Lexicon Exclusive

"The Architect"

The X-Files Lexicon’s exclusive interview with Chris Carter on "The After"
Conducted by Matt Allair, 2/18/2014
Question collaborator: Orodromeus
Page Editor: XScribe

This development could not be any more significant for the history of The X-Files Lexicon, not only for the site, but the circumstances behind seeing a new television project from Chris Carter after another six-year gap. This website, and The X-Files fandom would not exist were it not for this great man. When you consider that it’s been twenty years since the debut of The X-Files, when you consider that there have been two generations of fans that have discovered his work, from The X-Files to Millennium to The Lone Gunman spinoff and Harsh Realm, as well as the impact his work has had on television, including countless imitators since 2002 that have cropped up – several of these imitators have satisfied ‘The X-Files jones’ of many fans, but for this writer, many of these imitators have mostly felt empty – sounding the notes without playing the music. Which is why I have always patiently advocated the idea of having Chris Carter come back to television. There was always something more substantive and just a little more layered about his work beyond mere entertainment, and while I dare to make such a comparison and hyperbole, it’s something I have done before: I have always thought of Chris Carter as a creative figure on par with Rod Serling or Gene Roddenberry.

Not only has there been the news about the debut of The After, but also an ‘as-not-yet-titled’ show for AMC, which may truly mean the return of Chris Carter to television. All of which makes this moment in pop culture important without overstating the point, the goodwill of patient fans, and segments of the viewing public, could determine the outcome of the show with the powers-that-be at Amazon. Thus far reviews have been mostly good, and some of the goodwill has been validated, but the Pilot has to deal with competitors like the Bosch pilot. Which leaves the outcome of if The After will be picked up for a series not known as of this writing. Thus many fans can have a real stake in the outcome–and in an interactive fashion quite fitting for X-Files fans who remember the role early philes had in the development of The X-Files, and the infancy of the internet.

How the events of this interview unfolded are interesting: The Lexicon had been following developments with The After, knew of the February launch, and had reached out by mid January. There was a gap before Gabe Rotter--director of development at Ten-Thirteen, Chris’ right hand man, and the co-producer of The After-- contacted me. Once the ball had begun rolling, and a feature that makes this interview unique, I knew I had to collaborate with Orodromeus, the webmaster of the site, Eat The Corn, on a series of questions. It seemed only fair as Orodromeus had been patiently and in-depth reporting about developments with The After for over a year, so his involvement only seemed fitting. I owe a great deal to Gabe Rotter for helping to make this happen, as well as Peter Binazeski, one of the heads of the Amazon marketing department for helping. I found Chris to be characteristically intelligent and concise, very accommodating and forthright, and a real pleasure to speak with. The interview progressed as follows…

Chris Carter: Hi Matt, how are you?

Matt Allair: Hi Chris. It’s a great honor to speak with you. I really enjoyed the pilot and congratulations on the show.

Chris: Thank you so much.

Orodromeus: We first heard about The After well over a year ago, in October 2012, when Marc Rosen had been promoting it to the MIPCOM expo. For how long have you been actually developing this story?

Chris: I had the idea about six years ago, and then I finally sat down to write it about two years ago, so that’s pretty much the timetable.

Matt: The X-Files and Millennium thematically had a dialog between science and religion; will The After be a continuation of that dialog, or do you see it going in a completely different direction?

Chris: No, I think for me, those were the two big questions in life (chuckle) and so they inform everything, even if they don’t inform it directly. So I’m sure you’ll see those questions come up, but hopefully in as entertaining a way as possible.

Orodromeus: Selling The X-Files to FOX famously involved bringing forth statistics about alien abductions in the USA. What did it take to sell The After?

Chris: Really the script just sort of sold itself. I got it out there, Amazon saw it and liked it, which is pretty much all of the sales pitch I had. I met with Joe Lewis from Amazon once and we had a nice conversation, but beyond that I think the script sold itself.

Matt: You have been known for your innovative casting decisions. The After has an interesting range of fairly new actors; are there any current actors you’ve worked with who really stand out?

Chris: I think the whole cast is excellent, of course. Four have never been seen [before], certainly in the US, Louise Monot who’s our French actress. It was kind of a miracle that we were able to cast her, because we were told that she couldn’t get a work VISA, etc…But, I think she actually became available before we started shooting.

Orodromeus: You recently mentioned in interviews that you felt there is more freedom and flexibility in cable television instead of network television. What has been your experience with the new medium of online distribution so far? What are your expectations?

Chris: Well, my expectations are that this is the future. So while I think that while it’s new to me, and new to many, it will become the norm. I’m not, of course, used to the idea that you make something and then it’s put on trial, as it were, with a jury of hundreds-of-thousands of people. That’s a new experience, but it’s exciting at the same time.

Matt: Your track record for bringing in important writers who do groundbreaking work is quite impressive. Have your criteria changed over the years? Are there certain strengths you always look for when you hire a writer?

Chris: Yes, that they are imaginative, that they are in sync with my characters as I’ve imagined them, and the concept of the show, but mostly that they’ve had a body of work that shows originality.

