The Interview: Gillian Anderson
By Eleanor Morgan
Net-A-Porter: July 24, 2014
When the TV crime drama The Fall premiered last year, word quickly spread that this was a show to become obsessed with. Starring Gillian Anderson as the tough, fiercely intelligent, feminist policewoman brought in to investigate a series of murders, amid a tense, brilliantly crafted plot, the short series flashed a light on the hypocrisy of sexual equality when it comes to sex.
Anderson, of course, is best known for playing the pouting skeptic-turned-believer Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files - a role that, at its peak, made her one of the world's biggest stars. Over the past decade, though, she has reinvented herself via critically acclaimed roles in dramas such as Great Expectations and Bleak House. There can be no questioning of her acting talent. This woman has it in spades. And this month, she will be taking to the stage as troubled Southern belle Blanche DuBois in London's Young Vic's production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, a part she describes as "the role of a lifetime".
Politely insisting on full fat milk for her coffee - "I don’t see the point otherwise" - Anderson warms to her subject. "[Playing Blanche] has been a lingering dream since I've been conscious of wanting to be an actor," she says, smiling. "I feel like she lives somewhere inside my bones." In the Streetcar story, Blanche is destroyed by a brutal society. "Unfortunately, [Blanche's struggles] are not just of her time. It's the same in a contemporary context as it has always been."
That women can be shamed and destroyed in a moment? "Precisely. It can happen like that," Anderson says, clicking her fingers.
The actress famously had a hard time with paparazzi during the X-Files period. They would ram her car so she'd have to get out and exchange insurance details, giving them a picture. Now, though, she lives "a largely unobserved life" with her three children in London, where she lives because she thinks it's "the finest thing in the world". "When I experience some of the unfortunate aspects of what being in LA has to offer, it makes me glad to be here," she says.
Roles such as The Fall's DSI Stella Gibson will certainly keep her on British shores for a while. Anderson has just begun filming season two of the BBC's hugely successful series and is fizzing with excitement. "People responded to me as Stella," she says, "and not as an actor." Not necessarily a bad thing? "Not at all," she laughs, "when you consider everything she stands for."
Quite right: there aren't enough women like Gibson - a female at the top of her game, all sharp one-liners, crisp collars and even crisper intellect - on our screens. "[Stella] needed to be out there for women," agrees Anderson. "Most people who talk to me about her don't talk to me about her feminism, though, only her sexuality." For those that haven't yet seen the show, let's just say that Stella has no qualms about satisfying her needs. "Most importantly, though, Stella is psychologically stable. That's a big deal," the actress insists.
Anderson, too, seems pretty solid, at ease with herself. "It changes. On one hand, I believe I came into this world being in control, but I often don't ask for help when I should, which means I have a tendency to isolate. It can take a while to snap out of it."
Physically, her contentedness with herself changes, but playing Stella, she says, has had "a fundamental impact" on her confidence. Why? "Because she's so comfortable in her body. I do yoga, but don't like the gym. It's partly laziness, partly schedule, but mostly because I don't want to make it a priority."
Anderson says her schedule - one that has to be packed in around the demands of her children - is "insane", so hours spent agonizing over her body is presumably something she doesn't have time for. "I go through stages of drinking loads of cola and, while I'm OK with that, I start feeling less comfortable in my clothes, and I hate that level of distraction. It's a strong enough repulsion to stop drinking it for a while."
A cynic might say such a statement is masking hidden vanity. "Yes, it's perhaps more devious than just wanting clarity," she laughs. Self-esteem is important for Anderson, though. It's something she wants to ensure her 19-year-old daughter, Piper, takes into the world. "If I can help her self-esteem remain intact then I'll have done my job," she says. "Self-esteem should have nothing to do with what you look like - if you exude genuine confidence, people will be swept into it. You have to be able to hold yourself."
MY STYLE: Irregular yet predictable, and slightly haphazard
GO-TO LABELS: Nicholas Oakwell for events, WilliamVintage and a mix of anything from high street to Alexander McQueen for everyday
FAIL-SAFE PIECES: J Brand black jeans, a Chloe coat and Christian Louboutin suede wedge boots
BEAUTY FIX: Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer during the day