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The truth is out there: David Duchovny has never forgotten his Aberdeenshire roots as he turns 60

David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X-Files which was first broadcast in August 1993.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X-Files which was first broadcast in August 1993.

He’s the actor who earned global fame for bringing Fox Mulder to life in The X-Files.

Even as he and his partner Dana Scully, played by Gillian Anderson, were investigating all manner of paranormal cases and labyrinthine conspiracies during the 1990s, David Duchovny’s character stuck to his belief: “The truth is out there”.

It was a mantra which resonated throughout the world, even among normally down-to-earth Scots from Aberdeen to Ardrossan – and that wasn’t surprising because Duchovny, who turns 60 on Friday, has always been proud of his Caledonian roots.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.

His mother, after all, is a gritty-as-granite Aberdonian, Meg Miller, whose family originally came from the coastal village of Whitehills, but who subsequently grew up in the city and graduated from Aberdeen University in 1952.

That helps explain why Duchovny, who was born in New York on August 7 1960, has been proud to talk about his background and how he was influenced both by Meg and his late father, Amram, a noted Yiddish writer and journalist, who was born in Brooklyn in 1927 and whose novel Coney was based on his childhood experiences as a Jewish immigrant before the start of the Second World War.

Duchovny and Anderson in a scene from the hit series.

One of his early visits back to Scotland – for the royal premiere of the romantic comedy Return to Me in 2000, which also starred Minnie Driver and Joely Richardson – led to Duchovny sporting a kilt in the family’s MacFarlane tartan and the occasion was attended by the late journalist Jack Webster, originally from Maud.

True to type, he soon settled into a conversation with Mrs Miller – who had flown in by Concorde from her home in Manhattan, where “she was revered as a head teacher and was determined not to miss her son’s triumphant homecoming”.

These two nuggety characters Meg and Jack, soon found themselves deep in conversation after striking a chord together and part of their chat revolved around the fact that it is indeed a very small world.

Or, as Mr Webster stated: “We are a clannish lot in the north-east, so there was much to talk about in our common background.

“In fact, I had heard of David Duchovny long before he became a star of film and television.

“His uncle was a good friend of mine, Andrew McLaren, who moved from Aberdeen to Glasgow and founded the engineering business of Clyde Fasteners in East Kilbride.

“Returning from trips to America, Andrew would keep me up to date with the progress of the young lad who was more interested in academia than acting in his teens.

“In the year of David’s birth, Andrew and his wife were returning to Southampton on the liner Queen Elizabeth when a premature labour surprised them in the middle of the Atlantic, leading to the unexpected delivery of twin girls.

Duchovny remains proud of his Scottish roots.

“Appropriately, these girls were there to greet Aunt Meg and their now-famous cousin, David, at the film premiere. So it was a family occasion all round, proudly celebrated at the cinema, where the stars addressed the audience, and the more relaxed slap-up party which followed at the Royal Museum of Scotland.

“Duchovny’s mother told me how her son was nearly 30 before his thoughts turned to acting, after being an academic figure at both Yale and Princeton. Clearly, she thought the world of him and he was perfectly happy to return the favour.”

When Meg Miller emigrated from Aberdeenshire nearly 70 years ago, she drummed into her son the value of hard work, of making friends on the way up the ladder because you never know when you might meet them in the opposite direction, and recognising that fame and fortune mean precious little without family and happiness.

Duchovny said later: “My mother grew up without money and she really valued hard work and education. I got the sense of being an underdog and not expecting life to give you any hand-outs and she prepared me for the struggle.

“She has always had an amazing work ethic and instilled it in me.

“If you had asked me what my life would have been like when I was 20, I would have told you that I could envisage myself writing in some way.

“Acting just kind of happened for me, but there are other things that I do. Whenever you have a huge success like The X-Files, it is a happy accident. But, at that point, I committed to acting as I have for the last 25 to 30 years.

“Yes, it was an accident, but I did apply my mother’s work ethic to my craft.”

A droll individual, Duchovny has joked about his disparate family roots and has even described himself as a “macaroon”, because of his mixed roots.

As he remarked: “I am half Scottish and half Jewish: it’s hard for me to buy anything!”

In the early days of his life, growing up in Manhattan, he had a cosmopolitan and varied childhood and was at home in a fast-developing world.

But he also enjoyed several trips back to Scotland and has recalled how he celebrated his 10th birthday on Erraid, a small island off the west coast.

This was the remote, but picturesque setting, off the Ross of Mull, which featured prominently in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Kidnapped.

After his parents divorced, Meg found a position at Grace Church School, where she was a popular teacher for many years.

Yet she has a realistic attitude to life and, according to Duchovny, was constantly reminding him that “poverty was just a small step away”.

