My First Time: The X-Files Changed My Life

Welcome to “My First Time,” a recurring section on the blog where we query fellow X-Philes about how they came to the show, and then later on how their fandom developed and evolved over the years.

Case File: JA120114
Subject: Ja

Today, we’re talking to Ja, another person I knew from The X-Files forums back in the day, who went on to have some very interesting Phile adventures after becoming a fan.

Chris Carter

Ja with Chris Carter at San Diego Comic Con in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Ja)

Radhika: What was your first episode of The X-Files?

Ja: My first episode was actually the pilot! I watched the premiere because a spooky (pun intended) show about aliens and conspiracies sounded right up my alley.

Radhika: What was special about the show to you?

Ja: There are quite a few things that were special about The X-Files to me. I loved the way the show was set in the “real world,” but took things that most people are already afraid of and explored them in ways that usually made them even scarier. Monsters living in the sewer? Things that go bump in the night? Fire? Cockroaches? Serial killers? If you were worried about those before, just wait till The X-Files tackled them. I also loved that there was an overarching mythology that fans could [enjoy] debating and analyzing to death.

One of the things that made TXF very special to me was the way that stereotypical gender roles were flipped on their heads with Mulder and Scully. I could have counted on less than one hand the number of strong, independent, intelligent female leading characters I’d seen on TV while growing up. Then suddenly there was this character that was highly educated, a scientist, a medical doctor, a gun-toting FBI agent who was grounded in logic and evidence—and the character was a woman! It was her male partner who ran off of gut feelings and instinct. That was a rarity on TV when TXF debuted.

Radhika: I know you’re a big Star Trek fan and hugely geeky about a number of other franchises as well. So what is special about your love for The X-Files?

Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny

(Photo courtesy of Ja)

Ja: The X-Files will always be special to me because it was the first sci-fi franchise that I discovered on my own and got to enjoy from the very start of its run. I began getting into sci-fi seriously when I read Frank Herbert’s Dune, but I knew about Dune because I’d watched the movie — the one with Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, and Sting — with my sister. I’d watched a few reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series when I was really little, but I was so young that one of the episodes freaked me out and that turned me off to Trek for a long time. In high school, a boyfriend got me into Star Trek: The Next Generation, but those were already in reruns too.

Watching TXF from the premiere and “getting in on the ground floor” with a sci-fi series was a totally new experience for me. The show ended up being the first franchise for which I became part of the fandom at large, and that literally changed my life!

Radhika: Could you tell me a little bit about how the show impacted you in real life?

Ja: Well, I’ve just gotten back from an out-of-state trip visit one of my best friends, and she and I never would have met if it wasn’t for The X-Files, so there’s that. 🙂 I was a latecomer to the official X-Files messageboard and had never used the Internet to interact with complete strangers before, so stumbling across a large group of really fun, smart people (including you, Radhika!) who shared my obsession with this show and were crazy in a good way was amazing. That was 15 years ago and a lot of us are still [real life] friends and/or Facebook friends.

William B. Davis

William B. Davis at the “Fight the Future” premiere. (Photo courtesey of Ja)

Over the years, I’ve gotten to travel to Las Vegas, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Curacao, and even Singapore to visit with dear friends I have because of The X-Files. And a lot those people have traveled to Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit me. I think we’re all very lucky to have found each other.

Getting on the XF message board in late 2009 also reminded me of how lucky I was to be a Phile living in Los Angeles. I had been living there for a few years by then and I’d started to take for granted all the crazy, unique opportunities that LA offers. I’ll never forget a message board discussion about someone who had gotten to see some of the cast in person. A really nice Phile from Malaysia commented that she would give anything to get to see the actors from her favorite show in person, but she’d never have that chance. That was a big wake-up call for me. I hadn’t grown up in LA; I’d grown up in a little ’burb wishing much the same thing as that Malaysian Phile and the vast majority of other people in the fandom. Why was I wasting this chance? So I started making the time to go to different events and premieres. I had a ton of fun and I got to share really detailed accounts on the message board, with pictures when possible, so more fans could share in the experience. That was a lot of fun. I think I’d have regrets about missed opportunities in LA if I hadn’t gotten that wake-up call.

Radhika: I know you lived in LA and got to attend premieres and whatnot from time to time — what are some of your favorite convention or premiere-related memories?

Ja: Oh, wow. I’ve got a ton of great X-Files-related memories. It’s hard to pick! [Editor’s note: We’ve trimmed down some of them, but left quite a few in because these are some good stories.]

Mitch and Arlene Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi and his wife, Arlene, at the “Fight the Future premiere. (Photo courtesy of Ja)

  • The #1 memory has to be the voicemail message I got from Mitch Pileggi. A bunch of us became friends because of our, ahem, appreciation for Mr. Pileggi and his work as A.D. Skinner. He knew about our little group and I think he enjoyed having fans who were fun and wacky, not foaming-at-the-mouth rabid. So when a bunch of these ladies were coming out to LA, I sent a polite letter to MP’s people extending an invitation, even though it was insane to think he’d even acknowledge it.

    The first day of our get-together, we’re at the Getty Museum where the cell reception is terrible and I notice I have a missed call and a new voicemail. I check it and just about keel over when I hear Mitch Pileggi’s voice in my ear. He’d left a message that he and his family had a birthday party to attend that day, so he was sorry that he was missing us, but he wanted to say hello to everyone and thank all of us for our support. There was a lot of running around and squealing as we played that voicemail over and over again. I’m still amazed that I’m not banned from the Getty for life because of that day. And Mitch Pileggi? Total class act.

