After 9 consecutive years on the air, two movies, and a revival series, is it any wonder The X-Files has racked up an impressive number of guest stars over the years? From famous cameos to guest spots done by future famous actors, there are plenty of surprises for anyone who goes back to watch the iconic cult show today.
There are so many guest stars that have appeared in the show that it would be impossible to list them all here so we’ve had to make an effort to pick the very best 15 actors you totally forgot appeared on the show. To narrow down the search we’ve only chosen actors who appeared in the show physically — so sorry to Jodie Foster who provided a voiceover — and had to have had a significant role (apologies Michael Bublé, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it background role).
From Marvel superheroes to chubby comedians and everybody in between, here are 15 Stars You Forgot Appeared On The X-Files.
15. Ryan Reynolds
Long before the Canadian-born heartthrob was kicking ass and taking names as the Merc with a Mouth (AKA Deadpool) Ryan Reynolds was just a young struggling actor in his home country. Luckily for him The X-Files shot its first 5 seasons in the rainy forest areas of Vancouver, allowing the young actor to score a minor role in an episode in season 3. His character doesn’t last long, though, being killed off in the opening scene to set up the monster of the week for that episode.
Since then, Reynolds has become a household name starring in movies like Blade: Trinity, The Proposal, Buried, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Green Lantern. But of course none of those have come anywhere near the popularity or cult status of his latest role — playing the superhero he was born to play in the 2016 smash hit Deadpool. We can’t help but wonder Mulder and Scully would think if they ever came across the foul-mouthed enhanced superhuman in their pursuit of the paranormal?
14. Jack Black
This comedian, best known for movies like School of Rock, High Fidelity, Shallow Hal, Tropic Thunder, and the Kung Fu Panda movies, once had a guest role on an episode of the X-Files, very early in his career. During the 3rd episode of the 3rd season, a young Black played Bart “Zero” Liquori, alongside the other famous face: Giovanni Ribisi.
Ribisi played the main suspect for the X-Files case — a teenager in Oklahoma who could summon lightning and was killing people with it — while Black played the idiot friend. Of course you don’t need to be a genius to figure out that being the idiot friend to a homicidal maniac isn’t going to end well. And it really doesn’t, with Black’s character ending up on the receiving end of a bolt of said lightning.
13. Terry O’Quinn
Terry O’Quinn has the distinction of playing not 1, not 2, not even 3, but 4 different characters in the X-Files universe. O’Quinn has been friends with creator Chris Carter for years, and as such, appeared in many of his works. His first appearance in the series was as Lt. Brian Tillman, a police officer who was having an affair with a woman who was, unbeknownst to him, a murderer. After that he appeared as Darius Michaud, a shifty FBI agent who kills himself in a bomb blast, in the X-Files movie Fight the Future. That was 3 years after his first appearance.
He then reappeared again in the 6th episode of the 9th season, playing an NSA operative who was actually a super-soldier known as the Shadow Man. That was four years after his appearance in the movie. The final character he played in the X-Files universe was Peter Watts, who appeared in the TV series Millennium– set in the same universe.
Of course nowadays O’Quinn is known for playing one of the more iconic characters, John Locke, in the cult TV series Lost.
12. Jewel Staite
Adam Baldwin, who played super-soldier Knowle Rohrer, in 5 episodes in season 8, isn’t the only notable Firefly cast member that has appeared in the sci-fi show. A very young Jewel Staite (AKA the cutest mechanic in the ‘verse, Kaylee) appeared in an episode of the show in season 3. Staite, who was only 13 at the time, played a teenaged kidnapping victim with a psychic connection to a former victim. Playing against that old Hollywood trend, Staite was actually younger than the character she was playing and had to be done up with make-up to make her look a bit older.
Since then Staite has gone on to become somewhat of a staple in sci-fi, from her career-defining role of Kaylee Frye in Firefly and the movie Serenity, to roles in Stargate Atlantis, Warehouse 13, Supernatural, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Other notable Firefly cast members who have appeared are Mark Sheppard (Badger), who played a man with pryokinesis, and Fredric Lehne (Ranse Burgess), who played a younger version of a policeman in flashbacks.
11. Lucy Liu
It’s always fun to see big name stars in such small insignificant roles before they were famous. Long before Lucy Liu was a household name, she had a number of guest spots on TV shows like Beverley Hills 90210, L.A. Law, Home Improvement, and ER. In 1996, a young Lucy Liu appeared in an episode of X-Files in a small role as the sick daughter of a man who joins an underground betting ring to pay for her treatment. Except the catch was that if you played a bad hand, you don’t just lose money, you lose an organ.
After that she went on find her breakout role as a main cast member for a large portion of the show Ally McBeal. That role eventually led her to becoming a Hollywood star in movies like Shanghai Noon, Charlie’s Angels, Chicago, Kill Bill, and Kung Fu Panda. More recently though she returned to her TV roots, landing the co-starring role as Joan Watson in Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock.
