- "My job is to direct the agents under me, to question their motives when they're lying about investigations."
Walter Sergei Skinner is an Assistant Director in the Federal Bureau of Investigation after having served as a Marine in the United States Marine Corps when he was aged eighteen. One of the FBI sections under his jurisdiction was the X-Files Unit. (TXF: "Tooms", et al.) He was assigned to the FBI between at least the mid-1980s until 2008. (TXF: "Tooms", The X-Files: I Want to Believe) For many years, he had a wife named Sharon. (TXF: "Avatar")
Vietnam and Marriage
On his eighteenth birthday, Walter Skinner enlisted in the US Marine Corps out of blind faith, believing it was the right thing to do. He went to Vietnam to fight in the war while still aged eighteen. Three weeks into his tour of duty, he shot and consequently killed a ten-year-old North Vietnamese boy who had walked into camp covered with grenades. Skinner blew the boy's head off, from a distance of ten yards. This incident caused him to lose faith in everything, not only in his country but in himself, and he began to believe that there was no point to anything any more. (TXF: "One Breath")
Skinner survived the horrors of war by numbing himself with whatever was around, including drugs he inhaled. He saw lots of things during the war, none of which he gave credence to due to his drug-taking. Years later, he recalled that he had been "no choirboy" and had got through the experience of war "like most eighteen-year-olds." (TXF: "Avatar")
Skinner did hold the hands of fallen soldiers, though, including bodies that seemed like they had essentially been turned inside out, and he told them it was going to be okay. In 2002, he recalled that he had always thought that talking to the soldiers was "like praying; even if they can't hear maybe God can." (TXF: "Providence")
One night when he and his unit were on patrol, they were ambushed by the enemy in thick jungle and everyone fell, including Skinner. In the morning, other Marines arrived and put Skinner in a bodybag. (TXF: "One Breath") He awoke in a Saigon hospital two weeks later, the only survivor of the ambush. (TXF: "One Breath", "Avatar") He was left with the assumption the Marines who had placed him in the bodybag had found a pulse before they had been presented with an opportunity to bury him.
Skinner believed that, while he had been lying in the thick jungle, he had looked down at his body from outside it. Apparently, he had initially failed to recognize his lifeless body, but he had later watched the Viet Cong strip his uniform and take his weapon while he had remained peaceful and unafraid, watching his dead friends and himself. (TXF: "One Breath") He also believed he had seen an old woman who had been with him, watching him as he was watching himself dying, while blood spilled from a hundred different places in his body. According to Skinner, the experience had ended when the woman had lifted him up and carried him back, away from "the light." He did not believe the event had been a near-death experience as he was convinced that he actually had been dying, and initially tried to dismiss the woman as another hallucination but ultimately couldn't. (TXF: "Avatar")
- On March 7, 1996, the date on which "Avatar" begins, Skinner reveals he and his wife have been married for the past seventeen years. It can therefore be determined 1979 was the year they married. Even though it is implied the two reconciled following seventeen years of marriage, Sharon Skinner is not seen or mentioned in episodes subsequent to "Avatar".
Skinner joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation sometime before 1986. On at least one occasion in that year, he and one or more of the organization's other members talked about the exceptionally talented Fox Mulder, who was in the FBI Academy at the time. Skinner ultimately became an Assistant Director within the FBI and was appointed an office in Washington D.C.'s J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, the FBI's headquarters. (TXF: "Tooms")
- In "Tooms", Skinner says to Mulder, "We were talking about you when you were in the Academy," referring to the FBI as "we." "Kill Switch" and "Unusual Suspects" establish Mulder attended the FBI Academy in 1986.
Supervising the X-Files
In early 1994, Skinner called Special Agent Dana Scully into a meeting which the Cigarette Smoking Man also attended. Skinner revealed he and the Cigarette Smoking Man had reviewed Scully's reports but had been displeased by the unorthodox investigation methods which Mulder, now her FBI partner, and she herself had been using to research the X-files. Even though Skinner accepted Scully's claim that atypical methods ensured a high success-rate on the cases the agents investigated, he instructed her to increase the frequency of her reports and to ensure that work on the X-files was conducted in a conventional manner.
Skinner later learned of allegations that Mulder had recently attacked Eugene Victor Tooms. During a meeting between Scully, Mulder and Skinner with the Cigarette Smoking Man also in attendance, Skinner listened as Mulder claimed he had been framed for the reported assault on Tooms. Skinner asked Scully to leave the room after she lied to him that she had been with Mulder at the time the attack was first reported.
