M2 Magazine, New Zealand
July 2008, Issue 38
By Elaine Lipworth
X-File's Gillian Anderson, 39, was born in Chicago and spent part of her childhood in London. Always interested in drama, she began acting in high school, discovering that she had talent as well as passion, and went on to study theatre at DePaul University in Chicago, then later at Cornell University in New York.
She spent several years appearing in stage productions before moving to Los Angeles in 1992 for auditions, and after several TV roles, landed the part of Dana Scully in The X-files TV series when she was just 24. During her time on the series, Anderson won several awards including an Emmy, a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
She recently appeared in The Last King of Scotland and Straightheads. In 2006, she was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (BAFTA) for her role in the BBC television adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, Bleak House. The actress and her partner, Mark Griffiths, live in London. They have a one-year-old son and Anderson has a thirteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
How challenging has it been getting back into Scully's character?
It took a good day to get into my character. I thought it was going to be much more effortless than it was. I was having a really hard time on the first day back and I think part of that is because for such a long time now, for over five years, I've been doing everything in my power to take roles that are not remotely like Scully. I pushed aside anything that reminded me of her in any way. I was trying to come up with completely different projects. Whether I've succeeded or failed is beside the point but it seems like I have been able to do that. Anyway, I realised that when I am being Scully again, a part of my brain is all going, "Go away, go away" but it actually should be going, "Com here, come here" so it's a little bit odd. I think I have found her again now. Some scenes are harder than others. Literally, it is all about getting back into her thought processes and how she responds to certain situations. That is the real work of the character.
Did the chemistry return right away with David?
Well, the chemistry with David is completely easy. It is something that we seem to do, to slip into, with our eyes closed. From the second we started working together, it was there. There was one point when we were in a scene and I looked to David - Mulder - in the way Scully would naturally look to him for some mutual understanding abut something that was being discussed and it was so familiar. When I recognised who was in front of me, it was almost shocking in a way. There's a lot of deja vu. It took a good many hours to acknowledge the fact that "here we are again" finally and wonderfully. We are both enjoying it so much.
Are you open to the unknown, the mystical and spiritual side of life yourself or do you share Scully's pragmatic approach to life?
I am much more open to the spiritual side of life than she is. At various times during the series though, her opinion about spiritual things shifted. They remained on a pretty straight course most of the time but there were times that she veered into a bit of spiritualism. On the whole though, she's much more closed-minded and rigorous than I am. I'm a spiritual person but she's a Catholic, a devout Catholic and that's not part of my experience. That in itself dictates the differences between the two of us.
Do you have a fitness regime? How did you prepare for the movie?
I am trying to stay healthy. Mostly for energy. I'm trying not to eat flour and sugar. That is pretty big challenge for me because flour and sugar amount to three quarters of what I love to eat. Usually, I am a big bread and chocolate person, so it is difficult. It's no small feat giving them up but when I give up those two foods, it is easier to get up in the morning and stay awake during the day. I haven't exercised a lot recently. I plan on doing more. It is at the top of the list of things I need to start doing.
Can you explain what kind of projects you chose after the series ended and why? It appears you escaped any kind of typecasting.
Typecasting always concerns me and I think in some realms of the business, people still see me in a certain way and don't know quite what to do with me as an actor. One of the reasons I stayed in England, other than that I love it there and it is home right now, is that I seem to be perceived in a very different way over there in terms of the work that I can do. So that makes it more interesting for me. People take greater risks with me there and it's different to being in LA. I get to do the kind of work that I like to watch.
What have you particularly enjoyed?
I loved doing Bleak House for the BBC. That was an extraordinary opportunity. When the yoffered it to me out of the blue, part of me wanted to say to them: "Are you sure you've got the right person? What makes you think that I can do this?" I believed that I could do it but I was amazed that they had such faith in me. I was used to being offered very similar roles to what I had been doing before. And it was so completely different to anything I had been offered in the past. It was amazing, and incredible opportunity. Being a part of The Last King of Scotland was also amazing. I've been really lucky with some great roles. I got to play a Northern Irish girl and work on a Northern Irish accent, which was so interesting and educational. And recently, I got to make How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (about a British writer in New York), based on the memoir by Toby Young, with Simon Pegg, Jeff Bridges, Kirsten Dunst and Danny Huston. IT was such an eclectic and interesting cast.
Do people bombard you throughout the world, recognising you as Scully?
That honestly depends on my hair colour. Sometimes I think I am getting away with remaining anonymous and then people stop me, and at other times I expect people to recognise me and they don't. It depends on the day and what country I am in. Recently, I was in Sri Lanka and thought I was completely anonymous but everyone knew who I was. And then I can be in New York City and think, "Oh no, this is going to be hard" and it's easy. People don't bother me, so I don't know what that is all about exactly.
How much of a challenge is it for you combining work and family life?
It has been great so far with the baby. I have ben choosing projects that don't have long shooting periods; this is the longest I've had. But the schedule is working out well and it is not an issue. There is always a huge longing that goes on for the baby whatever I am doing, and there is all the guilt and the usual emotions that mothers go through and experience but you just try to give whatever you can and I spend as much quality time with my kids as I can try to do my best.
What are your plans after The X-Files?
I love living in London, so I will stay there. I have a few films coming out this year and a few others I am planning on doing. I am also producing and would love to direct. At some point, that is going to happen, and of course, I love spending time with my children. It is all challenging but life is great fun and very rewarding.