GILLIAN: "THE DISEASE THAT THREATENS MY KID BROTHER"
Gillian Andersonís rise to fame as Agent Scully in The X-Files has been meteoric. But behind the glamour thereís another story - of her brotherís fight against a rare disease and her own unsettled past. Here, Gillian talks frankly about her brother for the first time and her mother Rosemary recalls the superstarís traumatic teenage years.
Her stunning looks and steely gaze have helped Gillian Anderson reach the top of the show business ladder. At 28, her role as Agent Scully in The X-Files has catapulted her to stardom and won her a reputation as one of the sexiest women on TV. But her success is tinged with sadness at the plight of her kid brother Aaron, 15, who suffers from a rare life-threatening illness.
When he was three, Aaron was diagnosed as having a medical condition called neurofibromatosis (NF). Suffers can break out in tumours, which dramatically alter their appearance. "Itís been a big part of my parentsí and my life for 12 years," the actress says softly. "Itís been a major part of my growing up and Aaronís growing up because of the potential devastation of the disease. Itís a neurological disease. Someone with NF can have tumours that grow on the body inside and on the outside."
"Sometimes it can deform the person - although I shouldnít use the word deform. It can alter their appearance severely, because you can get large tumours on the face and arms so it becomes more obvious to other people."
Gillian devotes long hours to promoting NF causes with her mother Rosemary, a computer analyst, whoís founded a clinic for NF patients near the family home in Michigan, USA. They are determined to educate people about this rare illness. "I guess we want to make people away that itís not contagious," says Gillian, who also has a younger sister called ZoŽ.
"These people are normal human beings and have this disease that can result in brain damage and brain difficulties. It can also cause death because of the tumours.
"Aaron has been very, very lucky so far. Usually during puberty the disease grows rapidly, but he hasnít had that problem yet. Aaron has regular check-ups, and so far itís been relatively uneventful for him. "Aaron is incredibly intelligent and athletic and beautiful," she adds tenderly. "His illness has certainly affected us in a strong way and brought us much closer together as a family."
They may be a close knit family now, but Gillian wasnít always the dutiful daughter. A traumatic and unwelcome move from England to America at the age of 16 brought about a teen rebellion from the future superstar. Gillian was a punk rocker and even managed to get herself arrested for breaking back into High School on the evening she graduated, spending a night in the cells alongside drunks, prostitutes and common criminals.
"Gillian was born in the American Midwest, but we moved to London when she was just two," explains mum Rosemary, whoís in her 50ís.
"Then suddenly, when she was about 16, we had to move back home. Gillian was devastated. Her friends in North London were very hip city kids. The boys wore earrings and the girls were very fashionable. We were all sad. We loved London and hated the idea of moving back to the Midwest."
The family had moved to London so that Gillianís father Edward could study film production in Covent Garden. During their early years, they lived in Stamford Hill, then later in Crouch End. "But my husband just couldnít get work in the film business in London," says Rosemary. "The market was depressed at the time."
Their new home was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "The contrast was just incredible," continues Rosemary. "Grand Rapids is a sleepy prairie town and the kids were totally out of it as far as Gillian was concerned. Plus she missed all the friends she had grown up with in London."
"And her classmates all thought she talked funny because she didnít have an American accent. Gillian had to learn to speak like an American for the first time in her life, just to fit in."
"Another problem was spelling. American English has dozens of words that are spelt slightly differently from how they are in England and she had to learn to make that adjustment. But ironically the problem of making the transition helped her choose a career. Whenever they needed someone to play an English role in a play, Gillian was chosen for it. It encouraged her to study drama in college.
"Her anger over the move and frustration with all the changes were partly responsible for her turbulent years. She definitely had a chip on her shoulder when we brought her back to America. It was the last thing she wanted to do. But a lot of it was just a part of growing up."
Gillian herself admits: "I was angry and it was my way of keeping people at a distance."
