Featuring a truly terrific performance from Emmy award-winner Gillian Anderson, The Fall is a gripping, intelligent and highly addictive psychological thriller (I watched all five hours in one sitting because it’s so engrossing) that forensically examines the lives of two hunters, one of whom is a serial killer (played by Once Upon A Time star Jamie Dornan) that stalks his victims at random, and the other is a high-powered detective superintendent brought in to catch him. It is a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with twists and turns that unfold until the very end.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Gillian Anderson talked about what led her to sign on to The Fall, her attraction to complex and complicated characters, how she views Stella Gibson, what she most enjoyed about playing the role, how refreshing and freeing it is to inhabit a woman who’s so blunt, keeping the cat-and-mouse game interesting throughout the season, and that they’re already discussing the direction for Season 2. She also talked about her terrific work on Hannibal, her mid-season NBC drama series Crisis, which role in her career she’s most proud of, and how she feels like there needs to be one more The X-Files movie, to wrap up the story. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: As an actor, you must have been offered at least a few crime dramas and procedural shows, since The X-Files. What was it about The Fall that stood out and, ultimately, led you to sign on?
GILLIAN ANDERSON: A lot has to do with timing, in my world, with three kids. But, I think it comes down to, first of all, the character. I fell in love with Stella, from page one, and I’m still confounded by her and very, very interested to see how her story plays out. I find her very intriguing. So, it was that, first and foremost. But, as a whole, the quality of the writing and the episodes was so unique. It’s a real psychological thriller, and it works on so many different levels. I think it works on subconscious levels, as well, in terms of having all these different lives that are being affected. There are women being killed and there are babies, and the serial killer is a dad. It’s very complex.
Especially lately, you’ve played such interesting, complex and complicated women. Was that part of the attraction of this role, specifically?
ANDERSON: People are asking, “Why this one?,” but it feels like it follows. It almost feels like a no-brainer that this is exactly the type of thing that would fall next, in the list of things that I’ve been choosing to do. It’s because she is so complex and the material is so good and intelligent. Who wouldn’t want to play Stella? She’s a great character.
How do you view Stella? Do you see her as someone who is cold and emotionally closed off, or do you see her as someone who just knows exactly what and who she wants?
ANDERSON: I think she is kind of cold and closed off. Every once in awhile, you see a little opening, in her developing relationship with Ferrington (Niamh McGrady), and the way that they have that particular conversation about Ferrington’s sexuality. There is friendship there. There is friendship with Archie Panjabi’s character. There’s a friend inside of her that starts to come out a little bit. You start to break open a little bit of that guardedness. I have no doubt in next season that we’ll see other sides of her, as well, or that will get broken open even more. What’s interesting about British drama, and good drama, in general, is that you don’t learn everything, right off the bat. You also don’t feel like it’s being withheld from you, on purpose. It feels like it’s an organic revealing that takes place, and not a magic trick or something that’s forced.
Were there things that you most enjoyed about playing Stella?
ANDERSON: Part of what I enjoyed was that she is very much in touch with her femininity and her womanhood. She takes care of herself. She knows how to apply make-up. She knows how to blow out her hair. She clearly takes care of and cares about the clothes that she wears. But, she doesn’t use her femininity to get what she wants. She knows what she wants and she goes after it, but she’s not going to flirt with people, in order to get her way. She just is who she is. By spending time with her, I actually started to appreciate my own femininity a bit more, and started to pay more attention to how I dress and the quality of clothing. She honors herself, as a woman, through the clothes that she chooses to wear, and she feels good in her clothes. But, it’s not a device and it’s not a statement. She’s just going to work. It’s just who she is.
Did you also find it refreshing and freeing to play someone who is so blunt?
ANDERSON: Yeah! I am that blunt. Much to other people’s chagrin, but I am. So, it was nice to play a woman who is equally blunt. But, I think it’s good to see. I like that this character is out there. In terms of the situation with Olson (Ben Peel), I think it’s really cool. Why wouldn’t that work? Obviously, he turns out to be married, but there is a version of that scenario which is kind of okay. Why not?! If two consenting adults want to just spend a single night together, it’s 2013. They were responsible. You see the condoms. So, I applaud that in her.
When you read the scripts for The Fall and realized that audiences would immediately learn who was committing these crimes, were you nervous about that working, and about there being an actor who could pull off that duality and keep people interested?
ANDERSON: I was nervous. I was involved, to a certain degree, with casting. There were a lot of actors that read who were fantastic, but there was something that we couldn’t quite put our finger on, that needed to be there, as well. That showed up in the form of Jamie [Dornan]. He needed to be somebody that you meet in a bar and you kind of want him to pick you up. You don’t want to be creeped out by him, at the beginning. Even if an actor has played a murderer before, in another role, to have any kind of frame of reference to another role, in the past, is not going to work in our favor for this show. Having anybody who is recognizable with darkness was not right. Also, having somebody that you could believe is just an easygoing dad, adds to the creepiness, as far as I’m concerned. There were a lot of great people that read, but I think, in the end, we found the right guy for the job.
