Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hey, It's That Guy: Greatest X-Files Guest Stars

by the women of Stellar Four

The X-Files boasted an amazing roster of guest star talent over the years. Some were up-and-comers at the time; others were well known in their own right. Here are a few of our favorites. (And we bet you'll see some of your genre faves, too.)

Sara N.'s picks

Bruce Campbell

I'm always thrilled when the B-movie king gets any mainstream TV exposure, and this episode was an excellent showcase for his handsome, blustery charm. In "Terms of Endearment," Campbell plays a man with two families — and a dubious parentage of his own. It was a fantastic X-Files episode that pays homage to Rosemary's Baby, and it ended with a great twist set to Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains," which happens to be one of the best uses of popular music in the show.

Bryan Cranston

Those of us who watched The X-Files knew that Malcom's dad would make an excellent meth-cooking antihero in Breaking Bad because we saw his intense turn in "Drive" as the man who has to keep moving or he'll die. Cranston played an unlikeable character in a desperate situation that commanded equal parts pity and loathing. Sounds a bit like Walter White in the early seasons, no?

Jewel Staite


She charmed our pants off as Kaylee on Firefly, but before she was our favorite tiny, adorable mechanic, she was the even tinier, adorable kidnap victim in Oubliette. (Don't worry. Her character lives to see another day.)

Darren McGavin

McGavin played the title role in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which is one of the shows that inspired Chris Carter to create The X-Files. How absolutely perfect, then, to have McGavin play Arthur Dales, the first FBI agent to investigate X-files. McGavin's Dales has retired from the FBI and mentors Mulder as he's embarking on his own career as an X-files investigator. Without Kolchak, the newspaper reporter who investigates unworldly oddities, we'd never have had Mulder, and the recurring guest spot is a touching tribute to the actor's legacy.

Laurie Holden

Recurring character Marita Covarubbias was cooly efficient as the United Nations employee-turned-Syndicate betrayer. I know she wasn't popular with many fans, but I always appreciated her. She was smart, analytical and decisive — basically the anti-Andrea. It's one of the many reasons that Holden's character on The Walking Dead was so frustrating for me. Andrea could have been better. She could've been more ... Marita. 

Mark Sheppard

Before he was Crowley, before he was Badger, before he was Canton Delaware, before Benedict Valda and Romo Lampkin and Tanaka, Mark Sheppard was Bob the Caretaker, handsome, young and baby-faced. He played a firestarter in "Fire," which introduced us to the concept of Mulder as a sexual being thanks to the loathsome Phoebe Green. (Loathsome, of course, because she wasn't Scully. Or me.) This was one of Sheppard's first roles, and it's led to a long career as a character actor in many of our favorite genre shows. (Incidentally, a young, baby-faced Donal Logue also guests on this episode. Seriously, is there a Canadian actor who wasn't on this show in the '90s?)

Victoria Jackson

Sure, Victoria Jackson's gone a bit whackadoo these days, but the former SNL cast member's turn in "The Rain King" was goofily over-the-top, coming down on the side of charming rather than campy. This may be the most sweetly romantic episodes of the show. And she got to kiss David Duchovny. Naturally, I remain jealous to this day.

Brad Dourif

Dourif's a classic character actor, providing memorable turns in Dune, The Lord of the Rings, Deadwood, and as the voice of Chuckie in Child's Play. In "Beyond the Sea," his role as Luther Lee Boggs is equal parts chilling and pathetic. He's a convicted murdered awaiting execution, but he claims his psychic abilities will help Mulder and Scully find a missing couple. Is he conning them, or can he help? This episode, which opens with the death of Scully's father, saw the two agents swapping their usual roles as skeptic and believer. It's somber and tense, deepening Mulder and Scully's relationship, and Dourif is terrific as the untrustworthy — or is he? — psychic.