Once Scully left, Skinner advised Mulder to leave the X-files for a short time. When Mulder politely acknowledged Skinner's advice, the Assistant Director brought an end to the meeting by informing him that he was forbidden to go near Tooms but, as Mulder was leaving, Skinner warned him that the incident had been "close" and that, if Mulder got any "closer" in the future, a thousand political friends of his would not be able to help him. Skinner obtained an X-file pertaining to Eugene Tooms shortly after Tooms died. (TXF: "Tooms")
Later that year, Skinner attended a meeting at which he told Mulder about new instructions for the pair of the agents. The directions had come down from the top of the FBI's executive branch and ordered that they were both to be reassigned to other sections of the Bureau, effectively shutting down the X-files. (TXF: "The Erlenmeyer Flask")
After the X-Files Closed
AD Skinner continued to supervise Mulder after the closure of the X-files in 1994, while Mulder was assigned to general assignment duties. Skinner initially oversaw Mulder's progress on a wiretapping detail and made an effort to locate Mulder – shortly after he disappeared from his assignment one morning – by questioning Scully, who did not know where Mulder was. Following Mulder's return from Puerto Rico, Skinner again met with him and the Cigarette-Smoking Man in the Assistant Director's office. Skinner seemed angered that the evidence collected due to Mulder's wiretapping assignment had been lost due to Mulder's absence and warned that disciplinary action would consequently be taken. After learning the Cigarette-Smoking Man had recently conducted surveillance on Mulder, however, Skinner ordered the Cigarette-Smoking Man to leave his office and instructed Mulder to return to his wiretapping assignment. Both of Skinner's associates complied with his instructions. (TXF: "Little Green Men")
AD Skinner indirectly relieved Mulder of his wiretapping detail and assigned him the task of investigating a murder case in Newark, New Jersey, where a decomposed corpse had been found in the sewers. Skinner was holding a meeting in his office when Mulder interrupted the gathering to complain about the triviality of the case in New Jersey. In response, Skinner reminded Mulder that the X-files had been closed and ensured that Mulder understood his directive to carry out his new assignments, including his latest case, to the best of his ability. When Mulder submitted his final report, Skinner agreed that it should have been an X-file. (TXF: "The Host")
Mulder played a recording of a 911 call for Skinner, but refused to divulge where he got the tape. In the recording, a Dr. Saul Grissom reported a fire in his apartment. When the fire department arrived, they found Grissom dead and no signs of any fire. Mulder asked to open a case on the death, but Skinner told him he'd look into it and let him know. In the meantime, he reminded Mulder he still had twenty-four hours of wiretap tape to transcribe. Skinner eventually assigned Alex Krycek to the case, along with Mulder. (TXF: "Sleepless")
Skinner had a meeting in his office to discuss the disappearance of Duane Barry and the kidnapping of Agent Scully. Mulder, Krycek and four other members of FBI personnel were present, along with the Cigarette Smoking Man, who listened while sitting across the room from the others. Skinner concluded the meeting by telling Mulder to turn over his file to HRT and go home. The next day, in Skinner's office, Mulder was questioned by the same people about the circumstances surrounding Barry's death. Skinner ordered both Krycek and Mulder to OPC for a lie detector procedure, but with Krycek absent from the meeting, Mulder suggested the military was covering up the fact that Barry was poisoned to hide the whereabouts of Scully. The following morning, Mulder presented his report to Skinner, accusing Krycek of killing an aerial tram operator and Barry. Skinner paged his secretary to have Krycek report to him immediately, then listened to Mulder's explanation and considered the evidence: a cigarette found in Krycek's car. Skinner subsequently received a phone call which informed him Krycek hadn't shown up for work and that Krycek's home phone was disconnected. In response to Mulder then complaining that "they" get away with murder, Skinner told Mulder there was nothing he could do and that he himself could do only one thing: reopen the X-files. Skinner proceeded to do so at that point, commenting the continuation of the X-files was what his and Mulder's opposition feared the most. (TXF: "Ascension")
Continuation of the X-Files
Over time, Skinner proved his loyalty to Mulder and Scully as well as their work. He first demonstrated this by going against the Cigarette Smoking Man and trying to use a digital tape Mulder had received from "the Thinker" as leverage to get Mulder and Scully reinstated. He even promised that, if they didn't honor that deal, he would risk his life by going state's evidence and testifying against them. Unfortunately, Krycek beat up Skinner and stole the tape. However, Skinner pulled a master stroke and told the Cigarette Smoking Man that Albert Hosteen had memorized everything on the tape and, in the ancient oral tradition of his people, had shared it with twenty other men. If anything happened to Mulder or Scully, he was prepared to recite everything in the files and, unless CSM wanted to kill every Navajo living in four states, he must reinstate Mulder and Scully. (TXF: "Paper Clip")
There were times when Skinner was unable to help Mulder. When Mulder was investigating the case of the alien autopsy in Allentown, Skinner told him he was on his own. He also warned him that the case was bigger than either of them or the FBI and that Mulder should exploit any other sources he had. (TXF: "Nisei") However, Skinner always had Mulder's safety at heart. When Mulder became much too involved in a case involving gargoyles that John Mostow claimed had possessed him, Skinner told Scully he was as concerned as she was about Mulder's increasingly erratic behavior. (TXF: "Grotesque")
In 1996, Skinner had to tell Scully the investigation into the death of her sister, Melissa, had been made inactive. Though Scully was angry and upset about this, Skinner told her he would appeal the decision and study the evidence himself. Later, Skinner was warned by three MIBs that he should be aware that, as an employee of the FBI, he, like those under him, was supposed to obey orders and asked, if those above him had decided there was nothing more to pursue in Melissa Scully's case, who he was to question that decision. Skinner, however, did not relent and he was shot by Luis Cardinal, the same man who had killed Melissa Scully. Since Skinner survived the shooting, another attempt on his life was made by Cardinal, when Skinner was being transferred to another hospital, though this attempt and Cardinal himself were thwarted by Scully. Skinner's actions, having risked his life and job to help Scully in her pursuit of her sister's killer, were met with gratitude from Mulder. (TXF: "Piper Maru", "Apocrypha")
