This is going to be tricky. It's well-known among interviewers that actors hate talking about the role that made them famous. However, you can't possibly meet Gillian Anderson without mentioning her role in The X-Files as Special Agent Dana Scully. But how to broach the subject...?
'Last year, I went to talk to the Cambridge University Students' Union' she volunteers. 'All they wanted to ask me about was X-Files! After a while I thought, "Have they got nothing else to talk about?", but then I realised - I haven't done anything else!'
Well, at least that's got that out of the way, but Gillian does herself a disservice. Since the sci-fi phenomenon ended in 2002 after nine series and nearly 10 years, Gillian has been busy with stage and screen roles, including starring opposite Robert Carlyle in the recently released film The Mighty Celt, and several long runs in plays in London's West End. Add to that being a mum to daughter Piper, 11, marrying British journalist and documentary maker Julian Ozanne last Christmas, and moving to London to live, it's no wonder we've not seen Gillian on our screens for a while.
But that is all about to change. For the next seven weeks, Gillian will be appearing twice-weekly in BBC1's Andrew Davis adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, Bleak House. Set to break the mould of TV period drama, Bleak House will be shown in a manner in keeping with the original publication of the novel. Back then, Dickens's work was serialised in small chunks in a newspaper, with each part ending on a cliffhanger, much like our modern-day soaps. And so the novel has been turned into 15 half-hour episodes (except for the opening, hour-long instalment) which will go out twice a week after Eastenders.
Gillian plays the mysterious Lady Dedlock, an aristocrat with a scandalous secret, who - just like Agent Scully - knows that the truth is out there. 'She has had a hard time in her life, but has had to keep it a secret so she could participate in society,' explains Gillian, 37. 'She has built up this facade of everything being fine, but her unhappiness comes out in the hard way she treats people. There's something stern about her and you sense that she feels everything will unravel unless she's like that. It's not a pity, because she's not a victim, but I like her.'
That said, playing Lady Dedlock had it's downsides. 'When you initially put those beautiful Victorian costumes on they're lovely,' she says. 'But come lunchtime you have to decide whether to eat two bites, because that's all you can fit in your corset, or to take it off, eat too much and feel miserable all afternoon! In hot weather it was very uncomfortable, but still fun.'
Although American by birth, Gillian spent nine years of her childhood living in north London. Her family moved back to America and she has flitted between the two ever since, but she is now happy to call England her home. 'I never felt like I belonged anywhere - I was considered a Yank over here because I was born in America, but when I moved back there, I was a Brit,' she says. 'Finally, I feel like this is home. I don't miss Los Angeles when I'm here, but when I go there, I miss London, so that indicates to me that this is where I'm more comfortable.'
While Gillian is happy here and really enjoyed the experience of filming Bleak House (corset notwithstanding) she's making no promises about becoming a regular on our screens. 'I won't be doing any more TV for a while,' she says. 'There are lots of other things I'd like to do. But it was incredibly impressive to work with the cast - they are so amazingly and effortlessly good. The whole thing was a really wonderful experience.'