Q&A: Gillian Anderson Is Chasing the Bad Guys Once Again
By Matt Goulet
Esquire: May 23, 2013
It's been 20 years since Gillian Anderson first picked up the FBI badge and flashlight as Special Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files. Since the series ended, we were more likely to find her on PBS or the BBC than on any major network. That, thankfully, is about to change as she returns to NBC. First in a guest arc on Hannibal (Thursday nights) and later this fall when her pilot Crisis airs. To sate us in the meantime, she's getting back into Scully mode, tracking down a serial killer on the British miniseries The Fall, which will be coming to Netflix May 28. Consider this your much-belated Gillian Anderson update.
ESQUIRE.COM: It's been a bit of whirlwind for you lately.
GILLIAN ANDERSON: Yeah, it's been crazy.
ESQ: You've got The Fall premiering on Netflix, Crisis just got picked up by NBC, and a guest arc on Hannibal.
GA: Yep, and Shadow Dancer is about to be in the theaters. It's a film I did with Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough. So yes, a lot all at once it seems even though things were shot a year, year and a half ago. Stuff like that always happens.
ESQ: And you're based in London. Are you going to end up moving back to the States to tape Crisis?
GA: It shoots in Chicago, and I'm going to be commuting back and forth.
ESQ: It's almost like you're back here. Except for the BBC miniseries The Fall.
GA: Have you had a chance to see The Fall?
ESQ: Yeah, I saw the first two episodes. It's fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest.
GA: It'll be interesting to see how the American audiences respond to it. It seems to be doing quite well in the UK.
ESQ: The setting in Belfast up in Northern Ireland is a different location than American audiences are used to. How was filming up there?
GA: I think that's part of what makes the series so interesting and certainly adds to the tension of it. The fact that you've, first of all, you've got a British detective who's gone into Northern Ireland to do this review of these murder cases. Having a Brit go into Northern Ireland and be any kind of an authority is going to ruffle some feathers. She's just there to find out who is responsible for this murder. What ends up happening is because of the fact that the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] there has been focusing the majority of their time over the past few decades on what we now call The Troubles, their first port of call is to find out whether a death relates in some way to the politics. And if it doesn't and if it looks like it's going to be a lot more complicated and involve a lot more staff and individuals and overtime, all that kind of stuff, it's opening up a can of worms.
ESQ: Being an outsider coming into a community like that. That tension is always an interesting dynamic.
GA: Yeah, it is an interesting dynamic. And to have that with the backdrop of the audience being able to see the serial killer actually engage in his very detailed process of stalking and killing women while at the same time seeing him be a devoted father and grief counselor is extraordinarily unnerving. It all helps to keep the audience on edge.
ESQ: Still, the fact that you're a very attractive woman and he's an impossibly handsome man makes it easy to watch.
GA: Good. [Laughs.] I'm glad that works for you.
ESQ: Why is it you've gravitated toward the British shows?
GA: Well, I live in London, so working closer to home is always going to have an appeal. But also the UK puts out some pretty extraordinary dramas that are very unique to England and very different from what is created in the States. And I grew up in the UK, so it's a sensibility that's familiar to me and feels like something I've always yearned to get back to. It's been 10 years since The X-Files ended. When NBC came to me and offered a deal to develop something together, I thought maybe it's time. Then they sent me Hannibal as a small arc on a series. I think I've come to know [Hannibal creator] Bryan Fuller as a bit of a genius. And the opportunity to play Hannibal's psychiatrist is something I couldn't really pass up. That was kind of the first dip into any kind of American television again. And then I read the pilot for what we then called the untitled Rand Ravich project, and the pilot was so good. We had endless conversations with the producers about how I could potentially make it work and still live a full life in London. And apparently they're gonna make it work.
ESQ: The Fall is coming to Netflix, and one of the beauties of that site is being able to revisit a series like The X-Files.
GA: Absolutely. It's great. And what's happening now - I'm doing a year of Comic-Cons. I decided it's the 20th anniversary of when X-Files started and I thought, You know what, I'll do, when I can, about a year of this. So I've been in Canada and Seattle and Atlanta and various places, meeting up with fans in a different way for the first time. It's 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-year-old kids that are being introduced to it for the first time because of Netflix and enthusiastic and already obsessed with it. And then parents are getting to watch their old favorite show with their kids. I'm not sure about people letting their 8-year-olds watch it, but it's pretty awesome.
ESQ: It definitely holds up. Outside of the technology and fashion. They kind of aged you. Those pantsuits are unbelievable.
GA: Oh my God, I can't even. It's ridiculous. I can't believe I wasn't paying more attention back then.
ESQ: Do you look back and think, What the hell?
GA: Fortunately, I can laugh about it. There's something about the world of cult which has inherit in it a bit of cheese and awkwardness and things being slightly off. And that was certainly the case in our wardrobe and our hairstyles. It adds to it in fact, I think. Also, it was the beginning of the '90s. There were certain things that were considered cool back then which we don't consider cool now. And that happens.
ESQ: You play a pretty cold type in some of these crime dramas. Is your character in Crsis sort of in line with that?
GA: It's hard to know. I guess in the crime things, people like to offer me things that involve tough, professional, intelligent women. In Crisis, the character is a CEO of a very large international IT conglomerate so she comes across as somebody who can handle having 300,000 employees but at the same time she's a mother and a sister.
ESQ: So it might be nice to do a light comedy or a damsel in distress one day...
GA: Yeah. I'm not a damsel in distress, but definitely comedy. I'm interested in comedy.
ESQ: We probably won't be seeing you in the next Seth Rogen movie or anything like that.
GA: Well, maybe! I appreciate those, the place that those films have in our world today, and I would love to be in a Seth Rogen film.
ESQ: I would love to see you in one. That would be great.
GA: I can be funny. [Laughs.] Keep watching.