Long before starring in the hit television series "The X-Files," David Duchovny was on a very different path: academics. He was working on a doctorate in English at Yale University, preparing to write his dissertation on "Magic and Technology in Contemporary American Fiction and Poetry."
He went to New York one summer in hopes of earning $2,000 tending bar. His best friend, a struggling actor, suggested Duchovny try to get a commercial instead.
"He brought me to an audition, and I got a couple of callbacks," Duchovny told The Times. An agent expressed some interest as long as he promised to take an acting class. So he made the leap to full-time aspiring actor. He was 28 — old to be starting an acting career.
"I'm glad it worked out," Duchovny says, "because it was certainly a stupid thing to do."
After many failed casting calls, he managed to appear in two scenes in the 1988 film "Working Girl," as well as roles in "New Year’s Day" and "Bad Influence."
In 1991, he got a break with a three-episode appearance as the transvestite FBI agent in David Lynch's television series "Twin Peaks."
Two years later, he was cast in "The X-Files," which ran for 10 seasons. The show and its haunting theme music became a phenomenon and made stars of Duchovny and costar Gillian Anderson for their dogged pursuit of the paranormal.
Playing FBI agent Fox Mulder, Duchovny won a Golden Globe and earned three Emmy nominations. The series also produced two theatrical films: "The X-Files" (1998) and "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" (2008).
"I don't know how to explain it. It's a really stupid science-fiction show, but it's good," Duchovny said. "You just have to watch it, because if I explain it, it's going to sound like what it is — a lame, dumb ... show. But you watch it and somehow it's good."
Duchovny starred in the feature films "Playing God," "Return to Me" and "Evolution," never quite reaching the heights he had on the small screen. He also wrote and directed the feature film "House of D," before returning to television in 2007 with Showtime’s "Californication." Playing conflicted and impulsive writer Hank Moody, Duchovny won another Golden Globe.
In 2015, Duchovny starred in the period crime drama "Aquarius" as an LAPD detective investigating the disappearance of a girl in 1967 Los Angeles. Early in 2016, Duchovny and Anderson returned to "The X-Files" for a six-episode special event.
"Both Gillian and I have gone on to do work that is good and successful, but nothing has been as big or energetic as 'The X-Files,' " Duchovny said.
"Whatever money or power that I get from being able to choose what I want to do because of doing this show, that's incidental," Duchovny said. "The most important thing for me is that I'm ready to do my best work now because of this show, because I had to go to work every day, 250 days out of the year. And act. If I had gone from doing one or two movies a year, I would have never gotten that self-training. That's been the greatest gift of the series for me."
— Jerome Campbell for the Los Angeles Times