Besides the eminent Gillian Anderson, there were plenty noteworthy actresses playing supporting roles in the first season of The X-Files:
Claire Stansfield appeared as the eponymous ‘Jersey Devil’ in ep #1.4… mostly naked except for some mud and a modesty pouch! Apparently she was suggested for the role by David Duchovny, having worked with him years earlier on Red Shoe Diaries. I guess one of the benefits of being a star is that you get to choose the people who wrestle you to the ground and straddle you for a suspiciously long time? The six-foot-one Stansfield is probably best known for her recurring role as ‘Alti’ in several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess… I haven’t seen that show recently enough to comment, but her character has a pretty extensive Wiki page, so clearly she made an impression! Lisa Waltz appeared in ep #1.5 (“Shadows”), as ‘Lauren Kyte’, a secretary haunted/protected by the paternal ghost of her murdered boss. Waltz is most recognisable (to me, at least) from her time on My So-Called Life, where she played ‘Hallie Lowenthal’, a cooking classmate (and eventual business partner) of the main character’s philandering father. Felicity Huffman appears in ep #1.7 (“Ice”), as ‘Dr. DaSilva’, a “medical doctor” who works with Xander Berkeley’s toxicologist, to try to identify and neutralise the ancient alien parasite responsible for sending a team of Alaskan drillers thrill-kill crazy. These days Huffman is a big name thanks to her starring role as ‘Lynette Scavo’ on Desperate Housewives, but she’s a bit of a fifth wheel in this episode… until it’s revealed that she’s also been infected, and she gets to go on a brief bug-eyed tear around the station. Wheee!
Harriet Harris gets a well-deserved showcase in ep #1.10 (“Eve”), playing three disparate clones… one is the regretful progenitor of a new generation of test-tube-twins, while the second is an eyeball-biting psychopath, and the third is a seemingly stable and sneaky enigma. Personally I didn’t buy the baloney about how it’s so dark in ‘Eve 6’s’ cell that no one has ever seen her face, so therefore no one in the asylum could recognise her clone when she rocks up in the final scene (for the inevitable twist ending)… and even if that were true, you would have thought Scully & Mulder would have passed along a photo of her “sister”, once they knew they were dealing with a batch of super-smart, identical-looking women, right? And who the hell thought it would be a good idea to lock the junior-edition Eves in a cell next-door to their “aunt” anyway? Were they hoping that three wrongs would somehow make a right, and all the crazy-evilness would cancel itself out? Gah! Either way, Harris absolutely kills it here, and even earned a shout-out from series creator Chris Carter in the making-of featurette, so I’m sad she never returned for an encore performance (as any of her living incarnations). Since then, she’s had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives as ‘Felicia Tilman’, but I prefer to think of her as ruthless showbiz agent ‘Bebe Glazer’ on Frasier. Oh, and props to Erika and Sabrina Krievins, the nine-year-old twins who played the “bad seed” sisters in this episode… apparently they haven’t acted since, but I thought they gave great performances here, really selling the girls’ initial “innocent terror” act and the later reveal of their malevolent and malicious natures. Kudos.
Amanda Pays appeared in ep #1.11 (“Fire”) as ‘Inspector Phoebe Green’, a manipulative and mildly sadistic ex-girlfriend of Mulder’s, who also happens to be a Scotland Yard detective on the trail of an incredibly smug pyrokinetic-maniac. Apparently, Carter was originally planning to bring her back in a recurring role, as a love-to-hate-her romantic antagonist… and it was quite fun to see how territorial and scowly Scully would get whenever she was around… but the lack of onscreen chemistry between Pays and Duchovny put the nail in that particular coffin! I didn’t recognise the actress at first sight, but she also had a starring role in the Max Headroom TV series, which sixteen-year-old-me used to absolutely adore… so I must get around to checking that out again sometime, to see how it holds up. Christine Estabrook appeared in ep #1.15 (“Young at Heart”) as ‘Agent Henderson’, a sassy handwriting specialist who flirted with Mulder while analysing several taunting notes that he’d been left by a supposedly deceased serial killer… but when Mulder needed another handwriting sample identified in a later episode, he went elsewhere (presumably she’d been suspended for “inappropriate conduct in the workplace” by that point?). Despite recurring roles in Desperate Housewives (as the sister of Harris’s character!) and Mad Men, I recognised Estabrook from the first season of American Horror Story, where she played ‘Marcy’, the unscrupulous real estate agent responsible for selling the “Murder House” to various unsuspecting couples (who are then promptly murdered… hence the name).
Finally, Maggie Wheeler appeared in ep #1.21 (“Born Again”), as ‘Det. Sharon Lazard’, a feisty police officer caught in the middle of a revenge plot being perpetrated by a deceased copper, via a young girl who was born the same day he died. Personally, I thought this was one of the strongest episodes of the season, so I was a little surprised to discover that the writers responsible are actually quite ashamed of it, dismissing the premise as the product of pure “desperation”, and the finished product as “a little too cop showy”. Which is weird, because I thought The X-Files was a cop show? No? Anyhoo, later that same year, Wheeler would make her first appearance in a little-known sitcom called Friends, as the much-maligned ‘Janice’, on whom I had/have a huge crush. Fun fact: According to her TV.com bio, Wheeler dated Duchovny back in the day, although it doesn’t specify if that started before or after she made her cameo here. Not that it matters, really. They must still be pretty good pals though, because she also has a recurring role on his current show, Californication.
On the more manly side of things, a long-haired Seth Green appeared in ep #1.2 (“Deep Throat”) as a stoned UFO-spotter… Donal Logue appeared in ep #1.3 (“Squeeze”) as an old friend of Scully’s, who wants her help on a confusing case… and Brad Dourif is typecast in ep #1.12 (“Beyond the Sea”) as a serial killer who claims to have psychic powers (in a “should we believe him or not?” story that’s suspiciously similar to what happened in the second movie with Billy Connolly’s character). Apparently they had to exceed their budget to afford Dourif, but it was totally worth it… he and Anderson act up a storm!
[Note: A local s/hand shop is selling individual discs from the subsequent seasons for 40p each, so… yeah… if I can scrounge a full set together, I might have to see this series through to the bitter end!]