In an exclusive interview for The X-Files Magazine, Gillian Anderson reflects on her nine years playing Agent Dana Scully, as she faces the future without her alter-ego. Interview by John Reading
It's all just starting to dawn on Gillian Anderson. The X-Files television series is over. She spent nearly one-third of her life portraying F.B.I. Special Agent Dana Scully on the show, first opposite David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and, later, opposite Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish as John Doggett and Monica Reyes.
Along the way, Anderson made time for a wide range of other experiences, both personal and professional. She married, divorced and became a mother during the show's run, and helped raise nearly half a million dollars for Neurofibromatosis, Inc., a charity dedicated to those, like Anderson's brother, who suffer from this genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on a person's nerves. The actress also managed to squeeze in performances in such films as Chicago Cab, The Mighty, Playing By Heart and The House of Mirth, and lent her voice to the likes of the animated feature film Princess Mononoke and TV shows such as Frasier, Harsh Realm and The Simpsons. Closer to home, Anderson wrote and directed the all things episode of The X-Files.
Now, however, it's time to get on with the rest of her life and career. We caught up with Anderson just as filming on the series was approaching its end, engaging her in a wide-ranging conversation about matters past, present and future as they relate to both The X-Files and to Gillian Anderson.
THE X-FILES MAGAZINE: So what are your thoughts on this major chapter of your life closing?
ANDERSON: This is so surreal. I swear to God it's only started to hit me over the past couple of days. It feels like the nine years was so short. You know what I mean? While we were in the middle of it I felt that it would never end and now all of a sudden it just feels unfathomable.
XFM: So does that mean you don't want it to end?
GA: No, no, no. I think ultimately that it's good. I think it's good for everybody and I think that everybody has put in such a huge effort over the years in really trying to keep the quality of the show up, to continue with its integrity as much as we could. There's a time for everything to end and I think this is the right time. I think everybody in their own way is excited about moving on to other things. But both things can co-exist; one can be sad and in the process of mourning and at the same time be excited and hopeful for the future and change.
XFM: After nine years, is there a favorite episode that stands out in your mind?
GA: I felt akin to (all things). It certainly wasn't one of my favorite episodes, but the process of it was exhilarating and rewarding. There are a few that I liked, that were fun. Bad Blood was a bit of a comedic episode that I felt was fun and smart and well written. Our schedule is so crazy that it's hard for me to keep them straight. I'm terrible at that, so I couldn't even begin to tell you favorites, but you know there are some.
XFM: The X-Files went from cult favorite to pop culture phenomenon. Let's talk about the so-called craziness of the fans.
GA: I haven't been feeling the craziness of it lately. We're pretty well protected from that. It all just feels like there's another entity out there that's kind of breathing with the same heartbeat as we are and they support us. I don't experience a lot of craziness. We don't get a lot of visitors on the set. Once in a while we do and people burst into tears and stuff, but the crazy period of time was earlier on and I didn't even realize that that was crazy until it stopped being crazy. Then I thought, "Oh God, that **was** crazy!"
XFM: But you must go to restaurants and get recognized?
GA: Yeah, but it's not on the same level as other people have. It's not what Gwyneth Paltrow has, where you can't sit in a restaurant without the entire restaurant stopping and trying to listen to your conversations. So I'm blessed in that way that I don't have the pressure of that in my life. I live a very quiet, private life and every once in a while it feels abruptly jarred by somebody who's extra-enthusiastic.
XFM: OK, let's get into the show a bit more. The past couple of years have focused not on Mulder's story, but Scully's. She was the anchor. What's your take on the character's evolution and where she's at as we build to the end?
GA: Well, it's happened by necessity because of the fact that David was going to be leaving. I think that for the first year he was gone the writers did a very good job of keeping him in the public consciousness even though he wasn't around. It was remarkable. It's interesting how if someone is talked about, it feels as if they're present even though they're not. So they were very successful in doing that. The show certainly did start out as Mulder's quest. The show was primarily about his character and his genius and his revelations, and Scully's job was to kind of help solidify that in the questions she would answer. They created a whole partnership, but it was 70/30, then it got to 60/40 and then to 50/50. And I'm not talking financially.
XFM: This season, Scully spent a lot of time with baby William and away from Doggett and Reyes. What did you make of that turn of events?
GA: That's interesting. I don't know about this whole baby thing. It certainly adds a level of complication to the filming! I think it added an interesting storyline, but it's also been complicated. How do you involve Scully in the cases they're investigating to a degree without the audience thinking, "Well, where's the baby and why isn't she home with him?" And if she **is** with the baby the fans are going, "We want her out in the field. We don't want her home with the baby." It was a very fine balance that they had to play.
XFM: Speaking of kids, how excited is your daughter Piper about the likelihood of having you home more often?
