GILLIAN ANDERSON: From Punk Rock To The Paranormal, This X-Files Co-Star Lives On The Edge
by Tom Russo
GILLIAN ANDERSON IS STANDING AROUND THE VANCOUVER SET OF THE X-FILES WITH A 30-inch protrusion sprouting from her right hip. A disturbing image by the sound of it, but hardly the insanity that rains down weekly on Anderson and David Duchovny in Fox's sci-fi smash, in which they star as paranormally imperiled FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. In nearly three seasons of playing Scully, Anderson has been inexplicably abducted and put into a coma; has had an insidious microchip shunted under her skin; has been victimized by a voodoo mind-screw that seemingly caused a human hand to come bursting out of her palm to strangle her; and now...now she's just satisfying her maternal need to hold her year-old daughter, Piper, on her hip. Horrors.
You half expect Anderson to take the kid and run for it or, at the very least, to betray some ambivalence about being caught up in a phenomenon that at times can get so, well, weird. "X-Philes," as they've conveniently been tagged, don't just follow the show - they obsess over it, probing and dissecting in chat groups like the Gillian Anderson Testosterone Brigade. Think Clarice Starling recast as a poster babe.
"I don't really get it," says the 27-year-old actress, unwinding on a park bench along Vancouver's Kitsilano Beach. Unlike Scully, Anderson isn't always one to stay coolly clinical in the face of the bizarre. She'll make her way through the show's most unsettling scripts only by reading them in bits and pieces. At times, she says, her susceptibility to such imagery can be overwhelming: "Once, in college, I overheard a bartender saying that his girlfriend had run off with his best friend. He described in, like, two seconds what he wanted to do to her, and I had to go to the bathroom and throw up. The image had such an incredible effect on my physiology that I couldn't handle it. It's like something inside me needed to get it out."
OH, THAT DAMN PHYSIOLOGY, EVEN ANDERSON'S PREGNANCY SENT her reeling, coming as it did just as The X-Files began its dizzying ascent. "We'd sit in silence and think, Oh, my God, what could the repercussions be?" says Clyde Klotz, Anderson's husband, who at the time was working as an assistant art director on the show. "I imagine that all kinds of worst-case scenarios were flashing through her head, but Gillian is not the type of person to verbalized them. She wouldn't want to tempt fate in that way."
As her due date approached, the series' writer scaled back Anderson's involvement, working around the birth with a three-episode story arc in which Scully is abducted. By all accounts, the adjustment process was more a blessing than a burden, paving the way for more-involved story lines and giving Scully a motivating puzzle to match Mulder's own quest for his missing sister. Her co-star agrees: "The monster-of-the-week episodes are fun," says Duchovny, "but what makes the show really great are the extended stories, and I'm not sure if we would have discovered those otherwise. I think Gillian would agree."
On the subject of unsolved mysteries, try Anderson and Duchovny's working relationships - beginning with their unlikely pairing at the auditions. With a DePaul University theatre degree on her resume but no screen credits of note, Anderson was a long shot. "What it came down to was that the network wasn't sure how Gillian would look in a bathing suit," X-Files creator Chris Carter is chagrined to recall. " "They didn't really know what the show was. There were people who were very, very nervous about my insistence on casting her, but she's delivered."
Then there are those rumors of off-camera friction between Anderson and her laconic co-star. On a two-lead series, this is something to be avoided like the Ebola virus - particularly when the characters are so symbolically linked that phone calls between them often begin with "It's me." "The first two years on the show were so completely about coping with this new monster that David and I didn't nurture our relationship," Anderson says. "But we seem to be putting more attention toward that."
Duchovny's "he said" is a bit more pointed: "We don't spend any time together off the set, so we don't have a relationship off the set. It's not because I don't like her. [After putting in these hours], I don't want to see anybody from work."
It doesn't take an FBI supersleuth's dossier on Anderson to figure out that the Scully parallels have been overblown. As a self-described "fearless" teen, Anderson made forays to the dark side that had less to do with The X-Files than with the punk-rock nihilism of the Sex Pistols. She certainly grew up in a conducive environment: Shortly after she was born, Anderson's father, a movie post production specialist, and her mother, a computer analyst, moved the family from the United States to London for nine years, keeping a home there for vacations even after settling down in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"One summer when I was 12 or 13 I went back to [London] and was suddenly taken by the punks," says Anderson, who returned to the States with a stud in her nose. "I would walk sideways around my dad so he wouldn't see it." She also had a boyfriend 10 years her senior, whose tales of poet buddies getting shot up in coffeehouse melees kept her interested for three years. "I even supported him, to a degree," she says, amused. "I'd buy his cigarettes and Big Gulps."
By college, though, the boyfriend was history and Anderson's hard-core lifestyle was softening. "My parents were extremely liberal, and I'm very grateful for that, but there were things missing nevertheless," she says with a shrug, closing the case with as many lingering questions as your typical Mulder-and-Scully investigation. "There is a very rebellious nature inside me that will always be there, that kicks in when it needs to."
Anderson began dating Clyde Klotz in September 1993, two months into The X-Files' initial production run, and, by New Year's Day, was exchanging vows with him on an ocean-side golf course in Hawaii. (Klotz, an artist by trade, left the show shortly afterward, and these days is busy hand-carving a four-poster bed for their Vancouver home.)
"I had gotten engaged before, with a ring over a fancy dinner, and it was a very uncomfortable thing," says Anderson. "But this time it was so fabulously simple - it was just one of those channel-changing moments interrupted by wedding vows."
BACK ON THE SET, ANDERSON AND PIPER HEAD FOR THE TRAILER WHERE the show's effects team dreams its depraved effects-makeup dreams. This could get ugly. Just inside the trailer's open door, an actor is having the final touches applied to some impossibly hideous facial burns. It's not the kind of thing the kiddies generally take well, but in the end, there are no surprises here. Mom knows precisely where she's going, and Piper - "our little circus baby," as Klotz has come to call her - is soon giving the actor a tiny wave hello. For Gillian Anderson, the dark side gets brighter all the time.
Transcript provided by Alfred and appears courtesy of US Magazine.