Mitch Pileggi graciously consented to an exclusive interview to start this web page off with a "bang" way back in June of 1995. This is the transcript of our conversation. It's long, so I've broken it up in three parts to try to make reading it a bit more manageable.
Click on any portion you haven't read to go straight to it.
I contacted Mitch by phone from my home in Austin, Texas. He was at home in Valencia, Calif., enjoying his break from The X-Files.
After a little bit of introductory chatter, I asked him what he knew about the online fan activity for the show.
Robin Mayhall: I don't know if you know anything about what goes on in the Delphi group, but... [Editor's note: at this time, my online service of choice was Delphi, and there was a fairly large and active group of people posting regularly in the X-Files area there.]
Mitch Pileggi: Yeah, I'm like a total idiot as far as all this stuff, this computer, online stuff, cause you know, every once in a while the Vancouver office will send me down a packet of all the, what do you call them, postings?
MP: And it's just fun to go through them and read them.
RM: Right. Well I'm glad they send them to you...(Here, I told him about TEX-Files, a fan get-together being held in Austin in August.) You are invited, if you would like to make another trip back to Austin.
MP: Yeah, August, well...um...I got a bunch of stuff going on in August.
RM: I'm sure that the show will be starting to get underway by then, right?
MP: Yeah, actually we're going back on the 11th of next month. [July]
RM: Oh, really?
RM: That is early.
MP: Yeah, we get like two months off, and then...which is fine with me, because I'm always ready to...I'm like, I'm really missing it.
RM: What have you been doing so far on the hiatus? I mean, what, do you just take the time off, or have you had any projects?
MP: Just, uh, you know my agents were talking to me about doing some stuff, and I just said, you know what, I kinda just want to like hang out, because I've got two months off. And I wanted to go to Austin, and just spend time down there, and I kinda just wanted to kick back. And my girlfriend came down from Vancouver, she's down here now. You know, so...
RM: Where are you right now?
MP: In, uh...(pauses) California? (laughs)
MP: Outside of L.A., in a town called Valencia. But, yeah, it's nice up here, it's about 30 miles north of the San Fernando Valley, and it's like away from the madding crowds, it's up in the canyon country. It's really nice up here.
RM: So you've just been kicking back.
MP: Just been kicking back, yeah, just taking it easy...Yeah, actually they have some X-File conventions that they had asked me to do, and I kind of waited too long to respond, and so I missed out on those, but they've got me booked for like three or four of them in July and August so far.
RM: That oughta be interesting.
MP: It should be interesting. It's going to be the first time that I will have done any of them, and I think I need to be briefed before I go into any of them so that I know what to say. Because it's like I don't know what kind of stuff they ask, and what...you know, I don't even know what the format is of the whole deal. So I've got to...Chris has been doing some, I think...I'm going to sit down with him and talk to him and see what's what.
RM: Well, this might give you a little taste of what's what, because I've already gotten some requests from some of your other fans of things they want to know about you...
RM: So it might give you an idea of some of the things you're going to get asked.
RM: I wanted to tell you too, before I get started, that I'm recording this, and I do want to post basically a transcript or excerpts from the interview on the page once I get it going.
MP: That's fine.
We discussed a few details about the Web Page, and then I decided it was time to get down to business.
RM: So, let's talk about The X-Files. I'd like to know how you got chosen for The X-Files. Did you have to audition, or...
MP: Well, yeah, I did as a matter of fact. I had gone in and read for Chris several times before for other episodes, different characters. And at the time I was shaving my head. And I didn't remember this at all, cause I had a talk with him, when was it, I think it was the wrap party or something like that, I had reminded him that I had come in to read several times before for him, and he said, yeah, but your head was shaved. And I said, yeah, it was, wasn't it? So that's why I didn't get it. So I came in for this one and my hair had grown back, or what hair I have had grown back, and you know, it just clicked. I went in and read for, I think Chris was there, and Jim Wong was there, and it was...I guess I went in with the right attitude for Skinner, you know? He let me do it. And this was just actually for one episode the first season that I guess started off ... that was the Tooms episode, the second one, yeah.
So I did that one episode, and I figured, well, that was fun, and that's it. (laughs) And I didn't hear anything from them again until the end of the season, and then they, I guess, I think it was during the hiatus they called and asked if I would come back and do the eight-episode arc at the beginning of the season, and kind of do a recurring bit.
RM: Why do you think that happened? Was it, do you think it's because your character is popular, or was it...
