January 29, 2006
Fast Chat Gillian Anderson
By Lewis Beale
If you've been wondering what happened to Gillian Anderson, the actress who played Agent Scully in "The X-Files," she hasn't been abducted by aliens. The 37-year-old actress, who lived in England as a child, moved to London three years ago, where she's been pursuing a career on the West End stage and in low-budget, independent films. Smaller and prettier in person, Anderson is more outgoing and down-to-earth than Scully, but just as thoughtful. She was in New York to publicize "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story," a new film in which she has a very small, but very funny, part. She can also be seen in "Bleak House" on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre." Freelance writer Lewis Beale caught up with her at a midtown hotel.
You've been going back and forth between Britain and America since you were a child. What part of you is most British, and what part most American?
I get asked a lot in England whether I consider myself to be British, and I don't. But I identify with the British sense of humor, British way of talking, dealing with politics; many little aspects of British culture, it's more familiar to me than American. When I miss America, I miss the landscape. It's not the missing of an identity, that there is something of me that is not being fulfilled, or that is longing somehow. Every once in awhile I'll miss the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, something like that.
Was one of the reasons for the move because you felt typecast as an actress in America?
That wasn't one of my initial choices, but what I have realized after spending more time there is that I feel understood there as an actor. I feel that they get me, and get the kind of actor I feel I am. The stuff I get offered is 180 degrees from Scully. Independent films, left, right and center, the characters are completely different from Scully. If a film were being made in America, even if I were on the list, I would have to audition for it; they would want me to prove that I could actually do that character. It would never be an offer.
Is it also because the British don't tend to pigeonhole actors in a particular category?
That's part of it. Actors go from doing Shakespeare at the National to a BBC special, to a feature film, and they just go back and forth, and they're still highly respected and that's just what it is. But also, there are so many actors in the States, and in my age range, between late 20s and early 40s, which I could be cast in, there are 20 actresses higher up on the list than I am. That's just a fact. And American filmmaking is about box office, and bottom line, more so now than ever. And that's how they cast - who's gonna make us money?
You've just starred in a BBC version of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," which will be shown on PBS in America. Yet you've said you were reluctant to take another TV part. Was it because you felt burned by your American tube experience?
I was reluctant because at that point, when I started shooting it, I'd basically only done two plays since the series ended and three days on "Tristram Shandy," and a Northern Irish film that I knew American audiences would never see. So I was conscious of not being pigeonholed even more than I already had been into being a television actor. But I was talking to friends of mine who were in the business over there, and who go from television to theater to film, and they said, "no, no, no, it's completely different, and it's OK."
Speaking of "The X-Files," there's talk that there will be another "X-Files" film. True?
Eventually there will be, we hope there is going to be.
Yet the series ended in 2002, and the "X-Files" movie was released in 1998. At this point in time ...
Who gives a --? The longer we wait, the less people are going to give a --. It was supposed to be shot this year, and there are contract issues. We're basically ready to go.
Do you think the fan base is still salivating for a new film?
Every once in awhile I hear that they are. But next year? We're not even going to be able to shoot it until next September at the very earliest. By the time it comes out it's going to be 2007.
It sounds like you're perfectly happy to be 3,000 miles away from the "X-Files" hordes, and that the move to England was a way to re-imagine yourself and your career.
Most definitely. I definitely was ready to get out. We were in a certain prison ; it was a certain prison in the hours and the intensity of these characters. And it was sometimes a blessed prison, and we enjoyed it. But we had no social life; it was just this myopic experience. I feel like there is an aspect of me that understands and feels more comfortable in, and is more understood, just as a human being [in England]. And every one of my friends who comes to visit me in London says "Oh, my God, you're so at home." It completely makes sense to them why I'm there.