Dean Haglund:
A Lone Gunman

by Michelle Erica Green

The X Files' Lone Gunmen are all a little nuts, but Mulder couldn't do his job without them, and they saved Scully's life. Byers is the serious member of the team - the information systems specialist who actually remembers to comb his hair. Frohicke is the technological gadget wizard who wants to have a life.

And Langly's the one who looks like Garth from Wayne's World...the perpetually adolescent hacker who can believe any paranoid conspiracy, no matter how farfetched. He's the one certain audience members seem to feel is representative of themselves.

Dean Haglund, who plays Langly, jokingly says that while he can't hack his way into top-level security systems, he too is a computer geek. "I am knowledgeable about computers - friends call me to fix their systems and stuff," he admits. "I am somewhere between a complete idiot and Langly on the computer, but he has that really cool software where he can just sit around reading books and drinking Tab while it works!"

If only it were that simple. Like the rest of us amateurs, Haglund suffers from "weird things happening" - like the recent disappearance of his web page from the server, It's almost enough to make him paranoid. "My page vanished off my site for no reason right around the time it was mentioned in Entertainment Weekly," he says suspiciously. "My sysop at my server's going, 'What happened to your web page?' Well, you tell me, tough guy!"

Perhaps his page's disappearance is related to Haglund's recent, hilarious online column in which he gave a blow-by-blow account of being forced to watch the Tommy and Pamela Anderson Lee sex tapes at a party. The Canadian-born actor writes his own pages and answers all his e-mail, to the delight of his fans. "Coding now is completely easy, all the Java and HTML stuff is kind of a breeze - it used to be hours, you needed to learn C++ and Visual Basic and drive yourself crazy. Now it's just fill in the blanks, isn't that great?" He still types the old code letters in himself.

Other than computers, the part of Haglund which has the most in common with Langly is the hair. "In the audition, I didn't even have the glasses - they only added that the day I got to set, and I was stuck with them ever since," he reveals. "We didn't know at the time they were going to be recurring characters." At the audition, the producers told the actors almost nothing about the character - not even that Langly was a computer hacker.

Haglund recalls, "The audition was very silly, because Langly's on the phone in the episode 'E.B.E.' So I'm on the phone, while the two casting directors are talking to each other playing Frohicke and Byers - and I said, 'This is silly!' It was probably that attitude which got me the part," even though Haglund's Kung Fu (an '80s term for hacking) couldn't compete with Langly's. Not that he hasn't tried. "I remember when I was at university, they gave everyone an account, and then all we did was try to go into government files. But you'd find government files and they were really boring!"

Not, however, to the Lone Gunmen - editors of the fictional magazine The Lone Gunman, a journal of conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination and other government plots. The characters were supposed to make a one-time appearance, but writers Chris Carter, Glen Morgan and James Wong discovered from the Internet that the tech nerds were very popular. "In the early newsgroup, and when we showed up, everybody said, 'Hey look! They wrote characters that are representative of us! That's so nice!' I don't know whether it was deliberate or not, but it was mentioned early on that we were representational of the fan net in various ways."

So the part became recurring. The Lone Gunmen were recently featured in "Unusual Suspects," an episode about their origins working as a team, and they will make an appearance in the upcoming X Files movie...though Haglund himself says he cannot confirm that, as he signed a confidentiality agreement so strict that can't even admit there will be a movie. Asked whether there were any stunning revelations about the Lone Gunmen in the film, he jokes, "Yeah, we're all women!"

Asked to name his favorite episode, Haglund chose the recent "Post-Modern Prometheus," the black-and-white 'Great Mutato' episode directed by Chris Carter...which is surprising because Langly did not even appear in the episode, and actors seem to have a penchant for choosing their own grandest screen moments as their favorites. "I saw a rough cut [of the episode] - they said, 'Oh, you've got to see this,' and I figured I'd watch a couple of lines and turn it off. And I sat for an hour and watched the whole thing - [it] was riveting, it was so amazing, it was hilarious. Chris Carter is beyond a genius now." Though he would love to have made even a passing cameo, Haglund was overwhelmed by the theme: "It's sort of a Frankenstein episode, but it's all about loving."

The show's fan following is a source of pride to the actor, who says that conventions keep him fresh for improv comedy, his "day job." "I'm so pleased that somebody like Chris Carter can find an outlet through television where he can write and create intelligent, funny, thought-provoking material, and that people will follow it - often the concept is, 'Well, dumb it down for TV, you can't do anything that's other than monosyllabic.'" He finds the issue-oriented science fiction series to be the perfect format for discussing current sociological and political trends. "[Carter] was smart in doing that, and it's nice to see people responding to that - gives you a little faith in an audience. And they keep me on my toes as well - in improv and at cons, you're forced to be present and alive and into it, all those acting things, not the regular 45 minutes of written material, when you do that over and over and over again [until] you just sort of turn off."

Because he plays a conspiracy theorist, Haglund attracts fans who are interested in secret plots, both on the series and in real life. "Everyone's going, 'Well, what do you think of my theory?'" he reports, adding that he can't read speculation about the show, "because if one of these theories is correct to the actual mythology, I'm in big trouble - it'll be, 'Oh, I see, he picked mine because he read it on his e-mail!' And I'll get sued."

He has met fans who are as paranoid as Langly in terms of their beliefs. "There's a great guy who works for the Marshall MacLuhan Media Research Center in Toronto. He's got his own helicopter and he wears a suit, and he does radio on NPR and lots of consulting. His latest theory, which he stated as fact, was that Princess Di was assassinated by a particle beam by the Hapsburg family. The particle beam explains how the car got all bent up without another car hitting it."