MP: I don't know. I don't know what kind of response they got to the character initially. You know, I know a lot of it had to do because Gillian was pregnant, and they needed to, I think, take the show in a different direction while she was dealing with that. So I think there was a lot of government intrigue stuff going on at that point. So that's why. I think it was to compensate for her situation. And then it kind of just, the character just started kind of clicking and working, and they were happy with what was going on, so they said, you know, we want you to keep coming back, we'll call you when we want you. And I said, well, I'm here. And then and at the end of this season they asked me if I wanted to sign a contract, so I did. So I signed a six-year contract with them.
RM: You're kidding.
RM: Well, that's good news!
MP: I was dying, because actually I knew about it for quite a while before the end of the season, but Chris swore me to secrecy. He didn't want me to tell anybody. So I'm like going, you know...
RM: Well, congratulations!
MP: Thank you. Thank you. I'm really pleased about it, so it's, you know, we'll see what happens.
RM: Were you particularly excited about The X-Files ? Was it something you had seen, or were you interested, or did your agents just say hey, there's this show...
MP: I had heard people talking about it for a long time, and I honestly hadn't watched the show until I did it. And then, once I did it, and started watching it, then I was like, man, this is a good show. (laughs) I really got hooked into it...
RM: So you do watch it?
MP: Absolutely. And people ask me if it affects me the way it affects them, having read the scripts and watching the show being shot, and working on it, and it's like, it really does. I'll do the show, and I'll know what's happening, I'll see all the stuff as it's being shot, I'll have read the script before, and still, when I watch it, it still blows me away. You know, because a lot of the effects and stuff aren't there when we're shooting it, and the music, and just the whole feel for it and the whole thing cut together. When it comes on it's like, you know, this is really good stuff. It's a good show.
RM: It is. (laughs)
MP: Yeah. (laughs) And I get real defensive about it whenever ... I very seldom hear anybody say anything negative about it, but when I do hear somebody say something negative, it's like, wait a minute!
RM: That's so funny. The core group of us on Delphi, we all spread the gospel. We're all busily converting our friends, coworkers, neighbors. (cut stuff of me blabbing about coworkers) It is a great show.
Well, I would like to know more about what you do to develop Skinner's character, because just talking to you for a few minutes, you're not anything like him, or you don't sound anything like him, from what I know of him or what we know of him.
MP: Yeah. He's like the grumpy guy. (laughs)
RM: Well, he's tense, he's tense, and he speaks with his teeth clenched together, and he moves his head around, you know, and you sound really relaxed. Of course, you've been on vacation, but ...
MP: Well, I'm like this all the time. I'm just, you know...it's funny, like I'll be at the hotel, and I'll be having a drink in the lounge or something, and I'm talking to people, and they won't realize who I am, and then once somebody will say, yeah, he plays Skinner on The X-Files, it's kind of like, they'll look at me and go (snorts) you're nothing like him! You're completely different! And I said it's called acting!
I've done a number of interviews and I've told a number of people this, and I don't know if it's flattering or what to my father, because it's, I base a lot of the, you know, the character's based a lot on my father. I lost my dad about a year and a half ago, and I loved him a lot, he was very, very important in my life. But he was a man in a position very much like Mr. Skinner is. Actually, he was on a defense contract, a military contract, he was an operations manager with a lot of people working for him, and he had a lot of responsibility, and he had people hitting him from every side, and as a result he was very, you know, he was a hard man as far as business went, as far as the company. But then again, he would deal with somebody very harshly and then the next minute he would turn around and take him out to lunch or dinner or golfing or something. And I think a lot of that...and I didn't realize I was doing this until my family, my mom and my brothers and sister pointed it out, that I was, you know, the way I move, the characteristics of the character are very similar to the way Dad was in the office.
And like I said, it wasn't something I was doing intentionally, I was just kind of doing it subconsciously, and then I started watching it, and I was going man ... because my dad was bald, he wore glasses, and he was quite a bit smaller than I am, but still, I'd look at pictures of him, and I was going, I'd think, that looks like Wally Skinner! (laughs)
But he was...I don't want to make my dad sound like he was an ogre, because he wasn't, he was a very loving father, but he was a tough businessman. And I think that that's what happens to Skinner is he's getting hit from several sides. He's walking a fine line. He even said it in one episode, "I'm standing right on the line you keep crossing." And so he's walking that fine line and it's very, it's a tough situation for him, so he's constantly got to watch his back, he's also trying to assist Mulder and Scully any way he can without really jeopardizing his position. Sometimes he even does things that still jeopardize his position.
