Bush House in London, UK Chat
December 6, 2002
The chat was done in the BBC's new, state of the art Bush House studio in Holborn where members of the public can watch interviews take place from the street and can also SMS their questions from outside the studio.
Movie star, television celebrity and West End actress Gillian Anderson joined us to kick-start her campaign against theatre press nights.
Presenter: Gwyneth Paltrow complained about British men. How do you find them?
Gillian Anderson: I did have somebody at the stage door who delivered some raunchy poetry to me, but he wasn't British. I have signed someone's newly pierced belly button. Haven't been tempted by any of them, no!
From Rachael, Darlington: Who would be your ideal West End co-star?
Gillian Anderson: There's a few... I'd love to do something with Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Cate Blanchett. Men aren't jumping to the tip of my tongue at the moment. There are plenty out there.
From Ricedreams: What kind of research did you do to prepare for the role of Lindy Metz in What The Night Is For?
Gillian Anderson: I read a lot - she does work with special needs children and I read about what type of work one might do if one had that job. I read a couple of the books that are mentioned in the play. On certain levels, as an actor, one normally taps into some sort of emotional life, you can only draw on your own experiences, even if it's of a similar flavour. In terms of fidelity, I have very strong views in terms of whether people are meant to be together. I also believe that, in regards to families, sometimes two separate divorced loving parents can be better parents to a child than two unhappy parents that are together.
From Will C: Do you feel at home in London? What's your favourite place to visit?
Gillian Anderson:I do feel at home in London. I love going to galleries and museums, but I don't have one favourite place. I will eventually have more of my days free, once I've finished all this press!
From Belinda, Las Vegas: What is something your fans have done that bothers you or gets on your nerves?
Gillian Anderson: There hasn't really been anything. There have been a few people who have found out where I live and hung out, which is a little bit bothersome. A combination of both and many other things thrown into the mix as well.
From TracieNJ: Do you know if there is a high chance that What The Night Is For will come to New York?
Gillian Anderson: I don't know. I think it will, at some point, be presented to us at the end of the run. I don't think we'd do it for a year or so. You'd have to ask me at the end of the run though, I don't know whether I'd commit to a long run and I'd still have to be madly in love with the character.
From Baseballcapfan: Roger seems a great guy, extremely talented too! Are you guys having fun working together?
Gillian Anderson: We're having a ball. I adore him, he's a lot of fun and hysterical. We're having a great time.
From Mark Cavill, High Wycombe: Loved the play Gillian, can't wait to see it again. I was wondering, have you had the chance to visit your tree since you've been over here?
Gillian Anderson: No, I haven't but I would love it if somebody would tell me exactly where it is. People can buy trees for people and give them as gifts and a group of people did that for me. I believe it's an English Oak tree.
From Ana Pinto, Portugal: You bought the rights of the book The Speed Of Light in order to make a movie. How's that project going?
Gillian Anderson: At the moment, slowly. I was working on it for a few weeks before coming to London. I hope to put my attention back in to it soon.
From Vaughan: I thought you were superb in the play. Is there any chance of a screen adaptation? I am sure the BBC would be interested!
Gillian Anderson: You'd have to talk to the writer about that, it's not a question for me. I'm not sure if it would translate well to film. I'd have to be proved otherwise.
From Julia: As an ex-pat who is about to return to London for the first time in 10 years, I'm interested to know what struck you as having changed since your pre-college time there?
Gillian Anderson: Everything! There's not a great deal of extra building in cities like this because there's no room. But, I remember when the first McDonalds hit London. When I was growing up here, you couldn't get a really good meal anywhere, it was all greasy and fatty and the best food was Indian food. It's changed drastically since then. Some of the best restaurants in the world are here now.
From The Boy, London: Do you have any superstitions or strange habits before a performance?
Gillian Anderson: Just a few... I have my routine which I have to go through. Make-up, going over the script, when I get dressed etc.
