BOOKS: ‘X-Files’ ac­tress and U.K. jour­nal­ist cre­ate a ‘man­i­festo for women.’

‘X-Files’ ac­tress and Bri­tish jour­nal­ist cre­ate a ‘man­i­festo for women’ on how to live hap­pier lives

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY CA­ROLE BURNS Ca­role Burns is the au­thor of “The Miss­ing Woman and Other Sto­ries,” which won the John C. Zacharis Award from the jour­nal “Ploughshares.” book­world@wash­

Spe­cial agent Dana Scully would never pick up a copy of “We: A Man­i­festo for Women Ev­ery­where.” In­deed, it seems sur­pris­ing that Gil­lian An­der­son, who played Scully on “The X-Files,” would write this quasi self-help book aimed at guid­ing women “on a path of self-dis­cov­ery and spir­i­tual awak­en­ing.” But de­spite spe­cial­iz­ing in strong, com­pli­cated women on stage and screen, the 48-year-old mother of three says she has felt frag­ile at times.

“There were maybe two or three points in my life where I have felt like the de­ci­sions that I was mak­ing weren’t good,” she said in a phone in­ter­view from Lon­don. “In a way, I was my own worst en­emy.”

Whether it was the pres­sure of the in­tense pro­duc­tion sched­ule for “The X Files,” self-doubt about her ap­pear­ance dur­ing a photo shoot or the wor­ries of moth­er­hood, An­der­son said she suf­fered — and still suf­fers — from episodes she calls “light” de­pres­sion. At th­ese times, she said, “I thought, there’s got to be an­other way of do­ing things.”

“We: A Man­i­festo” of­fers an­other way. In fact, it of­fers sev­eral. The book lays out about a dozen prin­ci­ples and prac­tices that women should fol­low — such as be­ing grate­ful for what they have rather than fo­cus­ing on the neg­a­tive — to live hap­pier, more pro­duc­tive lives.

An­der­son and her co-au­thor, Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Jen­nifer Nadel, spoke about how the book came to be and why it’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant now. (This in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.)

Q: Why did you de­cide to write this book now?

A: An­der­son: I started pay­ing at­ten­tion to ar­ti­cles talk­ing about the sta­tis­tics of self-harm and de­pres­sion in women, and women talk­ing about so­ci­etal pres­sures to be­have in cer­tain ways and the im­pact that was hav­ing on their lives. I started think­ing of a book that might ad­dress that. Jen­nifer and I have known each other for about a decade, and she said she was think­ing about the same things.

Q: Were you think­ing of your own daugh­ter when you were writ­ing this book?

A: An­der­son: I’m sure I was, but I also feel like I was as much talk­ing to my younger self. Not that I don’t need to hear ev­ery­thing that is in this book now. This book hope­fully will be resonant for women of all ages. And we don’t con­sider our­selves to be ex­perts on any of this. I’m still strug­gling on a daily ba­sis on de­ci­sions I make and the way I re­act to things and the choices that I make. I make mis­takes all the time and have to re­assess and apol­o­gize, so it’s not us stand­ing on a soapbox. It’s just say­ing: Th­ese prin­ci­ples are out there, they’re univer­sal, and we can start to do things dif­fer­ently.

Q: The word “man­i­festo” makes this an am­bi­tious ti­tle.

A: Nadel: “Man­i­festo” is a word that we are seek­ing to re­claim. It’s of­ten thought of in a very mas­cu­line way. This is not just a book. It’s also a book about how we’re all liv­ing to­day, so the word “man­i­festo” is unashamedly there. Two years ago, peo­ple were very un­sure about the word, and we had a lot of long con­ver­sa­tions with publishers about it. It was Gil­lian who com­pletely stuck to her guns and said, “That’s what the book’s called.” And then Brexit hap­pened in Eng­land, and Trump was elected in the States. No one’s say­ing, “Why do we need a man­i­festo?” any­more.

Q: Pol­i­tics isn’t usu­ally dis­cussed in this kind of book.

A: Nadel: We’re liv­ing in a “me” cul­ture, but spir­i­tu­al­ity for me isn’t just about try­ing to make my life bet­ter and gain­ing my own in­ner peace. It’s about try­ing to bring those same qual­i­ties into the world. One of the lies that we’re all fed is that what each of us do in­di­vid­u­ally in our lives doesn’t have an im­pact on any­one else. But we are con­nected, and what we do on one side of the world has an im­pact on women in an­other.

An­der­son: There are var­i­ous char­i­ties I do work for, and it’s very easy in tak­ing a plat­form and speak­ing out to feel that I have an an­swer. Part of this work is about ac­knowl­edg­ing that one doesn’t al­ways know what’s best for other peo­ple, even though it may feel coura­geous when there’s a bit of right­eous in­dig­na­tion in there.

Q: Why ad­dress this book just to women?

A: Nadel: Men could gain from th­ese prin­ci­ples, no ques­tion. But it’s women who are most ad­versely af­fected by the cur­rent way we do things. Glob­ally, women do 75 per­cent of the work, re­ceive 10 per­cent of the pay and earn 1 per­cent of the prop­erty. I think women are a good place to start.

Q: Gil­lian, I know you’ve been a strong ad­vo­cate for equal pay for women in Hol­ly­wood.

A: An­der­son: Yes. I started to be­come vo­cal about it be­cause of my own ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the in­dus­try and be­ing of­fered less than 50 per­cent of what a co-self-help worker was, first in the orig­i­nal “X Files” se­ries, then in the re­boot. I de­cided to speak out.

Q: Do you see the act­ing roles you choose linked to your fem­i­nism?

A: An­der­son: I rec­og­nize that I have a ten­dency to­ward cer­tain types of char­ac­ters. A good hand­ful of the char­ac­ters I have played are quite dam­aged. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily know if all of those would be con­sid­ered to be fem­i­nists. I do rec­og­nize that there is part of me that is at­tracted to very com­plex real and rec­og­niz­able and some­times pow­er­ful fe­male char­ac­ters.

Q: Do you like the idea of the “Scully Ef­fect,” which cred­its the char­ac­ter with prompt­ing more young women to go into the sci­ences or law en­force­ment?

A: An­der­son: Yes! Ab­so­lutely. It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary thing. But much of that has to do with the char­ac­ter that was cre­ated by Chris Carter. It’s won­der­ful to be as­so­ci­ated with, but it’s much more to do with the char­ac­ter that was writ­ten than nec­es­sar­ily any­thing I did.

Q: Are “The X-Files” gone for­ever?

A: An­der­son: Prob­a­bly not.

Q: Do you have any­thing in the works?

A: An­der­son: Not to be dis­cussed here. But thanks for ask­ing.




TOP: Gil­lian An­der­son at a party in Lon­don in Fe­bru­ary. ABOVE: An­der­son and David Du­chovny in “The X-Files.”

By Gil­lian An­der­son and Jen­nifer Nadel Atria. 384 pp. $25

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