RM: Do you know a lot about Skinner? Is there background on him that either you or the writers have developed? Because we as fans don't know a lot about him.
MP: Yeah, he's pretty much an enigma.
RM: Is he married, do you know?
MP: No. I don't think so. See, in my mind I've got kind of a sketchy picture of what happens to him outside the office. But I kind of just focus on, until they take him out of the office and put him in his house, and put him in whatever outside relationship, I'm not really dealing with it that much, I'm just kind of focusing on what they're giving me at this point in the scripts.
RM: The one episode and one scene that a lot of Skinner fans talk about is the scene in "One Breath" where Skinner tells Mulder about his near-death experience in Vietnam.
RM: A lot of people kind of fell in love with the character at that point, especially people who weren't sure about him.
RM: And it was also just a really powerful scene, and I was wondering if you did anything special, any special research for that, or just some of your thoughts on that scene.
MP: Well, I, uh, hm. I wasn't in Vietnam. I was of that age, though. I had a high lottery number, though, and I was also going to college, and I didn't go. I had a lot of friends that went, I had a lot of friends who were killed, and I had a lot of friends who came back from Vietnam and were terribly affected by it. I got a friend who was a tunnel rat over there who's just, still dealing with it. I don't know if you know what a tunnel rat was.
RM: No, I don't.
MP:They're the guys, usually pretty small guys, who went down into the tunnels and flushed the Viet Cong out. And it was a pretty ... did you see Platoon ?
RM: No, I didn't...
MP: Well, there was one scene when Willem Dafoe goes down into the tunnels, and the Cong used a lot of networks of tunneling to set up their bases and stuff like that, and also for ambush purposes. So a lot of times the GIs would run across these things and they would have to send somebody down into them to flush them out or blow them out or whatever. But anyway, this guy did that, and he's still dealing with it to this day, and that was a long time ago. But, I mean, I've talked to people like that. I didn't specifically go out and research anything in particular for this scene, but it's just, I just recalled a lot of conversations with him and remembering how he was, and talking to other people who had been in Vietnam and stuff like that, and kind of just tried to immerse myself in as much of that as I could. And then just played the scene.
RM: How much leeway do you have in developing Skinner's character? Do you do a lot of that, or do the writers do most of it?
MP: Well, I mean, I just take what they give me and play the character as I think he would react in those circumstances. And they pretty much have left me alone.
RM: To make up your own interior motivations and whatnot?
MP: Yeah, well, just to act out, just to respond however I would in that situation, and that's what comes across on screen.
RM: Tell me what it's like working with some of the people on the show, like, well, David and Gillian, first of all.
MP: They're just, they're a hoot. They are. We have a ball. We get as goofy as can be, you know, and the whole atmosphere of working on the show is really joyous. The crew is great, and David and Gillian are just, I mean, we really cut up and just do some goofy stuff. You know, when we screw up, it makes it even more fun. You know, so we do. (laughs)
RM: Does that ever make it hard to play the really adversarial scenes?
MP: No, not at all.
RM: Especially with David, or...
MP:Not at all, uh-uh, no. It's really, it's pretty ... David and I have a ball when we get into it, you know, we really do. As a matter of fact, I think it was the last episode we did, or one of the last episodes, I think Rob Bowman was directing, but, uh ... (laughs) he had to tone us down because we were just chewing the scenery. You know, he said, when you two get together you tend to chew the scenery, he said, so let's pull it back a little bit. And we kind of looked at him and said, we-e-ell, okay.
RM: I love it.
MP: But we do, we just kind of like kick out the jams and go for it. I mean, even David kind of, in the finale, when he came at me, you know, and punched me ... boy, he came at me with some, I mean, there was some pretty frightening energy going on there. (laughs)
RM: There was. Coming from someone who was curled up in a ball on the couch, I would agree.
RM: I had gone to watch it with another fan who lives in Killeen, and the two of us were like squirming on the couch during the whole episode, as you can imagine.
MP: Yeah, yeah.
RM: One surprise after another.
MP: Yeah, it was, it was a good show.
RM: That's funny, it's kind of hard to imagine David really chewing the scenery, but it seems like really some of the few times when he really acts up, it's when he's around you.
