'AMERICAN GODS' (Starz TV Series): Interview with Star Gillian Anderson
by Emanuel Levy: May 4, 2017
Gillian Anderson: It really has been a gift. And I am not sure whether, when I first jumped into it, I embraced the fact that I had such an opportunity, I think the first thing I thought was, what have I done? I just said I was going to play David Bowie. After I figured out the logistics exactly of how to do each character, I relaxed a bit and then realized that actually this can be a lot of fun.
Most Fun to Play: Marilyn Monroe
Probably Marilyn Monroe, because she's so bright and lighthearted and I am not. I tend to be so serious, so it was nice to embody someone whose persona is bubbly and bright spirited and flirty.
Relationship with Media and Technology
She is his boss to a degree, so she often shows up and kind of teaches him the way around god-dom. He is young and often she is in a position where she is saying look, I want you to do this, you did it like this, that's not the way to do it. She asks him at one point to apologize.
I actually don't know, we know absolutely nothing, we have been working on the deal for many months and it's really us taking an opportunity to maybe bring closure. I didn't really feel like the end of the last season was a place for us to finish definitely. There was a lot of consideration about whether there really was an audience for it, whether it was something that we could improve on and how if we were moving forward, could make them even better. In the end, we agreed that we would like to have one more go at it.
We know that the fans are still there. The surprising thing was that there are new fans. There's a whole other generation of fans who discovered it through Netflix and I think to be met still by 13 years olds who are talking about how they have seen all the episodes or they just start watching a year ago and they obsess and they can't wait for the new season. The show has a longevity beyond what we had ever imagined.
Old Gods and New Gods
The new Gods are going to win of course. It depends, I mean it's wonderful that it's been received in the way that it has, even in just the beginning. What that means is that Neil Gaiman and Bryan Fuller can explore these characters even more.They can then take those storylines off in different directions, and that's quite exciting. It's so prescient and there's a lot of relevance in the mythological version of this tale that is striking a chord with people today. So I mean the new Gods, they are media and technology and this is what we all worship. So if this is what we worship today then they might win out in the end. But one of the big conversations going forward is to what degree that will eventually destroy us.
Relationship to the Media
My own relationship to the media is I think of the years that I used to disdain it. Very early on, at the beginning of "The X-Files" and the pictures of me that would come out from the Globes or whatever, and I always had this look on my face of disdain. I have seen those pictures and there is this grumpy expression. Over time as I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate the areas of where we can be of service to each other and the importance of to a degree when you do work really hard on something and getting it out there in the right way.
As God of Media, What Would You Change?
I am really nervous about things like Google glasses, and I am nervous for my children moving forward and how obsessed they get and they don't have a lot of game time, but it takes over conversations with their friends and they don't seem to be able to talk about other things. All of that really bothers me and where I witness that in myself, where I witness myself kind of zoning out in conversations with friends that I care a lot about because I am thinking about the email chain that is going through, and somehow the fact that that has become acceptable. If I were really the God of Media I would probably commit suicide, and kill all the technology.
Relationship With God?
I am not sure that I would use the word "worship" in my life. I have strong faith, and I do believe there is higher order of things in the universe. I have strong spiritual life, I meditate and do yoga.
Losing American Accent
I grew up in England. I moved here when I was two and spent my formative years here. My parents still had a flat here, we lived in Crouch End and Harringay. In the summertime we would come back, and so it was essentially my first language. And so when I moved to the States, it took me a while to get rid of my British accent. I was 11. But I didn't really lose it until maybe I was at the end of high school or college. And I have lived here for 15 years and because it was my first language, it was near impossible not to fall into it. My kids are British and my partners have been British.
