THE X-FILES’ 20th Anniversary: ARROW Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg Talks About Its Influence on His Work - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE X-FILES’ 20th Anniversary: ARROW Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg Talks About Its Influence on His Work

September 12, 2013 by  

In honor of the 20th anniversary of THE X-FILES, I spoke with some of the television writers who have mentioned to me that they have been influenced by THE X-FILES to dig deeper into why this show resonated with them.

Next up? ARROW executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, who was also a former PA on the Fox series…

When did you actually start watching THE X-FILES?
Andrew Kreisberg: I started watching — I actually watched right from the pilot. That show was so in my wheelhouse. So it was a real thrill when the opportunity came up to be a production assistant on it.

How far into the show’s run was it that you actually joined the team?
AK: I became a production assistant on it in the beginning of season 2. Truth be told, there weren’t a lot of people who even knew about it. Even then, I would tell people, “Oh my God, I’m working on THE X-FILES,” and people had no idea what I was talking about.

It was funny, because a few years later, I was writing full time, and by then, I got far more attention for having once worked on THE X-FILES than for some of the obscure shows I was writing for at the time.

That makes sense. THE X-FILES has been responsible for some of the best talent we have behind-the-scenes working on television today.
AK: Well, I never wrote on the show. My nickname was Latte Boy. The majority of what I did was go to Starbucks for the writers.

Hey, every person needs to have a place on a show. There’s nothing wrong with that!
AK: Then it got shortened to L.B. And then, one day I came by my desk, and someone had left me a note that said, “Hey, Elby” — they heard one of the writers call me L.B. and thought my name was Elby. [Laughs] True story.

You made a mark!
AK: In some way!

But on a serious note, what did being around that group of writers do for you as you were starting your own career as a writer?
AK: It was truly amazing. I knew I wanted to be a writer — and I had done writing — but watching them construct an episode, and watching them craft an episode, and watching how they worked out a story, and put themes on cards, and working the writers’ room, it was really the first glimpse I had seen of how you create a TV show. And especially how do you create a TV show by working with other people?

Up until then, all the writing that I had done, it had been solitary. Like, I sat in my apartment or dorm room and wrote a script. That was my first real glimpse of watching a staff work together and watching people bounce ideas off each other. Watching that amazing thing when someone pitches an idea and someone says, “That’s great. And if we did that, we could do this.” And then somebody else says, “Oh, and we could do that!” Just seeing that excitement level was amazing.

And this was also really before the internet caught on. So for a show that was so incredibly, technically heavy, and had procedural jargon, and scientific jargon, and medical jargon, there were always books and documentaries. It wasn’t as simple as looking up something on the internet; it was doing a tremendous amount of research, which I got to help with, which is fun.

For a show like X-FILES, I can’t even imagine what the research was like, especially in those pre-easily accessible internet days.
AK: Just today, I’m working on an episode of ARROW, and one of the conceits of our show is Oliver has learned many languages, and I just type into Google translate something and out came the Russian. Back then, it would have been contacting someone who spoke Russian or finding a book on Russian [language]….so that was certainly a big change. And it’s actually a credit to the show that despite all that, how amazingly, incredibly researched it was.

Yeah, absolutely. Was there a particular person on the show who made the most impact on you as a writer?
AK: Well, Howard Gordon actually brought me on to the show. I have a very tangential family connection to him and he took me out to what I would call the obligatory coffee you need to take when you get a phone call from someone. But he really took a shine to me and it really meant the world to me. And he actually hooked me up with the casting director on the show, Rick Millikan, and I worked with Rick for a while as a casting assistant and then moved over to the PA position on THE X-FILES.

Howard was just amazing. And, obviously, he has gone on to work on and create some of the most amazing shows on television like 24 and HOMELAND. But back then, I was just out of college and fetching coffee for people, and I looked at Howard as a rising star and a writer, and it was really something for me to shoot for. And he was really great at letting me peek in at the writing or the editing or whatever it was. Like I said, it was really my first glimpse into the world of television, and getting to see it from different angles.

That’s great. Because you were a fan before you started working on the show, after you joined, were you still able to watch it and really enjoy the series? Or because you knew everything that was going on, did it dull it a bit for you?
AK: [Laughs] It’s funny, because that does happen sometimes, but that show was so good. Even then — and remembering, it wasn’t the zeitgeist hit it was, so it was more me crowing about this amazing thing I was on, but I was really proud of it. And what was even cooler, was now I was able to read the scripts. Be able to read the scripts, and see the ideas, and see how they were visualized, because all I did was watch the show the first season, but in the second season, I’d read these scripts and say, “How the hell are they going to do that?” And then I got to see how they did it.

And it’s been kind of amazing in my career that there were so many people who worked on the show that I didn’t get to meet, either because they were up in Canada, or they were in other places, who I’ve now gotten to work with. Like, [line producer] JP Finn or [visual effects producer] Mat Beck or [director] David Nutter, even though I didn’t, I did work with them 20 years ago.

Yeah, it’s a small world. And given you now have your own Canadian crew and production team, have you been hearing from any of them who did get their industry start working on THE X-FILES?
AK: Yeah. JP, who is our line producer [on ARROW], we’ll go on a location scout somewhere and he’ll mention they scouted there for X-FILES.

