The X-Files’ Smoking Man Turns 76: Today In Science & Science Fiction

By David Wharton | 7 years ago

CSMActor William B. Davis is one of those actors who will forever be associated with one role: The X-Files’ mysterious, duplicitous, carcinogenic “Smoking Man.” Or “Cancer Man.” Or “C.G.B. Spender.” Whatever you want to call him, he was the dark heart of Chris Carter’s byzantine sci-fi thriller series, the face given to the forces that stood arrayed against Agents Mulder and Scully’s pursuit of the truth. He is one of the best TV villains ever to lurk moodily in the shadows, and even if that role was the only thing he’d ever done, Davis would have earned his place in pop culture history.

But, as is always the case, there’s more to the guy than just a cinematic chain-smoker. Oddly enough, he’s the mirror opposite of his X-Files character in a couple of ways: he works with the Canadian Cancer Society (they’re against it) and lectures on skepticism at events such as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s CSICON. (As he puts it, “The onus is on you to prove the extraordinary …I did a lot of research and saw where a lot of the arguments were wanting.”) The dude loves water-skiing. And not while puffing on a cancer stick, presumably.

While The X-Files is the role he’ll always be best known for, he’s continued to work steadily well into his ‘70s, a sure sign of a guy who just flat-out loves what he does for a living. Unsurprisingly, he’s popped up on tons of other geek-skewing shows over the years, including Smallville, Stargate SG-1, and Caprica. More recently, he’s got a recurring role on Continuum, playing the future version of Kiera’s present partner, Alec Sadler.

Here’s hoping Mr. Davis keeps on waterskiing — and popping up on shows we love — for many years to come.


Tonight on Television

Almost Human (Fox, 8/7c) — “You Are Here”

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Intelligence (CBS, 10/9c) — “Rex X”

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