On a day when Skinner was asked yet again to sign his divorce papers, he went for a drink after work and ended up in bed with someone who turned out to be a prostitute. While he was having sex with her, he hallucinated that an old woman with long grey hair was on top of him. Later, he woke to find the prostitute dead. Skinner continued to have sightings of the old woman and his wife, Sharon, was attacked by men who seemed to be setting Skinner up. He told Mulder about how the grey-haired woman had stayed with him while he was floating in the jungle in Vietnam, that she had "carried him back, away from the light," and Mulder surmised that maybe the grey-haired woman was trying to protect Skinner. (TXF: "Avatar")
In 2000, Skinner was running an undercover FBI operation to go after Russian arms smugglers. The Lone Gunmen stumbled into the operation and nearly ruined the whole sting. In the end, it worked out, despite their interference with the final deal between the Russians and Skinner. He was irritable about encountering his doppelgänger at the meet, Jimmy Bond having posed as Skinner while mistakenly believing he was a crooked FBI agent. (TLG: "The Lying Game")
In 2008, AD Skinner was contacted by Dr. Scully to assist in determining Mulder's location, after Mulder disappeared. Skinner was instrumental in stopping an illegal organ transplant before saving Mulder from hypothermia. (The X-Files: I Want to Believe)
Main article: Sharon Skinner
Main article: Fox Mulder
Main article: Dana Scully
In 2000, John Doggett was placed in charge of the FBI task force to recover Mulder after his abduction. Skinner was questioned for being present at the time of Mulder's disappearance, and both he and Scully were initially distrustful of Doggett, viewing him more or less as Kersh's enforcer. (TXF: "Within")
Main article: Monica Reyes
Skinner and Alvin Kersh were professionally polite to each other, but there was an undercurrent of animosity between them. This was increased dramatically when Kersh was promoted to Deputy Director in 2000, immediately after Mulder's abduction. (TXF: "Within")
"The Lone Gunmen"
Cigarette Smoking Man
Main article: Cigarette Smoking Man
Skinner and Krycek were in conflict since Krycek had been exposed as a double agent. Krycek was involved in trying to kill Skinner and once assaulted him in a stairway. Mulder once caught Krycek and brought him to Skinner's apartment for safekeeping, whereupon Skinner punched Krycek across the face and handcuffed him to his balcony railing. When Krycek obtained a nanovirus, he infected Skinner with it, only furthering Skinner's intense hatred of him. (TXF: "S.R. 819") In 2001, Skinner shot Krycek dead. (TXF: "Existence")
The role of Walter Skinner was played by actor Mitch Pileggi, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for two or three other characters, regular FBI agents, on The X-Files (having read for Chris Carter) before winning the role of Skinner. At first, the fact that he was asked back to audition for the role of Skinner slightly puzzled him, until he discovered the reason he had not previously been cast in those earlier roles — Chris Carter had been unable to envision Pileggi as those characters, due to the fact that the actor had been shaving his head. Called in to audition for Walter Skinner, Pileggi attended the audition while in a grumpy mood – due to not having been cast for the series, previously – and had allowed his small amount of hair to grow back. Carter assumed that the actor was only pretending to be grumpy, a characteristic that had been sought after for Skinner. After successfully winning the role, Pileggi thought he had been lucky that he had not been cast in one of the earlier roles, as he believed he would have appeared in only a single episode and would have missed the opportunity to play the recurring role of Walter Skinner. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies)
Pileggi unintentionally based much of Skinner on his own father, who had died shortly after the premiere of The X-Files. According to the actor, his father – an operations manager for a Defense Department contractor – had been a loving family man, having had a profound influence on Mitch, while also having been very tough, very stern but very fair with his employees. Pileggi was unaware of the resemblance between his father and Skinner but was later made aware of the similarity by his mother – who was touched that she could essentially watch his father on television – as well as the actor's siblings. Pileggi also brought considerable life experience to the role, as much of his upbringing had been abroad since he had begun traveling at the age of seven and had worked for Defense Department-related companies throughout the Middle East before returning to the United States where he had embarked on his acting career at the age of twenty-seven. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files)
Walter Skinner first appeared in the episode "Tooms", an episode written by regular writers Glen Morgan and James Wong that would ultimately be the only episode of Season 1 in which the character would make an appearance (although he is briefly mentioned in the season finale, "The Erlenmeyer Flask", before serving as a regular character in subsequent seasons). The script of "Tooms" establishes Skinner as having glasses.
Despite being unaware that he was basing the character on his now-deceased father, Mitch Pileggi was conscious that, in Skinner's early appearances, the character essentially acts as an obstacle to Mulder and Scully before beginning, due to Skinner's nature, to understand the reality of what is happening to the pair of X-files agents and becoming sympathetic to them. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies)
Mitch Pileggi's portrayal of Skinner influenced the producers of The X-Files to start seeking more for the character to do. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files, p. 21) Skinner was not even planned to be in the series' original design but Pileggi's performances were found to be so good and appealing that the writers found ways to incorporate both Pileggi and his character – as well as ways to keep Skinner alive – throughout the life of the series. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies) Frank Spotnitz explains, "Like so many of the supporting characters in The X-Files, Mitch Pileggi's rise on the show was completely unplanned. It was solely due to his strength as an actor. He came on and nobody knew that he would become such an important part of the show, but he was so good that we writers felt inspired to continue to bring him back and back and back, and he really has become a third lead in the TV series [....] Mitch Pileggi really sort of won his way into our hearts and made himself such an important character on the show, through the strength of his performances." ("Memento Mori" audio commentary)
Pileggi himself described Skinner as being Mulder and Scully's "superior, they are directly responsible to, who gives them their assignments." (TXF Season 5 DVD Special Features; "Inside The X-Files") The actor further described Skinner's relationship with the X-files agents by explaining, "[...] they supposedly answer to him. That's the way it's kinda supposed to work. It doesn't always work that way because they tend to go off and do what they're gonna do anyway, regardless of what his input is." (The X-Files Movie Blu-Ray Special Features; "Blackwood: The Making of The X-Files: Fight the Future") Mitch Pileggi also stated about his character, "I don't think he believes he has control over much of anything, especially Mulder and Scully." (TXF Season 6 DVD Special Features; "Featurette On Season 6") Regarding the character in general, Pileggi remarked, "He's a very by-the-book individual within the FBI. I think he has very high moral standards. He's a very ethical person." (TXF Season 5 DVD Special Features; "Inside The X-Files")
