The “Scully Effect” And Other Things You Never Knew About The X-Files

Whether you were old enough to watch, or you were young enough to be haunted by that creepy intro music, The X-Files was the cult-hit television show that defined a decade. The first episode aired in 1993 and the original run lasted nine seasons and spawned two movies, a spin-off, and a reboot of the original show.

Since the entire television show is about aliens, conspiracies, and government cover-ups, it’s unsurprising to hear that the cast and crew of The X-Files kept some interesting secrets of their own. We’re glad the executives didn’t get their way when they tried to cast this blonde bombshell as Dana Scully. These facts about The X-Files will shed new light on your favorite cult classic.

It Was The First TV Show To Get A “TV-MA” Rating

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It might sound surprising that The X-Files was the first TV show to receive the “mature content” rating. The rating came because of a particularly disturbing episode called “Home” which centered upon an inbred family and infanticide. The episode was so disturbing that FOX eventually banned it.

We’re so used to shows rated TV-MA now, but in 1993 many television series would scale back a bit to reach a wider audience and appease advertisers and networks. Now we’re used to watching everything rated as TV-MA, from South Park to Game of Thrones. The X-Files was setting some high standards.

Nobody Ever Dies In The Show

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Those who watched the show casually probably think the opposite since numerous characters are killed off throughout the series. But die-hard fans will know that being killed off means absolutely nothing in The X-Files. The show is notorious for bringing back dead characters. Why? Because it’s all part of a huge conspiracy! The death was a coverup! They were actually abducted, and a body-double was used to fake their death!

The fact that no one dies was so well known on set that when an actor was given the final script for their character, producer Chris Carter would always attach a post-it note that said: “nobody dies in The X-Files.”

The Lone Gunmen Predicted 9/11

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The X-Files spawned a spin-off show based on the three wacky conspiracy theorists that Mulder would consult for help. The series, called The Lone Gunmen, aired an episode six months before 9/11 that centered on a government employee coming to the Lone Gunmen to warn them of a plane being hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers. In the episode, the hijacking is planned by the U.S. government to start a war in the Middle East.

Sound like any other 9/11 conspiracies you’ve heard? The spin-off only lasted one season, and so the episode was quickly forgotten even though no one can forget the events that would happen six months later.

You’ll never believe who the first choice to play Agent Dana Scully was.

Anderson And Duchovny Hated Each Other

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Their on-screen chemistry might have been steamy, but a different type of fire was burning on set for the first few seasons. Both Gillian Anderson, who plays Dana Scully, and David Duchovny, who plays Fox Mulder, have openly admitted that they didn’t get along at first.

Anderson believes the reason was that she slowed down the production schedule. The rainy weather where they shot the show in Vancouver, Canada meant she constantly had to fix her hair and makeup, and that Duchovny found it annoying. When the show moved to L.A., the two got over it and are good friends now, with some hilarious Instagram selfies.

Scully Is An Inspiration For Women In STEM

Scully Is An Inspiration For Women In STEM

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Studies have shown that girls who grew up watching The X-Files were more than 50% likely to go into a STEM field: science, technology, engineering, math. Even better, 63% of women interviewed for the study said that Scully increased their confidence.

This phenomenon has been officially labeled “The Scully Effect,” and it’s a real thing and it’s amazing. Scully is famous for being one of the first “multidimensional female characters in a STEM field” that was on a popular TV show. The show’s creator and Anderson both knew this and always maintained Scully’s strong, independent character.

They Wanted A Sexy Scully


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Part of the reason The Scully Effect was so successful was because of Gillian Anderson, but she almost lost the role to another Anderson. The executives at FOX originally wanted someone “bustier, taller, and leggier.” Pamela Anderson was the producer’s #1 pick until Gillian came in and stole the show.

The show’s creator would be the one who advocated for Gillian as Scully since he was the one who wrote and envisioned a strong female lead who didn’t rely on looks. The executives may have wanted a sexier Scully, but most boys who grew up watching The X-Files definitely had a crush on Scully.

Next, The X-Files was the first of it’s kind to spawn a cult following, and their fans made up some popular terms we still use today.