My favorite story is they did an episode, I can’t remember the title of it — it was a Native American word…

AK: Yeah, I think it was the season finale, where Mulder went out in the desert and the thing exploded. They actually went to a rock quarry in Vancouver and painted the rocks red. They were assured the paint would wash off — and it didn’t. [Laughs] For the longest time! And there are still rocks that are painted red from their miscalculation almost 20 years ago.

That’s quite the unexpected legacy X-FILES left on Canada!
AK: Yeah. And going back to your earlier question, something I actually learned from Chris Carter was one day he sent me to Blockbuster — back when people rented movies — and told me to pick up JFK and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. And I brought them back, and I asked him why, and he said, “Sometimes when I’m losing my way, I need to get back into the mood of what I’m trying to do.” And he sat there and watched the movies as he was writing. And I thought that was something that was really interesting. And that’s something that when I feel like I’ve lost my way, or I know what I want to accomplish, but I can’t quite get there — whether it’s listening to music or watching a similarly themed show — it’s really helped me get back in my headspace. I’ve always appreciated learning that there.

Given ARROW is still a relatively new show, and you were on X-FILES when it was still a new show, what was the biggest lessons you learned there that you’ve gotten to apply to you own show?
AK: I think the biggest lesson I learned there — like I said, it really was my first introduction to television, and Chris Carter was the driving force behind that show; it was his voice, his direction. But there were a lot of amazing, talented writers there, who brought a lot of what they had to the show. It was Chris’s vision, and also his ability to harness the best out of all these people. I don’t think it’s a surprise that so many of the writers he had went on to do amazing things. I think it really was an all-star room. And that’s something I’ve tried to do in the shows I’ve been lucky enough to staff — find the most amazing, talented writers, and have them bring a lot of their own energy and creativity and their ideas. Finding the best way to harness that, because that’s where a great show comes from: it comes from everybody.

That’s absolutely true. What do you think is THE X-FILES’ legacy now?
AK: For me, the biggest thing — and at the time, this is the thing I told all my friends about — it really was like seeing a movie on television every week. Obviously it was a precursor to the heavily serialized shows that came after it like BUFFY and 24 and ANGEL, but it also showed what you could pull off week in and week out. You watch some of those episodes and they really do look like feature films.

Working on ARROW, one of the things we said straight away was that if this thing doesn’t look like a movie, people can go ahead and rent the AVENGERS or THE DARK KNIGHT and not bother. We need to show them something that is just as good as what they’re watching in the theaters every week, or they’re not going to stick here. And I think THE X-FILES was the first show that did that, and everyone else has been trying to emulate it ever since.

A very good point. Did you have a favorite character?
AK: I have to pick one? Hm. I always liked Krycek. I loved that he was the new partner, and then he was good, and then he was bad. You never quite knew where you stood with him, which I thought was fascinating. Whenever he showed up, it was always fun.

Did you have a favorite episode?
AK: Oof. That’s hard. I have so many favorite episodes. I loved “Beyond the Sea.” That really was the one I would show people early on, and say, “This is why this show is amazing.” And it’s interesting, because it wasn’t even the most flashy episode, “cinematic-wise,” but it really was so unbelievably emotional and everybody gave such wonderful performances in it. And obviously, any of the episodes written by Darin Morgan.

Ooh, good choice. Did you have a favorite monster/bad guy?
AK: I always liked Eugene Victor Tooms. I thought he was really cool. And I think that was really interesting, because the show could have just been alien of the week, and it could have just been that mythology, and having people like Tooms really expanded the universe and let it be anything that was unexplained. In part, I think that’s part of what made the show so exciting; you never quite knew what it was going to be week to week.

Very true. Did you ‘ship Mulder and Scully?
AK: Yeah, I did. I loved the “Millennium” episode where they kissed and Mulder says, “Hey look, the world didn’t end.” It’s funny, because there’s a lot of TV shows where you have the male lead and the female lead, and you wonder whether they should be together, and some shows put them together and it’s a mistake, and some people don’t get the people together and that’s a mistake.

But it kind of felt like Mulder and Scully should be together. They were the only two people in the world for each other, and I think what was so amazing about it was it took a long, long, long, long time for them to take those steps, but when they did, you really felt it, because it had been earned by the 100 episodes before it of them being willing to fight and love and die for each other.

That’s beautifully put. Did you prefer the mythology or the monster of the week episodes?
AK: I preferred the myths. It’s funny, my own sister passed away when I was 20 years old, and at the time, it was still very fresh for me. So the fact that Mulder’s sister had disappeared, I found incredibly invocative, because I could really relate what he was going through. At the end of the day, all of the aliens and all of the mythology, it was really about a brother who loved and missed his sister, and I always found those stories, and the hope that he would get one bit closer to finding her to be some of the most compelling stuff to me personally.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the next interview in the series!

(ARROW’s second season debuts Wednesday, October 9th at 8 PM on The CW.)


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Filed under #1 featured, Arrow, The X-Files


One Response to “THE X-FILES’ 20th Anniversary: ARROW Executive Producer Andrew Kreisberg Talks About Its Influence on His Work”

  1. shelly baldwin on September 12th, 2013 9:10 pm

    Another great interview with fascinating insights. Thanks, Marisa!