British actor John Neville passed away late last week at the age of 86. Theater buffs might remember him as a respected Shakespearean actor who appeared in every one of the Bard’s plays; movie mavens might know him from his starring role in Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen."
But to me, John Neville was and always will be The Well-Manicured Man.
If you’re not an X-Phile I have a bit of explanation for you (we can discuss exactly why you’re not an X-Phile some other time): On Chris Carter’s groundbreaking TV show “The X-Files,” John Neville played one of several nameless recurring characters (the most infamous being Cigarette Smoking Man). CSM and Well-Manicured Man were members of the Syndicate, an international group of super-secretive movers and shakers who tried to thwart the efforts of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in their search for the truth about extra-terrestrials.
As WMM, John Neville appeared in some of the most important episodes of "The X-Files" during its middle seasons. What I loved about the character, aside from his amazingly cool Britishness, was his undisguised loathing of CSM and that character’s unrefined methods of hiding the Truth. And though he was part of the Syndicate, WMM showed moral ambivalence about the work of his shadow organization and empathy for Mulder and Scully.
The Well-Manicured Man met his end in 1998, during the first "X-Files" movie. Right after giving Mulder what he needed to locate and save his beloved partner Scully, and reminding him to “trust no one,” WMM died in a spectacular car explosion. It was a fitting end for this legendary TV character.
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