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What do Anderson and Duchovny say about the legacy of 'The X-Files'?

New 'X-Files' episodes premiere on Jan. 24 with new cast members such as Joel McHale. Anderson and Duchovny starred on the original Fox series, which became a hit in the 1990s.

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'The X-Files' stars David Duchovny (l.) and Gillian Anderson (r.).

Ed Araquel/Fox/AP

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Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny say they learned to appreciate being known for "The X-Files" characters.

"It took me a long time to embrace it after we were done with the series," Anderson said, joining Duchovny and series creator Chris Carter at a TV critics' meeting to promote the upcoming six-episode reboot of the Fox series.

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"It took a good decade for me to start thinking of it as the gift that it was and appreciate the opportunity I had and how fortunate I was to play a great, iconic character in a show that was iconic in itself," said Anderson.

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Duchovny, who played FBI agent Fox Mulder to Anderson's agent Scully in the 1993-2002 drama, said that perspective was key to revisiting it. "The X-Files" debuts Jan. 24 on Fox, with Joel McHale a new addition.

"It took a while to recognize it as the gift that it is, and that's why we're able to come back now," Duchovny said. "It acted as a spur to me to go out and actually do more work, to keep expanding myself as an artist. ... It was both a gift and a spur to not settle after it was done."

Both followed the "X-Files" and its two follow-up movies with very different work. Duchovny starred in Showtime's "Californication" and branched into writing books and music. Anderson appeared in a variety of stage and screen projects that included classics "Bleak House" and "Great Expectations," both for TV.

The actors were asked to discuss the on-screen chemistry they shared in "X-Files" as their characters waded through government plots and crimes with bizarre twists.

"There is something extra, and I don't know what that is. It seems like it's separate from us," Anderson said.

"You can feel it right now," Duchovny said, drawing laughs. "But I think at this point, having known each other and worked together so much for the last, over 20 years, we've gone beyond chemistry to history, which is a really cool thing to play as well."

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Carter said the limited run will include "mythology" episodes, such as those in the original series that focused on Mulder's effort to prove a government cover-up about aliens on Earth. There's also a comedic-slash-horror episode, which also harkens back to the original "X-Files" formula.

The Lone Gunmen conspiracy-theory trio also will be back, although they did "meet their maker" in a previous season, Carter said, explaining that "they're actually back in a fantasy."

"Scully's fantasy," Anderson said, smiling.

Whether more "X-Files" episodes are ahead remains to be seen.

"I'm waiting for Fox to come back and say, we want more of these," Carter said.