Nicholas Lea at the X-Files Expo, March 7, 1998

(transcript by Dail)

Editor's Note: This is a transcript of the Q&A session at the San Francisco X-Files Expo, Saturday, March 7, 1998. For clarity, I have edited out ums and ers and some things like that and skipped over all the requests for handshakes. The rest of it is as he said it.

Nicholas Lea: How's it going? So, I tell you what. I got here like a half an hour ago and I was beat. Because this town is unbelievable. I love San Francisco. For whatever reason, it won't let me go to sleep, so I'm pretty tired, and when I got here, I was wondering if I was gonna make it, and I'm out here now and my heart is beating like a jackrabbit, so, I don't know ... I'm awake now. There's a lot of people here, huh? You guys having fun? (applause) Is that a yes? Um, I don't know ... first of all, I can't see anything (lights were in the celebs eyes). I was thinking about what I was going to talk about when I got here today, and I ... what's most important for me to impart to you guys, I think, is how I feel about being on the show. It's done so many things for me, for my career, for me personally, I've met a lot of wonderful people, it's helped my bank account, all kinds of things, it's definitely helped my career, and it's taught me that I'm capable of being on screen with some really talented actors and working with some incredibly talented writers and producers, so, that's what I really first of all wanted to say, that I really, really feel very fortunate to be on this show and I tell you, it's a barrel of monkeys, because every time I pick up a new script, uh, Mitch, I'll quote Mitch Pileggi for a second, he says it's sort of like Christmas, because you open up a script and you never know what's going to happen, I mean, in terms of having my arm cut off, having aliens inside of me, getting beat up week to week, it's never the same twice. It's not like being on any other show, and I'll tell you what, it's an absolute gas. I feel really lucky to be here, and I think it's awesome that there's this much excitement surrounding this particular show. Mitch and I, in particular, have done some traveling to meet some people and do some PR stuff in Europe, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and the excitement that surrounds this show is unbelievable and you share something with people in other parts of the world, and whether it's a television show that brings people together or whatever it is, it's pretty wonderful that everybody can come together and enjoy one thing at the same time. So I want to thank you guys for being here today, and I want to thank the city, because, I'll tell you what, I've had a gas since I've been here and hopefully that's going to keep up, we went to some great places last night and did some dancing and had some great dinners. Last night we went to a place called Highball, which is a swing bar, so that was really cool, the night before that we were at a place called the Up And Down which is also very cool. So enough about me. Do you guys have any questions for me? Anybody got any questions they want to ask, anything they need to know, as long as it doesn't get too specific. Is there a microphone or anything like that? I have no idea what's going on...

Question: Your arm got cut off, in that episode. However you seemed to have all your faculties when you were making out with that blonde lady.

NL: "That blonde lady" You know what, what you can't see there is we actually knocked teeth on that. We came at each other so furiously that we actually hit our teeth together. But, you know, arms aren't always required.

Q: So does he have a prosthesis then?

NL: A lot of people ... I heard some people talking over the last week after watching the show on Sunday and if you watch it again, you'll see that my left arm, except for when I put it up on the kid's shoulder at the beginning of the episode it's really, and when I carry a bucket, it really doesn't do anything. What we'd done originally was they brought a glove to set that looked like something you'd buy at Thrifty's, and it just wasn't right, so we had the idea of using a surgical glove and painting it, and uh, that turned out to be the best, so what I have to do is keep my hand in a particular thing and not move it. If you watch it again you'll notice, and, we actually make reference to it in tomorrow night's show in kind of a funny way, so you'll see what I'm talking about.

Q: Do you actually speak Russian?

NL: No, I don't speak Russian at all. So what I have to do basically is learn it by, sort of by rote, in terms of making the sounds and it's probably one of the most challenging things I've ever done as an actor, because you're speaking a language that you don't really understand, you don't have time to learn the entire language, although by osmosis I'm starting to get an idea for it. To be speaking a language you don't really understand and trying to act at the same time, it's a very, sort of, left brain, right brain kind of thing and it's really tricky. Unfortunately you see real Russian actors in this episode and when you watch them speaking and they're just talking normally. I think if a Russian person were to listen to my Russian it probably sounds like (enunciating slowly and very clearly) "Hey man, what are you doing?" So, you know, I've still got a long way to go on it, but, actually it's a test and I like those.