However, Frank Spotnitz noted, "Skinner's always the man in the middle. Very tough role." ("Memento Mori" audio commentary) Spotnitz later recalled, "Skinner was always the man in the middle. And the fun of that character was finding ways to compromise him, finding ways to force him to go to the dark side." ("DeadAlive" audio commentary) Chris Carter also commented on the "man in the middle" facet of the Skinner character – with particular focus on the series' mythology episodes – when he stated, "The character of Skinner, he's always had to walk the line between his loyalty to Mulder and Scully and to the X-files, and also to the FBI [....] Skinner's character proved very important to these mythology episodes just because of that role he played, because his loyalties were mixed and strained, and he was always the go-to guy when it came to Mulder and Scully going out on the lam against the wishes of the FBI and Skinner being able to cover for them, reining them in, or suffer the consequences." ("Apocrypha" audio commentary) Director Rob Bowman characterized Skinner as, "usually reluctant to choose a side, stands in the middle [....] Mitch as Skinner is certainly an imposing figure, very strong-minded, big guy in person." ("Memento Mori" audio commentary) Due to Skinner going back and forth between supporting both Scully and Mulder and toeing his own FBI line, Mulder actor David Duchovny once admitted that it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what Skinner was up to. (TXF Season 5 DVD Special Features; "Inside The X-Files")
On the other hand, writer John Shiban thought one of the great things about Skinner was that "he's protective of his agents [...] Even if he disagreed with Mulder and Scully, he's very protective of them." ("The Pine Bluff Variant" audio commentary)
Concerning Skinner's development as a character, Chris Carter remarked, "It's interesting to look at the course of the character of Skinner [...] and see what an important part he's played in the series. He's got to be a neutral character who's got to believe Mulder and Scully but still do his job as their administrative superior, and to do that week in and week out, sort of play this same role and make it interesting was a testament, I think, to his strength as an actor, but also to the mythology and how it laid out and made it something interesting for him to play each week. There was always a story to play, it wasn't just a part, it wasn't just a function. He was drawn into his own story, ultimately a much bigger story as the series progressed. He became essential to the telling of these X-Files mythology episodes." ("The Red and the Black" audio commentary)
During production of the series, Chris Carter's repeated and much-publicized denials that Mulder and Scully would become romantically involved also included jokingly nixing the idea of Scully and Skinner having a romantic relationship or, for that matter, Mulder and Skinner. (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
By two days before the third season episode "D.P.O." went into production, the series' assistant directors – such as Tom Braidwood (who additionally portrayed Frohike) and Vladimir Stefoff – had appropriated a placard that read "Assistant Director Walter Skinner" and used it to mark their office at North Shore Studios (essentially, The X-Files' Vancouver headquarters during the series' early years). (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files)
Howard Gordon – the writer of Season 3's "Avatar" and co-writer (with Frank Spotnitz) of the fourth season's "Zero Sum" (both episodes heavily featuring Skinner) – once commented that he was always happy to write a substantial part for actor Mitch Pileggi. In fact, Pileggi's work as Walter Skinner allowed the actor to receive other roles, in other productions, without having to go out on auditions. (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
Season 2 Appearances
Following the broadcast of "One Breath", in which Skinner recalls serving as a Marine during the Vietnam War, Pileggi received several fan letters from Vietnam veterans. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files) The fact that Skinner was established as a Vietnam veteran in this episode would later help inspire the use of the character in the Season 4 episode "Unrequited". (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
Frank Spotnitz believed that the episode "End Game" was the first time when Skinner "really stepped out on behalf of Mulder and Scully." Spotnitz thought that, up until that episode, the character had been "still the man in the middle" but that his role in the episode was "sort of a brave move in the direction of helping the good guys." Recalling Mitch Pileggi's reaction to "End Game", Spotnitz stated, "I think Mitch had a great time with this episode and was very happy for the chance to do something new with Skinner – get him out of the office, away from that desk." ("End Game" audio commentary)
During the production of "End Game", Pileggi took several memorable, accidental shots to the groin in slamming actor Steven Williams against (and nearly through) the fake elevator wall, while both actors were filming the scene in which their respective characters (Skinner and X) fight in an elevator. Skinner's role in this scene developed both from the writers' necessity of deciding a way in which Scully could discover where Mulder was – as only X knew this information – and Chris Carter finally asking Frank Spotnitz, "Can't we just have Skinner beat the information out of X?" (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files) The possibility that the writers could have Skinner do this was not immediately obvious to Spotnitz; he, having spent very late nights agonizing over a solution to the problem while sitting alone at his desk, initially laughed and asked Carter if they could do as Carter was suggesting. ("End Game" audio commentary) The act of Skinner being head-butted by X in this scene was originally suggested by Steven Williams and was followed by Mulder using his head to assault both Krycek (in "Piper Maru") and, later, X (in "Talitha Cumi"). (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
By 1995, the question of whether Skinner or his opponent, in the fight scene from "End Game", actually won their conflict had become a favorite question for fans to ponder at conventions. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files) The two actors (Pileggi and Williams) themselves would also frequently joke and argue about who would have won this fight, if Skinner had not been stopped by X brandishing a gun. ("End Game" audio commentary) When Fox's broadcast standards and practices department wanted to edit parts of the fight scene between Mulder and X in "Talitha Cumi" because the department deemed the scene to be too long and violent, co-executive producer Howard Gordon debated with the department's executive during a phone conversation, asking how the scene differed from Skinner's fight scene with X in "End Game" and arguing that the earlier scene had been much more brutal; the fight scene in "Talitha Cumi" was indeed eventually edited, however. (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
