Gil­lian An­der­son’s truth is out there


National Post (Latest Edition) - - ARTS & LIFE - Tim Martin The Tele­graph

Gil­lian An­der­son has been pro­lific in the past year or two, with tele­vi­sion roles in the se­rial- killer drama Han­ni­bal and the BBC’s adap­ta­tion of War and Peace. On stage, her per­for­mance as Blanche DuBois in the Young Vic’s pro­duc­tion of A Street­car Named De­sire won her an Evening Stan­dard award and an Olivier nom­i­na­tion in 2014, and she’ll reprise the role when the pro­duc­tion trans­fers to New York this April.

It’ ll mark a re­turn to the coun­try of her birth. An­der­son speaks with a flaw­less English ac­cent, the legacy of a life spent mov­ing be­tween Bri­tain and Amer­ica. She uses one or two tell­tale mid-At­lanti­cisms — I puz­zle, later, over the way she says “par­ity” to sound like “par­ody” — but this is ev­i­dently no per­for­mance.

“It is near to im­pos­si­ble for me to stay Amer­i­can in Eng­land, and it would be im­pos­si­ble to stay Bri­tish in Amer­ica,” she ac­knowl­edges, smil­ing. “If I’m sat at a din­ner ta­ble talk­ing to a Brit and there’s an Amer­i­can next to me, in my ear, it’s very hard. When I try and con­trol it, I sound… like a Eurot­wat, you know what I mean?” She cack­les de­light­edly ( there are whole videos on YouTube de­voted to this an­ar­chic laugh). “Like I’m putting it on!”

We’re re­ally here to talk about An­der­son’s de­ci­sion to re­vive what ob­sti­nately re­mains her most fa­mous role: that of FBI Spe­cial Agent Dana Scully in the para­nor­mal drama The X- Files, which re­turned to screens this month for a six-episode run com­mis­sioned by the Fox net­work.

An­der­son was cast as Scully in 1993, when she was 24 ( she’s now 47). Her role was that of the skep­ti­cal medic, pro­vid­ing a cool sci­en­tific coun­ter­point to the en­thu­si­as­tic con­spir­acy-hunt­ing of David Du­chovny’s Agent Fox Mulder. In 2002 the se­ries came to an end; since then, al­though she signed again with Du­chovny for a coolly re­ceived fea­ture film in 2008, it seems that An­der­son has been do­ing her best to get away from Scully and her halo of geeky celebrity. What was it that brought her back?

“I guess it was hav­ing enough dis­tance,” she says, “and feel­ing I had spread my wings suf­fi­ciently in the in­terim. David ( Du­chovny) and I have talked a lot about the fact that it wouldn’t and couldn’t hap­pen un­less there was a shorter run of episodes, which un­til about two or three years ago wasn’t even in the hemi­sphere of the stu­dio’s think­ing. And for us, do­ing it on TV meant giv­ing our lives up, and that wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen again.”

She says the ini­tial agree­ment was to “do six (episodes) and that’d be the end of it,” but af­ter the fi­nale aired on Mon­day, she is not rul­ing out the pos­si­bil­ity of more. “We might all bite, for the right com­pen­sa­tion,” she says, “And move our worlds around to make it hap­pen.”

The de­ci­sion to move her world around is not one that An­der­son — who refers sev­eral times in our in­ter­view to her strug­gles with time and sched­ul­ing — takes lightly. The XFiles made her a star: “I think I was about to be fired by my agency just be­fore it came,” she says. But it also swal­lowed nearly a decade of her life.

“What peo­ple don’t re­al­ize is that in or­der to au­di­tion for a pi­lot, you have to sign a con­tract prior to your fi­nal au­di­tion,” she says. “So young ac­tors, who are look­ing at be­ing paid more than maybe their par­ents have made in their whole lives, go — ‘ Yeah! Five years? Sure! Why not?’” She gives a thin smile and waves a hand that seems to sum­mon up nine years of bug-eyed mon­sters and global con­spir­a­cies.

How­ever, she ac­knowl­edges that Scully is the kind of per­son she likes to play. “Some­body at one point said some­thing about the fact that I’ve ended up with, or have cho­sen, th­ese roles where it’s me, not nec­es­sar­ily against, but ri­valling th­ese ( male) char­ac­ters: the trip­tych of Mulder, Han­ni­bal and Spec­tor ( the killer from The Fall). That I find my­self in those sit­u­a­tions, those roles. I mean, Mulder’s not re­ally a preda­tor, we’re not in that dance, but there’s ten­sion. Var­i­ous forms of both in­tel­lec­tual and sex­ual ten­sion.”