Q: Are you a bad guy or a nice guy (asked by a little kid)?

NL: Did you tell her to say that? Am I a good guy or a bad guy? It's an interesting question. One of the things I really like about playing this character is that, hopefully, you don't know whether to like him or dislike him. It's my job, I think, to try to bring a bit of humanity or sympathy, if I can, to this guy and to his situation. In terms of what we did last week with the boy, you know, when I read the script, I said "This is bad. My character is bad now. There's no denying it." And so, I talked to Chris, and we changed a few lines and added a few things and I tried to, in a few moments, specific small moments, tried to bring some sympathy to the character in terms of ... this guy ... I think my character is a survivalist. My character is just trying to stay alive for the most part, so, and every moment ... it's a challenge for me to work on the show, because every moment I'm on screen it's basically high drama, and my character lives on the edge and could be killed or might have to kill somebody at any time, so you never see him, like, at Starbuck's hanging out, he's usually running from somebody or chasing somebody, so it's a test again to make that come to life. I like my character ... in many ways, one of them being, I think he lives in that area between the good and the evil, he's sort of neither, he's really out for himself, yet I don't think he's malicious.

Q: Do you button or zip first?

NL: (incredulous look) There's about five jokes in there, but I'm... Do I button or zip? Neither. Ziplock is what I do.

Q: You were outstanding as an immortal on Highlander, and you're awesome on the X-Files. Do you have any future projects coming along?

NL: I just did a series in Toronto over the last 8 months, I don't know if you guys are familiar with John Woo (sp?), I did a series in Toronto called Once a Thief, which is very unlike, certainly, his films it's much more of a comedy but I think HBO's in the middle of picking that up, or Showtime so it's going to be shown down here at some point in the not too distant future I think. It's like an action, comedy, romance kind of thing. It's pretty wacky.

Q: What do you do in it?

NL: I play an ex-cop who's sort of hard on the outside and soft on the inside. That's about as far as I'm willing to go into that.

Do you guys know there's like 3500 or 4000 people here? Unbelievable... How are the X-Files dogs? Are they any good?

Q: Do you believe in aliens?

NL: Do I believe in aliens. My answer to that is ... the romantic side of me likes to believe that there is something else going on outside our environment, hopefully it's a better thing that's going on at times than what's going on in our environment, and I'm excited by the idea although I have never seen any proof of it, so I'm somewhat ambivalent but I love the idea.

Q: I just wanted to say I love you, I love everything you've been in...

NL: You don't know me! I might be a creep.

Q: What was it like getting beat up by David Duchovny?

NL: What was is it like getting beat up or what's it like getting beat up, because it happens so often now, it's kind of like I get up in the morning and I get beat up. First of all, David and I are really good friends and we hang out a lot, and working with him is a real gas, it's like going to work with a really close friend and that's always really fun. Second of all, I love doing physical acting, whether it's getting beat up or whether it's beating somebody else up ... if you watch Harrison Ford, for example, if you watch some of the things that he's done, he's so talented at showing pain, for example. Did you see The Fugitive. He has a scene in The Fugitive where he's injecting himself with insulin, and he's not really doing it, but it looks so much like he's in so much pain, and I think that's a real talent, and it's something that I love doing. So, what's it like getting beat up? It's fun. In next week's episode there's a bit where I'm handcuffed and I stayed handcuffed for like two hours and I've now lost the feeling in this part of my right hand, so I guess there's ups and downs to that. You'll see it next week. Thank you for the question.

Q: Do you know if there's going to be toys of the X-Files?