MP: Yeah. Well, we get the juices flowing, and we prime ourselves for it, and a lot of times we'll go to the lounge at the hotel and work on the scene a little bit the night before, you know, and ... so then we go in and ... it's always fun, it's always ... Most of my scenes have been with David, and we always have a great time doing them. And then, you know, when I get to work with Gillian it's a treat, you know, she's just so good, they're both so good to work off of that it just enhances anything that I'm doing.
RM: What about Chris Carter?
MP: Chris is great. He's cool. He's just a cool dude. (laughs)
RM: That's cool.
MP: Yeah, you know. He was actually in one of the scenes in the last show. I don't know if you know that.
RM: Oh yeah.
MP: Yeah, yeah. He was in the scene in my office when we're grilling Scully.
RM: Right. There's been a lot of discussion over whether there was anyone else in that scene that we should have recognized. Any other writers, or...
MP: No, uh-uh, no.
RM: Somebody thought that the other dark-haired actor might be somebody.
MP: No, they're local actors that they bring in and have actually been in a number of other episodes. I know that one of them, or the woman and the dark-haired guy had been in another scene in my office at the table some time ago. But they bring in some really good local talent.
RM: They bring in a lot of good talent just in general.
MP: Period. Yeah. That's what I was telling Chris, I said, you know, you don't bring in a lot of, you know, they're bringing in, more and more they're bringing in bigger names, but a major portion of it they bring in a lot of relatively unknown people who are just really flat-out good actors.
RM: I think that's one of the best parts of the show. I think that's something that is just part of the chemistry or part of the formula that works...
MP: I think so.
RM: Excellent, excellent casting. And acting. It's really neat. Really good.
MP: Yeah - well, I'm glad you like it.
RM: (laughs) What about some of the other directors and writers? Is there anyone in particular you really like working with, or...
MP: Pretty much all of them.
RM: All of them?
MP: Yeah. They're, you know, they're just, they're all different in their own way, but I ... I think Rob Bowman has directed most of the episodes that I've done. David Nutter was doing quite a few of them at the beginning, but then he went to do another series, and so Rob Bowman has been in. Rob reminds me of somebody that I played football with in high school, you know, we work out in the gyms at the hotel together sometimes, and he's just, you know, he's just like, really like a guy that I played football with. And it's a lot of fun.
RM: Sounds like you just have a lot of fun overall.
MP: Period! (laughs)
RM: Do you have other jobs throughout the year that you're working on, and if, how do they ... I know, I watched you on Models, Inc., so I mean I know you do other things...
MP: Oh, gosh. (laughs)
MP: I can't believe how many people saw that show, I did it, you know, they called up and asked if I would do it, and I said, well, who watches that? And I said, well, okay. (groans)
RM: You wouldn't believe how big of a crossover audience you had for one night on Models, Inc., from The X-Files.
RM: Yeah! Lots of people watched it for the one and only time...
RM: ...to see you. Yeah. You were great.
MP: (groans) Eeee...
MP: The way they made it look, though, at the very end, it was like, they had my face plastered on the screen, and it was like, Skinner comes over from X-Files and kills Models, Inc., the show's over, period. (laughs)
RM:(Laughs) Oh, it was good, it was great.
MP: That's what I've...I've primarily played a lot of bad guys in the past, and this is, I mean, Skinner's, he's not a bad guy, he's a good guy, he's tough, you know, but I've played a lot of killers and stuff like that.
RM: How do other jobs that you're doing right now, other projects, compare with doing The X-Files ?
MP: They don't.
RM: They don't compare.
MP: No. This is like ... you know, it's not even like work. It's something I really look forward to every time I do it. It's a whole different atmosphere. A lot of times when you go on a show ... I've done a lot of guest starring stuff, and a lot of times when you go on a show as a guest star, it's like, you know, you're the new kid on the block and you don't know everybody, and everybody's kind of looking at you like "prove yourself, show us your stuff," and a lot of times it's very uncomfortable.
From the first time I came on this show, I didn't feel that. It was like I was immediately ... I don't know what it is, but I felt immediately accepted, and then as I did more and more shows, it was like I'm part of the family now. So it's really like ... and going to Vancouver is like going home. It's really very comfortable for me.
RM: That's great.
RM: Well, how neat that it's working out for you, cause you like it so much, and now they've signed you to a contract, they like you just as much.
MP: Well, I'm pleased about the whole situation. (laughs) That's why I haven't got too many complaints.
