Rhys Darby on Playing an X-Files Monster and the Future of Flight of the Conchords

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Photo: Jeff Vespa/WireImage

The third episode of Fox’s rebooted The X-Files is a gift for fans of the series, a beautiful stand-alone horror-comedy written and directed by Darin Morgan, the man behind classic episodes like “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “War of the Coprophages.” In his latest, “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” Kumail Nanjiani of Silicon Valley and Rhys Darby of Flight of the Conchords co-star in a tongue-in-cheek send-up of Universal monster movies as Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate mysterious sightings and animal attacks in the woods. Darby took some time out from filming a future show called Wrecked (which he describes as “a comedy version of Lost”) in Puerto Rico to discuss the legacy of The X-Files, his on-set injury, and the future of Flight of the Conchords.

Were you a fan of The X-Files before you signed on?
Yeah, absolutely, but I only really saw the first three seasons and then got waylaid into various jobs, touring, stand-up, all the rest of it. Didn’t see the movies, but have since gone back into it.

How did you get involved?
Just the audition. Just a call from the usual sources. My management — I get quite a few big auditions for dramatic sorts of things, and I give it a shot. And this time I kind of thought this would be another letdown for me. [Laughs.] But as soon as I went in, both Darin and Chris [Carter] were there, and they kind of had a twinkle in their eye about me. The only bit of script I got was an emotional kind of scene, and I did that, and I was surprised I got it after that. So for a while, I thought this was going to be a dramatic episode, and I have to put my acting skates on and that sort of stuff. Then I read the script and thought, Hang on, this is really quite humorous. So I thought it was great I could be funny and have a fantastic amount of work to do on the episode.

I heard you injured yourself?
Like the second scene we shot. A fight sequence at the gravestones. We had a stunt coordinator, but we didn’t have any stunt doubles. So it was like, “You move there, you move there, and, also, we’re going to use a smashed bottle, if that’s okay.” So, yeah, I just cut my finger, and it required a couple of stitches. That’s my X-Files scar. It was great. It might have been my first fight sequence as well. [Laughs.]

What’s Darin like to work with? Does he allow your input into a character? How loose or how strict is he with things like improv?
His writing’s fantastic. He’s strict on how he wants things done, but he’s not a very forceful man. He’s nice, soft-spoken, and gentle. He would give me quite good praise when I was doing well. I had quite the workload in terms of dialogue. I had a huge story to tell, and I was hoping for the most part it would be voice-over, but he also wanted me to do it on-camera. He was great. He let me do my own thing now and again. I had to sort of keep myself in line. Normally, in a comedy situation, I do improvise and go off script and try and make it funnier than it was on paper. This was more meticulous in its writing, so I had to stick to it.

Why do you think interest remains so high in The X-Files?
I think it’s still the search for the unknown. It’s still the belief that there’s something else out there that we’re not told, and this is the closest show to mine that truth. And it’s compelling. Obviously, the two leads are wonderful together. It’s the monster of the week as well. I think it’s the question that can never be answered: Why are we here? It’s the ultimate question. Why are we doing this? I guess we ultimately want to find out before we die what it’s all about.

Interesting you mention monster of the week because your episode has that old-fashioned monster-movie vibe, sort of like Creature From the Black Lagoon. Was that an influence Darin mentioned, or am I reading into that too much?
Not so much, but you can see it was sort of a throwback to that era. It just let so wonderfully into the humor. When I first saw the hotel, I thought, Brilliant, of course he would stay here. It’s just that creepy kind of place.

Were you a fan of those movies?
Yes. I still watch them. I love them. They’re silly, but they still give you the thrills. I don’t think you can beat a costumed monster. It’s brilliant. I’ll take that over CGI any day.

Do you believe in any supernatural stuff?
Yes, I do actually. I have a radio show/podcast called The Cryptid Factor, which is about the search for creatures that may or may not exist. [We get] reports from people all over the world. I do this show with two other chaps. We have a news segment about Weekly World Weird News. It’s very humorous, but we also take it seriously. It’s kind of teenage boy[ish]. I’m fully into it.

I know it’s only six episodes, but it could always end up being more — would you come back to the show if invited?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I would love to. It was such a cool experience, and I just can’t wait for the fans to see. I think they’re gonna be like, “Look what he got to do!”

What show would you like to see resurrected if you had the chance to pick any show?
Fantasy Island. I would twist it and make it a bit darker. I love the weirdness of this island that people turn up to and things go very badly. I would make it a little bit more X-Files.

We’ll try and get you involved.
I’d love to be the guy who welcomes you to the island. That wonderful white suit and tattoo.

Can you update us on what’s happening with Flight of the Conchords?
Last I heard we were looking at finding a film script. It’s down to Bret [McKenzie] and Jemaine [Clement], who were, last I heard, coming up with movie ideas about where it would go next.