NL: Really? I don't know. I hope there's not one of me, though, I think that's the time I'll have to get out of the business when somebody makes a doll of me. You know what? My answer to that is that I truly don't know, although I would not be surprised.

Q: Do you have a favorite episode?

NL: I do, I've got a couple of favorite ones actually, I've been asked this question before and I don't know if you guys ... I'm sure you did ... see Duane Barry? With Steve Railsback who played Duane Barry. There's been so many talented actors come on this show, I think he is certainly one of the most talented, and I learned a lot from watching him play that role, because on paper it was written as a guy who is crazy and a lunatic and bad for the most part, but when you saw him play it, he brought this real childlike ... he brought this little boy to the part which was fascinating to watch. You immediately felt sympathy for the poor guy because he was the victim of circumstances that were out of his control. To take something that is written so strongly in one direction and turn it around into something completely different is, again, a real talent. I also liked Tunguska and Terma a lot, the ones where we were first in Russia, I thought those were brilliant episodes. I'm astounded... You guys got to know what it takes to make this show every week. It's a huge group of people working every day as hard as they can to basically make a movie every week, and to do that in television with those kind of time constraints is astounding, you know, you see us in Russia or in Hong Kong, or we're in the bayou or ... it doesn't matter where the show is filmed, they get it done every week, and it never ceases to amaze me what they can accomplish. Of course, they're given a lot of money to do it, by the same token, it takes a lot of heart as well. I think with very few exceptions, they're all pretty good shows.

Q: Do you have a favorite drink?

NL: I like carrot juice and orange juice together. I do. I like beer. You know. I like Heineken. (grins) Beer!

Q: I would like to thank you for being part of a tv show that makes it almost reasonable to be intelligent, not like most of the garbage that's on tv.

NL: Yeah, that's the kind of career I'm trying actually to carve out for myself is shows that don't pander to an audience, shows that treat the audience with respect. Because if you don't do that, you have these shows out on television now that have these massive budgets and in 1998 to be spending $30 million on doing 22 episodes of crap is totally irresponsible as far as I'm concerned. At least this show ... it grabs people's imagination, and there isn't really that many shows out there that really, really grab your imagination and tell you a story every week, and that's something honestly that I think is missing in television, in the media, in our society, is really good storytelling. It just doesn't happen anymore. I'm really pretty proud to be on a show... You don't need to thank me, I'm lucky to be there.

Q: I heard that when you shot Melissa Scully you were living with Melinda McGraw? What was it like to go home to her after you killed her?

NL: It wasn't so bad afterwards, it was during the thing that it was a little odd. I was having to be in a position of killing somebody and hopefully acting that to the best of my ability, yet I was constantly trying to make sure she was comfortable, and having something to drink, or had a pillow under her head or whatever, but she's a sport, and she's a very talented actress.

Q: What exactly happened with the black oil that was in you?

NL: I don't know if you saw the ending of Apocrypha, and I'm on top of the alien basically puking it out of my face. I'll tell you a little story about that, because that was kind of a new thing for me, it was kind of fascinating. What they do is they make a prosthetic mask of your face, of me going (makes face) and they take that mask away and they build tubes into it which all goes into a headgear, which goes down over your back and to these pumps and on cue they can start pumping and the goo comes out of your face, and I get there and the first hour, I've never had prosthetics on my face before, I'm going "look at this, is this unbelievable or what?" and an hour later I wanted to rip it off my face, because I couldn't see, I could barely breathe, I had to breathe through a straw, they had to walk me around everywhere, so we shot the scene, and it wasn't easy to do, and I was really happy when it was over, and they called me about a day later and said the lighting was too dark, we're going to have to re-shoot it, and I got there and they put the mask on my face, it takes about an hour to put on. As soon as I got there and they put the mask on, and they broke for lunch. So I had to sit there, I couldn't eat, I couldn't drink, it's not the worst thing that could happen to me, but, I tell you, it was pretty much of a drag. That's the first time I ever got upset, probably one of the few times I've ever gotten upset on a set, and I was just so pissed, and I walked and I kicked something, I couldn't see what it was because I couldn't see, and it turned out to be a box of light bulbs. And so they were, like "I guess we better like give him some space." But anyway, what happens is the goo comes out of you, and then you have no recollection, so that was a fun scene to shoot, because when the goo came out of my face, I awoke to find myself trapped in the bottom of a missile silo, not knowing where I was or how I'd gotten there. And I was lucky in those two episodes to have two great endings, I think two real classic X-Files endings, one was walking toward the camera to black, and the other one was when the camera was pulling down the hallway with me banging on the door and screaming. I thought those were really classic endings, I was lucky.