10. Laurie Holden
In 1996 Laurie Holden scored a multi-episode guest role starting in the 4th season of The X-Files, and appearing throughout the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th seasons. She played UN diplomat Marita Covarrubias, an informant who was leaking information to Mulder to help his investigations. She became one of the more important recurring guest stars and definitely made her mark on X-Files history.
After that she went on to have roles in Fantastic Four, Silent Hill, The Mist, and Outer Limits before landing a recurring role on the critically acclaimed drama The Shield. But of course, the thing she’s probably most famous for was her more recent starring role as Andrea in The Walking Dead. She starred as the gun-toting, zombie-slaying character for 3 seasons before her time was cut short (in comparison to her comic counterpart, who is still alive). Both Andrea and Marita are pretty divisive characters among their respective fandoms, but Holden managed to handle them both with grace.
9. Luke Wilson
The other Wilson brother (the one not famous for saying “Wow” a lot) has been in many projects over the years, including Idiocracy, The Royal Tenenbaums, Charlie’s Angels, Legally Blonde, That ’70s Show, Old School, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, 3:10 to Yuma, Blades of Glory, and The Skeleton Twins. But one role you might have forgotten about was his hilarious guest star spot in the 12th episode of the 5th season of The X-Files. He played a local Texas sheriff named Hartwell.
The comical episode featured Mulder and Scully recounting past events, each from a different perspective. In Scully’s version of events, Wilson’s Hartwell was a capable police officer who she found extremely charming, but in Mulder’s version of events, Wilson dons a row of prosthetic buck teeth and acts like a country bumpkin. The two agents spend the episode giving differing accounts, impersonating both Hartwell and each other in the recounts to great comedic effect.
8. Jesse L Martin
The 19th episode of the 6th season called “The Unnatural” was different for a number of reasons, the main one being that Mulder and Scully took a back seat while the episode told the story of a baseball player in the 1940s. Told almost entirely in flashback form, Mulder is interviewing an old recluse about a man he used to know when he was young – a baseball player who was actually an alien in disguise. The episode is a sweet story about looking for a place to belong, as the alien impersonates a human because of his love of baseball.
Said alien is played by Law & Order veteran and broadway star Jesse L Martin. Martin played Detective Ed Green in 198 episodes of the original Law and Order between 1999 and 2008. He’s also known for playing Tom Collins in the original Broadway run of Rent and its subsequent movie.
These days Martin has returned to the sci-fi genre, playing Detective Joe West, father of Iris and Wally West, in the CW’s version of The Flash.
7. Shia LaBeouf
It’s sometimes easy to forget that man who walked a red carpet with a paper bag on his head and participates in weird hipster performance art was once just a cute child actor. The former Transformers star and current internet meme appeared in an episode of The X-Files in 1999 when he was just 13 years old. LaBeouf played a sick boy who needed a transplant to live, and the case of the week involved his kindly neighbor using his supernatural luck to get money for the treatment.
Of course this wasn’t the first role LaBeouf had as a child. In fact, he was quite a prolific child actor. He starred in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Holes, I Robot, Constantine, Suddenly Susan, ER, Freaks and Geeks, and Touched by an Angel before he even reached the ripe old age of 20. He even starred in his own Disney channel show, Even Stevens when he was just 14.
Of course, since then you’ll more likely see him starring in Sia videos or making weird art, but he does have something new on the horizon in 2017: playing John McEnroe in the Swedish biographical film Borg vs. McEnroe.
6. Jane Lynch
Famous for playing the mean, tracksuited cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester in the musical comedy series Glee, Jane Lynch has actually been around for a long time, playing various supporting and guest starring roles in both comedy and drama. One such dramatic turn was during the 5th episode of the 9th season of The X-Files, where she played a school principle and overprotective mother who later turned out to be a vicious serial-killing bug/woman hybrid… that’s The X-Files for you. She also shares this episode with another actor on the list, but more on that later.
Lynch has gone on to star in a range of different movies, from comedies– like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Role Models, and Talladega Nights– to more serious movies like Julie and Julia. She’s also guest starred in so many different shows over the years: Veronica Mars, Party Down, Psych, Monk, Criminal Minds, Weeds, and Gilmore Girls. But likely she’ll always be remembered for saying things like “I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark cold night I will steal away into your home and punch you in the face” with a straight face.
5. Lucy Lawless
Lucy Lawless is an icon of the sci-fi/fantasy genre so it makes sense that she’d appear somewhere in this iconic genre show. The Warrior Princess herself played another awesome female character in 2 episodes of the 9th season of the show. Shannon McMahon — a super-soldier with no weaknesses who can’t be killed– was an old friend of Mulder’s season 8 replacement, John Doggett, and was experimented on to create an unstoppable killing machine. Unstoppable, of course, until Lawless became pregnant and had to be written out of future episodes.