That message hasn’t been lost on her son, who has poured himself into a variety of different pursuits, from acting to scripting, playing and recording in a rock band, directing episodes of The X-Files and creating a number of acclaimed literary works, including Miss Subways, which was published to glowing reviews in 2018.

The title reflected a very personal story dating back to Duchovny’s early days with his mum and he told The New York Times about the connection.

David Duchovny’s novel Miss Subways was published in 2018.

Maureen Dowd wrote: “The book is dedicated to his 88-year-old mother (and it tells) a story that actually happened to Mr Duchovny and his mom when he was a boy, eager to see the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.

“They missed their subway stop and ended up, flummoxed, in Queens.

“As Mr Duchovny writes in his dedication: ‘Our curiosity and incompetence taught us that it’s not the destination, it’s the ride, so stay on the train, the scenery will change’.”

The words convey the wanderlust which have seen so many Scots decide to up sticks and pursue a better life elsewhere, whether in North America, South Africa or further afield Down Under in Australia and New Zealand.

The X-Files featured a host of memorable villains and characters

The X-Files was initially a cult hit when the first few episodes were screened in 1993 after the idea was brought to fruition by writer-producer-director Chris Carter.

The original series aired on September 10 1993 and eventually ran for nine years and 202 episodes.

The X-Files first episode aired in 1993 and it remains much-loved by fans.

A short 10th season consisting of six episodes premiered on January 24 2016 and, following its ratings success, it returned for an 11th season of 10 instalments.

Two feature films were also released: the 1998 movie The X-Files, which took place as part of the TV series and was shot on a lavish scale with guest stars of the calibre of Martin Landau; and the stand-alone production The X-Files: I Want to Believe, a lower-budget release from 2008 which featured Billy Connolly as a paedophile priest.

The programme famously revolved around FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully who investigated classified X-Files: a string of marginalised, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena.

Mulder believed in the existence of aliens and the paranormal, while Scully, a medical doctor and a sceptic, was assigned to scientifically analyse Mulder’s discoveries, offer alternate rational theories to his work, and return him to mainstream cases.

Early in the series, both agents become pawns in a larger conflict and came to trust only each other and a few select people. The duo also discovered a hidden agenda by the government and a shadowy cabal which was determined to keep the existence of extraterrestrial life a secret.

Although the series became a global hit, the majority of viewers were gripped by the first four series and there was a general feeling it gradually slid downhill after that.

But there were some particular villains and characters who made a huge impression with audiences and remain memorable today.

Eugene Victor Tooms

Eugene Victor Tooms, played by The Green Mile star, Doug Hutchison, was capable of breaking into any premises on his grisly quest and made two appearances during the first series….prior to an escalated exit.

Duane Barry

Duane Barry, as depicted by Steve Railsback, was a troubled soul who kidnapped Scully and whose actions led to her being abducted – which gave a heavily pregnant Gillian Anderson a short time away from the show to give birth.

John Lee Roche


Serial killer, John Lee Roche, played by Tom Noonan, was a devilishly challenging antagonist for Mulder in the controversial episode Paper Hearts.

The Loch Ness Monster

Quagmire was one of the few episodes which actually mentioned the Loch Ness Monster in the script and featured a chilling assignment for the FBI duo.

The Cigarette Smoking Man

The Cigarette Smoking Man was the most persistent threat to Mulder and Scully during the series – the programme’s very own Darth Vader.

His first appearance was as an extra, smoking next to a filing cabinet without uttering a word – but Canadian actor William B Davis soon made the role a lot more than that.

From Hollywood star to chart star

David Duchovny has branched out into different areas and has released two CDs in the last five years and taken his band on the road.

Hell or Highwater, the debut studio album, was released on May 12 2015 through Thinksay Records and proved that he possessed ample rock chops and a formidable backing band.

The work featured a folk and alternative rock sound with elements from country music, while Duchovny cited various rock and folk artists such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Wilco, REM and the Flaming Lips as influences.

Duchovny only began playing guitar four years prior to the album and all of the songs were written in his apartment, but it understandably gained a lot of attention and airplay.

He said that while most songwriters claim that lyrics are the hardest part of songwriting, coming up with the music was more difficult for him.

He added that the lyrics were his life experiences and cited a Neil Simon quote: “Everything’s autobiographical, even the stuff you make up.”

The song Positively Madison Avenue was inspired by a Super Bowl commercial featuring Bob Dylan about the commercialism to which his kids were being subjected.

Having no singing experience, Duchovny took lessons from vocal coach Don Lawrence, although there was some criticism of his performances in the US music press.

The album was recorded in just a week and a half at Q Division Studios in Somerville in Massachusetts.

He followed that up with a second collection of songs Every Third Thought in 2018 and will be on the tour bus in the future after lockdown is eased.

As Fox Mulder, he used to channel his protagonist’s message: “I want to believe.”

But nowadays, as a successful rock musician, Duchovny is more concerned with getting the word out that he wants to be live!