Q: Are you going be in the movie?

NL: Am I going to be in the movie? I'm not going to be in the movie because first of all I was in Toronto doing the series. I was working every single day and couldn't get out of it. And the way I understand it, they did about five drafts of the script, and the original idea was to have me in it, and then they realized it would almost be sort of token appearance according to the story line they'd chosen, so it just turned out I wasn't, and I was disappointed, you know, but that's okay, there's going to be another one and I think I'll probably be in that one.

Q: What are your hobbies when you're not acting?

NL: I play a lot of golf. Mitch and I try to get together and play golf when we can. I love to travel, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this Expo tour, you know, because I love San Francisco, and I've never been to Chicago, I've never been to Boston, I've never been to Washington, and it's giving me a chance to go to those places, so I love to do that. You know, most of my time, to be honest with you is pretty much focused on what I'm doing, on my career and trying to get better, and trying to leverage myself into a place where I can start doing the kind of projects I want to do. When you're an actor, it's actually a lot of hard work, it takes a lot of focus. Whenever I get a chance to get away ... I paint and I draw as well but I haven't had a chance to do that in a couple of years. We had a hiatus at the end of the summer this year from the show I was doing in Toronto, and I flew to Vancouver and went out to one of the islands and just painted for two weeks. That's what I like to do, I just like to remain calm and quiet, you know, hang out with my friends.

Q: We were wondering if you did your own stunts or had a stunt double?

NL: No, I do them all actually. In answer to one of the previous questions about doing the physical acting, I love doing it, and it always has a good story in it and it's always a lot of fun. When we did the ... I've forgotten the name of the episode, but when I ran out of the exploding car... That was a trip. Because, first of all they said we're going to have you standing beside the car and then you're going to run when we call "action." I said, well, wouldn't it be better if I was actually in the car and you saw me get out of the car and run? So, I'm sitting in the car, surrounded by like 14 huge tanks of gasoline, and all that's separating me from death is a guy with a plunger. So we have a safety meeting, and we go through it a hundred times to make sure everything's smooth, they call action and when I'm supposed to hit a particular mark, the guy's ... and this guy's very talented and a top professional, but you never know what's going to go on. So I run, and I hit my mark and nothing happens. And I turn around and the guy's going (mimes pushing the plunger over and over) so we did it the next time and it worked, but I tell you what, I could feel the heat all down the back of my head, it literally pushed me from behind, the compression from the explosion. And then in Terma, when I was hanging from the balcony, originally the idea was that they would have me standing on a platform outside the building, and they would shoot me only down to the knees, you wouldn't be able to see my feet, so it would give the illusion that I was hanging, but I would actually be standing on a platform for safety, and I said, well, that's good, but it could be better, right? Like don't you really want to see the guy's feet hanging? And somebody said, yeah, we do. And so they took the platform away and I was really brave up until the actual doing of it, but when you find yourself dangling from 17 floors by a cable that's around your waist, let me tell you, it's frightening. So, that was trippy, but it was really exhilarating, and I love that kind of stuff. Doing all the stuff with David, the fights, all that kind of stuff is ... John Neville, who plays WMM, when I first met him, he said, Oh, you're Nick Lea, I understand you'll do anything. I guess that's the reputation I have.

Q: How did you get the part of Krycek?

