David Duchovny has had a long and varied career, but his best-known role will likely always be the one that made him famous: Fox Mulder on The X-Files. But the actor is quick to point out that there’s one big trait that he and his signature character do not have in common: the belief in bonkers conspiracy theories.
On a recent episode of the Literally! With Rob Lowe podcast, Duchovny—who co-starred with Lowe on Californication—chats about his career, education, and other creative interests, and of course The X-Files comes up.
“I love me a good conspiracy theory,” Lowe says, but Duchovny quickly cautions him that they’re “so dangerous,” adding “conspiracies are great drama, yeah, but mostly conspiracies in real life, they’re looking for simple answers to complicated questions. And a conspiracy conspiracy finds a bad man, or a couple bad men, who have decided to perpetrate some evil upon the world and I don’t think that’s how it happens usually.”
When Lowe asks if Duchovny’s perspective on conspiracies existed before he starred on X-Files, or if his experiences on the show (and with devoted fans of the show in particular) helped shape the way he feels today, the actor suggests the latter is true. “Have you heard about, like, the lizard people? Have you heard about that thing? There were a couple years there where people were asking me about lizard people and I had no clue that it was a big thing. And I would just kind of scoff at them, like, I’d be signing somebody’s thing and they’d say, ‘Oh so-and-so’s a reptilian or a lizard.’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, uh, all right. Why is he calling that guy a lizard or a reptile? I don’t get it.’”
In the end, the actor says, “This kind of thing would happen to me over and over, where there’d be like a conspiracy du jour that I wasn’t hip to, and people would think that I was because I played Mulder, but it would just kind of go over my head.”
At the end of the podcast, Duchovny reveals he—gasp!—almost passed on the role for a pretty ridiculous reason: “When I did the X-Files pilot I had gotten this...maybe it was a movie of the week when they used to do those things, something like that? It was like a couple scenes in this movie of the week, and it was a director who I was friendly with, and I was going to have to pull out of that part to do the X-Files pilot. And I said to my agent, ‘I don’t want to do that. She’s a friend, and I don’t want to pull out.’ First of all, I thought, this is about extraterrestrials...how long can it go? It’s a fun pilot, it’s good pilot, but you’re either going to see the aliens and then there’s no tension, or you’re going to wait too long to see them...and I wasn’t interested in conspiracy theories, as we’ve established. And I was perfectly willing to just say ‘I’m going to have to pass on that pilot because I said I’d do this other project.’”
Fortunately for us, his agents convinced him not to pass up that weird pilot about aliens—and we need only turn on pretty much any X-Files episode ever to see Duchovny’s alter ego pontificating on any number of wild conspiracy theories. We suggest “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” as a fun jumping-off point, but share your favorite Spooky rabbit holes in the comments!
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