Following his tussle with X in "End Game", Skinner telling Scully that he learned of Mulder's location through "unofficial channels" (i.e. from X, following their fight) was a result of Chris Carter teasingly quizzing Frank Spotnitz about what the term meant, when Scully says it to Skinner prior to his encounter with X. Even though it was obvious to Spotnitz that the term meant "people he can go to, outside of his normal chain of command," Carter thought the phrase was somewhat silly so he added Skinner saying the line later in the episode, to refer back to X. ("End Game" audio commentary)
Season 3 Appearances
Skinner played a more active role than usual in both "The Blessing Way" and "Paper Clip". (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files) In particular, the episode "The Blessing Way" allowed the writers to give Skinner more activity than previously, without necessarily altering his fundamental role in the series. (The Truth Is Out There: The Official Guide to The X-Files)
Regarding "Paper Clip", Pileggi was especially fond of the line of dialogue in which Skinner tells the Cigarette Smoking Man to "pucker up and kiss my ass." This scene was often shown prior to introducing the actor at conventions, where it tended to draw enormous applause from attending fans. (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
As noted by Frank Spotnitz, the writers had Skinner absent for most of the early part of the third season, after "Paper Clip", but he is then suddenly in practically every episode. (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
According to director Kim Manners, the scene near the end of "Apocrypha" in which Skinner visits Mulder's basement X-files office was reshot by Manners. Skinner, in the originally filmed version of this scene, was rather friendly with Mulder but, upon viewing the scene, Chris Carter thought the characters were too buddy-buddy and that Skinner's relationship with Mulder should – at all times – be on a business level. Upon being asked by Manners to confirm whether this happened, Carter was unable to remember if it had, but commented that it sounded like something he would be concerned about. ("Apocrypha" audio commentary)
Mitch Pileggi was not particularly thrilled about Skinner being beat up by "this little woman", a "scrawny little researcher" (both descriptions referring to the character of Holly) in the episode "Pusher", especially not after Skinner had been brutalized so often beforehand. The actor was admittedly becoming uncomfortable with the many beatings that his character had been receiving, at that point in the series, and thought that his reaction was also true of the series' fans. A similar observation, regarding the frequency of beatings taken by Skinner, was made by writer Vince Gilligan, who wryly noted that – if the frequency and variations in usages of character appearances from episode-to-episode worked out better – the writers would not have had Skinner taking an ass-kicking in practically three consecutive episodes. (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
The suggestion of showcasing Skinner in an episode (an idea that would be the inspiration for "Avatar") was made by David Duchovny, who conceived the idea in the hope that such an episode would give him less scenes and might consequently allow him a break from filming; the final version of the episode actually made frequent use of Duchovny's character of Mulder, however, much to his dismay. Ultimately, the actor nevertheless thought that Mitch Pileggi (and also, therefore, his character of Skinner) had deserved a nice episode after two years and was pleased with Pileggi's performance as Skinner in the episode.
Duchovny and The X-Files' publicist intruded on what was intended to be a closed set to watch the filming of the scene from "Avatar" in which Skinner has sex with Carina Sayles; Duchovny also gave a little critiquing of this scene. The scene itself entailed Pileggi and guest actress Amanda Tapping simulating sex for four or five hours while simultaneously surrounded by crew members trying to light, frame and photograph the shot.
"Avatar" was aired during a time when Skinner's popularity was increasing. Mitch Pileggi thought the episode helped to reestablish some of the ground rules regarding Skinner's position in relation to the X-Files Unit and how far the character would go in fulfilling the unit's mission, noting that Skinner – in the course of the episode – does not accept a helping hand from Mulder, even though the latter character offers it, and that Chris Carter did not want to just put Skinner totally into bed with the pair of agents assigned to the X-files. (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
Skinner's inclusion in "Talitha Cumi" was originally suggested by Frank Spotnitz, who mentioned – while boarding the episode with Chris Carter – that he thought the character seemed like he fitted, at some point, into the story. By Wednesday 20 March, 1996, the boarding of this episode was almost complete and included a scene in which Skinner was accosted by an angry Mulder, plotted out in two new index cards: "Mulder goes to Skinner – Where's CSM?! Who is he?!" and "Scully pulls Mulder off Skinner – suspect turned himself in." (Trust No One: The Official Third Season Guide to The X-Files)
Season 4 Appearances
Writer and executive producer Howard Gordon found it easy to write a substantial role for Mitch Pileggi in the episode "Unrequited" (whose main antagonist is a disgruntled veteran), due to the fact that Skinner had been established as a Vietnam veteran himself in the second season episode "One Breath". (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
During the filming of one particular scene from "Memento Mori" (in which Skinner is asked by Mulder to set up a meeting between Mulder and the Cigarette Smoking Man), the usual friendly conflict or friction between Skinner and Mulder influenced director Rob Bowman to decide to stage David Duchovny at first in an informally seated position on a couch in Skinner's office, seated lower than Skinner; this staging allowed Duchovny to then rise from the couch, when Mulder is making his case to Skinner, moments later in this scene. Bowman was especially enthused about one of Skinner's lines of dialogue from this scene – "You can't ask the truth of a man who trades in lies." ("Memento Mori" audio commentary)
Writer Vince Gilligan was extremely pleased with Mitch Pileggi's performance in the single scene of the Gilligan-penned "Small Potatoes" that features Skinner, but wished the character had been in more of the episode. ("Small Potatoes" audio commentary)
Skinner's major role in the episode "Zero Sum" was a result of the absence of Scully actress Gillian Anderson for a week, during the production of The X-Files' fourth season, and a conscious decision by the writers not to give too much work to David Duchovny while his co-star was having time off.
Howard Gordon, by now considered to be the on-staff specialist on Skinner, was brought onto the episode, as co-writer with Frank Spotnitz. The writers wanted to avoid taking the liberty of having Skinner experience something paranormal, as that had already happened in "Avatar" and Frank Spotnitz felt that there was no reason for that to happen to an individual twice in their lifetime. Spotnitz, having previously co-written "Memento Mori", was aware of Skinner having already made his Faustian bargain with the Cigarette-Smoking Man in that episode and felt that "Zero Sum" was a logical time in the series to see that deal be played out.
