Rhys Darby is in Vancouver shooting an episode for the forthcoming reboot of The X-Files. "It's freaky," he says over the phone. "It's The X-Files so I'm not sleeping at night."
Darby is a talented stand-up comedian, actor, writer and ex-soldier in the New Zealand Army who currently lives in Los Angeles. Best known for playing the well-meaning but inept band manager, Murray Hewitt, on the HBO show Flight of the Conchords, Darby has shown remarkable range as a dynamic film and television actor, on his own stand-up specials, and in his bestselling 2008 novel, This Way to Spaceship!
He brings his latest stage show, I'm a Fighter Jet!, to Montreal's Just for Laughs festival on July 22 and 24 and is juggling a few projects currently, including The X-Files.
"I'm very much into the paranormal, but was actually in the army back then, in the '90s, so I missed a lot of it," he explains when asked if he was an X-Files fan when the show originally aired. "I was running around in the forest myself, digging holes for no apparent reason."
When prodded about his role on the new version, Darby admits everything's pretty hush hush for now. "I am the guest star on one of the episodes and, for anyone who knows anything about me, it's certainly right up my alley," Darby says, suggesting he's likely playing a physically and vocally expressive character. "I actually cut myself on the first day in a fight sequence. I cut my hand and had to get stitches. I like that; it means I'm really applying myself."
Darby seems like a pretty casual artist who is now involved in numerous projects that demand a certain level of secrecy, which he appreciates. Yet he also wonders if clamouring by fans is leading to premature info sharing and long, long promotional cycles.
"These days, a lot of people are blogging and putting up videos from on-set, trying to get the viral interest while we're making things, but then nothing airs for another year, so it's like, trying to get the timing right. People are gonna be like, 'Haven't we already seen that?' when it's finally out in two years' time."
Since breaking through on Flight of the Conchords, Darby has embarked on an enriching acting and writing career. But he acknowledges that his time on the HBO show really made his name and still has a fondness for Murray Hewitt. He even offers some insight about the rumours that the show's namesake duo and creators, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, may be putting the musical project back together for a tour.
"I can confirm that they have met up, the two of them, recently," Darby says. "It could be just a social outing, could be just catch-up drinks. I have no idea and I can't confirm if pen has hit paper. As far as I know, they will be touring again and that usually sparks some more interest in what else they can do and whether they can get back together and film some television or whatever. But the general rule is that's not happening and I haven't heard anything."
Darby is busy enough fine-tuning I'm a Fighter Jet! ahead of its Just for Laughs run later this month.
"It's a stand-up show about being confident and flying to the danger zone," he says. "Taking life by the balls and making it an adventure. I joined the army when I was 17 and was in there for four years. [For me] it was about going overseas and seeing the world and we never did that in the New Zealand army. We mostly trained in the forest and the only thing we rescued really was sheep, one snowy winter. After not receiving a medal for that, I thought 'This is it. I'm gonna leave.'
"Something about being from this tiny island at the bottom of the world led me to have this yearning to see the rest of it. So, this story is about the adventures I've had in my life and finding love, having kids, and then the adventures continue. Whether it be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or dealing with your children, life is an adventure and it's how you perceive it."
Listen to the complete interview with Rhys Darby here or below.