This past weekend at Wizard World Philadelphia, I had the pleasure of sitting down with The X-Files’ Mitch Pileggi, aka Assistant Director Walter Skinner. I asked him all about the revival, his favorite X-Files moments, and what his hopes are for Skinner’s future. Mitch was the nicest guy (not to mention quite dashing), answering everything and really engaging with his fans over the weekend. I won’t lie – I’ve always been a fan of Skinner’s and was so happy that he returned in the six-episode revival series earlier this year. Read onward for a fun look at this X-Files favorite!
Note: this interview was conducted on behalf of Legion of Leia and first published there!
Amy Imhoff: To start off, I wanted to say that you are so good about Twitter and talking to your fans. I wanted to thank you for being great to the fans.
Mitch Pileggi: Thank you! Sometimes I get on these jags where I’ll just spend hours on there talking to people.
Not a lot of people do that for their fans, so it is much appreciated.
MP: Sometimes I get away from it for a while, you know my wife goes, “get off the Twitter!”
When the going gets tough, the tough call Skinner – at least Mulder and Scully do! What do you wish we had seen more of with Skinner, both throughout the series and in the revival? We’ve gotten little snippets of his backstory but never a lot of info to go on.
MP: Its hard to say, you don’t want to get too much into his personal life, you know they did at one point but with the marriage and divorce, it was…you know. [Author note: Not the best episode but hey, you can’t win them all!]
I think there’s a lot of potential there, though.
MP: I said to Chris at one point, when the Lone Gunmen (RIP) got their spinoff I was like, wait a minute, what about Skinner! And Chris said, well, what would a spinoff about Skinner be? What would it be about? The FBI is his life. There may be potential, but his involvement is so Mulder-and-Scully-centric that there’s no room to find out anything more – what I think would be more interesting is if he got out the FBI and he got into some other type of investigation.
I would watch it!
That could possibly be interesting but as far as what it would be about, I’d have to say I don’t know.
One of my favorite Skinner moments is actually in I Want To Believe, when Scully wanted someone who knew what the hell was going on –
MP: That’s not what she said, she said give me someone who has some balls!
Yes, she did! And when it cut to Skinner getting out of the car, everyone in the theater cheered and was so excited. You are definitely a fan favorite. What do you hope for Skinner, now and in the future? I know he wasn’t in the new series as much as we all would have liked.
MP: I think the only thing I can hope for is that he’s included more and that he’s still alive, since you don’t even know how he was affected by this virus. That was really left open. But then again at the end of the series you were left hanging with Skinner too, since you saw him walking into that office – a lot of people weren’t even sure he was alive then, either.
Plus, that scene you are talking about, in IWTB, was probably one of my favorite moments in my life. I went with my daughter to the premiere so my little girl was sitting next to me in the theater when that happened. She’s 18 now, so she was 10 at the premiere. But that moment when they revealed Skinner and he came on screen, the audience went nuts and I turned and I looked at her, she was looking at me like – what is going on? They are all cheering!
She was like, “Dad’s cool?! I had no idea!”
MP: Yes! I know! It was great.
What did you think about season 10, the arc and the story they told?
MP: To be honest, I haven’t seen all of it, which I’m ashamed to say but it’s true. I’ve watched the premiere but I can’t comment on the entire story arc.
My favorites were “Home Again” and “Mulder and Scully Meet the Weremonster” – they were great.
MP: You know, I’m so pissed at both the Morgan brothers! They didn’t put me in!
Glen told me that you found him in the gym specifically to yell at him for not writing Skinner into his episode.
MP: Yes, I found him on the bike and said, Dude, What the hell? And then I said something about Darin and Glen said, I don’t think you’re in Darin’s episode either. Then later I saw Darin on the elevator, I got on the elevator and ignored him on purpose. And he said hi, I’m Darin (as if I didn’t remember who he was) and I said, Darin who? And he goes, Darin Morgan, and I said Morgan? How do you spell that? He totally thought that I was serious! I was just joking.
One thing about the revival I don’t understand is why Chris Carter brought back M&S only to have them be apart for half of the episodes! They spent about 25 minutes together, total, in Carter’s three episodes. As a shipper, I really disliked that. Since I’m contributing The X-Fileschapter to an academic book on shipping and fandom, I wanted to ask: are you a shipper? Do you think Skinner is?
MP: I think Skinner has a huge crush on Scully, I’ve always said that. He really cares about both of them as people. Me? I guess, but once you get the couple together, like withMoonlighting…Castle had kind the same issue. Once you get the two people together around whom the story is revolving romantically, it kind of dissipates everything else going on around them.
I can see that if maybe The X-Files was still going on, year to year, but it only came back for six episodes. Why not give the people what they want? I think that Chris Carter is afraid to admit that The X-Files is a one of TV’s best modern love stories ever.
MP: I think its distracting from who they are as FBI agents and the central focus of the story.
But you can’t have one without the other, they are soul mates.