Megan S.'s picks

With only one exception, it's been approximately 15 years since I last watched an episode of The X-Files.  However, two decades later, there are a number of guest stars that I can still remember giggling over.  The first was that kid from The Sandlot aka Patrick Renna in "Bad Blood."

He played an obsessive compulsive vampire who was felled by a scattering of rice. (Sara's note: They were sunflower seeds. *pushes nerd glasses up nose*) I didn't even have to turn to Wikipedia to remember the details of the episode.

The other memorable star from the same episode was the sometime snaggletoothed Luke Wilson.  He played the bumbling or swoon-worthy sheriff depending on which of our two heroes was telling the story.

Then there was everyone's favorite quiz master, Alex Trebek.  The Jeopardy host played a Man in Black in one of the series' most hilarious episodes, "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space.'"

(I'm including this gif, not because it's relevant, but just because I can.)

Our list would be incomplete if we didn't include the idiot stoner who witnessed an otherworldly event in season one.  Yep.  That's everybody's favorite diminutive red head, Seth Green.  I, of course, recognized him immediately in the role of Emil in "Deep Throat" from the scariest made for TV movie I've ever seen, It.

... we all float down here...

OK, this one technically doesn't count as I didn't remember his episode until I was googling around for a photo of Seth Green's appearance.  Ryan Reynolds played a jock in another of my favorite episodes, "Syzygy."  He's held a special place in my heart since he was in Nickelodeon's Fifteen.

Kathy F.'s picks

Sara and Megan touched on quite a few of my favorite guest stars, as well as some I didn't remember until reading their picks. Here are a few more to add to the list.

Peter Boyle

"Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" is one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. Funny and heartbreaking in parts, I still got a little teary when I rewatched it. The late Peter Boyle's Clyde Bruckman steals the show, and I remember being so happy that he won an Emmy for this role. Clyde is a psychic, but he only sees when and how a person dies. He is a curmudgeon, as expected, but layered with heart and sadness, and excuse me but I'm getting misty again. The interaction with our two favorite FBI agents is wonderful. I still giggle like a 12-year-old when he tells Mulder that he can't think of a less dignified way to go than autoerotic asphyxiation (thank you running Mulder-porn gag), and when Clyde tells Scully that at his death they are in bed together, the look on her face is freaking priceless. Then the end. Just all of the feels. Watching Scully's attitude towards Clyde change throughout the episode made me love her even more.

Lucy Lawless

Granted, Lawless came on the show during the last (and my least favorite) season, but still I admit to a moment of "Aw yeah, Xena's on The X-Files and she is a kickass super soldier!" It's the little things that make one happy. You can relive that moment, too, by checking out "Nothing Important Happened Today" parts I and II.

Tyler Labine

This is a case where I totally never would remembered Labine being on The X-Files if it hadn't been for the extra research I put in for X-Files Week. However, he is notable for being the same character in two episodes, and, forgive the spoilers, but he also survives. Not bad for a brief maybe two-line part where his character is named "Stoner."  He isn't so good for his friends, though, when one bites the big one thanks to killer cockroaches in "The War of the Coprophages" and the other is eaten by a lake monster in "Quagmire."

So, readers, which of your favorite guest stars did we miss?
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  1. I'll be honest: Ryan Reynolds has held a special place in my heart since he took his shirt off in Blade: Trinity.

  2. Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black (in the same episode, even!)

    1. Oooh, yes! The lightning boy! Good episode.

  3. Have to be honest...didn't even realize the stuff Mark Shepard had done post-X-Files, & I'm a fan of Warehouse 13. Thanks for a little back story on his roles. Guess he played his roles SO well it's easy not to realize who he was. :)

    Love Victoria Jackson too. Simply brilliant.

    One that I feel your list missed was Kathy Griffin. Hard to cover them all, however. Nice list!

  4. Brad Dourif is so great in this role, and the Luke Wilson episode is one of my favorites. I didn't even realize the firestarter was Mark Sheppard!