By Debbie McQuoid
If Gillian Anderson used to be known for her nine-year stint as special agent Dana Scully on the 90s television phenomenon The X Files, nowadays she’s more likely to be approached about being Jamie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Dornan’s co star in the BBC’s hit crime thriller, The Fall, back on our screens next month.
‘I’ve been surprised at how funny he is,’ says Anderson, in the way that being funny and as ridiculously good-looking as Dornan is indeed pleasantly surprising. ‘He’s very, very funny and good at telling stories. He’s a good mimic as well.’ Then, suddenly sounding quite motherly, she adds, ‘He’s a lovely young lad. On the first series, people were like, “Who is this guy? Is he an ex-model or something?” Now people don’t ever want to talk to me about The X-Files. They only want to ask about Jamie Dornan.’
Of course, Anderson has plenty of other things to talk about. Professionally and personally, she is a woman with a very rich history. A mother of three (Piper, 20, Oscar, eight, and Felix, six), she is an actress who resolutely refuses to be typecast, dancing from silver screen (The Last King Of Scotland) to stage (most recently Blanche DuBois in the Young Vic’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire). And, of course, the medium in which she has most made her mark, television, where she has gone from corset (Bleak House, Great Expectations) to cannibalism (Hannibal) with ease – and critical acclaim.
It seems incredible now to think Anderson was just 24 when she was offered the part of Scully on The X Files, quickly establishing herself as an international star – although Duchovny was originally paid significantly more. It was three years before Anderson made a stand and was finally awarded the same salary.
‘At the beginning, the pay disparity was massive. But that happens all the time in Hollywood. It’s, “Do this for me, I’ll get you a job.” All the stuff in the papers today about people in entertainment who have abused their position…’
Anderson is clearly not one of those women who might shy away from referring to herself as a feminist, and she’s on a roll: ‘It’s built into our society. It’s easy to miss and it’s easy to get used to it. There are things that are intolerable in today’s world, in terms of the perception of women. Whether they’re vamps or vixens… the expectation that, if a woman is wearing a short skirt, she’s “asking for it”.’
Speaking with Anderson now, she strikes me as a woman who has finally grown into herself. In many ways, it feels as though she has lived two lifetimes: one that began and ended with Scully; another that kicked off later in life and has brought her greater fulfilment.
In part, this newfound acceptance comes out of a period of personal re-evaluation. Her younger brother, Aaron, died of a brain tumour three years ago, at the age of 30, having been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis as a child – a rare genetic condition that causes tumours to grow on nerve tissue. Growing up, Aaron had regular MRI scans and lived a relatively normal life, but when he was at Stanford, studying for a PhD, his behaviour changed and he began to suffer severe mood swings. ‘People noticed,’ Anderson recalls. ‘My parents flew out. They thought he was having an existential breakdown and finally someone did a CAT scan and from that moment to the moment of his passing, it was three years.’
Aaron was a practising Buddhist. Anderson tells me he dealt with his illness ‘with such a state of grace…’. She looks away. ‘It had a profound effect on all of us. He was just extraordinary. He made it a lot easier for all of us.’ When he died, it prompted a time of personal reflection. ‘It did make me change priorities and realise life is short,’ she says. ‘And that it’s important to follow one’s heart, I think, and make the most out of the time we have.’
The Fall returns to BBC Two this autumn
Read our full interview with Gillian in November’s issue of Red, out October 2nd
Source: Red Online