NL: That's a good question. In the first season of the show, about episode 8 or 11 or something like that, there was an episode called Genderbender, and it was about aliens who were disguising themselves as Amish types, and I was a bar patron who meets a girl, and goes out to make out with her in his car only to find out that she morphs into a man. That was the first chance I got to work with Rob Bowman, who's now a producer and director on the show, and actually directed the film as well, and Rob and I really, really, really hit it off, and I had a lot of ideas, I always come to the set with a lot of ideas about how we can do it, and he had a lot of ideas and we really hit it off. When it came time to cast this role, they looked at like 25 actors in Los Angeles and Rob kept on saying, you've got to see Nick Lea, you've got to see him, because I think he's right for this role, and they saw all these guys in LA and then they finally said, well, okay, fine, we'll fly to Vancouver, we'll meet him, and I went in and read for the part, Rob was there, I got the part, I found out that afternoon. It was a real highlight, so far, of my life, it was a moment I'll always remember. So Rob Bowman was tremendously responsible and integral in the process of me getting this part, so every time I see him now, I give him a buck. I've given away hundreds of dollars to the man, it's ridiculous. He figures he's responsible for my career.

Q: Do you have a tattoo?

NL: No. I'm thinking about getting one, though, there's one that I saw a couple of years ago, it's the Chinese sign for water. And I'm a Cancer and I'm a water sign and I love the water and I'm thinking about getting that. Where it will be placed is yet to be determined, but I like the idea.

Q: If you're not going to be in the movie, we need to see a lot more Krycek.

NL: Know what? I couldn't agree with you more. It's a treat for me every time I'm on the show, it truly is. I'm not just saying this to make myself sound cool. It really is a treat for me. Every time I get to be on the show it makes me really happy, plus I get to go home to my home town and hang out with my friends, my family, it's like the best of all possible situations, so, write your local congressman. I don't know what to tell you.

Q: What's going on between you and the blond chick? (Marita)

NL: I'm gonna tell you, that came to me as a total shock, I got the script and I was like, I'm doing what? It's ... you open up the script and you might have aliens coming out of your face or you might be making out with somebody, you never know. I was shocked because it's unlike anything we've done on the show before, you know, there's never been a recurring character role or a lead character that you've ever seen get intimate with anybody else. So, I felt it was kind of interesting, it was a bit jarring when I saw it on television because it's so unlike anything we've done so far, you know? And we hit teeth so hard in the rehearsal, I can't even tell you. But she was pretty cool and she was shy, and she's a very sweet girl, by the way, and she's really into acting, she loves to do the best she can do. It was really fun working with her. You know, we were like, how do you start this? Should we kiss now and get it over with and like sort of break the ice, or what do you do? We decided that we'd keep it until the actual filming so it might get some anticipation going, some excitement. What we were trying to accomplish in that was that when I grab her at the beginning you don't know if I'm going to strangle her or shoot her or break her neck or what we're going to do, and I was wanting to sort of reveal itself moment to moment to moment, so that the characters meet, they look at each other, there's a beat of uncertainty, he comes across, grabs her, looks like he's going to get violent and then kisses her. I thought that was kind of an interesting way of doing it. But what is up with it? Lord knows. I couldn't even...

Q: What's it like working with John Woo?

NL: John is an absolute total gentleman. I'm fascinated by the guy frankly, because he came from Hong Kong, his family really had no money, his entree into Hollywood was watching musicals. So he's a contradiction in terms, very soft spoken, very smart man, yet his films are ultra-violent, but at the same time poetic. It was a real treat, a definite highlight for me. That's what I want to do in my career, I want to start working with the people who want to do something different and unusual in the business, not just put out movies to make money.

Q: I wanted to compliment you on your Russian pronunciation, it's really very good.

NL: Do you understand the language?

Q: I'm a native Russian speaker.

NL: Well that means a lot. Because I swear to God, I thought if anybody who actually speaks the language hears it they're gonna ... the jig is up.

Q: Is there any significance to the name Krycek?

