I'd just spent a few hours listening Gillian Anderson film a scene on THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE. Sadly all I could hear were loud footsteps and a slammed door (which Anderson would later say was just an accident). I thought for sure I could get her to spill the beans. While slightly more forthcoming than her counterparts, Anderson stopped short of telling me exactly what she was doing back there. (Lucky for you, I later was able to sneak a peek at that very scene - more on that to come at a later day...)
Anderson looked as beautiful as ever, years after she was one of the most adored women in the land of fanboys. She was also surprisingly warm, funny and vulgar (she dropped more f*cks than the rest of the cast and crew combined). Here's what she had to say about returning to play Dana Scully after all these years...
Why come back to this after all this time?
Well, I did. And I did. But I think that, ah, I’ve always made it clear no matter what’s been rumored at various times in the press that were we to come together or were somebody to get it together in order to do a film, I would be happy and willing and hopefully able to participate. And, ah, I just assumed it would be a matter of time. There were a few times there when it looked like it might not happen. But you know there were many times there where I thought even when people were saying it was going to happen I didn’t believe it was going to happen. But I was always on board. No matter what else I was deciding to do in my life at the time. So…
What’s it like to come back to THE X-FILES? Is it familiar or does it seem strange to be stepping back into these shoes that you left so many years ago?
You know, I was really, um, not so much cocky about it but I was really confident that it would be really easy. You know, on the first day. And I, I wasn’t afraid at all. I usually am terrified before I start something for the first couple of days, I get really -- and it sucked! It was horrible. I had a really, really hard first couple of days. I think part of that was that I’ve spent such a long time trying not to do anything that even remotely resembled Scully. Or at least you know while I’m working. If there’s something, a gesture or a way, whether I’m successful or not I don’t know. But at least in my mind I’m thinking that I’ve been pushing it away for such a long time that while I was doing it to bring it back, my brain was going, ‘no! No!’ This wasn’t supposed to be happening. And also we happened to start on the worst possible scene that we could have started with, it was probably one of my most difficult days.
It was a confrontation scene. So I hadn’t been like normal, flat-line Scully. No! I didn’t mean flat-line. No, I didn’t mean that but [laughs] that’s funny. I hadn’t even been normal Scully before I had to be upset Scully.
Do you approach her differently? Has she changed a lot?
I don’t think she has. What’s been important is not have her change a lot. You know that it’s been finding who she is again. You know, um, it’s, ah, I think it’s important to show somebody that’s recognizable to the audience, who’s used to that. But you know obviously there’s a maturity that’s taken place naturally. To hold that and to use that fact to inform how she might be, you know, in this present state.
Are there some references to what happened to her in the last five years?
Not really. I think that it becomes a given. There’s something that’s said at one point about the choices that she’s made. Which kinda covers that, yeah.
What’s behind your willingness to come back to this? Did you not want to be the one to say no and it fell apart?
No! You know I thought if it was enough of a period of time. It was a, a formidable experience for all of us. Even at the times, you know at various times I was very outspoken about the challenges of it, it was still something that I wouldn’t have changed even at the time. Well, that’s not true [laughs]. But in retrospect certainly I wouldn’t have changed for the world. I was always aware that this was something unique and valuable and precious and doesn’t happen very often. We were all incredibly lucky. And even despite my frustration at the hours and the exhaustion and all that kind of stuff, I’ve always been grateful on some level. And the idea of us all coming back together again, um, has always been exciting. Even at the very end I knew it would be at least a couple of years. And I had to trust that even after two years I’d think, ‘this is a good idea.’
You didn’t want to be defined as Scully for your whole career?
Well, I think in certain ways sometimes I still am. When people, producers or whatever, you know, see my work, sometimes they go, “Oh! She can act!” You know [laughs], there’s nothing much I can do about that. But all I can do is, one, you know, try and challenge myself. And also continue to try and challenge the minds of people who want to put me in a box.
What do you love about the character and why do you think she has resonated with the public?
well, I mean at the beginning, ah, ah, I guess in looking back, it’s almost like there’s, as well all know, we all know the history of fox being dubious about hiring me and all that kind of stuff, and you know this redhead. You know it’s almost like Scully’s always been, at the beginning she was like this little engine that could [laughs]. She was almost like feisty, fiery, intelligent, um, you know, buster of everything. And you know I think that that was strangely appealing to people. You know, it was just so different from what people had seen at the time. And the show was appealing to so many different kinds of people on so many different levels. And I don’t know whether that’s still appealing I mean in the old days there’s been so much that’s tried to emulate that, that’s tried to copy that over time, we’ll see with box-office if people care. These were great in the context of the series. But maybe next to Julianne Moore or whatever, it’s like “eh…” Who knows?
She was a powerful woman, an intelligent woman.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that was primarily Chris [Carter]. He was determined at the beginning to keep Scully, ah, that way. There were times at the beginning, I’d done so little work on camera before, I’d only done theater, so I wanted to have the – it was almost like at the beginning I was in a rehearsal for a play. But the second day I came to work was kind of different. So the second day I remember crying once when I was holding a gun. And I got this phone call [smiles and yells], "Scully wouldn’t cry!" He didn’t yell like that. But I really had to be molded and reminded, you know, just who this person is. And you know eventually I got it. And she developed and we all grew together.
