THE X-FILES Official Magazine #10

Summer 1999

Year of the Rat

Nicholas Lea reveals what it's like to bring to life treacherous "Ratboy" Alex Krycek

And behold, the death of a traitor to the dark cause shall lead to the ascendence of the rat.

- The Gospel According to Carter, Chapter 6, Verses 12-13

With the alien colonization of Earth close at hand and no living son to assume his legacy, the Cigarette-Smoking Man must take on a new apprentice. It's the opportunity of a lifetime for renegade agent Alex Krycek, who, in the las four years, has murdered Bill Mulder and Melissa Scully, betrayed U.N. operative Marita Covarrubias and schemed with and against the now immolated power brokers of The Syndicate. Given his credentials, Ratboy seems like the perfect candidate for the job.

Nicholas Lea, who plays the dashing rogue, is prepared to tackle the assignment, should it come his way. Not only would the promotion be a boon to his character's scandalous resume, it would finally nail down Krycek's mysterious motivations. Since his debut in Season Two's "Sleepless," the rebel agent has remained true only to his duplicitous nature. He originally portrayed himself as a man who shared Mulder's passion for the paranormal, later admitting his ties to the nefarious CSM. Krycek then defied his fellow conspirators' orders in many of the key mythology episodes - "The Blessing Way," "Tunguska," "Terma," "Patient X" - his actions underscoring his shifty nature and earning him an unflattering, rodent-inspired nickname.

Now, Krycek might have discovered his true calling. In the wake of the tumultuous events of epic mythology two-parter "Two Fathers"/"One Son," he certainly seems to be gunning for the position of second-in-command. And with Spender conveniently out of the way, Krycek's chances to succeed the CSM are better than ever before. Lea wisely cautions, however, that only Chris Carter can accurately forecast what will happen in the series' dark world. Placing bets on Krycek's future is an exercise in futility.

"There's some big changes," Lea says, referring to the Season Six episodes. "I would say there's certainly changes in the environment, changes in what appears outwardly to be allegiances. What appears on the surface is not really what's going on underneath, which is in keeping with what I've been doing all along - false motives, trying to win over people's trust in order to further my own means. It's hard to tell when he's telling the truth and when he's lying. Although the environment's changed, motivations for the character are pretty much the same."

In other words, Krycek is just as underhanded as he's been all along. As sneaky as he is, though, the character brings a unique dynamic to the series' chemistry. While Mulder and Scully remain the heroes and the CSM the chief villain, Krycek is somewhere in the middle, treading the fine line between good and evil.

"All I know is that he's pretty much a free agent and he really is just trying to further his own success or his own livelihood," Lea offers. "That's sort of what I like about this character is that he's not the good guy, he's not truly the bad guy. He fills that void in between and there isn't really another character on the show that does that, be it the Cigarette-Smoking Man or The Syndicate or Mulder and Scully, Skinner and Spender. I like the fact that I sort of play both sides. I really enjoy the ambiguity of what appear to be his motives."

Lea's feelings toward Krycek are not so unclear; the character has put him on the fast-track toward international celebrity. Born in New Westminster, British Columbia, June 22, 1962, Lea was a relative latecomer to acting; his first ambition had been to work as a professional illustrator. After a brief stint in the Canadian Navy, Lea enrolled in art school, but his interest in performing spurred him toward the stage. He served as frontman and guitarist for an alternative rock outfit called Beau Monde (French for "beautiful world") for five years before realizing that his real passion was acting. Lea's big break came in 1983 in the Dorothy Stratten biopic Star 80, but as luck would have it, the young actor's scenes found a permanent home on the editing room floor. Undaunted, he worked steadily in a number of lesser-known television series and films before landing the role of Officer Enrico "Ricky" Caruso on The Commish in 1991. The show turned into a three-year gig for Lea and earned him some valuable on-screen experience, which translated into guest-star spots on other series- including The X-Files. Yes, the handsome clubgoer who meets an untimely demise in Season One stand-alone "Genderbender" is none other than Lea. Rob Bowman, who directed the episode, was so impressed with Lea's performance that he recommended the actor for the part of Krycek. Chris Carter agreed to allow Lea to audition, and he was cast the same day.

