Throughout Kevin Hooks’ career as a prolific television director, he’d run into people who worked on The X-Files. On such occassions, the X-Files vets would be certain they’d worked with Hooks at some point on the sci-fi procedural, after all he’s also directed episodes of Fox’s other big franchises, Prison Break, 24, and Bones, plus other genre fare including Lost, Supernatural, and most recently Netflix’s The Punisher. But these colleagues may have simply been suffering from The Mandela Effect, remembering Hooks as working on the show, even though he’d never stepped foot on an X-Files set. Until now.
“I always felt my career was six degrees of X-Files,” Hooks told Den of Geek. “But at least now I directed it so I have a direct connection to it.”
Hooks was on vacation when he received a phone call from series creator Chris Carter, and it led to the longtime actor and director finally getting his shot at helming an X-Files episode. Hooks’ episode, “Plus One,” is a throwback monster-of-the-week in which Mulder and Scully investigate murderous doppelgängers created by a brother and sister with split personalities, impressively all played by actress Karin Konoval (who fans might remember from guest roles on “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Home”).
On top of a technically challenging episode to shoot, Hooks was behind the camera for one of Mulder and Scully’s more intimate moments, emotionally and likely physically. We spoke with the director about his monster-of-the-week inspirations, the brilliant work from Konoval, and the undeniable chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.
You’ve directed episodes of Fox’s big franchises like 24, Bones, and Prison Break. Unlike those shows, The X-Files episodes are known for sometimes widely varying in tone and look. What aspect of the episode where you excited to put your own spin on?
I think there were two things. Number one is that my acting background has given me a real strong sense of performance in my directing career. And when I saw that we had two characters that essentially had doppelgängers and that one actress was gonna be playing all four of those people, I immediately was excited by that because number I’d just never seen that or done that before. To be able to have a part in that process with the amazing actress, Karin Konoval, who played them, was the first thing that really excited me.
And second, I think it was how to execute the doppelgängers sequences, of which there were quite a few. And we knew that we did not want to rely on the old-fashioned cut to the over the shoulder of the double throughout the entire sequence. And so we really worked hard in providing some things early on in the episode that really we thought were more fun and gave the audience the ability to see two characters in the same shot. And so, I think those were the two things that I immediately got excited about it.
Did you go back to any older monster-of-the-week X-Files episodes for inspiration?
Yeah, I did. It’s funny. I didn’t exactly go to the monster of the week episodes but I looked up what streaming service had TheX-Files and I got a category that I think was called “Chris Carter’s 10 favorite episodes.” And I immediately jumped on that and saw what I felt were some of the best episodes that had been done. That gave me a real sense of what the essence of the show was. And that was very, very helpful to me in sort of my research.
Is that a tough line to straddle as a director, doing something fresh for an iconic franchise but maintaining the feel of what made it great?
Well, yeah. I mean, it’s always difficult when you go to a show that’s had a long run like this one. But quite frankly, I have not been that very often in my career and I think the main reason for it is because, and just what you’re describing, it’s very difficult to go into a situation where the relationships and the look of the show and the cast and crew are so locked in. It’s very difficult to sort of break that and get them to let their guard down a little bit more and accept some sort of fresh perspective.
So that was something that was a concern of mine for sure. But when I got there, I really invested a lot of energy and time to develop trust. You have to really pay more attention to that and roll up your sleeves and just communicate as much as you can with the actors and everyone, from Chris on down, actually to get them to hear your voice and to trust you.
And I think that’s the same, no matter whether it’s Season 11 or it’s Season 1. It’s a trust factor. And they were all very accepting of that, not right away, but I think over the course of the first week or so when they saw what I was doing and how collaborative I wanted to be, I think everybody sort of came around to that and felt a little bit more comfortable.
How did the shooting process of the scenes with dopplegangers work?
It takes a great deal of planning and preparation. It’s really a ballet between the actors, the camera, and the visual effects department. We’re always trying to push the envelope and find new ways of doing things. We didn’t have people in green suits. We didn’t need to do that because we had the real actors. The easiest way to do it is the traditional old school split screen and there was some of that. But we also wanted to make sure that we were able to move the camera, which I think disguises the split screen and really does give the audience that sort of wow factor.
And so, we designed a lot of that. It was a little ballet between making sure that the actors filled a certain part of the frame or for the first of it and then we’d move the actor to the other part of the frame for the other part. But we tried not to restrict the movement of the camera and I think that really liberated us quite a bit. And visual effects gave us a tremendous amount of support in doing that. It was a bit time consuming but I think at the end of the day, it was worthwhile.
This is most intimate we’ve seen Mulder and Scully get in a long time. Everything is uncertain around them, they still find hope in each other. It had to be a lot of fun seeing the chemistry between David and Gillian go to places we haven’t really seen the show explore yet.
They’ve got such a great relationship and foundation for on-screen relationship between those characters. I think that one of the things that’s really fascinating to me about the creative process is sometimes an objective point of view or a fresh point of view on things can really give everyone more to think about and more to chew upon and I think that what I realized in doing the show, in particular leading up, as you said, to this episode and tackling it, was that I just wanted to offer my objective point of view about what I saw in the moment.
And then feed that to David and Gillian and let them sort of make some decisions about how that impacted what they were doing, which I find is a far easier task than trying to dictate what it is that you see, because I want that input from them. I want to take advantage of the experience that they have together and so, it really becomes about how much information to share and we all sort of worked together to come to an agreement of sort of how to move forward.
One last bonus question: After doing this episode, if you saw your doppelganger out in the street, what would be your immediate reaction?
[Laughs] I’d run the other way. I would run the other way and I would get rid of all sharp objects along the way. Good laugh. Thank you.