×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Gillian Anderson Reflects on How ‘The X-Files’ Launched a Career of Acting, Writing, Directing

Gillian Anderson first moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s with the intention of transitioning from a career on stage to one on the big screen. After a year of “logging audition after audition” for films of various sizes, though, she agreed to add television to the mix as well. In 1993 she landed a spot on Fox drama “Class of ’96.” While that was a one-off guest-starring role, proving she could “hit a mark” and developing a relationship with the network helped her land “The X-Files,” the series she credits with launching her career. As “The X-Files” prepares to premiere a continuation of its 2016 revival, Anderson is celebrating with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Jan. 8.

Anderson attributes her big break to luck more than ambition. “I was so green at the beginning, and so young, and I was just exploring,” she says. “I showed up and hit my mark and learned my lines and was pulled into this vortex of this hit show. It was my first professional, proper gig, and it was a cannon of sorts.”

Anderson says she has always been, and always will be, very grateful to Scully for the impact that she’s had both on her own career and on a number of young women around the world, many of whom decided to go into the fields of science or law enforcement after seeing that world opened to them by the show.

“The character that Chris Carter created, one didn’t see her often on television at that time,” says Anderson. “So to be a part of that was incredibly empowering for me and extraordinary to be a part of both a character and a series that was so iconic and game-changing.”

However, she says that after living in Scully’s skin for nine seasons during the original run of “The X-Files” she was “so identified with that character” that it became important to her to prove that wasn’t the only thing she could do.

“In the U.K. there always had been a multi-platform for actors to work in — there hadn’t been a stigma between television, film and theater, and some of the best actors in British history have moved between the media effortlessly,” Anderson says. “And so when I moved there and was approached to do ‘Bleak House,’ I was slightly shocked that they would imagine that I would be able to do something like that, but that was exactly the kind of thing that I had always wanted to do. And so I leapt onto that.”

In addition to the 2005 BBC drama, Anderson points to a handful of titles when considering the projects that have been as personally career-defining for her as “The X-Files.” The 2006 feature film “The Last King of Scotland” is one she believes allowed “people in the industry to think differently” about what she could do, while working with Bryan Fuller on both “Hannibal” and “American Gods” has been “creatively fulfilling” and “wonderful both because he has my back and has created stuff specifically for me.”

Being able to return to the stage, including a 2016 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” in New York, has had a “big impact” on her as an actor, as well.

And then there is “The Fall,” Allan Cubitt’s serial killer cat-and-mouse series on which she also served as executive producer. “‘The Fall’ was an extraordinary project to be involved in. Creatively it felt very collaborative, and I loved the character, and it felt very important as a woman to have that character out there in the world for women,” Anderson says.

Anderson first stepped behind the camera in 2000 for an episode of “The X-Files” she wrote and directed called “All Things” and has subsequently added book writing to her skillset. The first installment in “The EarthEnd Saga” sci-fi thriller series, co-authored with Jeff Rovin, was published in 2014; Simon & Schuster published the third installment in September. Earlier in 2017, she also published “We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere” with Jennifer Nadel, a book that is “part self-help and part social theory,” designed to encourage and nurture women to live happier and better lives.

Although Anderson admits that a certain sense of responsibility came when she realized the extent of her reach thanks to her role as Scully, the choices she has made in her career since — and the ones she continues to make as she prepares for the future — are not out of a sense of obligation to do things others may want or expect from her but rather what is “ingrained in [her] nature.”

“First and foremost I would say whether it excites me creatively to take me away from my kids,” Anderson says of what she looks for at this stage in her career. “That includes, obviously, the quality of the writing, the director that’s attached, the amount of time I would be required to work on it. I’ve got to feel that it’s going to be challenging and different enough from what I’ve done before.”

More TV

  • Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor

    Disney Channel Fires 'Andi Mack' Actor Arrested for Plotting Sex With Minor

    Disney Channel has severed ties with “Andi Mack” actor Stoney Westmoreland following his arrest for allegedly trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old. “Stoney Westmoreland, an actor working on the series ‘Andi Mack,’ was arrested in Salt Lake City today,” a Disney Channel spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “Given the nature of [...]

  • Russian Doll

    TV News Roundup: Natasha Lyonne's 'Russian Doll' Sets Netflix Premiere Date

    On Friday’s roundup, Netflix announces the premiere date for “Russian Doll” and Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Brexit” film has a premiere date on HBO FIRST LOOKS Showtime has released a new teaser for the upcoming comedy series, “Black Monday,” which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series stars and is executive produced by Don [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

  • FILE - In this April 5,

    CBS Claims Commitment to Ending Harassment. Its Actions Say Otherwise (Column)

    At this point, a new breaking sexual harassment case at CBS isn’t exactly a surprise. Over and over again, powerful CBS company men from producers to executives to the ex-CEO himself have made headlines for propagating decades of harassment and abuse, with dozens of witnesses affirming that the pattern was business as usual. But as [...]

  • Willow ShieldsVariety Portrait Studio, Beautycon Festival

    'Hunger Games' Alum Willow Shields Joins Netflix Drama Series 'Spinning Out'

    Willow Shields has been cast in a series regular role in “Spinning Out,” the upcoming ice skating drama series at Netflix. She joins a cast that also includes Kaya Scodelario, who was announced as the series lead on Thursday, taking over the role originally held by Emma Roberts. Shields will star as Serena, Kat Baker’s (Scodelario) [...]

  • Adam Levine Cardi B

    Maroon 5 and How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Became Music's Least Wanted Gig

    Who would have thought that the Super Bowl Halftime show, an American institution watched by more than 100 million people, would become the least wanted gig in music? But thanks to the ongoing controversy concerning the NFL’s stance on a player’s right to protest, brought to the forefront by football’s top conscientious objector Colin Kaepernick, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content