by Frank Garcia

How rare it is to find an actor in television who's performance in a string of episodes has become so popular that a recurring (and paying) acting role springs from the opportunity. A Canadian actor born in New Westminster, British Columbia, a suburb in the city of Vancouver, Nick Lea has made a name for himself as a reliable, inventive blue collar actor in a variety of TV series guest spots. Over the years he's made appearances in Canadian and American dramas beginning with Stephen J. Cannell's THE COMMISH and THE HAT SQUAD. His craft continued to be honed on E.N.G., and LONESOME DOVE: THE OUTLAW YEARS,

In the course of bouncing around different shows, Lea has also managed appearances in such science fiction genre shows as SLIDERS, HIGHLANDER, THE BURNING ZONE and THE X-FILES.

Today, he's Victor Mansfield on a Canadian TV series adaptation of director John Woo's film ONCE A THIEF.

Herewith are some of Nicholas Lea's favorite memories from his 11 episodes of THE X-FILES from the first season to the fourth season as well as brief comments on other notable television projects.

  • ON GENDER BENDER: This episode was Lea's first appearance on the show, not as Krycek, but as a patron in a dance club who survives the murderous acts of the gender-switching alien. "I had no clue of what was to come after this episode," says Lea. "My biggest memory of this was lying in that hospital bed. I lay there for hours as they set up everything and it was terrifying being in the hospital.

    Director Rob Bowman, he says, "was incredibly supportive. I had a lot of ideas and he listened to me and used some of them. The scene where I see the incident happen and I turn and see it in the car window, I said, 'Why don't we fog up the window, and wipe it away and then I see it. Little things like that he would listen to all the time. Rob was the biggest influence to me in getting the role of Krychek. They saw 30 guys in L.A. then they came to see me. I was the only guy they read and then I got the role. So, every time I see Rob, I give him a dollar 'cause he was basically responsible for me being on the show. It's great to have him as a supporter."

  • ON SLEEPLESS: This is Alex Krychek's ignoble introduction to the series and to the life of Fox Mulder. Later in the series, pivotal events that will spin into greater darkness for Mulder.

    "My look was part of the thing. I asked to get my hair cut that particular way. I worked the costume designer trying to choose wardrobe that was bland looking so outwardly you'd see the character as one thing and the duplicity would come through later."

  • ON DUANE BARRY: This episode, creator Chris Carter's visually arresting directorial debut, is considered as one of the series' best episodes among fans. Lea says that he too admires the work accomplished here, even though "I learned a lot from watching Steve Railsback. What was on paper was 'mad man' and what he brought to it was like a little boy, I thought. He played against what was on the page and brought something completely different to that episode. Hopefully, the good actors bring more to the screen than what's on the page."

  • ON ASCENSION: "I think that's the first time you start to see Krychek doubting his job and his orders. That was subtly what I was trying to portray, but you also see the flipside. He can be very dark and mean. It was somewhat a turning point because he was getting to do things he would never have bargained for.

    "I don't think Krychek is evil and dark. He's an ordinary guy in unusual circumstances who's following orders and doing what he thought was right and found out that you can't trust anybody because eventually they'll try to kill you.

    "Krychek was a pawn but not anymore. He's the only free agent in the show now to some degree. He doesn't really answer to anybody now as far as I can tell. There's the good guys, bad guys and Krychek is somewhere in between.

    "The deeper Krychek gets into the shit the more he changes. I wanted his clothing, hair and physical look to be different. If you look at 'Piper Maru' there's certainly a physical change in what he looks like.

  • ON ANASAZI/THE BLESSING WAY/PAPER CLIP: "It was strange killing my [real-life] girlfriend [Melinda McGraw] on the show. She may be coming back too something on it as well." Sadly however, Lea confesses, "She's not my girlfriend anymore..."

    "It was fun running away from the exploding car in 'Paper Clip.' I was 60-70 feet away from it. You should have seen the explosion. I could feel the heat up the back of my head. It pushed me! It was exciting!"

  • ON PIPER MARU/APOCRYPHA: The climax of the second parter was most arduous for Lea. "Sometimes you shoot thinking it's going to be one way and then find its not what you wanted. It was a situation that required a couple of hours of prosthetic work in order to achieve the effect, so I had to go back in and do it again, breathing through a straw. I couldn't eat, rink or see with this makeup. It was a frustrating environment to be in and when we had to reshoot, that was doubly frustrating.

    "They asked me if I wanted to do it with the mask. [But] it could have been anybody. The special effects guy was going to do it and I said no, it's acting so I think I should be doing it. It's hard to study for something like that. You just have to deal with it."

  • ON TERMA/TUNGUSKA: "David [Duchvony] and I usually have fun [working together] so the conditions here didn't matter. We are good friends and we had fun."

  • ON WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH KRYCHEK BETWEEN X-FILES EPISODES: "I think he's just trying to survive. Every time we see him now he's just barely hanging in there. Just trying to stay afloat - basically out there in the big bad world. He's wanted by the syndicate, by Mulder, and on and on."

  • ON SLIDERS (1995) in "Luck of the Draw" and "Into the Mystic" as Ryan. In the first episode, Lea was a "lottery winner" in an unusual society on one of the many alternate "Earths" in which our intrepid characters have arrived. In order to keep the planetary population under 500 million, a "lottery" system was developed where winners are victims of enforced executions.

    In this story, Ryan falls in love with Wade Welles as played by actress Sabrina Lloyd.

    "Tracy [Torme series co-creator and executive producer] wanted me to be more involved in the show, but the network didint' want to start the second season with Jerry being shot and wanted it to start like nothing ever happened. They wanted to start fresh. Tracy fought for me to have that one line [in "Into the Mystic"]. It was embarrassing. I would not have committed to an entire season of the show."

  • ON HIGHLANDER: "The Fighter" (1993) as Rodney Lang and "Money No Object" (1996) as Corey Raines.

    Regarding the first episode, Lea says that "It was a small role. I played the alcoholic brother of the guest star. It was fun to play that down on his luck spineless character. The second episode I did was more of a Bonnie and Clyde comedy episode and we were robbing banks and getting killed. Adrian [Paul] would come and dig us up and we'd do it all over again. It was fun." ON John Woo's ONCE A THIEF (1997-98) as Victor Mansfield: "I become emotionally involved in most of the projects I do so when they aren't as good as they can be it can be frustrating. I think the show can be better than it is. It's fun but I think they can go deeper with it, frankly. It can be better but may be that's just growing pains.

    "I love doing the action stunts. It comes easy to me being truthful on camera. It's more of a challenge than running around shooting guns so it's fun. Sometimes it's hard on the body, but it's fun."