Her mum continues: "Gillian learnt to portray a whole range of emotions by going through her problems and it helped her grow. To be honest, though, I donít remember her being quite as wild as she says she was. Gillian was a wonderful, sweet child and after she got over her growing up problems, she became a wonderful, sweet adult."
"During her tough life adjusting to her new school and new life, she hid her unhappiness. I never heard her complaining, even though she desperately wanted to go back to England."
"She did extremely well in school considering the upheaval. The teachers said that she was two years more advanced than her classmates. She worked very hard to fit in."
As a toddler, Gillian showed a flair for drama that startled her parents. But her first goal was not that seemingly impossible dream of movie stardom, but the down-to-earth job of a marine biologist. "I loved digging up worms and cutting them up into little pieces," Gillian laughs. "In the interests of science, of course!"
Luckily for Gillian her natural talent for acting quickly got in the way of a science career.
"From the start Gillian had a real flair for the dramatic," continues Rosemary. "That has simply always been her personality. But the first time I knew something was really up with her and acting was when she was 14 and a teacher assigned her the Romeo And Juliet balcony scene."
"Gillian had no background in Shakespeare, acting or anything remotely like it. Nobody on either side of our family had any experience with acting. Her father was interested in film production, but that had mostly been connected with industrial training films and commercials."
"But she studied that scene and mastered it with no effort whatever. When she performed it from me my jaw just dropped. I was incredibly impressed and knew then that she was going to be an actress."
"After that, nothing Gillian did surprised me. She went to university, got a degree in drama and went after an acting career. In the beginning her English accent came in handy. She got her start partly because she learned to turn it on and off at will."
After graduating from De Paul University in Chicago, Gillian went to New York. For a few years she auditioned for every part that came along in small theatres and television soaps praying for a break.
Finally in 1993 her agent gave her a pilot script for a new sci-fi show called The X-Files. She fell in love with the Dana Scully character and the programme at first glance. "I couldnít put the script down," Gillian remembers.
But network executives just shook their heads at giving the role to Gillian. "They wanted someone leggier and bustier. I guess they were going to make this the XXX-Files," she laughs.
Says Rosemary: "Fortunately the shows creator Chris Carter realised that Gillian was perfect for Scully. I loved the show at once too. It was obviously really special from the start and just the break she needed."
The casting of her co-star David Duchovny, 36, as "Spooky" Fox Mulder was another lucky break for both Gillian and The X-Files. The two immediately hit it off and developed an on-screen sexual chemistry that as made the dark, edgy show such a success.
Their closeness has led to wild rumours theyíre more than just good friends. The gossip machine went into overdrive when the couple posed in bed together for some steamy publicity pictures which appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. But happily married Gillian roars with laughter at any suggestion of romance with David.
RISQUE AND BEAUTIFUL
"It was a photo shoot!" she hoots. "It was just part of her job in promoting the show. I think that if there was anything between us, we wouldnít have done the cover in the first place!"
It was just something that was thought up and agreed to by us because it sounded like it would make a great cover and the photographs ended up being very risquť and beautiful, and we loved them. Scully is so strait-laced that it was refreshing to do something different. But thatís all it was. It was a photo shoot!" she howls again.
In fact, it was thanks to The X-Files that Gillian met her husband, German-born Clyde Klotz, 34, who was one of the shows art directors. When they married on New Yearís Day in 1994, the ceremony was performed by a Buddhist holy man on a Hawaiian golf course, proving sheís retained some of that wacky flair of her early years.
But she admits having daughter Piper, who was conceived on their wedding day, changed Gillianís attitude to life forever. "I feel a lot stronger as a person now. I remember thinking after going through the birthing process, that no cut, no knock to the head will make me whine again."
Mum Rosemary beams with pride at her daughterís good fortune - and her ongoing tender loving care for her sick brother Aaron. "Fame had a good effect on Gillian. Sheís always been generous and loves to lavish things on family and friends. Now she is loving being a position to do just that."
Transcript provided by Ken and appears courtesy of New Weekly.