with Candice Bergen
Feb, 15, 2000
CANDICE: Gillian Anderson is an Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress for her work on the X-Files. You're GREAT to be here with us, and we're going to just travel back in time a little bit to your youth, Gillian, um because I'm interested what it was like for you to move around so much and to spend your pre-teen time...you were in Chicago, Puerto Rico and then London, so then you left London with a full North London accent and landed in Grand Rapids (crew giggles), so were you treated sort of like an alien?
GILLIAN: You know what was interesting at the time, because when I um, when I was in London because my parents were American, I was always referred to as a Yank and um, and teased in that way, and then during the summers my parents' family was still living in different part of the States, and so we'd come to America, and it always... um you know, the sun was shining and there was you know endless amounts of candy, and it was just, it seemed like the brighter, better place. And then when we went to Grand Rapids, um, at first I got a HUGE amount of attention because of my accent, and I think...and something clicked in my head, you know...um...and I started to take advantage of it, and you know, everybody at the time...the bribing, it was gum. You know, if somebody liked you, they gave you gum, and so everybody would always offer me gum [Candice laughs at this notion], and then I started to expect gum, you know, and so that's, that is a metaphor for I think what ending up happening, was I got this attention and I felt special, and then I completely took it in the other direction and I think...and then suddenly I didn't have any friends, you know because I was...
CANDICE: Or any gum...
GILLIAN: Or any gum. And then what ended up happening was because I knew that my accent brought attention, I hung onto it for the longest time, I think even until like my mid-college years. It would've been you know relatively easy for me to lose it, but there was always something that I had, you know, one up on someone, it was actually a huge turning point for me to humble myself enough to drop the accent and just be one of the norm.
CANDICE: Was acting a kind of, a kind of um outlet that you found because you didn't...it came looking for you, you sort of found it by accident right, you weren't, you had no sort of obsession with it...
GILLIAN: Yeah...no, I don't think I did, I mean I don't remember, I mean I need to have a conversation with my Mom about that, but I mean the earliest thing that I remember is for whatever reason when we first moved to Grand Rapids when I was um, about a year later when I was 12, I discovered in the newspaper that they were holding auditions for Alice in Wonderland, and I don't know what brought me to that step of, I mean I don't think I had ever even opened a newspaper in my life at that point, and um, and so I went to the audition and there were, you know, 150 girls my age auditioning for Alice, and we were all auditioning in the same room, and um, and it was daunting, it was terrifying actually, I had no idea that that would be the result of me, you know, stepping into this world, and I auditioned and felt completely, you know, felt like I didn't know what I was doing and that I had failed and I didn't get cast, and then um...kind of gave it up for a while. I mean I just, I just, it obviously wasn't something that I was gonna be good at because I didn't get cast this one time, and then a few years later I started taking acting classes at a community theater and became good friends with the director of the theater, and I think we were having lunch at one time and we were just talking about when I first came to Grand Rapids, and he was also from London, so we had that...and um, and I reminded him that he was actually the person that had auditioned me for Alice in Wonderland, and he said, "Did you have a British accent back then", and I said "Yeah". He said, he said "You, you were the British girl", and I said "Yes", and he said, "Did you know that you almost got that part, did you know that you were our second runner-up for that role?", and you know, I had NO idea, and they had ended up going with somebody that, you know, a young girl that had been in the theater a lot and somebody that they could rely on. But it's just interesting I think how um, how our perspective of things can get the better of us sometimes. I mean to me, that was a failure that kept me away from it for a few years...
CANDICE: Well, you were so young.
CANDICE: It's uh, it takes an enormous amount of courage or something to keep going into something where you're, it's...
GILLIAN: I don't even know, you know, from being in Grand Rapids, I don't know what it is that propelled me forward in this work, and I think in part it was, you know, after this experience I then auditioned for a couple of community plays and um, and up until that point my interest in school hadn't been that great, I think because of the um, because of moving to a new city and kind of feeling like I didn't fit in, and I was always daydreaming and doodling and passing notes and talking back to the teachers, and it was my way of I think still getting attention, and at the point that I really started to get involved in theater and in acting, um, all of a sudden it felt like I woke up, it was like I had purpose for the first time, and then I started to get interested in my school work and my grades started to get better and I think I was um, I think I was nominated like the most improved student or something, and I'm showing up with, you know, I think at that point I had red hair and wore vintage cothes and combat boots all the time, and I remember sitting at this luncheon at a hotel, you know, most improved student [giggles]...I didn't know what it meant, it was just so abstract, it was, you know, but it was a change, and it was a sense of direction for me.
CANDICE: We're going to take a break, stay with us, we'll be right back.
CANDICE: Welcome back to Exhale, I'm Candice Bergen and talking with Gillian Anderson...You wrote a foreword to a book that's out called "Girl Boss". It's an advice book for girls, and um I'd like to hear a little bit about the foreword since I can't read it to everyone.