RM: The fans like you so much, too, I mean, you really ... you have the Mitch Pileggi Estrogen Brigade, but beyond that, I think everyone likes you, likes the character...
MP: Now, what is that?
RM: (laughs) I thought you knew about that.
MP: I knew that David had an Estrogen Brigade...(laughs)
MP: I didn't know anybody was going to be, like, you know, caring about some old bald guy. (laughs)
RM: (laughs) Well, it's just the people of discriminating taste.
MP: (laughs) I like you.
RM: I'm serious. I wouldn't be doing this ... I was scared to death.
RM: I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't true. But no, you have an Estrogen Brigade as well...
MP: That's a hoot.
RM: And I think it's second only to David's as far as membership numbers on the internet, as far as I can tell.
MP: That's pretty wild.
RM: It's really great; we really like you a lot.
MP: Well, thank you, thank you. Hey, you know, I'm doing something that I love doing, and maybe it shows, and maybe that's what appeals to people, I don't know. I mean, I watch shows, and I watch the character, and it's like, boy, he sure is grumpy, what would anybody, what would appeal to anybody? And I think I understand, you know, for a long time ... and just from reading the postings that they sent me down, it's like a lot of people were really on the line as far as who's side he's on and whether they liked him or not and stuff like that. Until perhaps the Vietnam speech, and then I think the fight with X kind of firmed things up. But it's ... the whole thing is very kind of overwhelming.
RM: A lot of people sort of think that, you know, now, sort of think that Skinner sees himself in Mulder to a point. That he, that maybe 20 years ago Skinner, or more like 10 years ago I guess, Skinner was...
MP: Thank you. (laughs)
RM: Well, I think Skinner is older than you, isn't he?
RM: Is Skinner older than you?
MP: Yeah ... I think. You know, I ... people see me and they say, you know, you look a lot younger than how you look on TV, and I think it's the glasses and the suits and the way they light me and stuff like that. And I look at it, and I think I do look a lot older than what I really look like.
It's, you know, it's funny because at one point I was having a conversation with Jim Wong, and he said almost exactly what you just said. He said Skinner comes from where Mulder is now. He's been there. And that's why he has this, you know, this empathy for him, I guess, and this supporting him in what he's doing, because he's been there.
RM: It's kind of a reluctant hero thing too, I mean, people felt like when he had the fight with Mr. X in the elevator, it was like he obviously did not want to be there...
MP: Well, I don't think he wanted to reveal himself to X and let him know that he knew who he was. And a lot of people weren't aware that Skinner had any idea about X, but I think Skinner knows about a lot of stuff that people don't know about, you know. And a lot of the stuff he hasn't revealed yet, and I think a lot of stuff that he may never reveal. But I think that he is no dummy, and I think he knows a lot of what's going on. And a lot of it he doesn't like.
RM: Do you have a favorite Skinner episode?
MP: Um ... I don't know. Probably the fight with X.
RM: What about a favorite overall episode?
MP: Um ... gosh, I don't know. That's a hard one. I thought the Duane Barry ones were good. Actually, I saw one that, I think it was called "Ice," from the first season, when they were up at the Arctic...
MP: ...that I thought was very good. They were like, you know ... it was kind of like John Carpenter's "The Thing."
MP: Do you remember it?
RM: Oh yeah.
MP: That one I liked a lot. I'm trying to think...
RM: There was some scenery-chewing in that one.
MP: Oh yeah.
RM: Do you wish ... do you ever wish that Skinner had a higher profile, or do you like him the way he is? As far as, you know, not always being in every episode, and everything?
MP: No, it's fine with me. Cause I mean, artistically ... and I've talked about this with the people, and artistically it just wouldn't be realistic to have Skinner in every episode. Because, you know, they're out in the field a lot. So it would entail Mulder or Scully calling back to FBI headquarters and talking to Skinner on the phone, and that's just not, I don't think they want to take that road with the character.
RM: Well, now that you've been signed, though, to a six-year contract, obviously he's going to be around.
MP: Yeah, well, see, what's ... I was talking to David one day, we were having lunch, and he mentioned that they were going to be giving Skinner more of a life. So I'm anxious to see what that means, you know, what that entails. Whether you're going to find out if he's married or not, you know, or who he's dating, or... (laughs)
RM: That would be =very= interesting to find out.
MP: ...or if he wears dresses in his office when nobody's looking, or what. (laughs)
RM: (laughs) So you don't really know any secrets about the future of Skinner.
