Lexicon Exclusive

"The Heroes' Mentor and Sage"

The X-Files Lexicon's exclusive interview with Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat),

Conducted by Matt Allair, 09/11/2015

Page Editor: Bellefleur

Very often with The X-Files Lexicon, situations unfold that are most unexpected; sometimes a hunch will lead to an opportunity that wasn't planned well in advance. Such was the case when Sarah Stegall informed me that she would be appearing as a panelist at Dragon Con in Atlanta, so we made certain we found a way to cover it. We then learned that actors Jerry Hardin and Nicholas Lea would be appearing as panelists in a separate room of the convention, which led to a hunch that seemed worth pursuing. I had reached out to Mr. Hardin's agent, Mitchell Stubbs, in the past but decided to give it a new try. I got an unexpected call from Mr. Hardin that Friday morning, and I moved quickly to schedule an interview later in the day. The fact that the date was September 11th held enough irony for me to not ignore that point, but it was a random accident from all parties. For after all, Deep Throat was an informant who warned about not taking government narratives at face value, to be wary of agendas within agendas. While I personally don't take much stock in 9/11 conspiracy theories, it seemed fitting that such an interview would fall on such a date. The date should not be trivialized by any means, but the irony is hard to escape.

There are many parts to Jerry Hardin. While many X-Philes remember him for the role of Deep Throat, his is a career that has spanned many decades. A consummate acting veteran, he is from a bygone era of television and film acting of which we might not see its kind again, when actors were expected to be a triple threat, when it seemed to be a point of pride to be a character actor. Jerry Hardin holds a certain gravitas that you don't see often with the new generation of actors. He continues to hold an easygoing Southern charm that has remained his trademark. Born in Dallas, Texas, in 1929, he grew up riding horses and attending rodeos. In high school, he was involved with speech and drama organizations. He won a scholarship to Southwestern University in Georgetown; by his senior year, he won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Europe. By 1953, he started his career in repertory theater in Arlington, Virginia, acting, writing, and assistant producing. He married Dianne Hill and had two children. He made his first inroads with Hollywood by appearing in Thunder Road. He moved to Los Angeles in 1973 and became a reliable regular of television series such as The Rockford Files, but the range of his film and television work is impressive - Gunsmoke, The Streets of San Francisco, Little House on the Prairie, Miami Vice, LA Law, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. His other film roles include Heartland, Reds, Cujo, The Falcon and The Snowman, Big Trouble in Little China, Ghosts of Mississippi, and Hidalgo. The play he wrote and performed, Mark Twain: On Man and His World, he's performed for sixteen years. His adult children, the actress Melora Hardin and Producer Shawn Hardin, are notable figures in their own right in Hollywood.

Aside from Jerry's easygoing manner, his voice is so distinct, his diction is also so distinct, and he holds such gravitas, it isn't surprising he played roles of such authority, and it's hard not to be a little intimidated. There were a few false starts during the beginning with outside matters that interrupted the interview, but he was patient and gracious. I found him to be charming, candid, approachable, and relatable. The interview proceeded as follows:

Matt: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

Matt: You started off doing repertory theatre in the early 50s, in Virginia, not only with acting, but some directing and producing as well. Did that training make it easier to transition into television and film later on? Do you have a favorite role from that period of your career?

Jerry: To begin with, you know, what I do recall, it was really good to be working as a professional actor. In those days, in the summer time, we did summer stock, which was weekly. You'd put a new show up every week. I was an award winner, which meant I was their guy for that particular season the first season I was there. So, I ended up playing lots of leads, and as I recall there were fourteen different shows that year. It was extraordinarily good training, to get on your feet fast, a wide variety of roles, and you had to get the material in your head and make some choices quickly. There were lots of good roles — one doesn't immediately pop to mind. There were a lot of shows where I spent years, at the Barter Theatre. That's how I ended up directing, and being an assistant producer, and what have you. The variety is extraordinary: we toured some Shakespeare, and I remember playing Julius Caesar. I played Cassius, which is a role I played several times in my life. I enjoyed that, and it was my first exposure to Cassius — not to Shakespeare, as I played Shakespeare in England.

Matt: Most people don't realize you won a Fulbright scholarship to study acting in Europe in the early 50s. Was the culture of acting in London intimidating for you? Was the experience something you had to adjust to?

Jerry: Oh, I found it very stimulating, not intimidating. The amount of material that was available was mind boggling. There were all kinds of plays on in London at that time, and as students we were invited to all previews and all shows that were in trouble and closing, and also the scholarship provided me with sufficient money to go on my own if I wished. Believe it or not, if you were in desperate trouble you could sit in popcorn heaven for 45 cents! (American money.) There was no denying your ability to see anything that was on multiple times if you wished. It was an extraordinarily exciting and fulfilling experience. The original grant was for one year, and I won a second grant, so my exposure was over two years, plus a summer off to go as I pleased through Europe. That was a memorable time in my life.