Howard Gordon believed that both he and Spotnitz were basically trying to preserve Skinner's integrity as a character while having Skinner make his deal with the devil but to also allow the audience to better understand the character and Skinner's relationship with Mulder and Scully, by taking Skinner into a morally gray area. Gordon wondered to what degree Skinner was willing to sacrifice himself and his integrity to the pair of X-files agents, and was curious as to where Skinner drew the line. Actor Mitch Pileggi, typically offered absolutely no explanation for his character's on-screen behavior, was unsure of the answers to the questions that Howard Gordon posed. Regarding the actor's sizable role as Skinner in the episode, director Kim Manners once commented that the script was "really something he could sink his teeth into."
Pileggi was given only a few days' notice that he, as Skinner, would be wearing only underwear – dressed in jockey shorts, rather than boxers – in one scene of "Zero Sum". The last-minute notification allowed Pileggi just enough time to do some exercise in a weight room and whip his physique into shape, in preparation for Skinner's scantily clad appearance. (I Want to Believe: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 3)
First Movie Appearance
Skinner is one of several characters from The X-Files television series who appear in The X-Files Movie, the first film in the franchise (the other recurring characters from the series including the Cigarette Smoking Man, the Well-Manicured Man as well as the three Lone Gunmen - Byers, Frohike and Langly). (The Making of The X-Files Movie) Mitch Pileggi thought there were elements of Skinner's personality and character, in what the actor had been doing in the movie, that had been developing over the past couple of seasons and that the actor believed would just continue to build and grow. (The X-Files Movie Blu-Ray Special Features; "Blackwood: The Making of The X-Files: Fight the Future")
Chris Carter was wary that the scene in which Skinner appears with the Lone Gunmen could potentially bring the movie to a dead halt, with not only confusion for the audience about who the Lone Gunmen were and what was going on but possibly also the ruination of the audience's suspension of disbelief – due to the cartoonish quality of the Lone Gunmen characters – but Carter ultimately felt that he and his team had found a way to do the scene and to use it as a transitional piece in the film's plot. (The X-Files Movie DVD & Blu-Ray audio commentary) This scene was originally shot on Monday 30 June, 1997, but was later reshot in early 1998. (The Making of The X-Files Movie)
In the gag reel from this movie, Mitch Pileggi – dressed as Skinner, with a phone to his ear and in the surroundings of this scene – can be seen ad-libbing lines, saying certain things that make no sense for Skinner to be saying. The actor first recites some lines from the song 'Greased Lightning' from the film Grease, saying, "With the four-speed on the floor, they'll be waiting at the door/You know that I ain't bragging, she's a real pussy wagon, Greased Lightning." In response to the voice of an off-screen man suggesting that he "go over there and sit down", Pileggi moves to a corner of the room while commenting, "OK. Right now, I'm gonna go over there and sit down. I'm real tired and I want to go to Disneyland," and, taking a seat, he sighs the word, "Yeah." The actor later comments on his environment by stating, "I got a guy walking around outside here. I don't know exactly what he's doing but, uh... it's making me a little nervous. Got a director talking to me, I don't know what the hell he's saying." Lastly, Pileggi says, "Yeah," and – while walking off-screen – he continues, "OK, I'm gonna make a little exit here. Yeah." (The X-Files Movie Blu-Ray Special Features; "Gag Reel")
Season 6 Appearances
The change of Skinner's professional connection to Mulder and Scully, in the first half of The X-Files' sixth season, made the character of Skinner look increasingly expendable. Due to Mulder and Scully's disciplinary transfer off the X-files and their punitive reassignment to the purview of AD Kersh, Mitch Pileggi realized the obvious reality that Skinner would be absent for a while. The actor had earlier been told by Frank Spotnitz that the writers would include Skinner less (during this period) and, despite both Spotnitz and Chris Carter having always made it a given that the character would definitely not be leaving the series, Pileggi had some practical doubts, given the reality of the business he was in. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
The role of the Nazi Skinner in "Triangle" allowed Pileggi some additional work and there were some notable similarities between that character and the usual version of Skinner, whom Pileggi typically played and additionally portrayed in "Triangle". Indeed, Chris Carter, who wrote and directed the episode, was conscious of having the actions of the story's two different versions of Skinner behave similarly; the Nazi Skinner first seems like he is conspiring with the villains before the viewer sees that the same is true of the more modern AD Skinner, who ultimately helps Scully search for Mulder (betraying the true villains) before the Nazi Skinner helps both Mulder and the 1930s Scully escape (again betraying the actual villains). ("Triangle" audio commentary)
Regarding the Nazi Skinner's costume, Chris Carter was of the impression – during production of the episode – that Skinner was less recognizable with a hat on and thought of the character's spectacles as "little, sort of, Colonel Klink glasses." ("Triangle" audio commentary)
The role of the German-speaking Nazi Skinner also allowed Mitch Pileggi to utilize his ability to speak the language; the actor, who had learned German during a two-year tenure at college in Munich during the 1970s, was the only member of The X-Files' regular cast in "Triangle" who was fluent with the language. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5) At one point, Pileggi asked Chris Carter why he was saying a line of German dialogue that did not make any sense in the context of the scene and Carter – baffled by the line himself (after hearing it translated by Pileggi) – replied by advising him to make up something that did make sense and to say whatever he would say if he was actually in the situation, so Pileggi was able to write some of his own German dialogue for the Nazi Skinner character. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies & TXF Season 6 DVD Special Features; "The Truth About Season 6")
By writing the episode "S.R. 819" (the third "Skinner episode" – preceded by Season 3's "Avatar" and Season 4's "Zero Sum"), John Shiban attempted to remedy a feeling amongst the series' core group of writer/producers that, by the beginning of the sixth season, Skinner had come through in a pinch for Mulder and Scully so many times that the original reason for his existence was disappearing and that Skinner, by now, meant so much to the pair of X-files agents that he had essentially become family to them, having lost much of his mysteriousness. Shiban's solution was to give Krycek continuing control of the nanotechnology in Skinner's bloodstream; the newly heightened danger in Skinner's relationship with Krycek gave Skinner an agenda that Mulder was unaware of, thereby returning some mystery to the Skinner character and some conflict to his relationship with Mulder. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
