Q: This spring you're starring in a movie called The Joneses, in which you play the "father" of a cool but fake family that a corporation assembles to coax their neighbors into buying stuff. I suppose a lot of celebrities do the same thing.
A: Yeah, sure. I haven't sold that much. But the culture that's embracing Twilight and Paranormal Activity and District 9 and 2012—you could kind of say that The X-Files sold that.
Q: You helped release a media virus.
A: Exactly. And now it's reinfected people. I guess it went dormant for a while.
Q: You passed through a period of genuine pop-culture frenzy during those peak X-Files years—sort of like what Robert Pattinson is going through now with the Twilight phenomenon. I'm curious about how it feels to live in the aftermath of that.
A: When you're in the middle of it, you think, "This is the way it's always going to be."
Q: You do?
A: Yeah. In a way. You just think the next one is going to be bigger, the next one is going to be bigger—this is what happens, you know? And then that doesn't happen. It doesn't really happen for anybody. Then you kind of think that maybe it's your fault that it's not happening. You struggle against it for a while, proclaim too loudly that you want to do something else. And eventually you just make peace with it. I think at one point my wife [Téa Leoni] just said, "One day you're gonna realize that it was a huge show, and it was important for a lot of people, and you can be proud of it." I was always proud of the work and of the show. But I was never quite proud of being associated with it exclusively.
Q: Being stuck with it as the primary part of your identity.
A: Yeah. Yeah. Not that I didn't like the character. I guess as an actor and a writer and a director there were many things I wanted to do, and in my mind this was reducing me, and my ego was fighting against it. It was like, "No, fuck you, I'm more than that, I'm smarter than Mulder"—whatever. Ridiculous formulations! But that all passes and then eventually what you get is just gratitude for having gone through it, and kind of relief that it's not quite like that right now.
Q: You lived on the West Coast for a while, but about a year ago you and your family moved back to your hometown, New York City.
A: The move back—it's mystifying to me. I don't think Téa and I really realized what a big deal it is to move kids around, so it's taken a year just to kind of let the dust settle. It's very different being an adult in New York as opposed to being a kid or being a young single guy. There are certain things that I still love about it, but a lot of what I used to love is not what I want to do anymore.