Their Fans Invented “Shipping” Characters


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Shipping characters on a TV show is popular among teens, but little do they know, X-Files fans invented it. Shipping is the act of wishing two characters to become romantically involved. It’s no wonder X-Files fans had to create a new word to describe the feeling of waiting for Scully and Mulder to hook up finally.

The show’s fans created many terms, including Monster of the Week (MoTW) which was used to describe a standalone episode within a continuous storyline. The X-Files‘ cult following wrote the textbook on how to obsess over a TV show.

The Cigarette Smoking Man Hated Cigarettes

The Cigarette Smoking Man Hated Cigarettes

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The actor who portrayed the show’s villain quit smoking decades before the show. William B. Davis had kicked the habit years before starring as the Cigarette Smoking Man but would smoke real cigarettes when in character. Even though he picked up the habit again for the show, he eventually changed to fake, herbal cigarettes.

Davis would often speak out against smoking despite being the face of one of the most infamous smoking characters. He partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to star in anti-smoking ads. Davis even donates to climate change research and drives an electric Tesla car. He’s the opposite of his character.

Reviews Predicted The Show Would Tank

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The X-Files may have been dubbed “one of the greatest cult shows in modern television,” but many critics didn’t think that at first. After the season premiere, Entertainment Weekly labeled the show as “dead on arrival” and deemed it to be a definite flop.

Fast forward to 2014 and Entertainment Weekly ate their words and placed The X-Files as #4 on the “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years.” 12 million people tuned into the show’s first episode, but their top episode would reach 27 million viewers. The popularity was primarily due to the show attracting viewers outside of the sci-fi genre.

Keep reading to learn about the strange inspiration behind two main characters.

Jody Foster Inspired Scully’s Character


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Before Hillary Clinton became the queen of the pantsuit, Dana Scully was all over breaking barriers in perfectly-tailored menswear. Scully may have popularized shoulder pads and two-button suits, but her character was said to have been inspired by another FBI power-suit queen, Clarice Starling.

Starling, portrayed by Jodie Foster, was the main character in The Silence of the Lambs. Chris Carter said that a strong, female lead like Foster inspired him to write Scully’s character. Anderson was even approached to play Clarice Starling in the sequel, Hannibal. The two characters even have the same haircut.

Hitler And Sadaam Hussein Inspired Another Character

Hitler And Sadaam Hussein Inspired Another Character

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The show’s creators had an idea in mind for each character, but the Cigarette Smoking Man took inspiration to a new level. William B. Davis wanted his character to be the evilest one in the room, so he said that he took inspiration from real-life villains like Adolf Hitler and Sadaam Hussein.

The inspiration worked. The Cigarette Smoking Man was initially an extra and never meant to be a main character. Davis’ incredible acting literally took his character to front and center. The Cigarette Smoking Man became one of the most robust villains on TV who had a hand in every major U.S. government conspiracy you can think of.

The Show’s Creator Loves Conspiracies


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The X-Files seems to have taken inspiration from just about everywhere and anywhere. The show’s creator was inspired by characters in The Silence of the Lambs and Twin Peaks, as well as shows like The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Chris Carter was said to have been inspired by a public survey that showed over 3 million people believed aliens had abducted them in their lifetime. Carter was shocked by the survey and viewed alien abduction as a “religious experience” that might make for engaging television. He even left a cushy job at Disney to create The X-Files.

Coming up, the show’s creators didn’t want to be labeled science fiction, so they hired some important people to get rid of the label.

Scully And Mulder Were Supposed To Be Platonic


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Keeping romance out of the picture was the primary goal for the first season. Chris Carter wanted to establish early in the series that Scully and Mulder had no spark. He did this in the premiere by writing in a scene where Scully is topless and has Mulder examine her bug bites. The scene was meant to show the characters in a possibly-romantic situation that goes nowhere. Scully was even supposed to have a boyfriend in the first few episodes to show the main characters weren’t interested.

Well, all the efforts didn’t matter, because the two (finally) kiss in season seven, get together by season nine, and even have a child together.

