Family & Companions
In the 1990s, Nicholas Lea became a kind of New Judas archetype of American science fiction, a slick-talking, homicidal grifter in a suit who became the-guy-you-love-hate for millions of fans of "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002). The native Canadian with classic GQ good looks and mesmerizing stare first established a regular presence on American television as a police officer in the Stephen J. Cannell-produced Vancouver-shot ABC cop drama "The Commish" (1991-95). When "The X-Files" arrived in town in 1993, he would join a number of Cannell veterans to be tapped for duty as the sci-fi show grew from cult fave to multimedia phenomenon. Lea played duplicitous FBI agent-cum-traitor-cum-alien-host-cum-rebel Alex Krycek. As the character recurred throughout the series, Lea saw his star rise in his home country, netting him some starring roles in low-budget Canuck productions. He would establish his own series imprint on Canada's CTV network in the John Woo-produced "Once a Thief" (1997-98). His X-bona fides would help him tap a rich vein of sci-fi genre projects, including major featured recurring parts on "Andromeda" (Sci Fi Channel, 2000-05) and "V" (ABC, 2009-2011), and played the shadow-agent heel again in the teen sci-fi mystery "Kyle XY" (ABC/ABC Family, 2006-09). Still, for so many of this genre's fans, Lea would remain the ever-scheming, silver-tongued Krycek, a.k.a. "Ratboy," on his way to minor Canadian heartthrob status.
He was born Nicholas Christopher Schroeder on June 22, 1962 in the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster, BC, but upon his parents' divorce, he would revert to his mother's surname, Herbert. Nick grew up active and artistic, participating in school athletics, fascinated with old films, and becoming a skilled visual artist and proficient guitar player. He attended Prince of Wales Secondary School, graduating in 1980, thereafter signing up for a hitch in the Royal Canadian Navy. After two years as an Able Seaman, he returned to Vancouver, where he gave art school a shot with designs on becoming an illustrator. He also put his musical talents to work as lead singer and guitarist for the local alternative rock band Beau Monde and supported himself via a series of retail jobs. He was working in a clothing store when a chance meeting with an acting coach spurred him to invest in drama studies. In 1989, he landed his first feature film role, though it was a blink-and-you-miss-it variety, in the Canadian comedy "American Boyfriends" (1989) - billed under his pithier stage name, Nicholas Lea. He landed a meatier part as the young military officer leading a squad into a research base beset by a ravenous monster in the "Alien" knockoff "Xtro II: The Second Encounter" (1991) and, in 1991, fell in with one of Vancouver's most voluminous producers of television shows, Stephen J. Cannell Productions.
Cannell's "The Commish" (ABC, 1991-95) tracked the adventures and family foibles of the earnest police commissioner (Michael Chiklis) of a small city, and Lea won the recurring role as young patrolman Ricky Caruso. In 1993, a new production arrived in Vancouver, helmed by producer and creator Chris Carter. The Fox show would follow two FBI agents, Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson), as they investigated different paranormal cases each week, some being stand-alone stories characterized as "monster-of-the-week" episodes; others bound by what was dubbed "mythology" episodes. The latter was a Byzantine arc created by Carter and his team that would run the agents periodically afoul of a powerful shadow government cabal, alternately complicit with a stealth alien invasion and attempting to develop alien/human hybrids to fend it off. Carter would poach a number of Cannell veterans - among them "Commish" writers-producers Glen Morgan and James Wong, Steven Williams of Cannell's "21 Jump Street" (Fox, 1987-1991) and "Commish" co-star (and for a time, Lea's girlfriend) Melinda McGraw. Lea himself landed a one-off role as monster-of-the-week victim in the show's first season and impressed director Rob Bowman enough that Lea was given a shot the next year for a much bigger part in the series.
Lea won the role of Alex Krycek, introduced in the second season as the earnest young FBI agent assigned as Mulder's new partner. But the arc would soon reveal Krycek to be a shadow agent working in cahoots with the cabal's point man, the Cigarette Smoking Man (fellow Canadian William B. Davis). Krycek's betrayal, which came to a head with his complicity in Scully's abduction by the cabal, would make him Mulder's bete noir, the conflict heightened when Krycek murdered Mulder's father and Scully's sister Melissa - played, curiously enough, by McGraw. Krycek would continue to scheme his way through some of the pivotal episodes of the mythology, betraying previous masters and forging new alliances, earning him the nickname "Ratboy" among the show's rabid cult of fans. It would become such an archetypal character that Lea would make a guest appearance on the NBC sketch comedy institution "Saturday Night Live" (1975- ) playing Krycek as foil to Duchovny in the 1998 episode the latter hosted.
In 1996, Lea landed one of the leads in John Woo's comically-tinged shoot-em-up actioner for Fox, "Once a Thief," playing a rogue cop recruited to work with former criminals, one of them his ex-fiancee, in a Vancouver-based espionage outfit. The film served as a pilot, and CTV picked the concept up as an ongoing series, running 1997-98, making Lea a bona fide action star in his home country. He rode his higher profile to starring roles in some small Canadian films such as the feature comedy "The Raffle" (1994), the comic crime outings "A Shot In the Face" (2001) and "Guido Superstar: The Rise of Guido" (2010), the quirky road comedy "Lunch with Charles" (2001), and the family film "The Impossible Elephant" (2001), as well as a supporting turn as a member of an endangered high-altitude climbing party in the major studio actioner "The Vertical Limit" (2000). His iconic status with "The X-Files" would also put him in-demand for guest-shots in a run of genre projects, among them multiple appearances in Canadian-shot fare such as "Sliders" (Fox/Sci Fi, 1995-2000), the Showtime reboot of "The Outer Limits" (1995-2002) and Sci Fi's production of a Gene Roddenberry-conceived show, "Andromeda."
He also took jobs in less fanciful fare, such as a recurring part on the hit "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), and some supporting feature parts, often in crime suspense thrillers such as "Chaos" (2005), "Shattered" (2007) and "Vice" (2008). He found a regular stint again as a possibly sinister agent on the trail of the title character, an amnesiac teen with superpowers, in "Kyle XY," which ran three years on ABC Family. In 2006, he anchored the first-season ensemble cast of the soapy Canadian murder mystery series "Whistler" (CTV, 2006-07), set in the British Columbia ski resort community, but like much of the cast, did not return for the second season. In 2007 and 2008, he appeared in 10 episodes of ABC's fish-out-of-water dramedy "Men in Trees" (ABC, 2006-08), playing a small-town minister who dates a former prostitute. He was again tapped for his sci-fi bona fides to do a short arc on the ABC series "V," playing the estranged husband of one of leaders of the anti-alien resistance, and in 2012 took one-off jobs on the series "Supernatural" (The WB/The CW, 2005- ) and "Once Upon a Time" (ABC, 2011- ).
By Matthew Grimm
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Began acting career
Early feature credit, "Xtro II: The Second Encounter"
Had recurring role of Officer Ricky Caruso on the ABC police drama "The Commish"
Cast as an intrepid mountain climber in the thriller "Vertical Limit"
Played leading role in the Canadian-produced romantic comedy "Lunch with Charles"
Appeared opposite Lena Olin in the thriller "Ignition"