To fans of science fiction, Gillian Anderson needs no introduction. For nine years starting in 1993, Anderson played Dana Scully on ‘The X-Files’. She further brought the character to the screen on two separate occasions (first in 1998 and again in 2008) before returning to television for the series’ revival on Fox in 2016. But even after all that, the truth, it seems, is still out there. With filming well underway on the show’s upcoming eleventh season, we had the opportunity to sit down with Anderson at New York Comic Con. During the conversation, the actress spoke about her reaction to last season’s cliffhanger, meeting her TV “son”, and the unique realities of playing the same character over a twenty-five year period.
Last season ended on a pretty epic cliffhanger. Were you aware of what was going to happen next?
When did you first find out?
When I read the script.
And what went through your mind when you read the script?
“What the fuck?!” [laughs]
What can fans look forward to with this? Chris has said that it’s approached very quickly.
It is approached. Immediately.
And what can fans expect? Can you tell us anything about that?
Well, the human race still exists. Mulder and Scully are still alive. We’re still working on the X-Files. Umm… I’m still immortal. How we get there is the question mark.
Chris also said that William plays more of a role this season. How excited are you about that?
Very excited. It was nice to meet our son. [laughs] The actor playing our son. So he actually does show up. We’re actually working on that episode right now. I don’t know where it goes from here, I haven’t read those scripts so I don’t know to what degree we interact with him beyond this, but it’s nice to have a face, you know? It’s nice to have a face for our child that we talk a lot about.
Can you talk about anything in terms of the humor this year? Is it similar to what we’ve seen in the past or will there be a complete left turn somewhere?
Well, whenever you have a Darin Morgan episode, there’s a pretty sharp left turn that happens. And we’ve definitely got one of those. And it’s funny. I don’t think the humor’s different. It all fits within the realm of what’s expected of us and that we’ve always done. I’m not sure that would be allowed, that it would get as far as the shooting script if it was completely uncharacteristic.
You’ve spoken in the past about needing to add more women directors and writers to the show, and that has happened somewhat this year. How do you think that affects the stories that are told and how Scully is portrayed?
I mean the fact is that Scully was created by a man. And I would say that Chris did right by women in creating Scully. So I don’t necessarily know… I haven’t read one of those scripts yet, the first six are male writers, so I don’t know how that will translate in terms of Scully. But I’m interested in what it would be like to have those other voices pitching into our storyline.
You’ve been very open in the past that there were times when you didn’t necessarily enjoy working on ‘The X-Files’. How is the experience this new season? Are you enjoying it?
I think the challenge of doing it before was that we were doing twenty-four in a year, and with a show that is predominantly lead by two characters, that’s pretty intense. I certainly couldn’t do that today. And so this is nothing compared to that. And also I think that there have been a couple of deaths recently – production deaths. And I think that production is much more mindful of the hours that are being worked by the crew. And that has an impact on everybody and on everybody’s experience, especially when you travel a lot for location work and such. It feels like a kinder, gentler version of what we used to do. So that in and of itself feels more manageable. And I think we’re just appreciative and having fun and enjoying each other, and you know, not taking it too seriously but hopefully taking it seriously enough that we’re doing good work. And hopefully, the fans will feel rewarded.
Do you still get a thrill when a new script lands?
Yes, I do. Because they’re all so completely different, you know? So that’s fun, to work on something that is unpredictable.
Is there an aspect of Scully’s personality that you really enjoy playing?
There is, but I don’t know, actually, what to call it. That element of her… the eyeroll element of her… What is that called? [laughs] Is there a single word that describes it? I mean Stella’s also – in the series I do called ‘The Fall’ – she’s definitely “no nonsense,” [but] it’s not that. I don’t know, whatever that is! [laughs]
Do you find you’re still discovering new things about the Scully character, learning new things beyond what’s written on the page?
I think one of the things that has been interesting to figure out is how a person ages. It’s one thing to do that in a condensed scenario like biopic where you’re going through hair, makeup and suddenly you’re twenty years older or something. But to play… It feels different somehow in terms of imbuing elements of… Because I don’t look a lot like I looked back then. You know? My facial features are different, my face is much narrower and obviously, I’ve aged. So figuring out what elements of her personality are appropriate in a mature woman. It’s been an interesting question to answer.
‘The X-Files’ will return for its ten-episode eleventh season in January 2018. The upcoming season will see the established cast of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi joined by a slated of guest stars that include Annabeth Gish, William B. Davis, Robbie Amell, Chris Owens, Karin Konoval, and Barbara Hershey. Until then, be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on ‘The X-Files’ as it becomes available!