The concept, Haglund continues in bemusement, is that the Hapsburgs and the Windsors, two European aristocratic families, are still having wars over control of the serfdom. The assassination served to decentralize the Windsor family so the Halsbergs could take over Europe, but the Windsor family allegedly assassinated Mother Teresa a week later in retaliation, to control the populace and destabilize the nation state. "For which this guy blamed The X-Files, because we have a story where the main line is that you can't trust your government," concludes the actor. "So by destabilizing your nation-state, it allows for the aristocratic powers to take over again."

This is not the only theory speculating that show creator Chris Carter is working for some NGO somewhere, and seriously paranoid viewers believe such theories are part of the reason The X Files is so popular. "'They,' whoever they is, allow [the series] to be popular to destabilize the government and give control back to the people who had the control before Gutenberg invented the printing press," Haglund quotes his informant. "The series is not about making money at all! It's a much larger picture."

As for The X Files themselves, Haglund jokes that he thinks Cancer Man did everything Frohicke accuses him of, and suggests that Scully give up on Mulder and Skinner so she can date the Lone Gunmen. "Date them all individually at separate times - not together, that'd be sick," he quickly adds. "But she should go out with Frohicke and then dump him, and then date Byers for awhile and realize he's a sap, and marry me." While he no longer has time to keep up with the newsgroups, Haglund does try to keep updated on what the David Duchovny Drool Brigade is up to. "They started voting which of the Lone Gunmen is their far, I only have one vote," he laments.

Haglund is unsure whether Langly was named after Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA, or after Langly, British Columbia. As one of the series' many Canadian contributors, the actor says, "We get two educations: we get our own Canadian history lessons in school, and then we get our American history lessons when we go home to watch TV. There's a bit of perspective to it. When Americans watch TV, they watch TV, but when Canadians watch TV, we watch American TV, and that's just enough of a distance to give you some perspective, in the comic's case, to make fun of the culture. I guess our perspective on it is that it's kind of silly!"

The actor has a home in Vancouver and another in Los Angeles, so that when he's out of town doing standup, he can pick which city to fly out of. Therefore, he's less worried than some of his fellow castmembers might be about the possibility that the show may move to Los Angeles next season. "I'd have to invite Bruce [Harwood] and Tom [Braidwood] over to my place, they could sleep on the sofa," he jokes, noting that the move would affect the crew more because most of them won't be able to cross the border.

The movie, he adds, had a completely different crew, most of whom did not watch the show, so they didn't recognize the actors - certainly not Haglund, who was on the set in character as Langly, looking like a film student. "I was walking around, and somebody said, 'Hey, get me a donut.' And I said, 'I've got to do a scene!' So he pulled out the TV Guide cover that we were all on and said, 'Oh, you're that guy!' It was funny."

Haglund's wife, a marine biologist, travels with him when she can, and "we both have e-mail so we talk to each other constantly." A lifelong science fiction viewer, Haglund grew up on Land of the Giants and Star Trek, which he parodied recently in a comedy show called Star Trick, The Musical. "I never got into Next Generation until we did Star Trick: The Next Improvisation, which was the Next Gen version of that - I started watching the shows then and getting into them, so I am a fan," he says.

An actor since elementary school, Haglund has an interdisciplinary college degree in modern dance, visual arts, video, and filmmaking. Science fiction ideas are not unusual elements in his one-man shows. "I did one where I'm performing with banks of televisions behind me, and I'm working on another one. Remember when ID4 came out, those little 18" aliens that were motion-controlled, you wave your hand in front of them and their head opens up and they scream? I'm getting, like, six of those, and I'm doing a movement/dance/theater piece with these heads automatically opening up as I get too close to them. I don't think I'll tour it or anything, it'll just be a little something for the art crowd!"

Though he's had "maybe three day jobs in his entire life," Haglund works primarily in comedy. He used to do written stand-up material, but I got bored with it. "So now I improvise every set - I improvise a brand-new episode of The X Files onstage, where audience members come up and join me, like I was doing at the conventions, that became so popular that I started doing it at the comedy clubs," he reports. "It's a joy to do, because I don't have to remember any of my lines, and I get to meet some of the people that I'm performing for, ever so briefly."

Haglund calls the Vancouver Theatre Sports League his day job. It's a league of about twenty-five performers, all doing open-ended improv based on audience suggestions. They're doing a show called The X-Mas Files this Christmas. Because the group has its own theater, performing seven nights a week, and Haglund can drop in when he's available, the work keeps him fresh.

With 500 channels coming up on cable, he sees a growing need for material, and with the Web getting more accessible, "everyone's going to have their own little TV station." So Haglund is looking for ways to combine his talent for the visual arts, primarily cartoons, with performing. "My parents still don't understand why I went into this acting thing when I had such a burgeoning animation career," he laughs. "Cartooning has been one of my gifts, I guess, because I've been doing that since I can remember - I used to copy drawings from Mad magazine. I have a sketchbook full of stuff."

He's even considering a comic book about antics on the set of The X Files. "I've been taking a sketchbook to the set and jotting down things that people have been saying - it's kind of tricky because it's all sort of inane banter. The blooper reel is kind of the fun stuff. I always try to get the inane boredom that goes on hour to hour for the comic book, but then, to write a boring comic book is to be boring."

Still, he can't imagine that The X Files could ever become boring. "When you see a TV show that's about the show, it's not about David or Gillian but about putting on a quality little feature film every week, when you see everybody working towards that, you start looking for that, rather than 'Boy, was my hair OK?'" he says. "Chris Carter sort of inspired everyone in those early years, and that's why the show has continued on to be as successful as it is."

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