Lawless is a bastion of geekdom from her days playing Xena the Warrior Princess as well as for appearing in Battlestar Galactica, Spartacus, Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, Parks and Recreation, Veronica Mars, and Flight of the Concords. She also provided voices for The Simpsons, Adventure Time, and for Wonder Woman in Justice League: New Frontier.
4. Garry Shandling and Tea Leoni
This hilarious cameo appears in the 19th episode of the 7th season called “Hollywood A.D.” and came about because of David Duchovny. In addition to starring as main character Mulder, Duchovny also spent some time behind the camera and in the writing room, writing and directing both this episode and the previously mentioned “The Unnatural” with Jesse L Martin.
In this self-referential comedic episode, Mulder and Scully find themselves in their most dangerous environment yet — Tinseltown. Agent Skinner’s old friend who is now a big-time Hollywood producer creates a movie based on what his old friend has told him about the X-Files. So Mulder and Scully set off to L.A. to watch the film’s premiere. There they meet the two actors who will be playing the fictionalized versions of them, Garry Shandling and Tea Leoni.
Scully and Mulder are absolutely horrified as they watch their on-screen counterparts battle “sniper zombies” and the Smoking Man dressed up as the Pope. The whole thing is made even funnier by the fact that Tea Leoni was at the time David Duchovny’s real life wife.
3. Bruce Campbell
One of the icons of the campy, cult horror genre, Bruce Campbell was the perfect choice to be a part of the 7th episode of the 6th season called “Terms of Endearment”. In the episode, Campbell’s character turns out to be a demon who is trying to have a normal baby with a human. The plot also involves another demon trying to have demon spawn with him (and succeeding, as we see when she drives off into the sunset with a red-eyed baby in her arms). The episode became even better with the casting of Campbell in the role, as he is best known for playing the chainsaw-wielding, demon-slaying Ash in the Evil Dead movies.
Campbell has become some what of a genre icon over the years, appearing in the aforementioned Evil Dead trilogy, Maniac Cop, Hercules, Xena, Fargo, Escape from L.A., Sky High, Psych, and the Spider-Man movies. In 2007 he starred as one of the lead roles in the action show Burn Notice and in 2015 got the chance to revisit his most famous role by playing an older Ash Williams in Ash vs Evil Dead on the Starz network. The show was a hit and is currently renewed for a 3rd season.
2. Richard Belzer
This entry is unique because not only did Law & Order: SVU star Richard Belzer guest star in the 3rd episode of the 5th season — he actually played his SVU character. Detective John Munch is famously the only fictional character in history that has shown up in 10 different TV shows. Richard Belzer has played Detective Munch in Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order: SVU (both of which he was a main character in), Law & Order the original series, The Beat, Law & Order: Trial By Jury, The Wire, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, and The X-Files. He also appeared on Sesame Street once, in Muppet form.
In 1997, the creators of The X-Files were faced with a conundrum when stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were stuck in L.A filming The X-Files movie. The solution? Make an episode focused on the Lone Gunmen instead. In the episode “Unusual Suspects”, the Lone Gunmen get into a world of trouble and are arrested. While waiting in an interrogation room at the police station, they are questioned by a police officer played by Belzer, who then introduces himself as Detective Munch. Fans can rejoice that Dana Scully and Olivia Benson inhabit the same universe.
1. The Cast of Breaking Bad
When Walter White first broke bad, the pop culture climate was never quite the same. Not only did it become one of the greatest TV shows of all time, it also boosted the careers of its mostly small-time actors. Now when you go back to a lot of older shows, you can see quite of few of the pre-success Breaking Bad crew floating around as guest stars.
In its 9 year run, The X-Files managed to include at least 3 of the major players that would go on to inhabit Walter White’s world, including the man himself.
Dean Norris, AKA Hank Schrader, was in the 22nd episode of season 2, playing a U.S. Marshal who helps out Mulder and Scully on a case. Aaron Paul, AKA Jesse Pinkman, appeared in the same episode as Jane Lynch (listed earlier), playing the school jerk who films his friends doing stupid stunts in the hopes they’ll end up on a reality show called Dumbass. Unsurprisingly, things don’t end well for him.
And finally the man himself, Bryan Cranston, appeared as the lead guest star in the episode “Drive”, playing a man who takes Mulder hostage and forces him to drive west. It is revealed that driving west non-stop is the only thing that is relieving symptoms of a deadly and painful condition.
Anyone who questioned how exactly the dad from Malcolm in the Middle got the role of Walter should watch this episode. After all, it’s what got him the job in the first place.
Tell us who was your favourite X-Files guest star in the comments!