Gillian Anderson: Best of both worlds

by - 15:09

When American actress Gillian Anderson followed her heart and moved to London years ago, was that her best move?

But truth be told, she’s always had roots there.

Although born in Chicago, Illinois, Anderson lived in England from the age of two until she was 12, where her father studied film at the London School of Film Technique.

They returned to live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she discovered her natural acting ability.

After graduating high school, she studied at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where she was invited to attend a summer workshop in Ithica, New York, run by – you guessed it – the National Theatre of Great Britain.

So, long before she decided to move permanently to Britain, she was an inveterate Anglophile.

Even though Anderson is best known for playing Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, the 48-year-old has won both respect and acclaim in Britain, which she now calls home for the past 16 years.

Were you worried when you first moved to Britain that you might be sacrificing a Hollywood career?

I didn’t worry about it then. But at times, I lapse into thoughts of “Should I have worried about it?”.

But I love my lifestyle here.

I love the time that I get with my kids. I love that I don’t have paparazzi outside my door.

I love the multicultural aspects of the city, multiracial aspects of the city, and that my kids are exposed to every walk of life in a way that they would not if we were living in Los Angeles.

And I’ve had extraordinary opportunities over here in the work that I’ve gotten to do. It’s very different work than perhaps I would have had if I had stayed on.

I was 24 when I got that job (Scully in X-Files), I had a child at 25, and that was my priority beyond having to show up to work.

I’ve never sought celebrity. I don’t go on Facebook. I don’t have MySpace. I don’t Tweet.

I like living a very private life, and I’m proud of the choices I made.

You hardly have a trace of an American accent. Was that a conscious effort?

You forget I grew up in England. I moved here when I was two and spent my formative years here. My parents always retained a flat here; so in the summertime we would come back.

Essentially, it was my first language. When we first moved back to the United States, it took me a little while to get rid of my British accent.

And I didn’t really lose it until maybe at the end of high school or beginning of college. It’s always been my first language so to speak, so it is near impossible for me not to fall into it when I moved here. And my kids are British and my partners have all been British.

(She’s been married twice, divorced twice, has a daughter from her first husband, and two boys from a third relationship which she ended in 2012.)

How easy is it for you to juggle career and family?

It takes a lot of effort, a very careful consideration of the choices you have to make, although it’s become easier over time.

When you’re younger and you’re pulled in so many different directions and you don’t know what’s right and what feels right – there are so many things in this business that can make you feel uncomfortable – you feel you’re selling your soul in a sense. And that makes you feel depleted, that you’re doing things that aren’t genuine.

But as you get older it gets easier to make those decisions and to identify what feels comfortable in your skin and what’s important to you.

You are about to start shooting the new season of The X-Files. Are you surprised the fans are still here?

We know the fans are still here. What is surprising are the new fans.

There’s a whole other generation of fans who’ve discovered the series (through streaming services) so to be met by 13-year-olds who are talking about how they have seen all the episodes and they can’t wait for the new season, that I think was surprising. It’s had a longevity far beyond what we ever imagined.

You say living in London you’re shielded from the paparazzi. How do you feel about the media in general?

I think of the years that I used to disdain it. If you look at those pictures of me when X-Files was breaking, I always had this look on my face of disdain.

But over time, as I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate how we can be of service to each other, and the importance, when working on great projects, of getting it out there in the right way so that it is perceived in the way that you would like it to be perceived.

Speaking of projects, your new series American Gods offers you a chance to play David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. You must have jumped at the opportunity.

Absolutely. It really has been a gift. But I wasn’t sure, when I first jumped into it, whether I embraced the fact that I had such an opportunity, or was I thinking, “What have I done?”.

But after I figured out the logistics exactly of how to do each of them, I relaxed a little bit and then realised that this can be a lot of fun, and I just need to make the most of it.

Who was the most fun to play?

Probably Marilyn, because she’s so bright and lighthearted and I am not. I tend to be so serious; so it was nice to embody someone who’s bubbly and bright spirited and flirty and stuff, so it was fun to jump into her.

Are you a sci-fi junkie?

You know, it’s interesting. I have never been a sci-fi reader, I appreciate certain kinds of sci-fi films; I think Close Encounters (Of The Third Kind) 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 (sci-fi) things and I keep thinking no, I don’t want to go there, but they are things that I just can’t say no to.

I mean, when (executive producer) Bryan (Fuller) approached me to do American Gods with the opportunity to play different characters, I mean, you really can’t say no to that.

And so, as much as I think I need to start mixing it up a bit more, I keep being shown that maybe (sci-fi) is where I need to reside a bit longer. So, I am a reluctant fan.

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