Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Anderson returns to the small screen
Pasadena, Calif. - Three years after the close of "The X Files," a BBC producer approached Gillian Anderson about starring in a miniseries.
Her response, she told TV critics here over the weekend, was "No, I don't do television. Sorry."
Nine years of playing the dour, dogged FBI agent Dana Scully on Fox's paranoid fantasy hit was more than enough, Anderson felt. She was happy to be making movies and working on the stage in London, where she lives with her husband of just over a year, photojournalist Julian Ozanne.
But then Anderson read the script of "Bleak House," an eight-hour drama based on the Charles Dickens novel. "Sorry" became "maybe," "maybe" became "yes" - and Sunday, the Emmy-winning actress will be seen in her first TV dramatic role since she and David Duchovny packed it in as Scully and Mulder.
Anderson, who scored her first post-"X Files" film success as Edith Wharton's doomed Lily Bart in 2000's "The House of Mirth," will play another star-crossed beauty, Lady Dedlock, in "Bleak House," one of the longest and most lavish presentations in recent years for PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre."
Even after warming to the character, however, "I was still tentative about it," she said Saturday at the TV industry's two-week preview event for journalists.
So "I started to talk to friends of mine, actors in England. And in England, it's much easier to flip between doing film and television and theater. It doesn't ruin one's career as it sometimes does in America. And so I decided to do it."
The miniseries, which will open with a two-hour chunk and continue with six more one-hour episodes on PBS, was packaged differently in Britain, where it held a large audience captive for 16 weeks of half-hour installments. Even four months, however, is a drop in the bucket compared to nine seasons of "The X Files."
In fact, Anderson acknowledged, if she'd known what she was getting into back in 1993, she wouldn't have taken Scully on at all.
"I didn't watch television - I didn't know what pilots were," she said. "I was just kind of going along, and I got this job.
"At the time, I think 'Brisco County' " - a comic Western that lasted for a single season - "was what Fox was putting their money on. And then things changed.
"If I had known ('The X Files' would run nine seasons) before we started, I most definitely would have said, 'Not on your life.' But in retrospect, I'm really glad I did it."
The not-so-small fortune she made as Scully has allowed Anderson - who was born 37 years ago in Chicago but spent much of her childhood in England, where her father studied film - to live comfortably in London and to take stage roles that don't pay especially well. It also enables her and Ozanne, a native of Kenya, to travel frequently to Africa, where they do non-profit work in the areas of poverty, education and health, particularly AIDS.
Before and after making "Bleak House," Anderson has been approached about TV roles.
"Normally, I get a phone call saying, 'I know you're going to turn this down, so I just have to inform you that you were offered this, but I already told them that you're not going to.' That's the way it's gone."
Her next movie, "A Cock and Bull Story," adapted from Laurence Sterne's legendarily offbeat novel "Tristram Shandy," is due for American release later this month.
But apart from some independent films, "I don't get (movie) offers in America," Anderson says frankly. "People don't know what to do with me in America. I've disappeared (to England).
"To be absolutely honest, it's not a question of saying, 'Oh, they offered me (the 2005 movie) "Proof," but I said no, so they went to Gwyneth Paltrow.'
"Perhaps there's a slight perception that I was a temporary television celebrity who disappeared off the face of the planet."
The one Hollywood movie she hopes to do is a sequel to the 1998 "X Files" film.
"David and I and (creator) Chris Carter are determined to do it," Anderson said.
But due to certain rights issues, "it's become a bit messy. I think the intention is that we will and we hope to - and that, hopefully, by the time we actually do, whenever that is, people will still give a damn."