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Gillian Anderson gets spooky to play Miss Havisham in Dickens classic "Great Expectations"
Chance to do role in Charles Dickens tale hooked her immediately, says "X Files" star
By David Hinckley
March 29, 2012

Gillian Anderson and Douglas Booth star in 'Masterpiece Theater's' production of Great Expectations.

It may be a somewhat unfamiliar Gillian Anderson who floats onto the screen as Miss Havisham in the new 'Masterpiece Theater' production of Great Expectations that premieres Sunday night on PBS.

It's a slightly unusual Miss Havisham, too - true to the original Charles Dickens character, but perhaps a bit more ethereal.

She's so ghostly she seems almost transparent, giving another eerie dimension to her relationship with young boy-to-man Pip.

Anderson says she wasn't looking for this role, but she knew it was right when she found it.

"Sometimes things come to you that you wouldn't have done," she says. "I think I was looking for something like that."

She had never read Great Expectations, but she says this relatively compact adaptation hooked her immediately.

"This script and role were appealing," she says. "Dickens' characters are so recognizable on so many levels that continue to play out in our modern world."

That said, she calls the production "very much a period piece" in style and manner. "It will just have a contemporary sense because of the way he captures basic emotions - guilt, loss, grief, love."

With Victorian costumes, pale makeup and Miss Havisham's measured speech, Anderson may startle fans who still think of her as Agent Dana Scully from The X Files TV series and movies.

Incidentally, to dispense with the inevitable question that she seems disinclined to dwell on, she has "no idea" if there will be any future X Files movies.

Her resume goes well beyond X Files. But since she has lived in Britain for the past 10 years, much of her work - including Great Expectations - has been done there.

She's beloved in the "Masterpiece" world for her role as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House and last year played Wallis Simpson in Any Human Heart.

Anderson and her partner, Mark Griffiths, are raising two young sons, Oscar and Felix. So she parcels her time between home and acting gigs.

"If I didn't work for a few months, I think I'd get antsy," she says. "I enjoy working. It feeds something in me."

She has, however, taken one-shot movie and miniseries roles rather than look for a new TV series.

"You work differently when it's a one-time situation," she says. "You understand the arc. In a series, you'll do three to five episodes and start to map out your character's evolution. You may have a sense of where it's going, but you don't always know how. With a show like "X-Files,' you can keep it more open-ended.

"Here, it's very important to get the parameters at the start."

In any case, she's had no trouble staying as busy as she wants to be, which isn't always the case for actresses when they reach 43.

"I hope there will be roles I can continue to play," she says. "You can see the work being done by Judi Dench or Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren. I just take it one day at a time."

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