‘The X-Files’: How Did Wrestler Jesse Ventura Get Cast on the Show?
One of the most iconic TV shows of the 1990s, The X-Files is known for tackling often serious, if not almost always supernatural phenomenons. So how did Jesse “The Body” Ventura (known for his wrestling career, as well as his stint in gubernatorial politics), get a one-episode role on The X-Files?
‘The X-Files’ writer says his season 3 episode, “Jose Chung,” could’ve been his last
On the podcast The X-Files Files (on which comic Kumail Nanjiani hosts guests to talk about the series), he had on former X-Files writer Darin Morgan.
Morgan, who wrote the season 3 episode, “Jose Chung From Outer Space,” discussed at length how he cast those infamous “Men in Black” characters. (Throughout the episode, intimidating men dressed in black arrive at different characters’ homes to threaten them against speaking about their alien abductions). A newer writer in Hollywood, Morgan worried that “Jose Chung” would be the last piece of media he’d ever have made.
“OK, this might be the last chance to work with any actor,” the writer remembers saying at the time. “Who do I want to work with? Out of everyone … my choice was Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura.”
“Awesome,” Nanjiani replied. But, he inevitably followed up with: “Why?”
“I was a wrestling fan as a kid and Jesse the Body was my favorite wrestler,” Morgan explained.
Why wrestler Jesse Ventura was cast as a ‘Men in Black’ character
Why did the X-Files scribe love The Body so much?
“He was a terrible wrestler,” Morgan admitted of Ventura on the podcast. “But … his interviews and commentary, I just thought they were hilarious.”
“He’s very charismatic,” Nanjiani agreed on The X-Files Files. Morgan also discussed Ventura’s “persona” of the “bragger” — all of which he found very funny.
“He had been in some Schwarzenegger movies,” Morgan noted. But the X-Files writer wanted to do something different with the wrestler/politician/performer.
“I always thought they misused him,” Morgan explained. “Because they just used him as the big tough guy. Whereas to me, he was really funny.” The episode actually leaned on Ventura quite a bit.
“I wrote the part for him,” The X-Files writer revealed. (Ventura’s partner in “Jose Chung” is played by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek; however, writers only called Trebek after a long and bitter search for the second “Men in Black” part.)
“Most people outside of the wrestling world wouldn’t have known him,” Morgan said of Ventura. (And, as Nanjiani pointed out, this is was also before he was elected governor of Minnesota).
However, he had exactly the right attitude for the “Men in Black” part in The X-Files.
‘The X-Files’ writer realized in the season 3 episode that ‘there’s no Jesse Ventura, there’s only The Body’
But Morgan had a startling revelation when Ventura actually showed up on The X-Files set.
“I cast him and was all excited and then I met him and then I realized that his persona wasn’t really an act,” Morgan said of the wrestler.
“It was just him,” Nanjiani replied, laughing. “There’s no Jesse Ventura, there’s only ‘The Body.'”
“Yeah,” the X-Files writer replied on the podcast. “So I had to kind of readjust.” When Morgan laughed at one of Ventura’s “jokes” onset, he realized The Body “wasn’t trying to be funny.” He was just being himself.
“That can work really well for an actor, because you don’t want that character to think he’s funny,” Nanjiani offered.
“He was perfect for the part,” Morgan agreed. “He did everything I could have ever hoped for.”