“Chinga” is the 10th episode of the 5th season and is without question one of the most well-known episodes of the series. Written by Stephen King and Chris Carter and directed by the late, great Kim Manners it certainly has its share of big names attached to it. For the rare fan who does not remember this episode it is centered on a little girl and her cursed doll. We are proud to have in our collection the screen used burnt doll from this episode.
The X-Files Preservation Collection has given us many wonderful opportunities and experiences. One of our main goals is to highlight and celebrate the unsung heroes of this show that has given so much to us. We are honored to have had the opportunity to interview Polly Turner herself, Jenny-Lynn Hutcheson and excited to share it with you. Jenny-Lynn was 8 years old when she played the role of Polly, since she was so young at the time, we were thrilled to have her mother join us for this conversation as well.
We started our interview by asking Jenny-Lynn how she got the role of Polly Turner and immediately learned something new. How many of you knew that she had previously appeared in two other episodes of the series? Her mother jumped in to fill in some of the blanks for us. “Jenny-Lynn was a tiny girl, so at eight she could play 5-6 years old. They were looking for a child or twins that could handle the role, due to some gruesome props, and she was able to give the emotions or sometimes lack of emotions that the character required. She had worked with the X-Files previously on F-Emasculata and Paper Hearts.” Both these roles were uncredited, so no negative fan points for not knowing this fact. Even with her previous experience she still had to do 3 separate auditions, just to be sure. Jenny-Lynn replied, “It was definitely in my favor that I was tiny and had previously worked with the casting directors, some of the crew and staff. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play such a great character.” Next, we asked if Jenny-Lynn was aware of the scary nature of the episode or if she was in some way shielded from it. “I was never the type to be in a doll commercial-I had a love of gore from a young age. It helped that my parents have always been incredibly open with me and I never was shielded from what I was doing because I truly understood it was acting and a role I was playing.”, says Jenny-Lynn. So, it turns out that Jenny-Lynn was a horror fan, in fact her mom shared an interesting story with us. “Jenny-Lynn was a huge Goosebumps fan and loved all things gruesome. She loved the behind the scenes special effects, makeup, props”. She goes on to say to her daughter, “I believe your favorite prop on Chinga was Dave the butcher’s knife in the eye. You used to walk up to him and say, Hey, I think you have something in your eye, then you would laugh”. Jenny-Lynn remembers feeling bad for Polly because she was misunderstood. She remembers many debates after the episode aired regarding if it was the doll or Polly that was possessed. “Dolls have a long history of being creepy or scary in pop culture.” Says Jenny-Lynn. Her mom adds, “One local radio station had a huge debate the next morning after the show aired on who was more evil, the girl or the doll.” When asked who won that one Jenny-Lynn replied, “it was me.” At this point the conversation turned to the burnt Chinga doll and people’s reaction to it, which was a great segue to our next question. We mentioned that we had heard she had grown attached to the main or hero doll used in filming and that it had been gifted to her at the end of filming and asked her to tell us about that experience. “It is one of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received. Kim Manners was an amazing man, and the industry suffered a great loss when he passed away. It was the last day of filming, I believe, when I was given Chinga and obviously I still have her today.” She went on to say, “It is such a privilege to own a piece of memorabilia like that and it made me feel so special and appreciated.” We could not agree more on both the loss of Kim Manners and the privilege of owning these amazing pieces of history. According to Jenny-Lynn’s mom Chinga comes out at Christmas to sit with the Elf on the Shelf, watch Christmas movies, and eat popcorn. We think that is perfect, because that elf is creepy as well.
We spoke about the collaboration and adaptation between Chris Carter and Stephen King. While they never had the opportunity to meet Stephen King, Jenny-Lynn’s mom remembers hearing his name being mentioned on set. When asked what it was like on set both Jenny-Lynn and her mom replied that it was like being part of a huge family. When asked about being the only child on set Jenny-Lynn had a great memory to share, “ I was sitting behind the monitor with Kim and he let me yell "CUT!" Everyone looked so stunned and it was just such a great moment. Honestly, I never felt like a child on set. I was made to feel like myself and my parents were part of something bigger and we were treated really well. From wardrobe, to hair and make-up, to the A.D.s, everyone was great. The only difference between myself and other actors on set was that I still had all my schoolwork to do in between scenes.” Her mom confirmed that she was treated as an equal on set.
It is clear that Jenny-Lynn had a special bond with Kim Manners so we wanted to know if she was close to anyone else on set. Her mom replied, “Tommy Braidwood was another great person she worked with. She worked very close to him on Paper Hearts.”
We wanted to know if they ever watched the episode Chinga, and if so, how did they feel about it. We also knew the fandom would never forgive us if we did not ask if they considered themselves to be X-Files fans and if so, what were their favorite episodes. Her mom does watch all Jenny-Lynn’s episodes whenever they are on T.V but finds it difficult to watch Paper Hearts due to the scene in which she is lowered into a grave. The family is proud of Jenny-Lynn’s work and enjoys sharing the memories. Both Jenny-Lynn and her mom say their favorite episode, excluding those she is in, is Home, “because it was downright creepy and disturbing with a Mayberry wholesome vibe to it” says Jenny-Lynn’s mom.
As collectors we could not let the interview end without asking if she had kept any other mementos from the show. “I believe some of the script, some autographed pictures and a baseball cap. That is all I can remember Jenny-Lynn kept” says Jenny-Lynn’s mom to which Jenny-Lynn agrees but adds, “ a few call sheets, otherwise, I had the luxury of keeping some polaroids and some fantastic memories”. We can only wish we asked about the baseball cap and polaroids but we had taken so much time already and did not want to take advantage.
We thanked them but can never truly express our gratitude. This was an extraordinary opportunity, and we are honored to share it with the fandom. We suggest everyone re-watch F-Emasculata and Paper Hearts and keep our eyes open for Jenny-Lynn Hutcheson.
The X-Files Preservation Collection
Kelly Anthony and Jim Thornton