X-Files archive: Nicholas Lea interview

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This article was originally published in 2013.

Played: Alex Krycek Number of episodes: 24

When did you last see an episode?

It's been a while, but I've seen little pieces here and there. I don't sit around and watch myself, as a rule. I think probably the last episode I saw was The Field Where I Died. It's where Mulder and Scully go to investigate a cult and have a past-life experience.

Do you have a favourite monster?

Probably the three brothers in Home, who are getting their mother pregnant and then burying the babies in the backyard. It's just so extreme and unusual. They took a big chance by doing that. In some ways I'm surprised that passed the smell test at the network. That's what was wonderful about the show, that Chris and Howard Gordon and the others were given latitude to kind of do whatever they like. That episode really makes people squirm.

Nicholas Lea

Do you remember any of your lines?

I don't. I suppose I just don't have that kind of mind. And Krycek never really had any catchphrases or famous lines. It was more memorable scenarios. The other day I watched the 20th anniversary Comic-Con panel on YouTube, and also a profile of my character that Fox had done. The thrust of the piece was that so many bizarre and outrageous things had happened to this character. I was at a party over the weekend and someone was asking me questions about The X-Files. I talked about the experience of being locked in the missile silo and having black oil leak out of my eyes and my nose and my mouth. I remember that being particularly gnarly.

To call it one of the highpoints of my career is kind of an understatement.

They made this mask for me, which had tubes running through it, and someone would pump this black stuff through it. A lot of it ended up getting in my mouth, so I ended up breathing through a straw for most of the afternoon. It was some kind of sugary, glucosey, awful stuff. Not something I would sit down and drink a pint of. I never expected to be around so long. I came in when Gillian got pregnant and had to take some time off the show. And I remember getting the job and coming home so excited that I'd got three episodes. I thought that's where it would end, but I stuck around for seven years. To call it one of the highpoints of my career is kind of an understatement.

Did you come up with a backstory?

It's difficult to come up with a backstory for that character. It's something I usually do as part of my homework, but because so many things happen to this guy, it was hard to nail down anything on my own that would fit into the extreme circumstances that he's going through. What I focused on in the end was that he was a survivor. Under any circumstances he was going to survive and attempt to triumph. I remember asking Chris Carter, "Is it ever possible for me to land one punch on Mulder? Just one punch?" And Chris said, "No. It's never going to happen." I'm dying to make up a compilation tape of all the times I was punched, because it would probably last a half-hour.

Are you a Shipper or a No-Romo?*

I feel strongly that those things should never come to a head. When you have a detective team working together, it should stay professional. In the third season of The Killing, there's a moment where both characters are at absolute rock bottom. One of them reaches up to kiss the other and they almost bump heads, because it's so awkward and clumsy. That's as far as it goes and as far as it ever will go. I'm a firm believer in not bringing romance into those things.

What's the strangest encounter you've had with a fan?

I have them regularly. I was in Cuba a couple of years ago, around Christmas time, and staying in a friend of a friend's apartment. We went into somebody's backyard in Havana somewhere, and there was a guy there working on a motorcycle. He sat there in his overalls, looked at me and said, "You were in The X-Files." The fact that I was so far from home and in a place where they have two or three television stations, that was a real shock. I was in Chicago two or three weeks ago, at a blues joint called Buddy Guys. I went in to use the bathroom and there was an old black guy in there. Just as I was washing my hands and about to leave, he said, "Where do I know you from? Were you in The X-Files?" It was like, "Holy shit!"

I'm dying to make up a compilation tape of all the times I was punched.

It seems to follow you into the weirdest corners of the world. I was in Dublin a number of years ago, with Mitch at an autograph session. This little boy handed me a note and when he'd left I opened it up. It said, "Dear Mulder and Scully, there's evil in Ireland. The police can't do anything and the government covers it up. I wrote the Power Rangers but they never wrote me back. Please come and save us." I was quite moved by that. It indicates the power and reach of the show.

Nicholas Lea

What's the best thing you kept from the set?

I've got a treasure trove in a big locker of all my X-Files things. Coffee cups, T-shirts, lunch boxes, playing cards, keychains, penknives, on and on and on. But the one thing that I really love is the prosthetic shoulder that they put on me. I had a shower scene in the gulag and the UN woman came to find me. I was standing in a shower with just one arm, and they did that by putting a prosthetic on me while my real arm was down my back. I didn't steal it! I just don't think anyone wanted it back. At some point I think it will be my retirement fund.

Mulder's obsession is aliens. What's yours?

I would say breaking 80 in my golf game. I've got it a handful of times, but it's a difficult enterprise.

When did you last cross paths with someone from the show?

I saw Mitch last year in London, at which point I saw Gillian as well, quickly. That was a really nice surprise, because I love her. David and I stayed in good contact, but over the last year we haven't actually talked. I saw Howard Gordon not that long ago. But Mitch and I are really good friends. We always have a good chuckle, remember the crazy stuff we did on that set. Whenever the camera was on everyone took it very seriously, but it was a very light set and I loved working with all those guys.

Sum up the conspiracy storyline in 30 seconds or less.

When powerful people try to hold onto power, crazy and strange things will happen.

*Shippers want Mulder and Scully to hook up. No-Romos don't.