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''The X-Files'' biggest baddie

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He plays the most infamous one-armed TV character since The Fugitive‘s Fred Johnson, but Nicholas Lea, 35, the man behind The X-Files‘ sexy antagonist Alex Krycek, draws a different comparison. ”Krycek’s like a Huggy Bear for the ’90s,” says the Vancouver native. ”He’s always saying ‘If you want some information, you’ll have to give me something in return.’ He pops in and out of the shadows to create havoc now and then.”

And how. After debuting in the ’94 episode ”Sleepless” as a green FBI agent, Krycek soon showed his true colors, aligning himself with Cancer Man’s dark cadre, then evolving into a freelance renegade. That amorality has gotten him car-bombed, dangled from a balcony, and infected with the dreaded alien ”black oil.”

Coexec producer Frank Spotnitz, who’s seen baddies come and go, credits Krycek’s staying power to Lea: ”He brings enormous reality to the character. It’s difficult to make an audience love you and hate you. And he’s done that.”

Lea’s knack for unctuous evil got him an audition for Billy Zane’s role in Titanic. He’s also talking with the NYPD Blue folks about taking over for the departing Jimmy Smits — a possibility about which he’s both modest (”I don’t see myself as someone who could take Smits’ place”) and psyched (”Hopefully, I can do both shows. It’d be one of the best one-two punches”).

Although X‘s season finale has no scenes between Cain-and-Abel-esque Mulder and Krycek (and, sadly, Krycek doesn’t appear in June’s X feature), Lea’s confident he’ll be ”the antihero to Mulder’s hero” for some time. ”Both are survivors, and there’s a respect that goes back and forth.” Plus, Lea notes, ”Krycek’s got nine lives.”

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