The X-Files: Cold Cases is an Audible Original adaptation of the Season 10 comics by Joe Harris and Chris Carter, and was adapted by Dirk Maggs. A powerful combination of nostalgia and great acting made the audio drama a treat to listen to. What was it like to work with such cool material? We caught up with Dirk to ask him—as well as pose our Quick Six.
What was it like working with so much of the original X-Files cast? Are you a fan of the show?
It was really fun to play in the X-Files universe sandbox for a while. I thought the original tv series contained some groundbreaking ideas and dramatic themes. To re-create that world in sound – so that the listener isn’t just watching it, but is actually immersed in it – has been a thrill.
…and our standard Quick Six Questions:
What inspires you recently?
I get influenced by great storytelling, which can be a book, a movie or even a piece of music. Lately I have really been inspired by long-form adaptations on the small screen. “Preacher” from the graphic novels by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon and “American Gods” from the novel by my friend Neil Gaiman are particularly good.
What do you do when you aren’t actively writing or directing?
I have been playing drums in various rock and blues bands for a long time. Strange to say it relaxes me. Maybe that’s because it empties the room of most everybody else!
What makes a book/drama/play successfully adaptable, technically and artistically?
I think the key to a good adaptation is to start with a solidly constructed story with characters who draw you in. If you care about the people and want to know how they will deal with what is being thrown at them, you’re hooked.
What is your relationship to the material before you start, and how does creator/estate play in?
I’m very careful to involve creators in any material I adapt. That works great with someone like Neil Gaiman who is always ready to answer my questions but trickier with Douglas Adams, in which case I have to rely on the conversations we had when he was alive and sort of conjure him from memory. I’ve had a great relationship with Joe Harris while working on The X-Files:Cold Cases, and where it’s been necessary to expand areas of the story to explain where certain characters come from or taking opportunities to do stuff in audio that pictures alone can’t achieve, Joe has been amazingly supportive.
When editing for time, how do you decide what to keep and what to cut?
I’m very lucky in that Audible allows plenty of leeway time on these productions so we can tell the fullest possible story. But occasionally there are moments where a little trimming can help keep the action moving along. If there is a need to trim for time it’s important not to just cut everything but plot. I try to balance it by leaving in material that keeps the characters human and interesting.
What is the most important thing you need from your actors?
Regular hot drinks and cake at 3pm. Actors who remember to keep the director happy with small offerings of tea and cake get to finish their scenes early. (I jest.) (But I do like cake.)
Who is the gatekeeper/advice-giver when it comes to potential jobs?
My wife! If I’m not enjoying a project I’m grouchy. I like a challenge and the chance to create immersive stories. In that respect, working with Audible has been a lot of fun.
If you could spend a weekend with a fictional character in your world or theirs, who would it be?
Ooh tricky one. I think I’d spend a weekend with The Lone Gunmen and see if they couldn’t debug my laptop.
Who do you think has the most distinctive voice-over voices in the business today?
This would be a long list, so I’ll pick two. Voices that have real character and texture stick out for me. For example Titus Welliver reading the “Bosch” novels (or indeed playing the character on Amazon Prime). And having worked with her many times, I can never get enough of Lorelei King’s voice as an actress or as a narrator – she was wonderfully funny and feisty as Lois Lane in our Superman adventures years ago but can be equally dark and dramatic reading the latest Patricia Cornwell thriller.
What’s next for you?
Tea. (And cake, if any is left!)
Listening to Cold Cases was a delight! Hearing the original actor’s voices for so many of our favorite characters was a nostalgic trip into a series that feels like an old friend. The sound is richly designed, and feels like you’re experiencing the TV episodes. Everyone still has the old chemistry magic, and the combined talent of the cast brings the stories to life in your ears. I particularly loved hearing The Lone Gunmen back in action.