Before Breaking Bad made them Emmy-winning A-listers, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul made separate guest appearances on episodes of The X-Files. They were but two of the future stars that would put in time on the 1990s most iconic sci-fi/horror show. It’s an odd but interesting club, featuring future Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds, comedy powerhouse Jack Black, actor/writer/producer/director Seth Green, future Charlie’s Angels star Lucy Liu, and more. The X-Files played hosts to lots of great guests, and clearly had an eye for talent.
What makes the case of Cranston and Paul a bit more interesting though is that it was with The X-Files that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan first earned credibility in Hollywood. Without his X-Files success, Breaking Bad likely never would’ve happened, as the project took a while to get going even with that track record in Gilligan’s corner. Cranston and Paul aren’t even the only two actors that connect the shows, as people like Dean “Hank Schraeder” Norris and Raymond “Tuco Salamanca” Cruz also guest starred on The X-Files.
Cranston and Paul appeared in two very different X-Files episodes, during two very different periods of the show’s lifespan, Cranston in season 6 and Paul in season 9. Here’s what characters they played, and what happened to them in their respective stories.
Bryan Cranston guest starred on the season 6 X-Files episode “Drive.” The future Walter White played a man named Patrick Crump, who takes Mulder hostage. Crump isn’t an entirely bad guy though, despite exhibiting some racist behavior, as he’s desperately trying to stave off a rising pressure in his brain caused by a surging government antenna array near his home. The only way he seems to be able to do this is to drive west. Mulder and Crump eventually get on civil terms, and he tries to arrange with Scully to save the afflicted man. Unfortunately, Crump dies before that can happen. Vince Gilligan wrote this episode, and it directly led to Cranston’s casting on Breaking Bad.
Aaron Paul guest starred on the season 9 X-Files episode “Lord of the Flies.” The future Jesse Pinkman played a high school daredevil – obviously inspired by the rise of shows like Jackass – named David Winkle, better known by the ridiculous nickname of “Sky Commander Winky.” When one of Winky’s friends dies during a stunt, Mulder and Scully find that his brain appears to have been eaten from the inside by flies. It turns out the school principal and her son are both human/fly hybrid creatures. Surprisingly, Winky survives the episode, albeit covered with lice. Ewww.