This year marks the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking, conspiracy-promoting, cult favorite television series The X-Files. In celebration of the anniversary, Emerald City Comicon brought actor Gillian Anderson to Seattle for a question-and-answer session. Moderated by Buddy Levy of The History Channel’s Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, Anderson answered fan questions about her X-Files role as Dana Scully, her work in voice acting and stepping into the past with Charles Dickens.
Anderson credits her work on The X-Files for her subsequent success as an actress.
“When I got [the role of Dana Scully] I had been living in Los Angeles for about a year and a half out of work, and was on my last unemployment check when I got the job,” said Anderson. “It made a big difference in my life, and I think, over nine years, it made an absolute difference in my life, and I would not have had the opportunities to do the work I’ve done since then, and wouldn’t have met the father of my daughter.”
“So much of what Scully was was on the page,” continued Anderson, “because of Chris [Carter] and his very, very defined idea of who she was. Without that, obviously, there wouldn’t be a Scully, but I felt like he informed who she was more than I did, kind of, because I was trying to do all different kinds of things with her at the beginning.”
Agent Scully presented Anderson with the role that would, in some eyes, define her as a hero for her generation. Following her work on The X-Files, Anderson has found a bit of that role carrying on with her.
“I have been offered roles since Scully that are law enforcement officials,” said Scully. “The first one that I took, after saying no to quite a lot, I took because I thought, actually, potentially, it’s more challenging to play another law enforcement official and to make it as different from Scully as I could…Every character is different as it comes off the page and I don’t really choose things that remind me of her.”
As her breakout role, The X-Files not only served as a crash course in acting for Anderson, but also gave her the opportunity to write and direct the episode “All Things.” She found herself with a story to tell, but, at the outset, was unsure how to tell it.
“When you follow something through, just in the doing of it, and the not giving up, that in and of itself can strengthen someone,” she said. “I think that at the time it very much strengthened my own confidence in my writing abilities, but also in the directing of it. I felt like I was a kid in a candy store. I mean, I remember thinking, ‘This is the best thing going.’… I think it gave me a huge amount of confidence and strength, but also, I think there were about two women directors in 211 episodes — anybody notice that? So, the fact that I was one of those two is quite a big deal.”
As several fans pointed out, Anderson has played several characters who struggle with an inner turmoil, or who find themselves in traumatic circumstances. Anderson said that she trained herself early on to disconnect herself from the struggles of her characters.
“I’ve always been a little bit afraid to play somebody who’s properly crazy — like contemporarily insane,” Anderson said. “I think that might be hard…I might hesitate to take something like that. Most of the time I can separate myself. I think a lot of that comes down to having my daughter in my trailer for most of her childhood and learning very quickly that I needed to let go of what I’d just been working on at the sound stage in order to be 100 percent present with her in the trailer. I think I trained my mind to be able to turn on a dime.”
Anderson briefly touched on several upcoming projects, including a return to the stage in London and, subsequently, New York, as well as several upcoming television projects. Anderson will be appearing in several episodes of the upcoming Hannibal, and is shooting an upcoming pilot for NBC. Anderson also has been starring in a new series from BBC2.
“It’s a five-part series, and the intention is that they’ll do another season as well,” Anderson said. “I play a character named Stella Gibson who is a detective superintendent, and she gets sent out to Belfast from the Metropolitan Police in London to do what’s called a 28-day review.”
Additionally, Anderson lent her voice talent to the Hayao Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke, and will do the same in the director’s upcoming piece, From Up On Poppy Hill.
“It was a bit of a challenge,” said Anderson. “I love Miyazaki’s films — I think I’ve seen all of them, and they’re a big part of my daughter’s childhood as well…There’s another one called From Up On Poppy Hill, which apparently is, like, the highest-grossing film in Japan, ever. There’s a bunch of people that did the voices for that — I did that last year and it should be coming out soon. It’s a lot milder than a lot of the other Miyazaki films.”