Great swaths of the gos­sip­ing In­ter­net have long hoped that a real life re­la­tion­ship might fol­low on the heels of the tense sex­ual dy­namic be­tween Mulder and Scully: the same swaths of the In­ter­net went pos­i­tively wild with ex­cite­ment when pho­tos sur­faced this year show­ing the cou­ple shar­ing a kiss on stage, or re­lax­ing on a bed with X-Files mer­chan­dise.

Peo­ple who want to read more into that close­ness, how­ever, should “know there’s noth­ing to it,” says An­der­son. “It’s a game.” She shifts in her seat, and fixes me with a cool gaze.

Does she re­ally think peo­ple be­lieve that? Plenty, as a quick Google search re­veals, seem ab­so­lutely con­vinced that there’s more to it. “Does he live in Lon­don?” she snaps back. “Does David live in Lon­don?” Not to my knowl­edge, I say; but were they ever ro­man­ti­cally in­volved? “Nope,” she replies crisply. “Is that go­ing to be the head­line of this in­ter­view?”

An­der­son has lit­tle time for this nar­ra­tive. There’s no doubt, how­ever, that the pair’s close­ness also brought with it a de­gree of fric­tion. “I think the grind of work­ing ev­ery sin­gle f—— day, 17 hours a day, with each other, in those cir­cum­stances, just took its toll.

“I think when we did the last film, we got closer, as time had passed and we’d, I don’t know, ma­tured, grown up, got­ten a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on life and work.”

When Du­chovny re­ceived a star on the Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame last month, An­der­son sent a mock­ing mes­sage that ap­peared to mis­take the cer­e­mony for a fu­neral, com­ment­ing that he would “al­ways be my shin­ing star” and wish­ing that his soul might be for­given. She grins when I ask if there was an edge to her mes­sage.

“No!” she ex­claims. “They asked me to write some­thing, that was ex­actly what came to mind, and I pressed ‘ send’. I mean, it’s such a weird thing, any­way, that whole idea of a star on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard.” She laughs again. “It is akin to a grave­stone!”

We move on to less con­tro­ver­sial top­ics — but only just. As An­der­son re­cently re­vealed, dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions for the re­boot she was of­fered a salary half that of Du­chovny’s. “I don’t think in­fu­ri­ated is the right word,” she says evenly, “but I think, prob­a­bly, all of us who heard what fig­ure they came in at were gob­s­macked. I think my agent may have just put down the phone. We knew what he was be­ing of­fered, and we knew what I was be­ing of­fered.”

It must have been tempt­ing to walk away al­to­gether. “Well, yeah. And I would have. So then it just be­came: don’t talk to us un­til it’s par­ity. We worked re­ally hard at par­ity many years ago” — it took three years of the orig­i­nal se­ries be­fore her agents were able to ne­go­ti­ate an equal salary for her — “so it’s not even a con­ver­sa­tion un­til we can get it there. I think this hap­pens ev­ery­where, in ev­ery work­place around the world.”

Would she con­tem­plate lend­ing her voice to a cam­paign for equal pay? “Yeah!” she says. “I mean, I haven’t got po­lit­i­cally in­volved yet, but if some­body were to ap­proach me about giv­ing voice to, or be­ing part of that sys­temic change, I’d be in­ter­ested.”

But this, like ev­ery­thing else, would have to be fit­ted into one of the busiest sched­ules in the busi­ness. An­der­son has book dead­lines loom­ing: she’s work­ing on a sort of fem­i­nist man­i­festo called We with the writer Jen­nifer Nadel, and she’s also do­ing a third vol­ume of the Earthend sci-fi nov­els she co- cre­ated with the pro­lific thriller writer Jeff Rovin.

Then there’s child­care to man­age. An­der­son shares the par­ent­ing of her two younger chil­dren — Os­car, 9, and Felix, 7 — with their father, her for­mer part­ner Mark Grif­fiths, and she also has a grown-up daugh­ter, Piper, from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage. “My sched­ule right now is not the way I would want it,” she says. “I’m gone all week and I’m home on week­ends, and there’s not enough time.

“It was meant to be dif­fer­ent. Nor­mally I will only take work if I can say, ‘ This is how I need the sched­ule to be, or I can’t do it’”

She’s look­ing for­ward to half-term with the chil­dren, though, even if it will be over­shad­owed by the run of Street­car that starts in New York shortly af­ter. “That is also go­ing to be cram­ming lines,” she says, “be­cause I’m not go­ing to have a se­cond to work on those be­fore I get there. It’ll lit­er­ally be that, the minute the boys are in bed.”

Lit­tle sur­prise, then, that she thinks there is no room in her life for a part­ner. “Oh, God, where would they fit, re­ally?” she asks, smil­ing. “It’s a nice idea, but I re­ally don’t know, I hon­estto- God don’t know, where they would fit into this mad­ness.”




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