Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny say they learned to appreciate being known for "The X-Files" characters.
"It took me a long time to embrace it after we were done with the series," Anderson said, joining Duchovny and series creator Chris Carter at a TV critics' meeting to promote the upcoming six-episode reboot of the Fox series.
"It took a good decade for me to start thinking of it as the gift that it was and appreciate the opportunity I had and how fortunate I was to play a great, iconic character in a show that was iconic in itself," said Anderson.
Duchovny, who played FBI agent Fox Mulder to Anderson's agent Scully in the 1993-2002 drama, said that perspective was key to revisiting it. "The X-Files" debuts Jan. 24 on Fox, with Joel McHale a new addition.
"It took a while to recognize it as the gift that it is, and that's why we're able to come back now," Duchovny said. "It acted as a spur to me to go out and actually do more work, to keep expanding myself as an artist. ... It was both a gift and a spur to not settle after it was done."
Both followed the "X-Files" and its two follow-up movies with very different work. Duchovny starred in Showtime's "Californication" and branched into writing books and music. Anderson appeared in a variety of stage and screen projects that included classics "Bleak House" and "Great Expectations," both for TV.
The actors were asked to discuss the on-screen chemistry they shared in "X-Files" as their characters waded through government plots and crimes with bizarre twists.
"There is something extra, and I don't know what that is. It seems like it's separate from us," Anderson said.
"You can feel it right now," Duchovny said, drawing laughs. "But I think at this point, having known each other and worked together so much for the last, over 20 years, we've gone beyond chemistry to history, which is a really cool thing to play as well."
Carter said the limited run will include "mythology" episodes, such as those in the original series that focused on Mulder's effort to prove a government cover-up about aliens on Earth. There's also a comedic-slash-horror episode, which also harkens back to the original "X-Files" formula.
The Lone Gunmen conspiracy-theory trio also will be back, although they did "meet their maker" in a previous season, Carter said, explaining that "they're actually back in a fantasy."
"Scully's fantasy," Anderson said, smiling.
Whether more "X-Files" episodes are ahead remains to be seen.
"I'm waiting for Fox to come back and say, we want more of these," Carter said.