Written by: Liz Tray
Look through the archives of every big TV show and you can spot a future star – e.g. Brad Pitt (Dallas) or Meg Ryan (As The World Turns). But The X-Files, which ran from 1993-2002, contributed more than its fair share of faces we’ve come to know and love. Here’s a few actors who got their big breaks by schlepping up to Vancouver, a couple who got a second careers by playing against type and, erm, Michael Buble.
1. Jack Black
A stupid stoner (played by Giovanni Ribisi, another unknown at the time) in a small town can, it turns out, control lightning. His poor best mate, played by Black, comes to a grisly and explosive end in season 3′s D.P.O.
2. Bryan Cranston
Everyone knew him as the mild-mannered put-upon dad in Malcolm in the Middle but when the X-Files moved to LA, for season 6, the producers took full advantage of the desert-adjacent setting by getting writer Vince Gilligan to pen Drive, an episode about a racist redneck who has something stuck in his head that’s about to explode if the car he’s in goes slowly. Cranston, unrecognisable from his sitcom, turns in a dazzling performance. And now? He grabs every Globe/Emmy going as Walter White on Breaking Bad, playing a chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer. And the writer/creator of that show? Vince Gilligan.
3. Bruce Campbell
Who doesn’t love a cult hero like Bruce Campbell? He can overact with the best of them. But, in season 6′s Terms of Endearment, he plays a health insurance salesman who just longs to be a dad. Ok, he’s living a double life with 2 pregnant wives but all he wants is to be normal. There are more twists and turns in this episode than any Raimi plot…
4. Shia LeBeouf
Shia turns in a lovely performance as a sick boy in season 7′s brilliant cause-and-effect episode The Goldberg Variation.
So there’s some kind of planetary alignment and everyone in a small town starts acting strangely, with two high-school girls at the centre of it. The police chief tries to pull Mulder, while Scully exhibits adorable blatant jealousy and so on. The girls focus their unfortunate lusty passion on Boom, the thicko quarterback. After spurning their advances he is found ‘hanged’ from a cliff and his coffin then bursts into flames. Charming. Stand up, Ryan Reynolds…
6. Felicity Huffman
The 7th ever episode, Ice, was a bit of a rip-off of The Thing (organisms inside people who are trapped in the middle of nowhere) but nevertheless a wonderfully tense bit of TV. It’s notable for not only the examination scene, which crackles with Mulder and Scully’s, at that time, burgeoning sexual tension, but also one of the first appearances of the Desperate Housewife who can act.
7. Lucy Liu
An odd tale of the harvesting and illegal sale of body parts in the Chinese community – it’s not a bad episode exactly but the story doesn’t exactly jump out as being X-Files worthy. Chris Carter kept on though, using a rubbish stolen body parts storyline in the last X-Files movie. Anyway, the daughter of one of the victims, in a subtle, rather nice, turn sees Lucy Liu in one of her earliest TV appearances.
8. Bradley Whitford
Before he got a chance to read the lines that every actor would kill for in The West Wing, he made an early appearance as a long-lost, gone-bonkers vulcanologist in season 1′s Firewalker.
9. Tony Shalhoub
The BBC2 afternoon staple Monk – which no-one has ever watched, surely? – has as its lead the well respected character actor Shalhoub. He was also the lead in a wonderful season 2 episode called Soft Light, where shadows can kill.
10. Michael Buble
Couldn’t make it up. A silent (let’s be thankful) extra in season 3′s Piper Maru, where the black oil is revealed… (Buble on the right)
Tags: Bradley Whitford, Breaking Bad, Bruce Campbell, Bryan Cranston, David Duchovny, Desperate Housewives, Evil Dead, Felicity Huffman, Gillian Anderson, Jack Black, Lucy Liu, Ryan Reynolds, Shia LeBeouf, The X-Files
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