Skinner's role in "S.R. 819" was inspired by the central premise of the 1950 film D.O.A. (and its 1988 remake), in which a man is poisoned and attempts to find his killer as well as the poisoner's motive during the short time he has left to live. Although Mulder was originally planned to be the poison victim (in John Shiban's original pitch for the episode), the victim was changed to Skinner after either Chris Carter or Frank Spotnitz (commenting that the audience would know the writers would never kill Mulder) suggested this alteration; the fact that secondary characters had been killed before in the series lent credence to the possibility that Skinner might also be killed off. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies, The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5) The idea of using the nanotechnology plot device that affects Skinner had been bandied about in various writers' offices for a season or two before the episode. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
A potentially time-consuming and costly scene in which Skinner fought with Krycek was cut from "S.R. 819", for budgetary reasons. Another fight scene in the episode – involving Skinner battling a young, well-toned opponent in a boxing ring – was unusually easy to stage, as Mitch Pileggi had boxed competitively in college and was, before filming of the episode began, already a certified fitness fanatic (in addition, the actor's father had fought professionally during his young adulthood). Prior to appearing in the boxing ring as Skinner, Pileggi attended a refresher course at the well-known Goosen Gym in Los Angeles and, before taking the small dive which Skinner takes upon being knocked unconsciousness by his opponent, the actor did some actual boxing with the person playing Skinner's rival, which both performers enjoyed. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
Pileggi found it difficult to endure the prosthetics that were involved in creating the illusion of Skinner's illness. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5, The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies) To appear as Skinner in this condition, Pileggi was required to awaken in the middle of the night, drive to the studio and sit motionless, long past sunrise, while wide-awake makeup artists glued black veins to his face, arms and torso. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5) After a couple of episodes of dealing with that, Pileggi politely asked the writers if they could resolve the story thread concerning the nanotechnology affecting Skinner, even though the actor was of the opinion that the prosthetics looked good. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies) The only positive aspect that Pileggi took from the experience of being made-up to look like such an unwell Skinner was that the process was so exhausting for him that he found it easy to play the character in Skinner's dead and dying states; Pileggi was so exhausted that, for one shot in which the camera pulls back from Skinner's open eye, the actor had a hard time even keeping one eye open. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
To create the outer effect of Skinner's malady, special effects makeup supervisor John Vulich built the ravaged features of the seriously ill character from a latex mask of Pileggi's face, shot through with hollow rubber veins, many of them hooked up to hand-operated air bulbs to make them pulse and quiver on command. The actor was covered with much more rubber than was obvious, on-screen, and the only section of his face that was left exposed included his nose and upper lip. To show Skinner progressing from extreme ill health to near death, Vulich constructed two entirely different sets of makeup. The nanobots in Skinner's blood, as shown in close-up in the episode, were designed by visual effects producer Bill Millar; several tries at designing this technology were required (one of the attempts – according to Millar – seeming too much like the CBS eye), but examples of the final design were then inserted into actual microscopic footage of blood and plasma and were "cloned" with a computer animation program. (The End and the Beginning: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 5)
Season 7 Appearances
Skinner's prominent role in "Brand X" came about because an episode was once again required to be plotted around the absence of the series' lead actors; David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were both in active postproduction on their own respective episode of the seventh season – Duchovny had recently written and directed "Hollywood A.D." while Anderson had done the same for "all things". (all things: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 6)
During production of "Je Souhaite", writer and first-time director Vince Gilligan chose to have each character who magically appears and/or disappears in that episode do so in a subtle way, with the use of cuts rather than showing them appearing and/or disappearing. As such, Gilligan was especially proud of both the small hand-off in which Skinner's chair is empty when Mulder walks into Skinner's office (when the camera is facing the back of the chair) but is being occupied by Jenn, by the time that the camera does a full turn around the set to face the front of the chair, as well as the hand-off in which the office is empty when Mulder enters it before a later shot slightly cranes up to show Skinner and many FBI agents sitting around a table in the background. ("Je Souhaite" audio commentary)
The plot for "Requiem" – the last episode of the seventh season and potentially, even after the season had wrapped, the final episode of the series – was revealed (to the series' fans as well as to many of The X-Files' cast and crew members) in a highly secretive manner. In particular, the last two pages of the episode's script – which would ultimately involve Skinner learning of Scully's pregnancy – were missing during much of the episode's production period and were written by Chris Carter only on the day before the filming of the scene (which Carter had deliberately scheduled as the last sequence, of both the episode and its season, to be shot). Mitch Pileggi later acknowledged that he was unsure of what he had been feeling while this final scene had not yet been revealed and that he had been "kind of numb" at the time. (all things: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 6)
Many rumors concerning "Requiem" circulated - among the series fans' and production personnel alike - due to the secrecy surrounding the episode and, since David Duchovny would most likely not return to The X-Files for an eighth season, there were hints that a recurring cast member might take Mulder's place; Skinner was quite often mentioned as a possible replacement. Upon Mitch Pileggi hearing of this rumor, however, he laughed it off, dismissing it as "probably the most ridiculous rumor" of the many he had heard, up to that point. (all things: The Official Guide to The X-Files, volume 6)