Was it frustrating to keep up the cat-and-mouse game with him, without really coming into contact with him?
ANDERSON: No. By the end of this, it will be interesting to see where it goes and how we do come into contact. I don’t want to give anything away, but it begs for us to be in the same room together, at some point. To what capacity that will happen, I don’t even know yet. But no, that’s not frustrating, at all. I played nine years of being the skeptic when there were aliens flying around in front of my face, so I’m used to being able to put things off for awhile.
British crime dramas are great because they don’t have the same pressures that American TV has, with sustaining characters over long periods of time, and they don’t necessarily have to be all wrapped up, at the end. Were you satisfied with how this season concluded, with these five episodes, and do you think audiences will be satisfied with how it concludes?
ANDERSON: Well, it doesn’t conclude. There will be another season. Unfortunately, people will just have to wait for the next season. This is all there is. It’s unfortunate that everybody will have to wait for as long as they’ll have to wait, but it’s not as long as they would have had to wait, if it had aired in October, which was the original plan. A cliffhanger is always a good thing to bring people back.
As an executive producer for Season 2, have you thought about a creative direction you’d like the show to go in, or are there aspects of her that you didn’t get to explore, that you want to make sure that you do, in the second season?
ANDERSON: I will be involved in the conversations. We’ve had many, so far. I will be actively involved and put in my two cents. At the end of the day, it comes down to Allan Cubitt and his particular genius with story and conflict. I 100% trust that, if a decision is made in a direction that’s away from something that I’ve suggested, that it will be the right decision. I will just participate in the brainstorming and ideas, but the final decision will be made by the experts.
There’s also been a lot of interest in your involved in Hannibal, which you’re just so great on. How did that come about, and what appealed to you about Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier?
ANDERSON: Well, the offer to do Hannibal kind of came out of the blue. I read the script and started contemplating what it would mean to go and shoot with them. I was a little hesitant to do series television, and to come back and do something for NBC. But, after talking to (show creator) Bryan [Fuller], and getting an idea of what his creative vision was for the show and how they were shooting it, and the fact that it was Mads [Mikkelsen], and that I’d be able to work with Laurence [Fishburne] and Hugh [Dancy], I realized that they were creating something very unique and exquisite in Toronto. I thought, “How cool would it be, to be able to play Hannibal’s psychiatrist?” And then, once I decided to do it, it was about widdling down what kind of woman would be the woman that he would choose to be his psychiatrist. It’s not just going to be anybody. There’s gotta be a reason why this very complicated man, who is a renowned psychiatrist in his own right, would choose to sit in front of somebody else. It’s not necessarily getting advice, but seeking guidance, of some kind, even if it’s just an ear. It’s a particular type of woman who’s going to be in that chair across from him.
Did that lead to your involvement with the NBC drama series Crisis?
ANDERSON: Well, I had a deal at NBC. At the end of last year, they offered me a development deal, which I took. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to play itself out, but they were very generous about it and very vocal that it was a work in progress. We would try to develop something together that would follow with the kind of things that I’d been doing. It’s NBC’s intention to create more cable type material. I’d already agreed to do the episodes of Hannibal and could see that they were doing just that, with Hannibal. So, when I read the Rand Ravich script, which is now called Crisis, that’s what it felt like. It felt like it was a platform for exactly the kind of stuff that they implied that they were interested in pursuing. So, with that in mind, and speaking to them about schedule and how I could possibly make this work, and where it was shoot, and that it was an ensemble and I could come and go, seemed to make it fall into place.
Is there a role in your career, whether it be film or TV or theater, that you’re most proud of?
ANDERSON: I know this sounds crazy because it’s so new, but I’m really proud of The Fall. I’d say Bleak House or Great Expectations, but I feel good about The Fall. On many levels, I feel good about her being out there, as a woman in the contemporary world of television and social consciousness. I like that she’s out there. Hopefully, we’ll do good by women.
Are you still holding out hope that there will be some way to finally do a third and final The X-Files film? Is it something that you feel still needs to finish up its story, or does it just feel really satisfying that people are even still asking about it, all these years later?
ANDERSON: It feels like it needs one more chapter, in terms of the films. I think we all feel like having one more film out there will wrap it up nicely. It’s really just a matter of when. Now, in terms of my schedule, I don’t know when that when is. I’m not in any immediate rush to be calling Chris [Carter] and tapping my foot, but if it’s meant to happen, it will happen. The fact that it’s having a second life with the children who were obsessed with it is really awesome. There’s a whole new generation out there that’s discovering it on Netflix, and that’s great.
The Fall is now available on Netflix.