David Duchovny Had His Doubts About The X-Files Initially

Over the course of nine years on television, "The X-Files" received 62 Emmy nominations and 16 awards. Everything from the acting to the writing was praised in the show's original series run from 1993 to 2002. So it may be surprising to hear that lead actor David Duchovny was unsure whether or not the science-fiction drama series would be widely accepted, let alone cherished for decades to come.

Duchovny starred as FBI agent Fox Mulder, an unconventional and open-minded special agent who works specifically on the X-Files, cases that involve paranormal and unexplained phenomena. Not very well-respected in the bureau, Mulder is assigned a skeptic partner by the name of Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Her clinical skepticism was applied to Mulder's cases in order to offer alternative theories to paranormal conclusions. Despite Scully often being a foil, their dynamic was grounded in respect and partnership instead of disdain or disrespect. It doesn't hurt that both of them are very attractive, so the sexual tension was tangible early on, well before the two eventually became romantically involved. 

Alien invasion

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Duchovny stated that he didn't think the show would make it. "A show about extraterrestrials — no matter how well-made — how many can you do? I didn't see the show opening up to be about anything that's unexplained, which is limitless," he explained. Most people today still associate "The X-Files" with aliens, but as Duchovny notes, episodes explore a vast roster of paranormal beings and encounters. Mulder and Scully work cases with cryptids, mutants, evil technology, monsters, and religious phenomena. 

"The X-Files" would prove a hit, and paved the way for other strange, supernatural stories on film and television. In the latter half of the 1990s, aliens invaded homes and theaters with films like "Species," "Independence Day," and "Men in Black." On TV, viewers enjoyed hits like the 1995 reboot of "The Outer Limits" that ran for seven years, and the 1996 goofy comedy "3rd Rock from the Sun," which lasted for six seasons. 

Duchovny knew "The X-Files" would definitely "make it" once people started recognizing him. He stated, "People would come up to me and preface their comments with, 'I don't watch TV, but ...' We're not the kind of show you watch just because you're sitting in front of a TV. We're must-see TV."

Gateway horror

One of the timeless aspects of "The X-Files" is that it was just dark enough for adults to be satisfied without being too violent or horrific for viewers under 18. Like millions of other millennials, I grew up on "The X-Files." Granted, I wasn't a very sheltered child, and I developed a healthy fear of aliens and being abducted one day as a result. I probably watched it too young, but I still loved it. 

The series also introduced me to a lot of mythology that I had never heard before. In 1993, I did not have a catalog of paranormal creatures outside of your standard Halloween icons like witches, ghosts, and old-school Universal monsters. R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" book series only debuted a year before "The X-Files" pilot, so there wasn't a lot of mainstream, kid-friendly horror that centered on supernatural beings (apart from the show "Are You Afraid of the Dark"). "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Charmed" were also both released years after "The X-Files." 

"The X-Files" contains several elements that make a show successful. It's an anthology show with a fresh new mystery each week. There's Mulder's backstory of him searching for his sister. There's mystery, elements of horror, romance, and drama. The show has something for everyone while comfortably occupying its niche of unexplained phenomena and government conspiracies. There's also a sense of longing and hope that flows underneath the storyline's surface. After all, we all want to believe there's something out there other than just us, right?