Orodromeus: Over ten years have passed since your last show went off the air, yet there are still strong followers of that work, be it online communities of The X-Files and Millennium or the comics continuation of The X-Files. How does the creator feel to see his work live on in these ways? Is there a sense of pride and accomplishment, or rather a need to distance yourself so as to focus on new creative endeavors?

Chris: I don’t feel the need to distance myself, I always want to do something that excites me, that I feel is different and hopefully original, and I think that’s what we’ve got here with The After. For me, it’s a miracle that 20 years later people are still as interested in The X-Files as they are. There’s a whole new generation interested, and that’s amazing to me. Is that an once-in-a-lifetime experience? Maybe, I hope not.

Matt: Has Amazon Studios given you a lot of support in the production of the Pilot?

Chris: Amazon was terrific. They had really smart notes that helped make the project better which is what you want with a partner. They have been a terrific support for us and a guiding light.

Orodromeus: The After has a whole new crew. Can we expect to see any of the people you collaborated with previously in the crew?

Chris: It’s always hard to tell because people are busy, and certainly good people are always in demand. You know, it will be a combination of who wants to come work on the show – that we’ve worked with before because we love working with friends and other collaborators. But we are also looking forward to working with some new folks and faces.

Matt: Will this show being developed for AMC go in a completely different direction from The After? Is there anything new you are willing to share about this other project?

Chris: I’m not able to talk about it, but it’s not really directly connected to The After. I think you’ll see there is connective tissue there, but not obvious tissue. It based on a book that was given to me by AMC. I read that book, I didn’t see how it could be a TV series. They asked me to read it again, I did, and all of a sudden it just hit me–how you could do it. So that’s where I am in the process.

Matt: Back when you started as a writer for Disney and NBC, you worked on developing cop shows and family comedies, I even recall you wrote a script based on your surfing experiences. Now that you are getting back into television, would you like work in a genre outside of what you are known for?

Chris: Yeah, I’m interested in so many things that all of a sudden to become stereotyped as a science fiction writer. It’s funny to me because I never would have described myself as that before The X-Files. I did write something based on my–less my surfing experiences than my experiences with the surf culture--when I graduated from college. I did my journalism internship at Surfing magazine. I ended up staying at the magazine for five years. I had a tremendous experience and education there that was not just about the surf world, but about business, but about putting something out serially. So, that was a fantastic experience and I’d love to write about that–and in fact I did with a script that never got made. I’d love to revisit that.

Orodromeus: With the wide use of internet and discussion boards, the days of The X-Files were an important moment for the audience-creator interaction. Now it appears like viewer feedback for the pilot of The After will be part of the evaluation of the project on behalf of Amazon. Could you discuss the process a bit, and whether you see this as helpful or not?

Chris: I’m not reading the comments, it’s only helpful to me in that other people are and it’s helping them to evaluate responses that I’d call are more personal, in a personalized way. For me, as I have always done, I am going to try tell a story, a saga, that is interesting to me, because if I don’t do that–it’s beyond me to do that–I don’t know how to do something that doesn’t interest me on some kind of deeper level.

Matt Allair: With your previous projects, you have been known for developing mythology arcs, as well as stand-alone tales, will The After follow similar formats to your past work, or will it be more like the usual episodic television format?

Chris: It will be more like my past work. It will have a mythology, but it will have stand-alone episodes, as well.

Orodromeus: Hopefully The After will move forward with a full series order. How clear set are the other episodes? Would you work with other writers to develop them?

Chris: I do, yes, we will sit with the writers. They will sit with me and Gabe Rotter, the co-executive producer, and we will plot the series. If we are so lucky to go to series, there are no guarantees here even though I think the response has been positive, you just never know. It could go either way.

Matt Allair: Now that you have a few features under your belt, are you gaining more confidence as a director? You’ve worked with many directors in television over a decade; did they help influence or shape your choices with The After?

Chris: Absolutely. David Nutter originally was extremely helpful to me. My first episode, my first directing experience, David really helped me. He dug in there, he actually blocked scenes for me to show me how he did it, and it showed me, not only his style, but the economy and the way he thought about shots and editorial. That was extremely helpful to me. I’m still working off those lessons. Rob Bowman and Kim Manners in particular were very, very instructive. They had such a vast experience in television. They knew how to go fast, but to make it beautiful and cinematic. I’ll never forget Kim who’s no longer with us. In every episode, he tried to do something with a great degree of difficulty. I was talking to Bill Roe, the DP on the last four years of the show, and he said that in fact, ‘that’s right, Kim would always try something that was too hard’ during the show, and that’s what I think made his episodes stand out and that made the show visually superior.

Matt: Thank you so much for taking time to do this.

Chris: Thank you so much.

It is indeed rare to get such opportunities to speak to a figure that has had such an important impact on pop culture, as well as the lives of many fans. But this present adventure is in progress. For anyone who hasn’t seen The After pilot, it is available to stream live at the following link, and please offer your review / score as it really might have an impact on the outcome. This page will be updated once word has come around if The After will be picked up for series. I wish Mr. Carter the very best with this development, as well as further developments at AMC. The truth may be out there, but it’s a truth that has manifested itself in countless ways. Let’s hope this is another step.

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