MP: Well that is true, they are, and as partners working together for so many years it made people want them to get together. But I don’t think you need payoff. Once you get payoff you could be done and we don’t want that.
Well another thing that would have been great if, in the finale, we could have seen Skinner chopper in and save Mulder from the Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM). Agent Miller was very cute and Robbie Amell did a great job, but I wanted Skinner to waste the CSM, bring Mulder back to Scully, and really get a chance to be the hero!
MP: Now we’re on the same page! I’m with you all the way on that. That would have been great. I said to Chris at one point, am I hard to write for? Or is Skinner hard to write for? And he didn’t get what I was saying. But what it comes down to is that you have six episodes and you have to service Mulder, Scully and the story. And that’s why it was so difficult for the Morgans to put me in their episodes, because they had a lot of story to tell.
What did you think of Einstein and Miller? Miller seemed to be more well-liked, whereas Einstein came off as a bit rude. I personally felt she didn’t have proper respect for Mulder and Scully. I’m glad you told her to sit down and behave.
MP: Yes, I told her to listen to Scully, since Scully is a medical doctor and knows more than she (Einstein) does. I had scenes with Lauren (Ambrose), who is a sweetheart, and I didn’t have any scenes with Robbie. I haven’t seen their episodes in full to comment on Miller and Einstein as characters.
Do you have a favorite episode on the whole? I know which episodes David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson love, but which do you love?
MP: “Home” is one of my favorite episodes. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is another, Peter Boyle was amazing in it. There are so many really good episodes. The circus one – “Humbug” – was very good, I like that one a lot too.
Scully eats a cricket! That is one of my favorites as well.
MP: There was so much amazing humor in the show throughout, they really sprinkled humor in and I thought that approach was brilliant.
So you’ve been on Dallas, Sons of Anarchy, Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy, Stargate: Atlantic – I remember seeing you on Grey’s Anatomy and saying, OH MY GOD ITS SKINNER. These are all great shows. The X-Files was doing arcs and mythos way before a lot of these shows, especially the scifi ones – Lost brought it mainstream, but most TV was very episodic until the late 90s. How do you think TV storytelling has changed since you started as an actor versus now?
MP: Oh wow, I don’t know. When you ask an analytical question like that, it’s hard. I think as an actor one of the big things that has changed is that for so many years, cameras were very static. You couldn’t move very much in a scene. That was difficult to deal with. One time I was shooting an X-Files episode, and Kim Manners was directing –
I loved his tribute in “Mulder and Scully Meet the Weremonster,” that was so nice.
MP: Yeah, wasn’t that great? It was so cool they could do that. I did see that part! So, we were shooting in Kersh’s office and I was slightly in the background but I had dialogue. I said to Kim at one point, can I move from here over to here? And he goes, well yeah you can but we’ll be here for the rest of the day shooting this scene, because they wouldn’t match. Now cameras are so mobile, they can move with you. The Steadicam and the cameraman moves with you, so it is more realistic and for an actor, it makes it better for us. That way, we can give a more full performance as if you were on stage.
Have you done any stage work?
MP: I just finished doing a play the beginning of this year – the first play I had done in 25 years. I was in Austin, and the play was called “Tribes,” by Nina Raine. It’s an English play. It was a great experience.
You should come to New York! Come visit us and do a show.
MP: If I was asked to do a play on Broadway, I’d do it in a second!
Another analytical question – science fiction is now cool. Superhero movies are hugely popular, and that has all changed from when I was a kid watching The X-Files. What do you think sparked that cultural shift from kids getting picked on for being nerds who like comics and scifi to it being mainstream?
MP: The X-Files! They changed it! Before that there was the Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, but they didn’t have the same level of success as The X-Files. Even David (Duchovny) said we were going to do six episodes and be done after that first year. I think it has had a huge impact on scifi, along with Star Trek.
Are you a Trekkie?
MP: I am a fan of Star Trek, yes! And now Bryan Fuller’s getting ready to do a new one.
I just read today that Gillian was cast in American Gods. I read the Variety report standing here waiting to do my interviews.
MP: Bryan is a huge X-Files fan. When I found out he was going to be the showrunner on Star Trek, I texted him and reminded him that I do have experience flying a spaceship. [On Stargate: Atlantis, Mitch played Colonel Steven Caldwell]
Ooooo! I can see you as a Starfleet Admiral. I will tweet Bryan and tell him you must be included. Speaking of being included, why is there no Skinner FunkoPop figure? We must start a petition!
MP: I don’t know! There’s an alien, but no Skinner. Although I joked on Twitter that Skinner is actually the alien.
Thank you so much for chatting with me! I hope we see you in season 11!
MP: Fingers crossed!
Thank you, Mitch! Y’all should head on over to Twitter and thank Mitch for giving so generously of his time. Are you excited for The X-Files season 11? I am!!! Hope they can get everyone together again soon. Also, stay tuned: I also interviewed William B. Davis, aka The Cigarette Smoking Man! Ahhhh!