It was a very different experience with each of the different characters, and how it felt like it was necessary to work with each of them and to what degree of Media herself shows up in each of the personifications. David Bowie was one of the biggest challenges but also figuring out that balance of how much is Media and how much is the character coming through. How much is it okay aspects of myself to come through so that it doesn't become a caricature. There was quite a lot of sadness in David, if you watch his interviews, a real melancholy to him. That's one of the things I picked up on. In trying to find the rhythm of his voice without diving too much into it that it felt like it was false, finding the balance in his voice and with that melancholy and rhythm. I ended up spending more time with each of these real people than I had ever done before. I didn't really know that much about any of them other than being a fan of David Bowie's music or maybe seeing a Dick Cavett interview. It was very educational, and I found myself becoming very moved by David's desire to be so specifically who he was and to be allowed to be who he was. He was an anarchist in a way.
Preparation for Each Character
David Bowie probably took the longest time. We had to change the color of blue on my eye, and trying to match, because the blue up here and the blue suit. At first we went a little dark and took it off and changed the blue. But also getting all the tones right and getting the colors right. Judy Garland was pretty straightforward, even Lucille Ball was straightforward. I can't remember how many hours in the chair, probably three-and-a-half.
I wouldn't necessarily say that I have a relationship to the genre except for the fact that I keep working in it. I have never been a sci-fi reader, I appreciate certain kinds of sci-fi films, I think "Close Encounters" was a big deal for me when I first saw it, but I have never specifically been drawn to the genre. But it keeps finding me. I keep being presented with things that I can't say no to that are in the genre. Wen Bryan approached me to do "American Gods" with the opportunity to play different characters, you really can't say no to that. So I am a reluctant fan.
Feeling at Home
When my family and I moved from London to America, it was going to be a short trip. My parents are still in America. But we kept coming back in the summertime and we had a tiny flat, and we were always going to move back again. I knew in my own head, that once I could afford it, I would move back home to London. And I did. I had told a family friend who was neighbor, that if they ever sold their flat, they should let me know first because it was this kind of cool exposed brick flat in Herringay. I told them that when I was 16. And then when I was 24 they called me and said we are selling our flat! How audacious is that? And it was while I was in Vancouver doing "The X-Files" and I had just decided that we were there for the long haul and so I needed to buy something there, so I wasn't able to. But I had, I might have actually had taken them up on it. The first thing I did after "The X-Files" was to come to London, and to do a play and I knew that I wanted a good portion of my life to be spent here, and so I bought a house and started making my life here. So it always felt by going to America, it was going to the Land of Sunshine and Candy. So London always feels like home and very much feels like the city I am meant to be in. It does give me happiness. I am very happy with my life and what's in it.
The costume designer in "American Gods" is absolutely extraordinary and everyone of those outfits was built from scratch and based on historical outfits for the characters. The Marilyn dress is one that we have seen, but how she twists it to make it modern and at the same time being derivative, is very clever. When working with someone like that, who is such perfectionist, I tend to be a perfectionist too and it's a really fun part of the creative process. My relationship to fashion has improved over the years. It makes me think of one of the first outfits that I actually wore to the Golden Globes, where I wore this golden geisha girl outfit with this band across. I think I had just had a baby and I was still carrying a lot of the baby weight. And I remember the next day, I don't know if it was The Daily Mail or an American paper, but they said that I looked like the geisha girl from Hell. I was on the Worst Dressed List. But we had won and I was up on the stage and there were many photos of me in this stupid outfit. For years, I didn't take it very seriously and it felt like it was a tedious part of the job. And actually, I have started to appreciate the artistry that goes into fashion a bit more and at least pay attention to it more and make more considered decisions than just on the day deciding. I treated it casually before.
I have only taken one road trip in my life and that was when I was college. One of my roommates and I drove to Los Angeles. In the old days you used to be able to do drive away cars, where somebody who had bought a car in another city, you could drive it for them, so they didn't have to do it. We drove this car from Chicago to Los Angeles and dropped it off for them. But we were trying to save money so we had these coolers, and we each had our own cooler with our own food in the back and we would make beans and brown rice and all this healthy food. By the time we ended up dropping off the car, some piece of food had rolled underneath the seats and rotted. So we had to figure out where it was and how to get rid of this smell. We ended up delivering the car with this smell of the cheapest cologne that you could find inside of a petrol station. We delivered the car, the guy opened the door and looked at us like, 'what have you done to my vehicle?'