Exclusive interview – William B. Davis
The first interview of the year couldn’t be better because it’s a real honour for us to have interviewed Mr. William B. Davis. The 71-year-old actor agreed to give “ExpedientesX.es” an interview via e-Mail, allowing undergo series of questions sent from our readers. His tireless work as an actor, director and teacher of actors have prevented great time to devote the answers but certainly he has been flattered in this interview (first in Spain?).
No doubt the actor gave life to one of the most important and characteristic character not only in “The X-Files” but also in all the world of television series, creating one of the most important villain in history. No one can’t negate that The Cigarette Smoking Man will be remembered forever as one of the best villains of history, William knows it and we also know so there are no words to express our thanks.
Without further ado this is the interview.
Greetings and thank you very much to lend us some time, is a real honour for us coming from an actor that we really appreciate and admire. As I advance you the following questions have been largely made by fans of “The X-Files” in “Creer Es La Clave” Forum, and they all represent the admiration for your work. So they where excited with this chance and I’m very honoured to ask you the following questions.
Therefore, without further ado, I begin questioning briefly about your current and future work.
ExpedientesX: Currently we can consider that your work is pretty much focused on three very different fields: theatre, television and films. How you combine three worlds as different and separate as socially and culturally as them? Not just for actors, directors and other “staff”, but also by the audience.
William B. Davis: I’m not sure the difference is as great as you suggest, at least for the actor. Television and film are quite similar and sometimes it is hard to know whether one is doing a television movie or a feature film. Theatre is quite different in that everything happens in real time. There is no Take 2. Often the material one works with in theatre is more challenging, or at least more intellectual.
EsX: Your work on theatres brought you to Europe, to be precise to England, but returned to Canada. It’s really so exclusive or different this world in the old continent as other people said?
William B. Davis: Britain has a theatre tradition that is much stronger than anything we have in Canada or even in the US. It also has a tradition of subsidy for the arts which the US does not. When I went to England it would have been difficult to duplicate the experience in North America but things have changed on this side since then.
EsX: In other side there are your sporadic and briefly works on television, can we consider that you are tired of it after so many years in “The X-Files”? In fact you no longer accept contributions on great roles nor in TV movies (“Web Of Desire”, “Judicial Indiscretion” or “The Secret Of Hidden Lake” to name some of the latest) nor in series (“Supernatural”, “SG-1” or “Robson Arms”), would you work more actively in one of them if they give you a chance?
William B. Davis: I’m not sure I understand this question. (EsX: ¡Ouch!) I do work that interests me or that pays me decently or both. I have not pursued regular roles in series largely because I would have to base myself in LA and I don’t wish to do that. But I would do series work again if the part were interesting and the location desirable.
EsX: With the current boom in TV series: do you think there is any of it that really takes the witness who made “The X-Files”?
William B. Davis: “X-Files” was quite unique both to its time in the history of television and the internet and subject matter that was current in the 90s. Television is so much more fragmented now it would be hard to duplicate that broad appeal that it had.
EsX: And finally, there are your great works on TV either as actor, director or screenwriter. Once again we can see your love for all the parts in filmmaking, but: by which will you prefer to be remembered?
William B. Davis: I am most likely to be remembered for “X-Files”. My directing in film and television is modest but I had a significant career as a theatre director and acting teacher before X-Files.
EsX: In 2008 you directed, wrote the script, edited and acted in “Reverse”. How do you feel after seen the results achieved?
William B. Davis: Mostly I was happy with the result but we had some limitations of time, weather, and crew that limited the final effect.
EsX: Have you ever been on holidays or on work to Spain or any country in South America? What do you remember of them? Recently you worked with the Colombian director Rodrigo Garcia, what do you thing of his Latin way of life?
William B. Davis: I didn’t see enough of Garcia to comment on that. The closest to South America I have been was the shoot for 100 Days in the Jungle in Costa Rica.
