Petite and unimposing in person, Gillian Anderson has a huge and unusually believable presence on screen. Perhaps that explains why fans have sent mail for her to the FBI, which forwards it on her.
Anderson, 27, grew up in so many places -including Puerto Rico, London, Grand Rapids, Mich.- that you wonder what her parents did for a living. " They were circus geeks" she says, showing more of a sense of humor than Scully. (Actually, her father runs a film post-production company, and her mother is a computer analyst.) A former punk-rock lover, Anderson studied acting at DePaul University's Goodman Theater School in Chicago, before heading off to act in New York. After stage work including Absent Friends and The Philanthropist, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film career, eventually leading the role of Scully in 1993.
In conversation, Anderson proves to be a tough nut to crack, much like The X-Files' elusive Cigarette-Smoking Man. At first she seems scared, as if some alien reporter demanding a universal exclusive had gotten to her first.
When David signed on, he didn't see a long future for the show. How about you?
I had no idea what I was getting into. And I have a feeling 10 years from now, I'll still have no idea what I got into.
You're committed for five years, right?
Initially it was five. We added a couple more during the last negotiations.
Are you ready for that much Scully?
I don't know if anybody is. You take it one year at a time.
In the beginning the network didn't seemed convinced it would last one year, right?
Actually I thought they were all anxious because they cast me.
How aware were you that some forces at Fox wanted to choose a different type of Dana Scully?
At the time I didn't know. I recall that during auditions, the network kept asking me to wear something smaller and more formfitting, and higher heels.
Did you and David have instant chemistry?
He came over to me in the hallway at the network audition and asked if we could read through the scene together. We did, and it was amazing. Better than anything that we've done since.
Some British member of the press called you "the thinking man's crumpet". Two questions : Did you like that? And what's a crumpet?
A crumpet is like a piece of ass, basically. A juicy morsel. It's a wonderful compliment. That's a raunchy statement in a way, but it's toned downed by the fact that it's an intellectual comment.
How much of your mail is thanking you for presenting a strong female role model and how much is from people telling you that aliens are eating their brain?
About 95% is the first option, and the other 5%...the interesting thing is, the mail comes from every kind of person in every walk of life around the world.
So tell me about losing your convention virginity recently.
I went thinking it was going to be weird and I was going to hate it. But everybody was so loving and so normal, I was overwhelmed, touched. I didn't prepare a speech. I wanted to react to the moment. I had nothing to say. I went right to the questions and answers.
Have you and David made a lot of public appearances together?
We did at the beginning. Then the object was to individualize a bit.
Oh, so you are two different people?
I've heard you're a former punk. Have you embraced the wave of punk bands getting rich these days?
No, something happened when I got pregnant, and I'm not able to listen to that kind of music as much. I feel like I'm going nuts when I listen to it. I used to listen to Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, PiL, Butthole Surfers. But today, I can't. I love Alanis Morissette, Emmylou Harris' latest album, and all sorts of jazz and blues. If I want to hear something heavy duty, I'll put on the Foo Fighters or a good Rolling Stones song. But that's as intense as I've got.
How do you assess David's appeal?
Obviously, the audience is only seeing his character, who's incredibly intelligent, kind, charming, sensitive. He's like the perfect romantic hero. And a lot of that is also David. He brings such a warmth and intelligence to the role and a smooth sexuality that I don't think anybody in their right mind could not find him attractive.
There's a certain powerful sexuality in you characters' interaction even though you don't do it.
We don't do it?
You don't have sex. Except on our cover. Was it good for you, by the way?
They just happened to show up in our hotel room. Was it good for me? Yes. I think what makes the relationship between Scully and Mulder sexy is the respect they have for one another. They don't manipulate or take advantage of one another. I'm sure that's very intriguing for the audience. Sometimes it feels like a relationship out of a 40's movie. It's that tension. We've done some incredibly intimate scenes that have nothing to do with sex. Beginnings of relationships are always the most exciting -that period when you're courting and you get near each other and start breathing heavily. The hottest stuff is before you ever touch the other person. Or the first touch. So Mulder and Scully's first touch in an episode becomes more exciting.
Do you think Scully has thought about Mulder in a sexual way?
I think there have been times when she has been completely charmed and touched by him. I don't know if she's ever actually imagined him naked.
Does Dana yearn for more of a social life? I worry about her.
Not in the history of Dana has Dana scored.
So it really is a science-fiction show.
And I don't think she would go about the same way that Mulder did. I don't think she would instantaneously jump in the sack with a vampire.
When you got pregnant early in the series, did you think you might lose the show?
When I first got pregnant, I was afraid they were going to find someone else who wasn't pregnant to play the role.
How do you react to the charge "The X-Files" plays into the paranoid victim mentality of our time?
I think we can only make ourselves the victim. The show deals with many aspects of the paranormal, and one of the aspects it's a spiritual aspect. And that's very appealing to people. I'm less sure what intrigues people about the horror side of it, because that never appealed to me. But on a spiritual level, some of the episodes deal with the possibility of coming back to life or some sort of spiritual awakening. And that offers some hope, some way out of that fear and the pain of everyday life on this planet.
Do fans have any pressing paranormal questions for you?
No, usually it's "Do you have a pen? Can I have an autograph?"
What impresses you about Chris Carter?
This show is his life. He lives it, breathes it, smokes it. I'm absolutely in awe of his ability to pull the amount of intelligent, intense scripts out of his brain that he does in very short amounts of time. I honestly don't know how he does it.
How do you react to "X-Files" merchandise?
What I get queasy about is how often our faces are out there, and we see no piece whatsoever. But I think that Chris has been extremely particular about what's merchandised. There aren't, like, frozen X-Files fluke worms.
I believe "Friends" has fluke worms.
Friends has frozen breasts.
Perhaps frozen hairdos. By the way, are you hurt your hair hasn't been copied as much?
Not at all. I'm making no statement with my hair whatsoever, and that's part of my character.
Scully's an excellent doctor. Are you ready for an honorary degree based on all your medical dialogue?
The stuff goes in one ear and out the other. I wish I could remember. What great party conversation I could have about the intestinal tract!
Has doing the show made you want to believe more or less?
Doing the show hasn't influenced me one way or another. I have an open mind to the possibilities of things and of life on other planets. But it's no big deal to me.
In terms of life on this planet, has there ever been a huge blowup between you and David?
Oh, they're ready for me!
[with that, the interview subject runs off to finish a scene, although inexplicably , it appears they're not quite ready for her yet. Later I try to get Anderson to open up again, an Australian family appears, including a speechless teenage boy with a major Scully crush. The father claims to have moved from Australia -where X-Files mania reigns- to Vancouver just 12 hours earlier. He says they have gone for a walk in the park to check out their new hometown and just happened to come across the son's favorite TV star. Kind of an X-Files, huh?]