NL: I understand the Russian root for "rat" is "krys" which is the root for Krycek, and I'm sure they didn't know that when they named the character, and I don't think anybody knew it when they called my character "Ratboy," so it's a bit of a miracle in a way. I don't know how that happened, but yeah, it sort of basically means "rat" and on the internet people like to call me, unjustly, "Ratboy."

Q: The pronunciation "kry" which means "edge" and I thought that person that "cek" could be a contraction for "person" like "person on the edge"

NL: I never thought of that either, that's really cool. That would also certainly describe the guy, so that's pretty cool.

Q: Would you be interested in doing a spin-off called Krycek or something?

NL: "Krycek or Something"? I don't think it would go. Krycek or Something... Honestly? No. If that's a serious question, no. It doesn't warrant a spin-off. That's one thing about this show that is so great is that these guys have the utmost integrity and they're not in it to make a buck. They're in it to do something unusual. Krycek or Something... What would I be doing? Hanging out at the beach? We could do like Three's Company.

Q: What is the biggest blooper you've had in the show?

NL: I don't know how to answer that question, I'm not responsible for any bloopers, I gotta tell you. That doesn't mean I don't blow my lines, because that certainly happens. Usually when we're doing my stuff it's usually ultra-serious, so there's not a great deal of joking going on. I haven't been really involved with any bloopers, unfortunately. But you should watch Gillian and David sometimes, because that's really ... you saw some of it on the special if you saw the special, it was hilarious. She will laugh for any and all reasons.

Q: In Duane Barry, there's one shot where you look like you're checking David Duchovny out.

NL: Yeah, I wasn't. (grins) I think we saw it in dailies or something, and David got me a present later on and it was a ... on the inside it said "are you looking at my package?" so, no.

Q: There was a blooper where he shoved his head in your lap?

NL: No, he grabbed my head and pushed it into his lap, but we were in a car, so you couldn't see...

Q: Early in the show when you were trying to drum up sympathy for your character, he's not bad people?

NL: It's not a matter so much drumming up sympathy for the guy, it's a matter of hopefully trying to bring a rounded character to the show, because I don't think it's interesting just to watch a bad guy, I think it's interesting to watch somebody who's a little more complex than that.

Q: I think he's pure evil and you're just the best bad guy.

NL: Who let you in here? (laughs) Thank you that's very sweet. It's that ... I'm just happy people like the character, if you want to say he's a bad guy, go ahead, but for me it's just fun to do.

Q: He's just looking out for Number One.

NL: You know, when somebody's trying to kill you you're not going to look out for number two. He's got like nine lives and I love that, and you can't keep him down, you know what I mean? I love that about the character, he just keeps coming back for more, he's like, I'm like the Everlast bag. That boxing, punching bag. But I love it.

Q: What do you personally think of the character?

NL: It's a bad choice for an actor to say "my character is evil" because nobody's purely evil, there's really nobody that's pure evil, everybody has all sides, and I ... because so many people dislike him, I feel a responsibility to really love the guy. Especially with a role that you continue to play over a certain period of time, you become kind of close to the character, and after all that he's been through, I think the fact that he does bounce back is ... he's a die hard, you know what I mean, you can't keep him down. I think that if you want to go back into the story a little bit, he was brought to the FBI, he was hand picked to work for CSM, so he was led into a situation where, as you saw in that scene, he's like I'm supposed to do what? Then he finds out later on that people are just trying to kill him, so you watch the character change, as well. Not only physically from the haircut and the clothing and stuff to what I'm doing now, but also everything that's happened to him has changed him and if you want to talk in terms of the character it's hardened him and I don't think he trusts anybody anymore, and I don't think he ... I think he has good reason not to trust anybody. I think he's afraid of the world, frankly, it's a scary place for him to be.

I know you guys been standing in line and I apologize and I think we're going to move on to another element of the afternoon here. So listen you guys, thanks a lot for having me here today, I look forward to seeing all you guys later. Thanks for the hospitality and take care of yourselves.

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