October 7, 1995
"Gillian's Alien Past"
by Jenny Cooney
Purple hair, a ring through her nose and a punk rocker boyfriend - it just doesn't sound like FBI Special Agent Dana Scully of The X-Files...
Picture the demure, cooler-than-cool star of The X-Files, Gillian Anderson, swapping her business suits and wedding ring for purple hair and a nose ring. No, this is not another bizarre episode of Network Ten's top-rating paranormal drama series, but a glimpse into the identity crisis the 26-year-old actress underwent when she moved into a small town in Michigan at the age of 14, after spending 10 years in the sophisticated whirlwind of metropolitan London with her parents, who were heavily involved with the London Film School.
Gillian rolls her eyes back in embarrassment as she reveals the adolescent dilemma that drove her into a relationship with a singer in a punk rock band who was 10 years older than she was - not to mention the nose ring and the hair colour changes from purple to black to blue!
"There was a certain feeling of displacement," the star, who plays FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, tells TV WEEK, in an exclusive peek into her life before stardom. "Moving into such a small town after growing up in London gave me a feeling of powerlessness, and it was a rebellious stage that I went through and needed to go through. I think back on it now and feel like it was a statement to myself. It was a feeling of power, saying something instead of nothing, that was necessary for me to go through as a stage in my life."
Although the quietly-spoken actress declines to name her older boyfriend, she giggles as she's asked what happened to him. "I heard he was studying to become an entertainment lawyer, which scares the hell out of me because he was a pathological liar!"
Today Gillian - looking more like a business woman than a TV star - is jewelry free, except for the gold wedding ring that marks just one of the ways her life has changed since she landed the role of Dana Scully. She impishly responds to questions about that nose ring with a bemused sparkle in her eyes. "It's nothing I've necessarily grown out of," she says. "Body piercing still intrigues me, but I don't wear anything other than earrings at the present moment. I'm sure the show's producers would have a fit if I did!"
The Gillian that sits in a plush Beverly Hills hotel suite, sipping tea and looking conservative in black pants and a blue silk shirt that matches her eyes, seems a different woman to that lost little girl she talks about. Yet it was that identity crisis that led her towards an acting career. "All of a sudden I turned up for an audition for a community play in Michigan and ended up being cast, and that made me extremely happy, like I'd finally found my place," she says. "My grades went up and I was voted most improved student."
From school, Gillian headed to the National Theatre of Great Britain at Cornell University in Ithica, New York, and followed that stint with a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree at the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago. Several off-Broadway performances followed, eventually leading her to an audition with The X-Files creator Chris Carter. "I didn't know what it entailed. I didn't even know what a pilot was," she says, looking back with amusement on the audition that changed her life. "I don't think I even cared whether it was going to get picked up or not, but once we did it and I started to know a little bit more about the whole TV thing, I was hoping we could just get picked up for a year or something like that."
Not only did The X-Files get picked up, but the show quickly earned a cult following, thanks to its offbeat paranormal story-lines, slowly evolving into a mainstream hit worldwide, and finally winning a Golden Globe award for Best Drama Series this year from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Although the success has propelled its leads, Gillian and co-star David Duchovny (who plays her FBI partner Fox Mulder), to stardom, the actress says she feels strangely detached from The X-Files stardom beast while ensconced in her Vancouver, Canada home near the set.
"I notice it when I come here," she says of her infrequent trips to L.A. "But Los Angeles is such a vast place and I'm literally shocked when somebody turns around and stares at me, because I forget why they would look at me! In Vancouver, I don't come across it as often. Although now when we shoot on the streets, the entire neighbourhood for miles around comes and stands on the sidelines to watch - but that's still only my real contact with fans."
Ironically, Gillian is in Los Angeles the same weekend as the show's first official convention takes place just a few kilometres away, pandering to convention-goers along the lines of the popular Star Trek events. "I guess all that stuff is separate, and I'm here instead," she says, admitting she has no plans to attend the event. "I feel like I'm missing something - like something is not quite clocking and I don't get it. But what surprises me most is that badges I wear can be auctioned for $1500. It's astounding that people will spend that kind of money on a piece of plastic from The X-Files."
Gillian's now considered a stable screen presence, anchoring The X-Files' witty weirdness with her own brand of humanity and gravity. Her slow-burning, red-headed quirkiness likens her to Jodie Foster - although the film roles have not exactly been flowing thick and fast. "The truth is I can't even imagine myself, at this point, working on something else during the two months we have off each year," she says. "But also, there really haven't been any offers. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have them, to say, 'No!'"
Not that Gillian doesn't have a few other things to keep her occupied. As well as starring in a hit series, the actress married Clyde Klotz - who joined the show in its first season as production designer - and then dealt with her surprise pregnancy, ending with a difficult labor and caesarean delivery of her daughter, Piper, in September last year.
"I used to have to move around all the time, constantly keep busy and do things and fly here and fly there," she says. "Back then, nothing felt right. Now I'm happy to sit on my butt on the couch and veg for a while, so it's a nice feeling to learn how to relax - if that's what you call motherhood and sleep deprivation!"
Gillian's new outlook on life is a direct result of the inner battle that began when she discovered she was pregnant. "I knew the decision I had to make towards having a child and I knew that I could also lose my job over it," she says. "I knew that if I didn't lose my job, I'd probably wish that I had, since I had to confront a lot of people about it. "I knew it would be rough, going through the term and having a child while working the kind of hours that we were working. But I got a lot of support from the cast and crew and friends and family and it was something I knew that I needed to do, no matter what the outcome was."
As The X-Files returns for it's third season in the U.S., Gillian insists Mulder and Scully are no closer to romance.
"It's up to Chris Carter whether they're going to head in that direction, but all of us are pretty adamant about them remaining in a platonic relationship," she insists. "Mulder has had a fling with a vampire and Scully a date once, but there isn't much time for all that. Whatever is done in future episodes, hopefully it won't pull us apart any in our partnership." Gillian makes the startling admission that her real-life sleuthing fascination would make her jump at the chance to actually become an FBI agent if The X-Files disappeared tomorrow.
"But let's face it," she says, "could you imagine if I did become an agent, showing up at somebody's door? Not only are they not going to take me seriously, but they're probably going to ask me for my autograph!"
Transcript appears courtesy of TV Week.