The X-Files was a great show. A lot of imagination and creativity went into the production. Every show has its villain. In The X-Files they frequently changed from one episode to another, but as the show began to build up momentum one character became regular. He was a mysterious and dark character, intriguing viewers with every appearance. He was known as the cigarette smoking man. The smoke added mood to the show, it had something about it that fascinated audiences and kept them glued to their TVs while the show was on. The cigarette smoking man was played by William B. Davis – actor, director, and an atheist. Take a short break from your life and engulf on a short journey of getting to know him. Do you think he’s anything like the cigarette smoking man was in the The X-Files? Find out. Well, the beginning is the best start. I think a lot of our readers would love to know how you came about to be a nonbeliever. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of stories and I would love to hear yours. More and more I find this a curious question. People rarely ask a religious person how they came to be a believer. Surely non belief is the default. For some reason some people come to believe in some deity. I had no reason to believe in one and so I didn’t. Yes, I pretended to believe in God as a child but it seemed pretty pointless after awhile. No one in my family seemed to believe, I did keep asking the question however and that was part of my reason for studying philosophy. You studied philosophy in the university; did it help your acting career in anyway? Critical thinking is helpful both for acting and directing. A willingness to explore a text rigorously rather than relying on hunch. Why EXACTLY does a character say this rather than something else. And of course the mental workout transfers to exploration of theme in complex material. I recall watching The X-Files show when I was younger. Your character, Cigarette Smoking Man, helped set the mood for the show. The mysterious, smoking figure always fascinated me. Do you think playing such a mysterious character changed your personality? How similar or different is this character to your real personality? The character – fortunately – is very different from me. Most people comment on this when they first meet me if they have only known me through the show. I’m actually a pretty nice guy who tries to think the best of most people. And I have no faith or belief in conspiracies of any kind. I am pretty certain playing the character did not change my personality. We call it acting as we put ourselves in imagined situations and live truthfully. But we know the circumstances are imagined. While on this subject, do you think Cigarette Smoking Man was a nonbeliever? It’s not a question I ever thought to ask. All the gods I know of seem to have a particular relationship to the planet Earth. But if there are beings on many planets, the god would not be one from our traditions. No idea what it would be. I doubt if CSM thought about it at all. From an actor’s perspective, why do you think actors and other celebrities are not very active in support of atheist movement? One would think that it’s about fans and money, but on the other hand they go around telling everyone they’re atheists during interviews. For example, Daniel Radcliffe said he’s an atheist and Brad Pitt said he’s 20% atheist and 80% agnostic. What is it then? What keeps them away from being part of it? Be it separation of church and state, creationism and intelligent design in classrooms, and the rest. Perhaps there are two questions here. Maybe an atheist movement is really an oxymoron. How can you have a movement about nothing? You can have advocacy for the rights of non believers but I’m not sure that more than that is really possible. As for actors and celebrities, don’t forget they are dependent on fans for their success and they mostly live in the USA where atheism is still a bad word. I read somewhere that an atheist would have no chance of being elected president for instance. So if you value your celebrity status this might be an issue on which you would be cautious. Yes, 2008 Gallup poll shows that atheists are one of the least trusted groups in the US. On the bright side, general public trusts atheists more than scientologists. This group includes some of the most prominent Hollywood stars. Such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Catherine Bell. How can they affiliate themselves with the least trusted group of people and yet keep fans and money? What’s your opinion on this? For one thing they aren’t running for president. But they are religious – that’s important in the US. And they attract followers because they are celebrities. Let’s talk about the greatest treasure in the world, our children. You are a father, Mr. Davis, how did you raise your kids? Did they roll far from the tree or did they follow your footprints into non-belief? Once again I fall back on the default. I was apart from my kids a lot during their teen years, an unhappy divorce and all, and as we have regained contact, belief is not an issue that has ever come up. I guess if they had become seriously religious I would have noticed but frankly I have never discussed it with either of them. Now that you mention it I will have to ask them. Lastly, I know you are working on a new book that is supposed to come out some time at the end of this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? It’s a memoir tentatively titled “Where There’s Smoke ….” It tells the unlikely story of my life from the early days of theatre in Canada through the heyday of British theatre in the sixties to The X-Files and the present day. It is a very personal story – not perhaps of an unusual person but certainly an unusual life. It should appeal to aficionados of Canadian theatre, fans of The X-Files, and anyone who likes to get inside another person’s life story. Is the publication date set yet? No – don’t have a publisher or a first draft yet. I would hope for some time in 2010. There you have it. A short look into the life and personality of William B. Davis, the famous Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files.
An interview with William B. Davis, the cigarette smoking man from The X-Files
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