the key players lining up so that a revival of your biggest money-maker of the 90s was happening, I would think that I would want to keep that momentum going even when all the key people have to go on to other projects that they have previously committed to. I would do that by strategizing how to introduce new elements that would hopefully catch on and keep it alive longer. It would be silly not to.
Q: You talk in Chillpak Hollywood Hour #435 about the challenges of re-visiting a role twenty years later — that is, not just have you aged, but the character has aged. How did you approach that? Did you (alone or with the others) think and talk about how your characters’ personalities might have changed over time? For example, how would the world events of the last twenty years have affected Langly’s personal evolution, his personal narrative and perspective on the world? How do you think he would have changed?
A: Before we got the script, we three Gunmen laughed at the many scenarios we could possibly be in now, twenty years down the road. Everything from sitting in a hot tub in Silicon Valley to back in an airport handing out UFO brochures. And, more thoughtfully, I have discussed how the nature of underground research and alternative media reporting has changed since the show first aired. The “conspiracy theorist” is no longer a crazy person with a tinfoil hat, but they are the Edward Snowdens and the Wikileaks that bring down major institutions and are the catalysts for social change. The Lone Gunmen Newspaper (that our characters put out and from whence we got our name) would now be a website linked to so many similar sites. And all of that info morphs into a parallel society where all official stories are questioned and so forth, making the three of us either very wealthy or deeper undercover.
Q: The 1990s/2000s, the time when the show was originally aired, had to have been a heady and somewhat surreal time for all of you, without any of the benefit of hindsight or perspective, or even the wisdom of age. If you could go back to 1994 when The Lone Gunmen first aired in The X-Files episode “E.B.E.,” what would you tell yourself about the ride you were about to take?
A: I am not sure I would tell me anything. The sheer joy of it coming unexpectedly, and even improbably, made it all the more fun. I suppose I would have maybe said get a better agent sooner, but I am still telling myself today!!
Q: The idea of going back to a show twenty years later is fascinating to me from the standpoint of “stepping in the same river twice.” You’re twenty years older now. You have life perspective that you couldn’t have had then. Now you have the opportunity to, as it were, step in the same river again. How was the experience different this time from last time?
A: Shockingly, the experience was almost exactly the same. I even said to Tom Braidwood [who portrayed Melvin Frohike, and who also was an assistant director on The X-Files for several seasons] at one point on set, “I think that when I flew here, I didn’t cross the international date line, I crossed a time warp and came back twenty years, because not one single thing has changed.” Same atmosphere, some of the same crew members, even the same long hours. It was weird.
Q: You are inextricably and forever linked to The X-Files. Is that a good thing or bad thing or both? Why?
A: It’s great, it was an epic show that was a quality piece of television craft but also an amazing group of artisans who were working to the peak of their strengths, and it has held up pretty well, so that a whole new generation is digging it. So I am happy to have a small part in that.
Q: Because of your role, you’ve said have a lot of people talking with you, about conspiracies and aliens and whatnot. And not just conspiracy theorists — as I understand it, you have, on occasion, had people involved with the CIA or FBI or whatnot tell you that the things that happened on The X-Files were not so far from real incidents that they’ve investigated or heard about. Is that true?
A: That is true, and while I don’t think that I can share all the stories I have heard over the years, I bring them up sometimes on my podcast and when I guest on other radio shows. As for it all being true, or are some just the blabbing of a drunk fellow, the best answer I can give to that is some of what I was told would then be verified in the regular media as true years later. So, I remember all these tales and then wait.
Q: Not too long ago in another interview you said: “Astronaut [Edgar] Mitchell just went on a newscast and said, ‘I’ve seen ETs. We have government proof that they’re here.’ And that’s Mitchell, who went up in Apollo 7.” That is a rather intense and incredible statement! I have to know more. Have you heard any more about that? Like, what exactly is an ET in his terminology? Is it an alien life form, like an amoeba? Or is he talking about intelligent life? Here? On Earth? How and why would this be kept secret? What do you think about that? What does our government know???
A: I have been in a position, because of The X-Files, to talk with many real life researchers and Ufologists about all manner of ET-related items, and all of them have a varying degrees of similar facts about the matter. But as Richard Dolan said to me in my documentary The Truth Is Out There, “If the government ever DID come forth with all the info they had on UFOs over the years, two more damaging questions would have to answered: How did you keep this all of this secret, and why was the press so complicit in covering that up? And that, he thinks, would unravel the entire system, so therefore the status quo is to continue the “truth embargo” as it is known now.