From Clare: You have played a great variety of film roles from Scully to Loretta Lee to Meredith to Lily. What do you look for in characters that makes you want to "be" them?
Gillian Anderson: I don't know, it all depends on the script first of all. The writing is one of the most important aspects. Then, who the director and who the other actors are. I am interested in playing as many different characters as a challenge as an actress. Mostly to stretch myself. It's not so much the kind of character as the whole piece and the whole story.
From TK: Gillian - during your career so far, which role would you say was the hardest you have had to play and why?
Gillian Anderson: I think, probably, Lilly. Just the amount of focus that needed to go into maintaining all the aspects of, not only that era and time, but making as true as possible a very beautifully written novel. In a way, living in Lindy every night has become one of the more fulfilling opportunities, because of the growth the character takes in the play. It's very fulfilling as an actor to negotiate those degrees.
From Ana: You were famous for your laughter attacks while filming the X-Files. As in theatre you can't stop and do another take, what do you do to avoid this happening?
Gillian Anderson: Pray really hard that you're not going to crack on stage! There's only been one performance so far where we almost lost it. When we first started, we had an infestation of fruit flies and there was one night when there were about 8 or 10 flies on the stage and it was raining outside and we could hardly hear ourselves. The gutters are inside the theatre so the rain was coming down and it was really loud. Then it started to thunder and the roof started to leak. It was at that point that we both nearly lost it. It was a comedy of errors!
From Paula, Liverpool: Are there any roles in the past that you regret doing, or any that you turned down but now wish that you had taken?
Gillian Anderson: There was one - I think I was given an offer and turned it down - which was Wings Of A Dove. Regret doing - I'd rather not mention that.
From LouiseR129: I really admire what you've done in your career. Got any tips for a student actress looking for a big break?
Gillian Anderson: Continue to be a student for as long as you can. Study the craft of what you tend to do as much as possible so that ends up being where your greatest enjoyment is, so you never get to the point where your goal is either to be rich or famous. Find that place where you love it, because you're going to be stuck with it, whether unemployed or a working actor. The highlight of being a celebrity for me - it gives one a platform for having a voice for issues that one considers to be important and we have a tendency to listen quite strongly to celebrities in terms of where to take our cues. I've been able to speak out on many issues that are important to me and as a result of that, there's been a large contingent of fans that have got involved in these issues and have gone on to get involved in things that are important to them. Obviously there are financial benefits too.
Presenter: What do you think of the play's reviews?
Gillian Anderson:It's a tricky play in many ways, because it deals with issues that do make people uncomfortable - certain ways of telling the truth. I don't think that's why the critics aren't liking it. I don't think they're used to this kind of play... they're used to something more traditional that appeals to their sensibility a bit more. I've chosen not to read the negative reviews because I don't want it to influence my performance. The response by the audience has been wonderful. It doesn't really matter at the end of the day. It's unfortunate - it seems to be that we should do away with an idea of having a press night. It's absolutely ludicrous and only counter-productive for everyone involved. It's not a good indication. When we got up there, we looked down and there was this audience of corpses in front of us, how can this not affect us?! Somebody has to change those rules and I guarantee you, the majority of the actors in this city would stand by me. Start the petition now...
From VickiW: There seem to be lots of American celebrities moving to London these days. Why is that and do you have any plans to make London your home?
Gillian Anderson: I have no idea why that is. But, my choice is because I knew, when I left London, I would eventually have a home here. This was my first opportunity to do it, so here I am.
From Zoe Flack, Sheffield: Will you ever look at a packet of M&M's again, once the play has finished?
Gillian Anderson: Certainly not the ones I eat on stage - the blue crunchy ones. I don't know about ever again but it'll always remind me of that part of my life. Just like hearing the music again. I don't know how long that will last.
BBC Host: Here's Gillian Anderson with a final word...
Gillian Anderson: First of all, thanks for waiting for so long. You're all supportive and mad! Thanks to everyone who's tuned in and gives a damn about what I have to say.
Transcript appears courtesy of BBC