Since that time, Lea has enjoyed ever-increasing celebrity stature. Turns on Highlander, The Outer Limits, Sliders and Lonesome Dove, not to mention a leading role in the Canadian syndicated series Once a Thief, have elevated him to stardom, but it is his recurring appearances on The X-Files that have won him a loyal following. Search the Internet for "Alex Krycek" and you'll find dozens of Web sites devoted to the man behind the rat.

Not that his years on the show have been easy. Krycek has suffered more abuse than almost any other character at the pens of Carter and his league of sinister scribes: He's been repeatedly pummeled, possessed by the black oil, suspended from a 20-story building. He's even lost an arm to an angry, axe-wielding Russian mob. Given that Lea performs a majority of his own stunt work, the physical demands of the role are often exhausting.

"Nick Lea loves to do everything," says former X-Files Vancouver stunt coordinator Tony Morelli. "It's bad as a stunt man; it's great as a stunt coordinator because the cameras can be right there as he's doing it. [When the dailies] come back the next day, everyone says, 'He did that! I can't believe it.' I say, 'I made it as safe as I could and told him what could happen and he pulled it off.' When we hung him [over the side of a building for 'Terma'] he was gung ho. It was a little nerve-racking to see him. He was cabled, didn't bother him. I knew he was going to be OK, but it's just that nervous feeling."

Of course, his most famous physical feat had nothing to do with hanging from Walter Skinner's balcony or any other stunt. For "Patient X," Lea tackled the awesome responsibility of filming The X-Files' first love scene, as Krycek and Uniblonder Marita Covarrubias engage in an amorous tryst on board the agent's battleship hide-out. Between the prosthetic limb the actor wears as part of his costume and the various crew members watching as Lea and co-star Laurie Holden repeated the action for multiple takes, filming the sequence became something of a surreal experience. Still, the scene confirmed Lea's status as television's first one-armed heartthrob.

"When I read the script where Covarrubias and I make-out I was as shocked as anybody," Lea says. "That's another good thing about playing this character is they can almost do anything with him as long as he maintains that kind of personal integrity. You can throw him almost into any situation. One of the things I was really happy about was that you really did get to see a different side of that character in those couple of episodes with the kid in Russia and all that.

"A lot of people saw that as being really evil, but I tried to inject into those scenes, especially when we were on the ship, some true empathy for the kid," Lea continues. "I'm not sure how many people really caught that. It was written so that I was doing these things, and I said, 'I think it's really important that we see a side of this guy that he doesn't want to do this to the kid but he has to in order to get things done, which is still a double-edged sword.'"

Additionally, the episode called for Lea to memorize lengthy passages of Russian, which demanded hours of extensive training. Before his X-Files tenure, Lea had never studied the language; on camera, however, he effortlessly spouts off Russian lines as though he were a native speaker.

"It's a great challenge and I enjoy that challenge," Lea says. "But it's really hard work and it takes a lot of time. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to make it really believable. On set even, I feel like I'm under pressure. I don't care what TV show you work on, even a movie for that matter, it's all about time and money eventually. It's also about giving the best performance and producing the best product possible but that inevitably relates to cash. You don't want to go wasting a lot of time on set trying to get your Russian right. I enjoyed it while it happened. I thought it was a great idea."

That unbridled enthusiasm toward his craft is perhaps why Lea is so well-suited for the series. He speaks passionately about the work he has done for the show over the years, always careful to pledge his devotion to his dubious alter ego. Although Lea plans to pursue a wider variety of projects now that the series has relocated to Los Angeles, he says he will never be too busy to bring Krycek to the screen. For the time being, The X-Files is his top priority.

While the actor has benefited from the series' enormous popularity worldwide, the show, too, has prospered from its choice in Lea. No small thanks to Lea's screen presence, his tremendous ability to work under pressure and his singular performances, the diabolical Krycek remains one of the series' most popular and enduring characters.

"I fulfill a purpose on this show and hopefully my character continues to fulfill a purpose," Lea says. "[Executive producer] Frank Spotnitz likes to call my character an event character, which means that every time I'm on, something tends to happen, which is good.

"I see him as very slippery and really smart, while others see him as a real backstabber and an opportunist," Lea continues. "I see him as somebody who's really clever. I enjoy the ambiguity of what and who he is. That's one thing I get from the fans is that they don't know whether to like me or hate me and I love that. That's what I'm trying to accomplish."

Now we know.

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