Q: What do you personally believe? About aliens, about alien-human interaction, about parallel or alternate universes, about any of that?
A: Again, the people who have spent their lives researching this and working in these fields have amazing evidence of all of this existing and I have never been smart enough to poke holes in a lot of their work. And as I have always said, the only thing more scary than knowing we are not alone in the universe, is knowing we ARE alone in the universe.
Q: You’ve said that your first love is cartooning. You did a book called Why the Lone Gunmen was Canceled. Is it available anywhere? If not, have you thought about bringing it back as a self-published book, to coincide with The X-Files Revival?
A: I did a limited edition run of it in hard copy that I only sell at the conventions, and once those are sold out (which should be by the time this is out) I will have a e-version of it available on my website, which will be cheaper since those can’t be signed and personalized.
Q: A while back, you invented a laptop cooling system called a ChillPak. Tell me about that? As I understand it, it’s not available for sale any longer? Which is a bummer, because I could use one!
A: Yes it is odd that the company that bought the patent doesn’t seem that keen on getting these out into the market place. I am using one right now I as I type this in 35°C weather on my deck in Sydney [Australia], and the keys are still cool to the touch.
I won a silver medal at the International Inventors Expo in Geneva a few years back, and that really helped move some units, but my manufacturing plan all along was to make a quality product so much so that the one I am using right now is the PROTOTYPE. I chose to not plan the obsolesce into it and that made me the problem to many distributors. I guess that is what the new company is trying to figure out.
Q: Which is a good segue to: You have a podcast called the “Chillpak Hollywood Hour” (tagline: “From the Offices of Rational Exuberance”), a weekly podcast in which you and Phil Leirness cover a wide range of all things Hollywood. How did you meet Phil, and how did the podcast come about?
A: Phil and I have known each other for as many years as we care not to remember, and we are not sure how we met, only that we have always known each other in a town where it’s about who you know. I had my office next to his when he was working in Foreign Film distribution, and we would talk every Monday about all things Hollywood and what movies we had seen. The intern that I had at the time said it was very interesting listening to us and we should make it a podcast. Eight years later, here we are, still providing a free hour show for our legions of fans, because Phil and I are still working on projects. So the show is sometimes like a production meeting on the air.
Q: I listened to a few episodes in research for this interview, and loved it. (I started listening just as due diligence for the interview, but really enjoyed it and will keep listening!) Can you talk a little about what topics you cover? How do you guys decide what to cover each week? What is the goal of the podcast?
A: The goal of the podcast? If knew that, then we might have stopped it years ago 🙂
We cover all sorts of events both Hollywood and globally, as we sometimes say “Movies, celebrity deaths, and school closings.” We have segments like “lawsuit of the week” that pertain to either lawsuits that involve arts and entertainment or small claims court items that we are embroiled in. Phil sort of comes up with a running order of things and then we discuss them from our wide and varied vantage points. And then mock each other while we are at it.
Q: In addition to being an actor, inventor, podcaster, and cartoonist, you are also a stand-up comedian. Tell me about comedy. What is it that you love about performing comedy?
A: The immediacy of a crowd reaction. Maybe I am just impatient, but to film something and then wait a year for a review to come in about your performance, well, sometimes I forget what exactly was my headspace at the time of that performance so it is a bit irrelevant. Whereas, if you are not funny you know it immediately and when you are, it is an addictive sensation. I think that I am a laugh junkie, and that I have made my set now to be about how many laughs you can cram in a hour show.
“Ghost Adventurer Improv” from Dean Haglund’s YouTube channel
A: Now, I have abandoned my written material to an ALL IMPROVISED act that basically calls upon the audience suggestions to provide me with much of the show. I recreate an X-Files episode live on stage, with whatever suggestion is shouted out included in the plot line. I also call upon random audience members to join me onstage to be “Mulder” and others to fill out the cast. I have performed this show in every continent on the globe and it has been a hit, even when it has been in a language I didn’t really understand fluently. In fact, sometimes that has made it funnier.
Q: You’re in Australia right now, is that right? I can’t overstate how much I love Australia! I visited when I was 19, and have been wanting to go back ever since. So tell me, what took you to Australia, and when, and for how long?
