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From Sydney's Sunday Telegraph, January 16, 2000

Magazine Cover

He's the mystery man of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully's shadowy boss whose allegiances have been questioned time and time again. Is Walter Skinner a hero or a villain? Mitch Pileggi talks to Michael Idato.

In the strange world of show business, Mitch Pileggi might be an X-Files himself. A self-deprecating good-humourist, his two favourite episodes of The X-Files are ones in which he does not appear. "I might be," he laughs, when asked if he's the only actor in Los Angeles without an ego. "When we shot the show in Vancouver, there was this hotel and at a bar they called it Hollywood North. You'd see a whole room of people, all talking at the same time, all talking about themselves. I used to get such a kick out of it. I don't have very many friends who are actors. I don't really have an affinity for them."

Pileggi does, however, have an affinity for conspiracy theories - which is lucky for the hordes of X-Files fans who adore his character, Skinner. Unlike Mulder (David Duchovny and Scully (Gillian Anderson), whose desire to uncover conspiracies has become the backbone of the show, Skinner's character is shrouded in a little more mystery. "I think originally, he was brought in to be something of a new nemesis to David and Gillian's characters," says Pileggi. "He was more aligned with that the Cigarette Smoking Man was doing."

Pileggi says that as time went on, X-Files creator Chris Carter decided Skinner would be more valuable to Mulder and Scully as an ally. "In one episode, One Breath, Skinner reveals to Mulder his past out-of-body experience in Vietnam, and I think that was a major turning point for Skinner and the direction he's taken since."

But the question of Skinner's loyalty still lingers in the minds of many fans who look for theories within theories, and conspiracies within conspiracies. "It's a question I get asked a lot: Is Skinner good or bad? People don't know if he's someone who is manipulating Mulder and Scully, or who has his own agenda. It's clear in my mind where he stands, but then again, I may be wrong. I think Chris may have other ideas about where he is headed."

Unlike many characters who play roles as extensions of themselves, Pileggi couldn't be more different to Skinner. "I don't think I fell really close to him at all. After I go into my trailer, get my clothes off, get in my car and go home, he's pretty much gone. But he is very much a part of me when I put the suit and the glasses on and I walk into my office. I'm a very different person from Skinner. I think he's pretty humourless for the most part. I have described him as being perpetually constipated, which is probably unfair to him, but sometimes it's the way he comes off."

When he first read the role in 1994, Pileggi says the most striking thing about the character of Walter Skinner was his strengths - his moral and ethical make-up. "I just kind of assumed immediately when I went in a read Skinner for Chris for the first time," he says.

It has also been suggested that Pileggi modelled the character on his own father, an operations manager who did contract work for the United States Department of Defence. The truth, as usual, is not that simple. "It wasn't a conscious thing. It was something that was pointed out to me by my family after they first saw me on screen for the first time playing him. I looked like him and some of the gestures, the way I sit and the way I carry myself are reminiscent of him. He had a job where there was a certain degree of bureaucracy - he dealt with the government, with the military - and I think it just kind of seeped into what I was doing."

Pileggi cites his two favourite episodes of The X-Files as Home and Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. The former was "probably one of the sickest shows we've ever done; the one with the Peacock brothers and the mother living under the bed. I love that episodes and it may say something about my taste, but I thought it was brilliant. I also liked the episode Peter Boyle did, Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose. Those are two of my favourites and I'm not in either one of them. I guess I'm not a big fan myself."

While Skinner has undergone a metamorphosis, Pileggi is content to be the same guy he was when he started on The X-Files. "I got married and got a baby (he laughs). My house is nicer. But I don't think as a person I have changed. I've tried to keep my head about myself."

One aspect of Skinner's transformation in the past 12 months has been the departure of his office and desk. Viewers are seeing Skinner on the road more, in something higher than a "boss" capacity. "As an actor, you want to be able to get out of the office and involved in the investigation, it allows that to develop. I would love to get out there and get my hands dirty. But in a lot of situations, that isn't realistic."

Of course, the big question concerns the future of The X-Files. Will there be another season? Anderson is signed on for it, but Duchovny is not. "If the show does continue, I have no driving desire to leave."

Typed by Maricris

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