RM: I'm glad to hear about your contract because actually a lot of people were deathly afraid they were going to kill him off.
MP: Well, see, that's why Chris didn't want me to tell anybody about the contract.
RM: Right, I see.
MP: 'Cause he wanted people wondering whether Skinner was going to get a bullet.
RM: I don't know if you've read yet the postings from that portion of this spring when people were wondering what was going to happen in the finale. People were taking bets on who was going to die.
MP: Oh, really?
RM: And I was convinced it was going to be Skinner. I was really afraid, because, you know, in the past they've kind of built up characters right before they kill them off.
RM: And so I was afraid that they were having all this new involvement from Skinner to make it just that much worse.
MP: Yeah. Well, it's funny, because shortly after I started doing a number of episodes, David and I were working on a scene one day down in the lounge of the hotel, and Chris came in. And David and I were having a good time and BSing, and Chris looked at me and goes, "I wouldn't get too friendly with him; you know what happened to the last guy that got friendly with him." (laughs) And he was referring to Deep Throat. And I said oka-a-yyy... (laughs)
RM: You're like okay, I'm going to take that to heart.
MP: Right. (laughs)
RM: I love it.
MP: Maybe that's why there's so much venom in the confrontation. (laughs)
RM: Yeah. I love it.
MP: But, uh ... yeah, when I found out that they wanted to do this contract, I was just, you know, I was ecstatic. Cause I mean, you know, this is what an actor works towards, either having a good feature film career or being on a series that is critically acclaimed and a bona fide hit like The X-Files. So that's ... I couldn't be happier.
RM: Well ... that's wonderful.
RM: I wonder if we could talk a little bit about you personally.
RM: I really don't know anything about you. I've been trying to get some stuff from the agent, but I think they're understandably wary.
RM: Maybe. I mean, I definitely completely called out of the blue, and I think just confused them, really.
MP: Yeah, well, they're very, that's part of their job is to be protective of their client.
RM: Right. I understand. But I was wondering if you would tell me a little bit about, you know, whatever you feel comfortable telling me about where you were born, you know, grew up, a little bit about your family life...
MP: Yeah. I was born in Oregon. My dad worked for a company that, as I described, had defense contracts pretty much all over the world. They're a support services organization for military contracts, so that kind of took us traveling a lot. And we lived in California, we lived in Texas, and then we went overseas. When I was ten years old we went to Turkey, and I lived in Turkey for about four years. Then came back to the States, and then went back to Turkey, and just kind of bounced back and forth. I ended up coming back to school in the States here in California for a year, and then I went back overseas to Turkey again. I went to school in Germany for a couple of years in Munich, and then I went to Saudi Arabia and started working there for the same company my dad worked for.
And then I came back to the States and went to school at UT [the University of Texas at Austin]. And then I went ... then where did I go? Then I think I went back to Saudi Arabia for a while.
RM: So, did you know that you wanted to be an actor? Cause you said you acted when you were in Austin. Was that a dream, or was that something you just kind of fell into?
MP: That was after I had been overseas for quite a while, because I eventually ended up in Iran when the revolution started.
MP: Yeah. That was pretty much it for me. I had been through two coups and coup attempts in Turkey, and then this revolution was, it got pretty hairy over there, so...
RM: I read an incredible book about that.
MP: It was a pretty incredible time. It was wild.
RM: But you were able to get out safely, obviously, and...
MP: Got out safely, barely, and uh...there's a lot of stories there, but you know, I won't get into them all. But then I came back to the States and I ended up in Austin and just decided I wanted to kind of like switch gears and do something else. And I had done some acting in college and high school, and, uh...
RM: What year was this, around, at this point?
MP: At this point? This was '79, '80. I moved to Austin, I think in '80. And I just started doing community theater there, at Zach Scott [Zachary Scott Theatre].
RM: And that was the first time you had ever done anything like that?
MP: Well, I mean, other than ... I had done a lot of stuff in high school, a lot of plays and stuff like that. But this was pretty much the beginning of me saying, yeah, I'm going to be an actor. Cause I just, that's all I did. I mean, I worked temp jobs and stuff like that there in Austin, and spent most of my time doing theater. You know, and then eventually I started working at Zach Scott. At one point I was the bookkeeper, the janitor, I built sets, and then I would perform in the evenings.
MP: Yeah. That was ... my life was pretty much consumed by theater at that point. So I did plays constantly.