  • Then there was the time that one of the Lone Gunmen came to my house. One of my friends from the message board was a comedy actress overseas and she was friends with Dean Haglund. When she came to LA to visit me, she got in touch with him so he could show her around town when I was at work. My little cottage was being painted that week so all the windows and such were draped in white plastic. This was not long after the “Mulder and Scully are quarantined by Fowley” eps, so Mr. Haglund got quite a surprise when he picked up our friend. I got to meet him that evening and he was like, “It was like being in an episode! I was expecting the CDC to burst in and drag me away any moment.” Meanwhile, I was thinking, “Dean Haglund was at my home today!” He’s a really nice guy… which shouldn’t surprise anyone.
  • The X-Files: Fight the Future red-carpet premiere was the first time I got to see pretty much all of the cast at the same event, and as a geek who had been a fan since the pilot, I loved getting to see what a huge Hollywood deal this weird little Friday night show on Fox had become. Everyone was there—David, Gillian, Mitch, William B. Davis (Cigarette Smoking Man), Nicolas Lea (Krycek), Melinda McGraw (Melissa Scully), Martin Landau (Kurtzweil), Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, and more.
  • XF Movie 2 LA Premiere

    Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz at the 2008 “I Want to Believe” premiere in Hollywood.

  • The I Want to Believe premiere in 2007 was great because it had been so many years since anything XF-related had happened. There’s always a lot of waiting for any red carpet, but I made friends with some of my fellow Philes so we had a fun time talking all day. We got to see all of the cast members who attended walking the red carpet and doing their interviews for the fans who were there for the premiere (not just watching them do press interviews). And when the red carpet was done, Fox surprised everyone in the “fanstands” by giving us passes to see the movie that night, right then and there, as part of the premiere screening. Very classy move and much appreciated!
  • A couple of days later, I met up with one of the Philes I’d become friends with at the IWTB premiere since we were both at San Diego Comic-Con. We ended up being first in line for the Chris Carter/Frank Spotnitz signing at SDCC.… A friend of mine had worked at Fox Studios and sent me some extra TXF items back in the day, including a one-sheet version of Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster. When Chris Carter looked at it, he instantly recognized that it was the real poster design and not a knock-off, so we chatted a bit about how I’d gotten it and he started looking at all of the XF cast signatures on it that I’d collected over the years. He burst out laughing when he saw that Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat) had signed “Trust No One!” and Brian Thompson (Alien Bounty Hunter) had signed “Trust Me!” right next to it.

  • I got to be one of the unpaid extras in the Season 7 episode “Fight Club.” Atrociously bad episode, but spending all day hanging with hundreds of Philes watching DD and GA work? Guaranteed fun. And it’s always a treat to get to go behind the scenes of a TV show or film and see some of the people behind the camera who work so hard on a series. The episode’s guest star Kathy Griffin couldn’t be bothered to come over and say a general hello to the fans who were there, but the two stars of the series who actually had to do the “heavy lifting” in terms of acting both days managed to carve out a couple of minutes each to say hi and thank you to the fans for all their loyalty over the years.
  • Brian Thompson

    Ja and the Alien Bounty Hunter in 2004. (Photo courtesey of Ja)

  • For much of the time I lived in LA, I worked around the corner from Fox Studios, and various productions would occasionally use the nearby parking structure to shoot parking garage scenes. Toward the end of The X-Files, I’m leaving work and waiting for the car park elevator to show up…. The elevator doors slide open and the car is packed to the gills with people. I make eye contact with one tall, skinny, dark-haired young man standing dead center against the back wall of the car. I’m trying to figure out if he’s someone I know personally when he recognizes the “where do I know you from?” frown on my face and gives me an amused “yeah, you know me from somewhere” grin. The second that happens, everything clicks into place and my brain screams, “BILLY MILES! IT’S BILLY MILES FROM THE PILOT, YOU IDIOT!” Luckily, my mouth didn’t scream what my brain was thinking. Small miracles.

    At that exact moment, everyone starts piling out of the elevator—including a Scully-trenchcoat-wearing Gillian Anderson on her cell phone and a Mulder-suit-and-trenchcoat-wearing David Duchovny. I am not ashamed to admit that once I was the only person on the elevator, I did some jumping up and down…. Life in West LA is sometimes like the Spanish Inquisition—you’re just trying to get home after work and you get an unexpected X-Files sighting that you remember for the rest of your days.

  • Finally, my XF message board screen name was included in the opening credits of the series finale. At the start of The X-Files’ last season, the show runners held a drawing and picked certain number of fan screen names that they included in the FBI Contacts list, changing it each week for the first time in the show’s history. I’d been contacted and knew that my name had been chosen, but episode after episode went by without my name appearing, so when it came time for the finale, I knew that they’d either forgotten to include my name or it was going to be in the last episode of my favorite show. And when the opening credits played, there was my screen name at the top of the list. This didn’t happen because I lived in LA, but it was a pretty amazing way for me, as a fan, to end the show.
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    One thought on “My First Time: The X-Files Changed My Life

    1. Pingback: Surly and Supportive: The Rise of Walter Skinner | Apt. 42 Revisited

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