Appearances in Seasons 8 and 9
According to Frank Spotnitz, Seasons 8 and 9 were very liberating for the character of Skinner, as (because Mulder was gone for the majority of both seasons) it was generally much easier to give Skinner the kind of opportunities that the writers had always been eagerly looking to give him – specifically, to get Skinner out from behind his desk, out of his office and into the field, more involved with the action of the stories. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies) Referring particularly to Season 8, Spotnitz explains, "One of the [...] things that this season did for us was that it gave Skinner, in particular, a lot more to do. When you have a two-lead series, which The X-Files was, by necessity you're giving the lion's share of the interesting, dramatic conflicts to those two leads. And when Mulder left at the end of Season 7, we suddenly were able to play the ensemble in a way that we never really could before. And interestingly, David was always urging us to use the ensemble more when he was on the show full-time, but it wasn't easy to do. We felt, as writers, you wanted Mulder and Scully to be doing those actions. And so I think in Seasons 8 and 9, Skinner really got to step out behind the desk a lot more and have a lot more active things to do in The X-Files mythology." (DeadAlive" audio commentary)
The scene of "Within" wherein Skinner tells Doggett – while being interviewed by him – that he himself witnessed Mulder being taken away aboard a UFO was filmed in the second part of Doggett actor Robert Patrick's first night of attending production on the series; this scene also represented the first time that Patrick got to work with Mitch Pileggi, although they would later have a lot of fun through the course of Season 8 in sequences where Skinner is alone with Doggett. ("Within" audio commentary)
The fact that performers Mitch Pileggi and Krycek actor Nicholas Lea were extremely familiar with each other by the point of the Season 8 episode "DeadAlive" meant that, during the writing and production of the episode, the writers as well as the two performers themselves thoroughly enjoyed making Skinner's relationship with Krycek be combative. ("DeadAlive" audio commentary)
The scenes of "Alone" that feature Skinner were written into the episode by Frank Spotnitz (who worked on the episode not only as its writer but also as a first-time director), due to the fact that he was eager for the opportunity to finally work with Mitch Pileggi and did not want to miss the chance to do so. Spotnitz was ultimately sorry that he had not been able to give Mitch Pileggi more to do in the episode and was aware that Skinner's scenes in "Alone" were probably not very demanding for Pileggi as an actor. ("Alone" audio commentary)
The scene of "Existence" in which Skinner, standing inside an elevator with Krycek, is struck by Billy Miles' arm, piercing through the elevator door, required a difficult stunt in which a solid steel arm missed Mitch Pileggi's head by only a few inches. Director Kim Manners speculates, "If Mitch would have leaned to his left two inches, he could have been killed." ("Existence" audio commentary)
The scene that immediately follows this shows an unconscious Skinner in bed, recovering from the injury that Billy Miles caused while wearing a bandage over the wound. Mitch Pileggi was extremely ridiculed, by the production personnel, due to this bandage that (according to Kim Manners) was essentially a "feminine napkin." ("Existence" audio commentary)
Skinner's extreme desire to kill Krycek influenced Mitch Pileggi to react with elation, when the writers came to the actor with news that his character would be the one who would kill Krycek, in "Existence". (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies) The bullet from Skinner's gun in this scene is shown flying towards camera using CGI, due to Kim Manners' recommendation that money be spent on creating this expensive shot. ("Existence" audio commentary)
In the ninth and final season of The X-Files, Skinner became a main character.
During Mitch Pileggi's last day of the series, he filmed a scene of "The Truth" in which Skinner appears, together with Scully. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies)
Second Movie Appearance
As writers Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz aimed to avoid complicating the storyline of The X-Files: I Want to Believe with superfluous appearances of characters from the television series, Skinner is actually the only example of those old characters who does appear in the movie and was included in the film's plot only when a fitting opportunity to involve him arose; Spotnitz, who (like Carter) was keen to bring back many characters from the television series but wanted to make that particular movie as simple as possible and unfettered with character reintroductions, was very happy to write Skinner into the story. (The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies)
The scenes of The X-Files: I Want to Believe that include Skinner were filmed very late in the movie's filming schedule and the particular scene that acts as the character's introduction in the movie was filmed, for reasons of time, in two different locations. (The X-Files: I Want to Believe Blu-ray & DVD audio commentary)
In the Topps Comics series of The X-Files comics, Skinner appears in Not to be Opened Until X-Mas (the first issue in the series), A Little Dream of Me (the third issue), N.D.E.:Part Two (the thirty-sixth issue) and the fourth of four issues in a comic adaptation of the novel Ground Zero.
According to The X-Files: Season 10 range of comics, Skinner was promoted to Deputy Director of the FBI sometime between the 2008 setting of The X-Files: I Want to Believe and the time in which the clearly-subsequent comics series is set. In the first issue, Skinner responds to the fact the FBI computer network has recently been hacked by an unknown individual who begins hunting anyone connected to the X-files. This hacking activity leads Skinner to rural Virginia to warn Mulder and Scully, who are living under different names. Skinner's warning is dismissed by Mulder. Lacking leads in the investigation, Skinner returns to his hotel. He is attacked there, that night, dressed in his underwear. Before he is caught, though, a dazed Skinner is able to contact Mulder. When Mulder arrives in Skinner's hotel room, Skinner is sluggishly hanging from the ceiling. He is saved by Mulder but, regaining consciousness, claims his attackers were in his head. Having no memory of his attackers' identities, Skinner begins to dress as Mulder instructs him to call for back-up from FBI Headquarters.
After Scully is kidnapped in the first issue of the Season 10 series, Skinner studies the crime scene with Mulder in the second issue. There, Skinner reveals to Mulder the name of the family which adopted William (Scully's child), who could have been targeted based on evidence. After this, Mulder consults the presumed-dead Lone Gunmen, leaving Skinner at the crime scene without informing him the Lone Gunmen are alive.
|Appearances for Walter Skinner|