Yeah, I think that was, that her resilience and her strength and her intelligence and her determination and everything was fortunately appealing for lots of young women. And you know I still get – you know there’s a whole new group, I don’t know, I don’t pay attention [a laugh] but apparently there’s a whole new group of people who are discovering the show in reruns for the first time. Which is awesome. I don’t really get letters but if anything comes through to me, it’s from grandmothers to four-year-olds. Which is really cool. And I think I over time as – I’m rambling now – get some….. You know it’s easy talking to Chris or David to get very melancholy and wistful. And when I see stuff, when somebody sends something, you know, something that somebody’s put together, moments of Mulder and Scully. We were watching something, actually I pulled something on YouTube, and, um, we kissed a lot in the series! I just remember how everyone was complaining how there was no – and there were millions of kisses! I didn’t remember kissing so much.
Is there some of that in the movie?
Like I’m going to answer that question!
Is the intimate relationship between Mulder and Scully more important in this movie?
Um, oh, I don’t know. I think that’s what’s remarkable – and I find it more remarkable today after working with many other actors – just what kind of, um, energy there is between [us]. You know it just kind of happened. Weird. And I don’t know why this chemistry. Yeah. It’s cool now, once I’ve seen things in the past and gone, ‘where the fuck did that come from?’ It’s still there and of course that’s going to be appealing to people. I now see what the appeal is. In the old days I was, ‘yeah, so what? Yeah we get along. There’s chemistry.’ I was just using that word and now I see, you know, there really was and there still is and I think that’ll always be there.
How much easier is it working David again now that you’re not on top of each other for 16 hours a day?
It’s great. It was great then too. It’s all – it’s just like a sibling relationship. You know. And I never had siblings. I had brothers and sisters that started when I was 13 so I was out of the house and didn’t have that experience. There was always this natural love-hate – hate’s too big a word – but you know what I mean? There was always something. Whether it was us coming together or us keeping our distance, whatever it is it’s just a natural relationship. In the history, over a period of time. And I think that now we’ve grown up and we’re older and, um, I think we’re more appreciative of, um, the relationship period. And the unique experience that we had together. And we have an opportunity to continue that and foster it and, you know, we’ve always loved each other and we’re always going to be at battle sometimes. It’s just, you know --
Scully started out as a skeptic and later became the believer to the new characters. Are you going back to the skeptic/believer relationship?
I think we have to. That’s part of one of the big premises of the film, the relationship and what makes the relationship work is this constant, you know, fight to be right in some way. I think no matter what film or what episode, you have to maintain an element of that. To make it interesting. This isn’t a love story. It can be and there are elements of that in the intimacy of the relationship and everything. But it’s that can’t be in the forefront. What is in the forefront in these two people’s minds and their passions and naturally they’re going to swing in the direction they’re built for. That’s going to cause tension between them and issues.
Were there things about being back on an “X-Files” set that took you back ten or 15 years ago?
Well, I was actually looking around on the set for more things than were there. At the beginning I was actually surprised that more things weren’t brought out of – somebody’s got to have them they’ve got to be in some storage space I’ve gotta surmise…
How comfortable are you now with this role that you once sought to distance yourself from?
Um, it feels, um, I feel very fortunate. You know. I think my desire to distance myself – you know I started when I was 24. I told them I was 27 – to get hired. But I was 24 and at the time, yeah. Somebody sent me an interview I did on I don’t know some cheesy TV station and I was so, just like so sure of myself. And the way that I was talking and everything. I think I had to surround myself with so many survival mechanisms to just survive. As a 24 year old to be thrown into that when all I’d done was a little bit of theater really was intense. People would say to me, in interviews, ‘what a whirlwind life you’ve had,’ and I didn’t even have enough of a perspective to be able to stand back and go, ‘yeah man!’ My response was like, ‘yeah.’ and I think, but in a sense to a detriment at times because I assumed that I should be able to deal with stuff, I should be able to just press on and buckle up and you know go on. To a disservice to myself. I can’t remember what your original question was [laughs]!
Survival and distancing yourself…
So I was just in it for such a long time that when it ended you know there was a part of me that one, didn’t want to see a set. I didn’t know if I was going to go back and ever be on a set again. It just got really intense. I didn’t do that much on my hiatuses. I did a couple of things but I didn’t really go after that. Between exhaustion and being a mom and stuff. I just wanted to do something different, for fuck’s sake. So I needed, I just really needed that. But I found a place again of appropriate perspective and great appreciation and gratitude for just being allowed and invited to such an extraordinary experience.
Because Chris fought for you in casting?
Fuck yeah! He’s the godfather to my first-born child!
Is it a relief to get away from that complex mythology and keeping track of –
Who kept track? Definitely the fans know so much more about the episodes than I did and what happened. I mean I practically forgot I had a baby when we started this which is really sad. I’m exaggerating a little bit but it’s kind of true.
What’s the biggest difference between Scully now and the last time we saw her?
I think she’s more relaxed. I think she’s made some choices in her life that have allowed her to do what she most wants to do. That’s mellowed her a bit. She hasn’t lost any of her determination and passion about things by any stretch. But she’s mellowed a bit.
Having done and survived "The X-Files" would you ever do another TV series?
I’ll never say never because things change so much over time. But it would have to be something pretty extraordinary to take that kind of time and move back to Los Angeles where it’s likely to be shot. But you know I’m 40 this year and I hope to still be working when I’m 60 so maybe as a 60-year-old I’ll come back and do a comedy for NBC or something.
Do you get to do any fun stuff like that in this film?
Fortunately David gets to do all of that [laughs]. I’m serious, I should feel really sorry for him. I do. There’ve been a few times when I’ve come to the set to do some dialogue where he’s been scaling cliffs and all that kind of stuff. So – did I say too much?
Do you feel that X-FILES can go on now, as a movie series?
I don’t know. I think that’s something that’s been discussed for a long time. It’s something that we have all been interested in. If we are able to do one that is, um, that can appeal to a mass audience and it’s, ah, successful, in the right ways. Um, that perhaps we might do another one after this. But that’s --