As one of the longest-running science fiction series in network television history, The X-Files is back this Sunday after nearly 13 years with a six-episode run. Returning are its two dynamic leads, Special Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) diving back into unsolved cases the FBI deems false or outlandish. Built upon the premise of alien cover-ups, government conspiracies, and man’s everlasting desire to seek the truth, the iconic 90s series garnered prestigious awards and acclaim over its nine-year run, with fans constantly wanting more despite being given two movies.
Talk about rebooting the series has been transpiring for years, creating quite an itch with fans. And it’s no wonder either—in addition to the legions of ‘X-Philes,’ television critics call it one of the best shows that ever aired on American television in the 1990s. So when news broke out last January that FOX was interested in reviving the series as a miniseries, it didn’t take long until the show’s familiar faces and creator, Chris Carter would eagerly jump on board.
Joining the cast for the much-anticipated revival is 24-year-old Canadian, Aliza Vellani. As a charismatic actress whose professional training and extensive experience in the industry has given her strong groundwork for a prosperous career, Vellani was cast last summer and shot the series alongside original leads, Duchovny, Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi in Vancouver, where the show was originally shot for its first five seasons in the early 90s.
No stranger to the small screen and most recently seen on The CW’s iZombie, Vellani knew she wanted to be an actress since she was a toddler. Attending acting summer camps over the years, the young starlet studied at Tarlington Training in Vancouver before heading to Simon Fraser University and earning her BFA in Theatre Performance. With roles on USA Network’s Rush, ABC’s Mistresses, and the NBC Universal distributed CTV drama, Motive, and now The X-Files, it’s evident Vellani’s star is beaming bright.
Before fans tune in for the wildly anticipated premiere this Sunday and Vellani is forever immortalized as part of the The X-Files phenomena, The Hudsucker caught up with the young starlet to dish about the show, her co-stars, and if the truth is really out there.
The Hudsucker: Congratulations on The X-Files, Aliza! How did you feel when you first found out you’d be a part of such a beloved show that is so huge and an incredibly profound part of pop culture?
Aliza Vellani: Thank you, Tania! I’m absolutely thrilled and honored to be a part of The X-Files family. When I heard that I was going to be working on a series that not only made television history in Vancouver but around the world, it definitely took a second to sink in.
The Hudsucker: Now the show came out around the time you were born and exploded into incredible prominence among fans and critics over the years. Were you an “X-Phile” growing up, whether watching through reruns or DVDs?
Vellani: Well I was around 1-years-old when the show first started, so it wasn’t until later that I began to get into The X-Files. Thank goodness it’s on Netflix now, so I can binge watch over the summer!
The Hudsucker: There’s been a lot of hush-hush around your role, until now. It’s been released that you’ll be playing a nurse named Sandeep alongside Gillian’s Dr. Scully. Without giving too much away and peeving off FOX, can you tell us a bit about your role?
Vellani: Well, without giving too much away, Sandeep’s character is really more involved in Dr. Scully’s world than Mulder’s. But, you’ll have to watch the entire series to find out more!
The Hudsucker: Gillian is such an accomplished actress on the big screen and in theatre—and of course, in addition to your film and television credits, you were in theatre too! What was it like working with her? And did you learn anything from her about the industry that you might not have known?
Vellani: I was so grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside Gillian Anderson. To see her jump back into a role she’s been playing for over 20 years is inspiring. It was also great to have moments with her in between scenes where she would talk about when she played Blanche in the stage adaption of “A Streetcar Name Desire” in London. If anything, I learned what it truly means to commit yourself 100% to being an actor.
The Hudsucker: You’re a rookie to the world of Mulder and Scully. Was there a moment during shooting episodes where it all sort of just manifested into this reality that had you wondering, “Am I really doing this?!”
Vellani: All the time! The whole thing felt surreal. The first day on set, in between takes, and even auditioning for this show in front of Chris Carter. But I would say it started to hit me just how big this show was when the teasers started popping up.
The Hudsucker: With an amazing cast from David and Gillian, to Mitch Pileggi, Robbie Amell, Lauren Ambrose and Joel McHale—what are some of your favorite memories of working on set, either off-screen or on-screen with the cast and crew?
Vellani: This may sound a little silly, but one of my favorite moments was after we cut from a scene and had to reset all the cameras. I pointed out how much fun it probably is to ride on the dollies. Next thing I know, the cameraman hops off and says, “Jump on and see for yourself!” I have never been so excited! It was probably only about 20 feet but cruising on the camera dolly on the X-Files set felt out of this world!
The Hudsucker: The first episode of the series renewal establishes that this is in fact not at all a reboot, but instead a thoughtful continuation of the beloved franchise. If it continues and receives a welcomed reception from fans and critics, David has actually stated in interviews he would be open to doing another cycle as it wasn’t brought back with the idea of just ending it—so there’s hope for more than these six episodes! Would you return to reprise your role as Sandeep after this winter run?
Vellani: If The X-Files ever decided to complete another cycle and Chris Carter or FOX ever wanted me to come back, I would be more than happy to. It was an amazing series to be a part of, and an amazing group of people to work with.
The Hudsucker: Like Mulder, do you believe the truth is out there?
Vellani: I mean, why not. Anything is possible, right?
The Hudsucker: So, what’s next for you after The X-Files?
I’ll be appearing in the Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart movie that will be premiering on Lifetime, January 23rd—but after that, I’m excited to see what new projects may come my way.
The Hudsucker: Let’s take it back to your first booked gig on the CBC—you were 16, right? I was a huge fan of Little Mosque on the Prairie growing up and felt it was such an important show with a crucial dialogue—and one that is actually much needed today. What did you learn most about being on that show?
Vellani: I was 14, actually! Crazy to think it was so long ago—and that is so great you were a fan of the series. When I hear that, it always makes me smile. I feel like I learned everything about the film world on that show. I had the most amazing group of people from the actors, to the directors, to the hair and make-up department giving me advice on how best to tackle the industry. Because I was pretty much the baby of the ‘Little Mosque’ family, everyone took me under their wing, and I’m so grateful for that. That series really is what led me to believe that being an actor can do a lot of good in the world.
The Hudsucker: Since Little Mosque ended, you’ve been really busy with a variety of roles on TV. With the success and accomplishments you’ve uncovered so far, has this assortment on TV affected your experience as an actor?
Vellani: I’ve been very lucky to work on very different styles of television in this industry. I’ve gone from an Indo-Canadian Muslim teenager to medical personnel to zombies! What’s great is every time I get to work on a new character or genre, I learn so much more about what I am capable of as an actor. It’s really quite gratifying.
The Hudsucker: You’ve had the awesome opportunity to work with some very talented people over the years. Who in the industry would you most like to work with someday?
Vellani: If I ever had the chance, I would absolutely love to work with Mindy Kaling. I feel like she would be so much fun to work with and that I would be able to learn so much from her. She’s a writer, comedian, director, actor, and producer—I mean, that woman has done it all!
The Hudsucker: Just for fun, I have to ask, especially with your recent roles—would you rather fight off zombies or aliens in an apocalypse?
Vellani: I love this question. Aliens—hands down! I think they would be way easier to negotiate a peace treaty with…maybe.
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To keep up with Aliza Vellani, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Catch Vellani in Lifetime’s movie, Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart this Saturday, Jan. 23; and tune in this Sunday, Jan. 24 to FOX for the much-anticipated return of The X-Files—check your local listings.