RM: What were some of the plays you did?
MP: Oh, gosh, let me see. The first play I did was called "The Lark," and then I did "Lone Star" with another actor who's out here now, John Jackson, at Zach Scott. And then I did a play called "Bent" at the old Center Stage, which is now, it's on Sixth Street, I can't remember what they call it now...
RM: Um, Capitol City Playhouse?
MP: No, Capitol City, uh...
RM: That's on Fourth Street.
MP: Capitol City used to be Gaslight.
MP: Yeah. And Center Stage is ... I don't know what it is now, but ... and then I did "Jesus Christ Superstar" at Zilker [Park Hillside Theater]. I played Pilate, which was a gas, a lot of fun. And then I went back, I think it was about two years ago I did a play at Zach Scott, I did "Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune."
RM: I remember when that was here.
MP: Yeah. So I did that. And that's the last thing I did. I did it during the summer. It was right of middle of doing, when we were rehearsing I was working on Basic Instinct and I was also doing a TV movie down in San Antonio, plus I was trying to rehearse for this play, so it was like, it was a zoo. I was like flying back to L.A., back to San Antonio, and back to Austin. The producers were screaming at each other going "we need him now," and I'm trying to learn all these lines for this play, and I'm going, "Oh my God, what have I done to myself?"
RM: What was your first onscreen appearance? When did you start, when did you get into that?
MP: Oh gosh, I can't even remember. I ...
RM: Well, tell me some of the stuff you have done. Because I know about a couple of movies you've been in ... Shocker ...
MP: Mmm, yeah... (laughs)
RM: Pointman ... the infamous Pointman ...
MP: Pointman ... mmm ... mmm, yeah ... (laughs)
RM: Basic Instinct...
MP: Yeah, Basic Instinct...
RM: Somebody spotted you in Basic Instinct just the other night. I read about that.
MP: Yeah. Um, yeah, I just had a little bitty role in that, but it was fun. Let me see, I'm trying to think. I did ... you know, it's funny, because people ask me my resume, and unless I'm looking at it right in front of me I can't remember a damn thing I did.
RM: Yeah, I'm still hoping to get that at some point.
MP: Yeah, I can have my resume faxed to you, and you can take a look at it.
MP: I mean, I've done a lot of TV, and I think I've done like 14 features.
RM: But The X-Files is it, huh?
MP: X-Files is, yeah, it's the one that's really grabbed me.
RM: I was wondering, going back a little bit to the Vietnam experience, you said you were the right age to be in Vietnam, but were you ever in the military at all?
RM: No. Have you ever had an experience like Skinner had? A paranormal experience or even a near-death experience like that?
MP: Mmmm, no.
RM: Nothing unexplainable.
MP: Yeah. (laughs)
MP: Yeah, I have, but it's something I've told to several other magazines and stuff like that.
RM: I see.
MP: It's ... I mean, I could tell it to you, it's just...
RM: Well, I'm interested, you know, if you don't mind...
MP: No, it was when I was going to school in Germany, in Munich, and our dormitories were in old SS barracks, which were supposedly haunted by old SS troops. And so we were all up one night drinking and talking about it, somebody brought it up, and so we thought it was all hilarious, making fun of the SS spooks that were supposedly running around the building, and just getting a big laugh out of it. So anyway, I went back to my room, and I had this chest of drawers, a pretty good-sized chest of drawers, and right in the middle of it was this huge brass candelabra, which I had in Turkey. And it was sitting right in the middle of it. So I knelt down next to the chest of drawers to get something out of the bottom of my wardrobe, and all of the sudden I heard this like sliding sound, and then this candelabra came like crashing down right next to my head. I mean, it just left a big dent in the door of my wardrobe right next to where my head was. And so I kind of like jumped up and looked around, and said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm kidding, I don't mean it..." (laughs) "I apologize." I apologized to the spirits and I never had any problems after that.
But I recently received a fan letter from this girl who also went to school in Munich, and she was in one of the other dormitories, and she had read this account that I had given to, I think Entertainment Weekly, and she was blown away because she had had several experiences too. And she was relating them to me and I thought it was kind of funny.
RM: How interesting.
MP: Yeah. I mean, she even had a name for some of these ghosts, which we didn't have at this time. I think she went to school there sometime after I did. But yeah, so anyway, there were a number of people who witnessed things like this happening there in the dormitories.