GILLIAN: What it speaks to is um...it talks a little bit about, about my process and the fears that I experienced in my early adulthood and also in starting the series, coming from nothing to being on a television series, and admitting that I was terrified and that it's ok to be terrified, but it's more ok to be terrified if you're terrified and you do it anyway, you know, and so it speaks to that and it speaks to some other things that I think are important character traits I guess that um...I suggest being honest, you know, and trying to the best of one's ability not to lie no matter what, that the result of lying is often so much worse than actually telling the truth. And talking about being of service in any way, whether it's in the community or in one's job space and work space, and um doing volunteer work, and just little things...but just an attempt to motivate and to share a bit of my own experience and just to remind women specifically that no matter where we come from, the resources are within us and around us to do ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING we put our minds to.
CANDICE: It's great, it'll be great for women of all ages to read that. And now you're in preparation for the episode of the X-Files that you've written and that you're directing, so you're a living example that they can do anything that they want.
GILLIAN: [Big smiles] I don't know how this has happened, I really don't, it was another one of those things where um a friend of mine said, you know, "Have you ever thought of directing or writing an episode", and I said, "Yeah, well I had an idea once", and um they asked me what it was and I told them, and they said "You know that sounds great, that sounds really great, why don't you try and do something with that", and I sat down that night, it was like 1 o'clock in the morning, and I wrote the outline for the entire episode. I don't know where it came from, and I don't know whether it's just, like that stuff is just in us and if we're given permission in some way and open ourselves to the possibility that it CAN just flow. And it did. And so the next day I went in and I pitched the idea, and much to my surprise [giggles] the producers liked the idea and said, "Ok, we'll go ahead and do this", and I said "Well, I'd like to direct it too", and they said "Ok well, you know, you can do that", and I said [slightly panicked] "Well wait a minute, wait a minute, I wasn't serious" [laughs]. But, I mean, they've been SO...our executive producer Chris Carter and the other writers and the other directors have been so AMAZINGLY supportive and encouraging and gentle with me and um really helped to take me through this process, and I, I you know I wrote initially the first three acts and then um started to sit down and go through them and find out, you know, how to fit this...what I had written...into what is expected from the audience. You know, the audience expects such and such to happen, or at least to be um, to arrive at a certain point at this part of the script, and you know stuff that I just don't know. And a lot of stuff, I guess from reading the 100 and some episodes that we've done so far, and just the rhythm of the episodes kind of came somewhat naturally, but it's been...you know at first, before I even sat down to write, I burst into tears because I was so afraid that I was going to...because time has become SO important to me because there's so little of it in my life, just time you know between the hours of the show and being a mother and, and STUFF...and I was so terrified that if I wrote something and then somebody came along and said, "You know, that doesn't really work and you're gonna have to change it", that my first response would be [whiny little girl voice] "But I spent two hours, and I don't have two hours, and I'm gonna have to spend two more hours" to you know, and it's been ok, it's been a wonderful process of putting everything I have into something and then being willing at some point to let it go to make it better as opposed to trying to hang onto that idea because I thought it was right. You know, it's been a really wonderful and educational process, and I feel closer to the writers of the show, I feel closer to the directors of the show, and now I'm in prep right know, which is when you look for locations and you go through the script and you talk to all the different departments and the special effects department and stuff, and you prepare to shoot this thing. And last week was my first day of prep and we went out trying to find locations for a couple of the settings, and we found a house that's perfect and we're driving home in the van on the way afterwards and somebody's in the back of the van making a phone call about the fact that, that we found a location, we just bought this house, and that's how they referred to it as "buying this house", and all of a sudden it seemed so IMPORTANT, and I panicked, I was like [panic-stricken voice] "We, we don't have to buy the house, we could just..."
CANDICE: "Couldn't we just rent the house?"
GILLIAN: Yeah, and then, also we were having a special effects meeting and going through...there's a lot of slow motion stuff that I'm gonna be doing in the episode, and we're talking about you know these very complicated, specific, EXPENSIVE details of doing that kind of camera work and, and it became AMAZING to me, I mean, all I did was write the words, I mean I just wrote these little words...they were just words, individual words on this page, and all of a sudden - $100,000 dollars...$200,000 dollars [giggles]...and I keep wanting to say, "You know that's ok, we don't have to do that", you know it's just, it's becoming a reality as much as this fantasy world that we live in in this business, it's a reality, it's becoming real, and it's, it's, I'm constantly just in awe and cannot believe that it's actually, that my idea of "Oh yeah, I could write a script and maybe I could direct it" is actually, that I'm actually doing it now. I mean it was just an idea, but I guess that's also what "Girl Boss" speaks to. I have to believe and I do believe that this opportunity for me is also mirrored in other people's lives, in resources that are available to people who have an idea and can make it into a reality, can create that which brings them happiness essentially.
CANDICE: We're gonna take a break, but we'll be right back with Eve Ensler and Gillian. Stay with us.
The second half of the interview was devoted to Eve Ensler, author of "V" Monologues, with Gillian commenting and laughing throughout - Gillian erupted in laughter and just about lost it when Candice said her personal favorite word for "V" is "coochie snorcher"! Gillian also informed Candice that one day in her trailer on the X-Files set she had practiced her "V" monologue using Candice's teenage daughter Chloe as an audience and didn't know if Candice was made aware of that...
Eve commented that "Gillian was SO brilliant and truly rocked the house" in the 2/99 London production of "V Monologues", to which Candice replied, "You used your English accent, Gillian, and you got a lot of gum, I'll bet" [more giggles]...
Transcript provided by Christine P and appears courtesy of Exhale.