GA: Well, she's not necessarily going to have me back home. She's going to be doing a lot more traveling is what she's going to be doing. I don't know what she's feeling right now. I mean, we've had a couple of conversations about it and she's just at that age right now where she's starting to understand what it is that Mommy's being doing for her lifetime. And I think she has, for the first time, a bit of a romantic view of what that is, and I'm trying to break that down as quickly as possible!
XFM: How do you feel about David coming back for the finale?
GA: I think it's great. I didn't realize how important it would be for that to happen. When I heard I was very excited and he called me and we had a conversation about the fact that he was coming back and possibly going to be directing something. I guess I didn't realize how much I was missing him and how integral he was [to the show], and I didn't realize that we needed his presence to make a necessary closure.
XFM: You and David started on this journey together. How differently do you think you might feel if he didn't come back to close things out?
GA: I don't think I would have known that until the very end when I would have thought, "Well, wait a minute. This isn't right. This isn't right." I'm very glad that the show is completely ending now because I have a feeling that, even though I would have mourned to a certain degree in saying goodbye, there would have been something left undone. Because the crew would have been continuing and, even though I was saying goodbye, it wouldn't have been as clean. I feel like we have an opportunity now to really tie it up in a whole and constructive and completing way.
XFM: What will you miss most about The X Files?
GA: There are many, many things that I'm going to miss. I'm really going to miss David and Kim (Manners) and Chris (Carter). I think my body is going to keep expecting to do something familiar that it's not going to have an opportunity to do. I'll have the hiatus and then come July it will kind of feel like, "Well, something's supposed to happen now, right? I'm supposed to go on a sound stage." So it will be interesting to watch how it transpires in my body and in my psyche.
XFM: Would you even for a second consider jumping into another TV series?
GA: No, I'm just done. Please, it's been nine years. There are so many other things to do, so many other things not even in the business that I want to do…and in the business, but in other ways. Eventually, after I do some features, maybe if HBO asks me to direct something, I might do that. But there are so many things I want to do first.
XFM: How about the next X-Files feature?
GA: Well, there's one that they're hoping to do in the next couple of years. That I would definitely do.
XFM: Any concerns about ending the show now and then having to turn up on the set of an X-Files feature a year or so down the road?
GA: No. I've got a lot of stuff that I'm going to be doing between now and then that will be feeding me creatively in completely different ways. So when an X-Files film eventually presents itself, it will feel more like a reunion, I think, than something to dread or be afraid of.
XFM: Chris was asked about the meaning of the tagline "Trust no one," and he said, to paraphrase, "I live in Hollywood. I work in Hollywood." Do your experiences in Hollywood make you think the same way?
GA: I don't trust anybody. I don't trust anybody in Hollywood or Ohio. No, that's not true.
XFM: But does working in this business, if nothing else, make you more cynical?
GA: Probably, I think. It's interesting, because what I've heard about that aspect of the business is much more devastating than my experience. Because I don't tolerate that, and I don't behave in that way with people, I have a tendency to bring people into my experience who do not behave that way, because there's no room otherwise. And so I don't have that experience very much. I generally work with and get into business with people who are very on the line and honest and straightforward.
XFM: You're currently gearing up to do a play and a movie. What can you tell us about those two projects?
GA: I optioned something that I'm going to adapt and direct eventually. Hopefully I can start writing over the summer. It's a book called Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner. It's a beautiful little book. But I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to get to that. I'm looking for different film projects for the summer and then I'm going to do a play in London in October and then maybe a feature after that. Or I might take a little time off. The play is a new Michael Weller (show) and it's called What the Night is For.
XFM: How full an experience has this show been for you? You started as a young unknown and you're leaving as a mature woman and a famous and respected actress.
GA: The fact of the matter is that I grew up during the course of the show. I started when I was 24 and ended at almost 34. That's almost a third of my life. I was young and naïve and impressionable and didn't have a clue about the business or anything at that time. Then, to grow up and to make mistakes along the way and to experience my life while trying to be somebody else (Scully) and try to be something other than myself for 18 hours a day was an interesting task. I also was doing that very publicly. So, as I've said, it's been…surreal.
THE SPEED OF LIGHT
Written by Elizabeth Rosner, this debut novel sees the adult children of a holocaust survivor learn about grief, forgiveness and the power of bearing witness from a Latina housekeeper who has also been victimized by government-sponsored genocide. Together, they overcome the tragedies of the past to reconnect with one another and the world around them. Late last year, Gillian Anderson put up her own money to option the novel which she will adapt to make her feature directorial debut now that The X-Files is over.
"Directing was a transformative experience for me, one that I really enjoyed," Anderson told Variety last year. "Then when I picked up this book and started reading the poetry of her words, I found myself trying to visualize where the camera should be, the colors of the characters, the texture of the shots. It felt so intimate and natural, like I wrote it myself. I took the steps to option it, something I'd never done before. It's a beautiful piece that needs to see the light of day and hopefully I can do it justice."
Transcript provided by Alfornos and appears courtesy of The X-Files Official Magazine.