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The truth is there for X-files fans: Gillian Anderson is coming to Comiccon
By Peter Robb
OTTAWA CITIZEN : April 29, 2013

The truth is there for X-files fans: Gillian Anderson is coming to Comiccon

OTTAWA - For Gillian Anderson, the X-files remains an important part of her resume.

"I was so blessed to play a character that I liked so much. Especially since I had to live with her for such a long time," she wrote in a brief email interview in advance of her appearance at Ottawa Comiccon on May 11 and 12.

She does not attend many of these gatherings, she said. But she added, "It gives me an opportunity to meet some of the people who helped keep the show on the air for such a long time and to say thank you for their undying support. It feels like the anniversary year is a good time to do this and then to go back into hiding."

Almost 20 years ago, on Sept. 10, 1993, the show debuted on the then relatively new Fox Network. It was on the air for nine seasons, 202 episodes, until May 19, 2002.

Special Agent Dana Scully, is the role she played in the nine years that X-Files was on the air, and in subsequent movies. The role is one of the iconic TV characters of all time in one of the most important television programs ever, says Robert Thompson, who teaches a course in the history of television at Syracuse University in northern New York State.

The X-Files was a breakthrough show, Thompson says. "In many ways it was made possible by the lowered expectations of the ratings one needed for shows like this. X-Files also comes along when the cable revolution was kicked in enough to lower the bar that decided a renewable show. And of course Fox was a relatively new network so its expectations were lower anyway."

The X-Files was an early example of a more complex, more sophisticated show.

Today, Thompson says, the TV landscape is in what he calls a "glorious period when incredibly literate, sophisticated, complicated, sometimes incomprehensible shows - Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland and Dexter - can succeed."

The X-Files was a complex serialized program in which the viewer needed to know what went on before to truly appreciate the storyline. It had what Thompson calls a "mythology," a continuing universe that included such things as the 'Cigarette Man.'

But it also would present stand-alone episodes.

Today, Thompson says, shows are built like novels, Breaking Bad is an example of that, as was The Wire, the brilliant series about drug dealing in Baltimore.

"Truly sophisticated stuff today needs to jump into a novelistic idea. X-Files very credibly managed to have it both ways," Thompson says. "It was a stepping stone to the more sophisticated novelistic shows and at the same offering episodes that would hook people even in season three.

"I would definitely put it on that list of the pantheon of important American television shows."

Dana Scully was a nerd's sex goddess. At one point she might have been the person most sci-fi and comic book fans would like to read in bed with, Thompson says.

But the character was more than that. She was the necessary skeptic, and Gillian Anderson, who was 24 when she first appeared, was very good at playing that role, Thompson says.

"You had the Mulder character (played by David Duchovny) who is a true believer in aliens and the paranormal. Scully was his counterpoint.

"If the statement is 'the truth is out there', you've got to have somebody who not only doesn't know what the truth is, but who doubts that truth is out there, or that we even need a truth," Thompson says.

"There was a certain predictability to that, but even so she was very necessary. In many ways she was more the metaphor for us the audience."

Since the X-Files, Anderson has been involved in other projects. She appeared in a couple of BBC dramatic recreations of Charles Dickens's Bleak House and Great Expectations. In the latter, she played a very odd Miss Havisham. Currently, she has a role in the new NBC-TV series Hannibal where she has a recurring role as Hannibal Lecter's analyst Bedelia du Maurier.

Once again she is in a show that has contact with the dark side.

"Fortunately my character does not have direct contact with that side of the storylines. With this role, what I mostly found interesting was the mixture of compelling co-stars." The Danish actor Mads Mikkelson plays the cannibal Hannibal with chilling detachment.

Anderson, 44, spends most of her time living quietly in London, England, with her three children. She works regularly and is very active in charities.

"I think it occurred to me early on when the success of the show was having such a huge impact on my life and yet was not making me any happier as a person. I figured there has to be something good that comes out of this that's not just about what I get."

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