Matt: Was there an acting teacher who really impacted your thinking about acting?

Jerry: I don't remember specific ones so much as the pleasure of knowing that most of the acting teachers — I assume that we are talking about London — were West End actors. It felt as if you were really getting it from the mouth from the ones who had been there, done that, and has a pretty damn good idea about what should happen and how you get there. There were a variety of viewpoints, of course, but I recall being really impressed that the Royal Academy managed to get West End actors to come teach, and often times we would get to see them working. So, we had some idea of whether what they thought was good was really working or not.

Matt: You have spoken fondly before about James Garner and The Rockford Files. What was it that made the experience so enjoyable?

Jerry: Well, I had a nice relationship with Garner. My first meeting with him, we were exchanging comments about boots. (Laughs.) I was wearing some nice boots and so was he, and he commented on my Western boots, so we got into conversations about why we liked boots and who we liked, and who made them, and all of that. I would say that sort of connected us, we felt like we knew each other's backgrounds to some degree, and the several times that I worked for him, we never lost that connection. I enjoyed his sense of humor. He was a nice man, and very much available to people who worked on the show. He wasn't a guy who went immediately into the dressing room and disappeared. He was a guy who was around.

Matt: You worked on Spielberg's 1941 in a small part. What was your experience with working on something with such a large scale? Did it leave any impressions?

Jerry: Not really. My recall of that is it was really an in and out kind of deal, you know. There were a number of other kind of things going on somewhere along that time. There was Earthquake, was one.There was lots of production value going on. It was just part of the ballgame. That particular film didn't impress me very much while I was doing it, and apparently it didn't impress the public very much. (Laughs.)

Matt: You also worked on Missing in the early eighties, which is regarded well by many. What was your experience like working on the film?

Jerry:  I enjoyed working with Costa-Gavras.* He's a really fascinating man, and very available to the actors — you know, a lot of directors aren't, but he was. And he also scared me. We had a scene where I was driving a car and talking to the two young people involved, and he wanted to do it in live traffic, and I said, "I can drive, and I'm fine with that.” Except what he did was that they put the director, the cameraman, and the lights on the front bumper of the car I was driving. (Laughs.) And when I got in to drive, I said, "Costa, I can't see very well out of this. I'll kill you guys!” And he said, "Oh, no no, it's not hard.” And I said, "Let me tell you, I'm not seeing much out of the front of this car! I'll kill you in Mexican traffic. You guys are crazy!” And he said, "No, you are okay, you're doing fine!” So, we did it in live traffic, but half of my mind was trying to keep those guys alive. I thought, "Oh, my god,” but it was fun and that was the only really stressful part of the film, but that shook me up. I thought for sure I was going to hurt somebody.

Matt: You have played the role of Mark Twain a number of times. What is it about the person that holds such a fascination for you?

Jerry: I was just hired to play Twain on Star Trek, but while I was doing that, one of the producers pulled me aside and said, ”Boy, you ought to do Mark Twain,” and I said, "Hal Holbrook will put a contract on me — he's been doing it all of his life!” And he said, "Ah, he doesn't own the material. You should do it!” And it sort of got my attention, and then someone else said the same thing to me. So, between the two shows that we did, I went back and read Twain, which I had not read since I was a child really, and I was really struck by how funny he was, and how contemporary he was, his concerns, sort of like they came out of the daily newspaper. So, I thought, "You know what, maybe I'll take a shot at that because I really like the man, and I like the way he came to being a writer, the background, being a river boat captain, and mining for silver in Nevada.” A lot of his stories, you know, came from the silver miners around campfires when he was in Nevada as a very young man. So, when I went back for the second episode I announced on the set; "Well, you guys talked me into it: I'm going to do Twain!” And the director said, "Good, I'll direct it. When do we start?” (Laughs.) I said, "Whoa, wait a minute, I haven't gotten the material together, but I'll call you as soon as I have something to work with!” Sure enough, we did. I put together a show, and he directed it for our first experiment, and it went very well, and I did it off and on over fifteen / sixteen years. **

Matt: You worked with the iconic Sydney Pollack on The Firm. Do you have a favorite memory from that project?

Jerry: It was a very pleasant experience. One of the memories I have, when I got there he took me in to show me the set, which was the library that belonged to the law offices of which I was the chairman. There were over a million books that they had gotten on loan, and had built a library to accommodate them, and I was stunned by the size, by the immensity of that. I thought it was a really wonderful set, any shot of that would have already made you fearful of the power there, and what a great image. But it was nice working with him, and I met some people that I had never met before.

