May 19-25, 2001
Life Beyond The X-Files
By Jacqueline Cutler
Gillian Anderson has become so identified as skeptical, analytical FBI Special Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files, it's not surprising she lets down her red tresses when she's not on the set of the hit series. The actress, who finished work on the last episode of the season a month before its Sunday airdate, is happily spending her break relaxing in her Malibu home with six-year-old daughter Piper.
"I decided I needed some time off," she says. "I get to play with Piper and I have hired a French tutor. Piper goes to French school, so I am constantly being asked things I have no idea about."
In part two of The X-Files season finale, Existence, Mulder, Doggett and Skinner (David Duchovny, Robert Patrick and Mitch Pileggi) all work to protect Scully's unborn child. Meanwhile, the baby's father's identity will finally be revealed as will other secrets surrounding her pregnancy. Having been with the show eight years, Anderson concedes that, essentially, she grew up playing Scully.
"I didn't realize it at the time," she says, "because at every single stage of your life, you think you are grown up. I walked in thinking I knew absolutely everything and found shortly that I knew absolutely nothing, and spent the next few years living that I knew absolutely nothing."
Unknown and 24 when she landed the role, Anderson told the show's producers she was 27 ("because the character was supposed to be between 27 and 30," she says). Prior to that, there were a couple of TV commercials, a role in a small film called The Turning and an episode of the series Class of '96. At the time, she was sleeping on a friends floor in New York's Greenwich Village and working as a waitress. She was offered The X-Files job the same day her last unemployment cheque arrived.
Less than a year into the show, she became pregnant but returned to work 10 days after having a Caesarian section. The memory still makes her groan. "I would literally have to roll over sideways to get out of bed and get down on my knees to stand up again and shuffle to work," she says. "They had a wheelchair for me at work. The good news was, on the first episode back, I was horizontal. But by the second show, I was back running."
Her success translated into plenty of money but not much privacy, and enterprising paparazzi have gone out of their way to photograph the actress. She has, however, managed to shield her daughter by not taking her to premieres or anywhere else she expects photographers. "I tried to take my daughter to a park," she says, "and they followed me. I have been on the beach with her, and they have taken pictures." But what Anderson finds particularly disturbing are the times "when I think there isn't anybody around and then there will be pictures. That is a bit creepy."
Nevertheless, she does go "out in the world freely" and last summer showed Piper around London, England, where Anderson spent nine years of her childhood. When she returned Stateside with her family, they settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, Anderson went through her well-documented "punk period" -- a time of her life she no longer cares to discuss. "I am so tired of hearing about the high-school years, and talking about it," she says.
She is likewise weary of the misinformation about her that seems a constant. For the record: She was not originally blonde; she does have a dog, but it's a King Charles spaniel, not a Jack Russell terrier; and she has been nicotine-free for just over a year. "It isn't as hard as I imagined it would be," she says of kicking the habit. "I am in a state of grace with it."
A practicing Buddhist, Anderson seems to be in a state of grace with life overall. And although she enjoyed directing an episode of The X-Files, she says it's so time-consuming that she can't imagine doing it again until Piper is at least 16. But Anderson makes no secret of the fact that she's ready to move on. When her contract expires after next season, she wants to return to the stage.
"I have a feeling everything will change when this gig is over," she says. "It's a challenge to stay interested, and to stay focused, to not give up -- as if I had a choice."
Transcript provided by Megan and appears courtesy of TV Week.