A: My better half was promoted in her job and that took me and our two Dobermans across the sea. We confirmed this deal in November of 2014 which is when you have to draw blood from your dogs to start the 150-day clock clicking. From there it is a regular schedule of vet visits to confirm the dogs have their proper shots, and no new diseases, and the blood work has to be run through the USDA vet lab in Kansas and faxed to the Department of Agriculture in Australia. Then they had to have custom built crates to fly on QANTAS airlines, which is the only airplane to have a lit, temperature-controlled cabin room under the cockpit made especially for pets migrating overseas. Once over, their paperwork is confirmed at the airport for six hours and then a special van takes them to a quarantine lock up facility for ten days while they confirm they are disease free. This is apparently an IMPROVEMENT to when the dogs had to be kept for 90 days with no owners’ visits. Anyway, they passed with flying colors and now are the topic of conversation all over the neighborhood.
Q: Have you been able to get around the country much? What are some of your favorite places to visit in Australia?
A: Yes, I have done a few conventions so far that have taken me from Melbourne to Perth. I am looking forward to hitting some of the smaller towns with my comedy act because so much of this country reminds me of Canada. I can imagine that small towns of 200 people will be somewhat similar to my hometown I grew up in. And if it is not, how I will love the difference.
Q: Australia is home to so many of the world’s most deadly animals (which really is just my segue into linking to this spectacularly horrifying spider video — arachnophobes should not watch!). Have you encountered anything frightening and deadly?
A: I captured a huntsman [spider] on my stairs just the other day and released it into the wild (that being my neighbor’s yard). All the YouTube fellows seem to lack a certain “flick of the wrist” when it comes to capturing the larger arachnoids. I am sure that my large mop bucket will be my first line of defense when it comes to the deadlier varietals. I have reviewed the web pages that catalogue which versions could kill me, and luckily they prefer a more country-like setting than the urban neighborhood I am presently situated in. But I am ever vigilant, ready to place Australia’s worst into a tupperware container. (Did I mention I grew up where bears could kill you? They don’t have that here.)
Q: After Australia, what’s next? Where is “home” for you, or is that an ever-changing target?
A: To answer what is great about being on The X-Files is its global reach, seen in 167 countries; it has allowed me to travel the blue ball and have someone either know me or be thrilled that I was on a show that they know. That means I am never a stranger anywhere I go, and gives me the opportunity to choose my habitat by literally throwing a dart at a globe. The freedom that permits one to feel welcome where ever the hang their hat cannot be overstated. So clearly, I love Australia so much, its people, culture, and wildlife (i.e., nightlife), and am so pleased to call it home for the next foreseeable future, but knowing the nature of my work and the joy of an interconnected world, I think this is not the last place I will be placing my feet up on a coffee table. Sydney feels like home so much now, but I know that this will change, and it will not be a slight on this fantastic city.
Q: You turned 50 this year (happy birthday!). What have you figured out about life? What do you know that you didn’t know before? What did you used to think was true, that you now know isn’t?
A: This is hardest question of the bunch. This is one that I have stopped to walk my dogs and consider. And then at the end of the walk with the dogs plopped happily back on the furniture, I realized that I know there is no problem so big that a walk with the dogs can’t solve.
Q: What do you want the next five years of life to look like?
A: Full of laughs and travel. Much like the last thirty. But I also think that there is a lot of opportunity for new projects and endeavors here, just a matter of time.
Q: Final question. At the beginning of the 20th century, if you’d told people we’d have a man on the moon before the century was out, they would have thought you were crazy. And of course, they’d have been wrong. Many years ago I thought for a while about what I thought will never happen in my lifetime, and I decided we would not, in my lifetime, have people living on Mars. And yet, it seems I could end up wrong. What about you: What do you think will never happen in our lifetime?
A: The short answer is nothing. I believe in the potential of all things possibly imagined that can be made into a reality. My uncle was a Swedish scientist and in the 1970s he would speak of computers controlling most things in the future, and self driving cars and wireless communication. All the things that we are living with now. While some of it seems invasive (wait till your insurance company installs a internet-enabled toilet with built-in analyzer to make sure you are drug-free daily) other stuff, like renewable technologies that may save us from climate catastrophe, may make all things better.
The X-Files Revival season is set to air beginning January 24, 2016.
Also published at my Huffington Post blog.
Check out Pam’s books!
- The Universes Inside the Lighthouse—YA sci-fi adventure / first in the Balky Point Adventures
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- The Pam on the Map series—travelogues / wit and wanderlust