Matt: I’ve heard that Chris Carter wanted to cast you as Deep Throat because of that film. Did Chris ever share that with you?

Jerry: No, that is just something I heard as well. Chris never said that to me, and so I'm not even sure that's true. I've heard it several times and from several places. People question me about it, and I've said, "I don't know, could be.”  I was delighted they hired me for whatever the cause [of being hired].

Matt: When you first were approached about The X-Files, had you seen the pilot episode, or was everything based on reading the script for "Deep Throat”?

Jerry: No, I had not seen any of it, I just got a script, and my assumption was it was a one-time shot. The fact that they hired me numbers of times in that first season was news to me almost every time they called me. There was never a deal about me coming on multiple times.

Matt: Chris Carter doesn’t believe in story bibles, and I understand he didn’t give you a lot of information about Deep Throat. Did you have to create your own character back-story? Did your thinking about the character change as you learned more?

Jerry: Absolutely. Yes, of course, initially it was difficult to know from whence he came because there was no indication at all whether he was just out there, or if he was attached to the government, or was not, or some alien prophet, who knew in the first few episodes. But it soon became clear, at least to me, that he was in a place of some considerable power, and certainly information, and that in order to protect his sources, he needed to prod Mulder into doing things that he thought needed doing. So, more and more of that came out in the kind of things that got communicated to Mulder, I thought.

Matt: The character’s role, Deep Throat, was to give a lot of exposition to Mulder. Was that difficult? Did you find you had to pace the delivery of such dialog with your scenes with David Duchvony?

Jerry: No, not particularly. That exposition was something I got a lot of in my career in film and television. People seem to think I made it much more palatable than other actors did, so I was accustomed to having those kind of roles. You have a page and a half of some dialog or monolog to move the plot ahead, and you have to find a way to draw the audience into that so that they are not aware so that they are being stuck with iteration so the plot can move on.

Matt: A lot of fans haven’t seen you as active in television or film. Have you been doing theatre work?

Jerry: I haven't been working a lot. I am a month and a half away from being eighty-six years old. I don't get much in the way of work. I don't get offers of work often, so that's one of the reasons why they don't see me, and the other reason is that my energy level is less than it used to be.

Matt: I do understand, but a lot of fans have loved what you’ve done in the past, and so they were naturally curious to see if there’s anything going on.

Matt: After you were no longer involved with The X-Files, did you follow any of the other shows, Millennium, The Lone Gunmen spinoff, Harsh Realm, or recently Chris’s Amazon show The After? Do you feel Chris Carter should be seen as this generation’s Gene Roddenberry or Rod Serling?

Jerry: Well, I don't know, but the thing I do believe about Chris is that I was impressed that he was a very hands-on producer, during the time that I was working on it, and also it was some of the best writing that I ever got in years and years of work. It was really, very good.

At this point there was a security alarm that started to ring over his phone, as much as I assumed it was some home alarm, it could not help but have it evoke a mental picture of Deep Throat standing near a giant, thick metal security door, with a flashing red light beside it. But we digress.

Matt: Are you curious to see what happens with the six new X-Files episodes being created for January?

Jerry: (quickly) Absolutely, I'm curious to know. I've seen in various write ups that I'm part of it. (Laughs.) But Chris Carter hasn't told me I'm part of it. I'm curious to know who is and who isn't [involved]. I know of some other actors who had some nice roles, and they aren't involved either, so we're all curious to see what's going to be there.

Matt: Thank you for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate this.

Jerry: Terrific, you're very welcome.

Jerry Hardin has earned his iconic stature as a character actor, and regardless of his present work status, he has certainly given us, the viewers, a great body of work to appreciate, and it comes as no surprise that Chris Carter more than twenty years ago would want to cast him in such an important role. For while Deep Throat (or Ronald, if you want to accept that, based on what's referenced in "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man",) left his mark on Fox Mulder, he also left his mark on us as an audience. The death of Deep Throat left such a visceral shock and changed the rules for series television, in ways we still see today. It is a great honor for us to have had this moment with Jerry Hardin, to get a little of his insight and humor, and I hope these memories will cling to us as the years advance.

I wish Mr. Hardin the very best and his legacy is very much earned.

*Missing was directed by Costa-Gavras and released in 1982. It starred Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek and dealt with the disappearance of American journalist Charles Horman as part of the aftermath of the Chilean coup of 1973, and the efforts of Horman's father and wife to find out what happened. The film also starred X-Files alumnus Charles Cioffi. Incidentally, the film featured an excellent score by Vangelis.

**Les Landau was the director who worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation on the two-part episode "Time's Arrow.” There's very little information on his theatrical work, aside from his television credits. Mr. Landau also worked on MacGyver, M.A.N.T.I.S., Weird Science, JAG, Dark Angel, and Charmed.

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