After this interesting conversation I have, of course, to bring you some questions about “The X-Files”.
EsX: Let’s start by the beginning. How do you reach the role of “The Cigarette Smoking Man”: did you go to a casting or some member of the staff had already decided you to play this role? Did ever you imagine after your brief appearance in “Pilot” that your character will acquire that level of fame and importance in a series that would last nine seasons? How your family look at the job that made you so famous but that takes you so much time away from home?
William B. Davis: I simply auditioned for a role in the pilot, didn’t get the one I auditioned for, and got C.S.M.. And no, I don’t think anyone had any idea what the role would become – or even if the series would be picked up. Fortunately it didn’t take me away from home to much and my partner enjoyed a number of the trips that came with the job.
EsX: How did you manage to make the character of “The Cigarette Smoking Man”? What were your influences? Is he based on a real character of U.S. government or the CIA? Or was influenced by some historical or literary personality?
William B. Davis: I did not base the character on a real person – I tried to put myself in the character’s shoes and see the world from his point of view. After all, villains don’t think they are villains.
EsX: How were the early days with Carter, Duchovny, Anderson and the rest of the team? Did all start with a good relationship? Did this good beginning varied throughout the nine seasons or was always cordial without any grudge between the team? Still have contact with any member of the staff?
William B. Davis: I always had a happy time on the set. There did seem to be some friction between Gillian and David but it seldom affected me. I still see Bob Goodwin and, of course, Tom Braidwood and I have worked together on other projects.
EsX: I guess that so many years will carry so many changes. The idea that his character was the father of Mulder was in Carter’s mind all the time or was it something that happened as the series progressed?
William B. Davis: I don’t know when he thought of it but I doubt very much it was in the beginning.
EsX: How does it feel to have given the heart and soul to one of the most recognizable baddie in television history but at the same time so admired and loved? Do you think that still today people remind toy for that role? If so: do you mind or would you rather be remembered for another job?
William B. Davis: It has worked out well for me – sometimes I am cast in similar roles but often in very different ones, probably because I am quite a different person.
EsX: The “In Ami” episode allowed us to enjoy another side of your work and also see another face of your character. In regard to this chapter and your character: what was that something else that “The Cigarette Smoking Man” was looking for that according to Agent Scully can never have? And why did not he killed Scully as apparently was the original plan? And why did he throw the mini-CD in the water? Why change their mind if he wanted to be saved?
William B. Davis: CSM had something of a change of heart – he believed it would be too dangerous for anyone to have the power that was on the CD.
EsX: How did you feel about the fact that despite having already spent too many years since the end of “The X-Files” so many fans still alive behind the series as if it haven’t pass any time?
William B. Davis: I’m glad people still find the series so important in their lives.
EsX: Recently all Website that talks about TV and series had to give the sad news about the death of Kim Manners. How do you remember him? How was working with him?
William B. Davis: Kim was a terrific director and I really enjoyed working with him. It was a shock that he died. I wish he had been more careful of his health. But he really helped bring the characters and stories to life.
EsX: To finish let’s talk about the end. After nine seasons your character died, or that is what we assumed because Chris Carter has always said that the characters of “The X-Files” never die. Would you like to give life again to C.G.B. Spender in a hypothetical “X-Files 3” if it finally gets done with the theme of colonization?
William B. Davis: I would always love to play the character again.
EsX: What do you think about the end given to your character? A man who ended up as lived, always in the dark, with too much influence but so fearful of those who will occupy his place that spent his last days hiding in a hole. Is it like some kind of balance? Every one gets what he sowed? Did you think it’s a good end or would you change it?
William B. Davis: I would rather not die but I seem to die in most things I do these days.
Thank you very much for your time Mr. Davis it has been a real pleasure to talk with you. Close to the end I want to give you greetings from all the people who make “ExpedientesX.es” and all those fans that uses this opportunity to get a little bit closer to you.
P.S.- Sorry for my awful English