MP: (high-pitched voice) It's spooky... (laughs)
RM: When you're kicking back, as you said you are now, and just hanging out, what do you do? What are your hobbies?
MP: Well, actually, right before you called, I was laying out by the pool and I had fallen asleep, and my girlfriend - she's still out there, probably burning up because I told her I didn't want her to be in here while I was talking on the phone - she woke me up, because it was like five minutes to four, and she said "it's almost four, go into the house." So I lay out by the pool a lot, I work out every day, I rollerblade every day, and I, you know, and I read a lot.
RM: What kind of things do you read?
MP: Um, I read a lot of different stuff. I read all of Anne Rice's stuff, I read a lot of Stephen King stuff, I read a lot of Steinbeck, Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Hermann Hesse ... who else? Well, let me look at my shelves right here.
RM: About five of the six you just named are some of my favorites.
MP: Is that right? I like Michael Crichton's stuff, let me see ... I love, I've got a lot of Vonnegut, a lot of Larry McMurtry, you know Peter Straub, do you ever read Peter Straub? I like Jack Kerouac ... um ... gosh, what else do I got here?
RM: Larry McMurtry, huh? A Texan?
MP: Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, I've...
RM: Did you happen to watch when they did "Buffalo Gals" on TV?
MP: You know, I didn't see it.
RM: It was actually pretty good. I haven't read the book, but you know, TV movies can either be really really crummy or they can be really good, and I thought it was excellent.
MP: Well, good. I didn't get a chance to see it. I think I was actually up in Vancouver when it aired. Yeah, I was such a big fan of the first "Lonesome Dove" show that ... I wasn't entirely enthralled with the second, "Return" ... you know, cause I mean, Tommy Lee Jones is just, you now, I mean both Duvall and Jones weren't in it, so ... to me they were the whole deal.
RM: Well, I had some messages that I wanted to pass along to you if you don't mind.
RM: These are some people who wanted to say hi. These are the MPEB, some of the MPEB members, Paula, Siena, Jules, Molly, Sue, Justene and Marcy, and they are some of the people who are helping me get this thing going.
RM: Julie Donehew asked me to tell you that she has admired you ever since she saw "Tooms," which is the second episode she ever watched...
RM: And she was thrilled when you came back in "Little Green Men," she would like to see you in more episodes and outside of the office like in "End Game," and she said to tell you she thinks you're wonderful.
MP: (very quiet voice) That's sweet.
(I have cut some of the more personal messages.)
MP: I'd sure like them to have one of those conventions down in Austin. I'd love to come down there and do one. [Note: they did, and he did! Read all about it.]
RM: Well, put in a good word for us, because we'd love to have one.
MP: Yeah, well these people who are doing them, this Creation Entertainment, I guess they're the ones who have got the rights to doing the X-Files Conventions, and I guess they're just getting going, and so...
RM: I think that they were smart to do the trial run on the West Coast, but I hope that they'll be successful enough, I mean, I think even the first one was so successful hopefully that they'll bring them to the rest of the world. We have Star Trek conventions here that are well-attended, so I would think that they would have X-Files conventions.
MP: Yeah, well, um, I don't know who I would talk to or what weight I would have, but I think it'd be, I'd love to see one down there in that area at least.
(Some discussion about the mechanics of the Web page deleted.)
After much discussion about publicity photos, or the lack thereof, Mitch said:
MP: I've got my head shots, which are, like, I don't know, eight years old or something like that. I mean, it still looks like me, but...
RM: I think I've got some of those too.
MP: (laughs) You know, I mean, it's like, what, it's a bald guy...
RM: How old are you?
RM: When's your birthday?
MP: April 5.
RM: That's a good date. Does that make you a Taurus?
MP: Aries. Fire.
RM: I'm a Fire sign too. Sagittarius.
Well, I think that's all the questions I have to bug you with today.
MP: Oh, it hasn't been bugging at all, it's been a treat.
RM: It's been a treat for me too. I really appreciate your talking to me. I hope you'll keep in touch with us a little bit.
MP: Absolutely, absolutely. I'm glad that we have provided you with a vehicle to get together and commune. And you tell all those people who said hi, hi for me. Tell 'em hi back.
RM: I will. And thanks again, so much. And congratulations on the contract and everything. We'll be looking forward with bated breath to the new season.
MP: Okay. You too.
RM: Well, thanks again, Mitch.
MP: You too, Robin. You take care of yourself.
RM: You too. Bye-bye.