The X-Files star on why she loves playing FBI Agent Dana Scully (even after 25 years)
Even after a successful run as Stella Gibson on the BBC’s
The Fall, Gillian Anderson is still best known as the skeptical Agent Dana Scully, a role she returns to again and again, most recently in an X-Files audio series (the second installment,
Stolen Lives, is available Oct. 3; $25, audible.com). The U.K.based actress, author and mom of three, 49, talked to Parade from the set of the show’s 11th season, debuting in 2018.
When you were making the original series, did you think it would have this kind of legacy?
We knew we were involved in something that was perceived as iconic, and that it would last in that sense. Every time we come back together again, we look at each other a little bit sideways. “Oh my God, here we go again. Can you believe it?” And wondering at what point are people just going to say, “Come on, guys, give us a break. You’re too old.” But when it’s in Audible form, we are perpetually in our late 30s.
The fan base must be a wide age range.
When someone says they’re a huge fan, my first question is often, “How old were you when you discovered this?” Some of them say, “I discovered it on Netflix or Amazon.” Some were introduced by their parents when the reboot came out [last year].
Has Dana Scully become a part of you?
When we started shooting, I was 24, and I had to really pull myself up by my bootstraps and just show up with integrity and not be selfpitying about the hours and the intensity of the things that were asked of me. I developed a very strong work ethic. And that [role] influenced the type of female that I was interested in embodying from that point on.
What inspired you to write We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere?
I had this thought that I’m sure at some point we all have, which was, why are we struggling so much with the same issues, the same levels of low self-esteem? And why is it that we’re not working together to support and encourage each other? I pitched this vague idea of what a book might look like that could start that conversation to my friend [co-author] Jennifer Nadel, who was having the same thoughts.That’s how it began.
How do you balance career, family and friends?
I’ve got two young boys and an older daughter. The boys’ father, even though we’re not together, is incredibly present. I can go away, and I can 100 percent trust that everything is OK. I’m gone between 10 days and three weeks max before coming back and having time with them. In terms of friends, I started game nights to get more people in the room at the same time. If I’m able to schedule one every couple months, or a dinner with mothers from the boys’ school, I can stay in touch with the part of my life that is meant to be grounding.The people in my life are what define it, so it’s up to me to keep up those connections.
What did you do on Sundays growing up?
Growing up in the U.K., my parents had a friend who was a painter. We would go to his house [every weekend] and sit for him.Then we’d take breaks, have tea and he’d teach me how to draw, and there was something very magical about those sittings. I have the painting. My dad has flare jeans and my mom has a red velour top. It’s very ’70s wacky psychedelic.
What do you like to do on Sundays now?
I have two versions of Sundays.There’s the Sunday where I have the kids, which means we wake up with enough time to be able to have breakfast before either parkour [urban obstacle course training], which is on one side of town, or gymnastics, which is on the other. My other Sunday is one where I sleep in, do absolutely nothing, maybe putter around, meditate and spend time with my boyfriend.
The X-Files season 11: Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) together again