Kumail Nanjiani hosts one of my favourite podcasts, The X-Files Files. I think I love it because it’s done with so much passion and love.
For Kumail, The X-Files was a kind of transformative experience – and this shines through in each episode. It’s also fascinating because the podcast started so low-key (and still is, really) – just Kumail and his mates chatting about their favourite episodes. Now, he’s got David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson turning up to share their inside knowledge.
What’s also beautiful is that some credit the popularity of his podcast for bringing The X-Files back into the minds of Fox Execs, which lead to the show returning, 14 years after the last season.
Which led to Kumail being cast on The X-Files (alongside Rhys Darby).
It’s a beautiful evolution, and I told Kumail this when I bumped into him at a taping of Comedy Central’s The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. It was quite weird seeing him, as I’ve listened to hours of him on the podcast, and adore Silicon Valley. His voice beckons from Adventure Time, and he’s superb on Twitter.
All I really wanted to do was endlessly quiz him about his experience on The X-Files, but I was worried he wouldn’t want to talk about it.
So like a coward, I emailed him later on.
Your podcast, which very much started as a labour of love, is sort of responsible for bringing The X-Files back. That’s what I heard anyway. And it’s very believable as you did show the huge love people have for The X-Files. That must be quite surreal.
I don’t think I can claim that my podcast was responsible for the return of the show. I mean other people can claim it and if they wanna call me a hero, I can’t stop them. I’m just a normal guy.
Yes, doing the show was very surreal. But I had to pretend like it was just a regular normal job. I met Gillian Anderson in the make-up trailer and was like, “Hi Gillian, nice to meet you.” Just like a normal person.
You ended up being cast in the best kind of episode – a Darin Morgan ep. It was a monster of the week, but it was also the perfect kind of episode – a very subversive, funny one. People forget that this is what the show was all about! Is that a fair call?
I think people forget how diverse the show was in terms of tone and subject matter. People think it was either alien mythology episodes or hardcore, brutally scary episodes. But there were many in between. There were funny episodes, sad episodes, weird episodes.
The strength of The X-Files was how many different tones the premise was able to support.
You got to work with my friend Rhys. When we last spoke briefly, you told me he was really fun to work with. Was this true?
Yeah! I’d been a fan of his from Flight of the Conchords, and had worked with him once before on a small Adult Swim show called Newsreaders. In that show, I couldn’t keep a straight face. I laughed every time he opened his mouth, which didn’t work because we’re supposed to be adversaries in the scene.
But I was also happy to have someone from outside The X-Files to hang out with, so I could “We’re on the X Files! This is crazy right?” I can’t do that David Duchovny. He’d be like “Yeah this is my 7 millionth episode.”
What was it about The X-Files that set it apart from all the other nineties TV for you? Like for me it was the two leads, and all the monsters. I love cryptozoology so it was kind of built for me. I wanted to be an FBI agent for the longest time but being in New Zealand made realising this dream difficult.
I love the chemistry between the two leads. There aren’t many platonic co-ed relationships portrayed in popular media, and I felt their friendship was portrayed with depth and nuance.
I know they hooked up later at some point, but it was that relationship that pulled me in.
It was also a show that never talked down to its audience. Chris Carter’s prose tended to be very philosophical at times. The show wasn’t afraid to tackle existential concerns, and that was novel to me. It was like Star Trek in that it tackled social and political issues routinely.
And also there was fucking aliens in it, man.
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