But There Was Still Love On Set

But There Was Still Love On Set

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Scully and Mulder may have had a strained relationship, but that didn’t stop love from blossoming elsewhere on The X-Files set. Mitch Pileggi, who played the stern but lovable FBI Director Skinner, met his wife on set. Arlene Warren is an actress who was hired onto the show to play Scully’s stand-in.

The two married in 1996 and Warren even landed a recurring role in the series as Skinner’s secretary. We imagine she wanted the recurring role to keep an eye on Pileggi since he would be working every day with a woman that looked just like her.

Actual Scientists Helped Make The Show Believable

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The show’s producers made a consistent effort to keep scientists on hand to fact check their work. One notable scientist on the set was University of Maryland microbiologist Anne Simon who served as the creative consultant for all of the craziest ideas that came from Chris Carter. Simon wrote a memoir that said she was the real-life Scully who found the most realistic way a monster would look or an abduction would take place.

Having real science behind The X-Files was important for Carter because he didn’t consider the show “science fiction.” Carter was inspired by The Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and liked to refer to the show as “speculative science.”

The show loves to pick on the CIA, but in 2016 the CIA became X-Files fans too.

Fox And Scully Have Some Interesting Name Inspo

Fox And Scully Have Some Interesting Name Inspo

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Naming characters is a tricky thing to do. It’s hard to tell whether or not they will resonate with an audience and turn into iconic names. Many speculated that Fox Mulder was named after the production network that aired the series, but Carter instead named the character after a childhood best friend. It still probably got Carter some brownie points with the executives.

As for Scully, Carter named her after his favorite sportscaster, Vin Scully. The legendary Los Angelas Dodgers announcer. Vin knew about this and can actually be heard calling a game in the sixth season.

Anderson’s Pregnancy Almost Lost Her The Job

Anderson’s Pregnancy Almost Lost Her The Job

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This is unsurprising to most women, but Anderson almost lost her job after becoming pregnant in the second season of The X-Files. The executives at FOX had already lost their battle with Carter when they wanted him to cast Pamela Anderson in the role, so when she got pregnant, they used it as a reason to tell Carter to write her out of the show.

Once again, Carter stood by his original vision for Scully. Instead of writing her off, Scully’s character is abducted and experimented on by aliens, which allowed for her to remain in the show but she got to be off her feet and in scenes alone.

The CIA Released Their Own X-Files


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When The X-Files returned in 2016, the internet was shocked to find out the CIA is also an X-File fan. In honor of the show’s return, the agency at the center of the TV show’s government coverups released their own “X-Files.” Much to the disappointment of most conspiracy theorist, the CIA files published didn’t include who shot JFK or if jet fuel can melt steel beams.

The CIA’s X File instead contained a list of instructions on what to do if you believe you spotted a UFO. Basically, the government released a list telling the public to immediately let them know if they see a UFO and the public isn’t falling for it. We don’t need a Roswell 2.0. The X-Files made us woke to the conspiracies.

Some Of The Guest Stars Are Unbelievable

Some Of The Guest Stars Are Unbelievable

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It’s shocking to see all the actors who got a start on The X-FIles. The show was so popular that it could launch the profile and career of any actor in the ’90s. Seth Green was a notable stoner who leads Mulder to a secret government airfield in season one. Felicity Huffman, Jack Black, Ryan Reynolds, Michael Buble, Lucy Lui and Luke Wilson are just a few others.

A surprising amount of Breaking Bad characters also had guest spots on The X-Files. Bryan Cranston starred in a “Monster of the Week” episode, and both Aaron Paul and Dean Thomas were extras in episodes. Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, was a writer on the show too.

They Had Trouble Shooting With Anderson And Duchovny


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Anderson and Duchovny had some incredible on-screen chemistry, but it wasn’t always easy to get the perfect shot. Anderson is 5’3″ while Duchovny is an intimidating 6’2″. This may be what every college girl on Tinder is looking for, but the cameramen hated it. Anderson often had to be propped up on a box in still scenes or step up onto a box after a scene when they’re walking.

Anderson became pretty fond of “The Scully Box” even though it made for some hilarious mishaps. She told US Magazine that sometimes she’d forget she was on a box and “turn to the camera and fall right off the box.” It makes sense now why her character was always in heels.