The X-smiles: Gillian Anderson shows her lighter side

Since her breakthrough part, Gillian Anderson has played a series of dark roles, most recently in The Fall. With her latest film showing off her lighter side, she would love to act in a comedy, she tells Alison King

Cast as Special Agent Scully at 24, it is unsurprising that Gillian Anderson left for London at the end of the decade long X-Files series. In the 10 years that followed, Anderson shunned Hollywood and reinvented her career in the UK with low-key roles in film and television costume dramas such as Bleak House, The House of Mirth, The Crimson Petal and the White and Great Expectations.

"Every time somebody asks me if I'm interested in doing an iconic literature character, it's really hard to ignore," Anderson explains. Establishing a roster of women as far from Scully as possible – Henrik Ibsen's Nora, Edith Wharton's Lily, Charles Dickens's Miss Havisham, their appeal was obvious: "Dickens holds up in the modern world and it's the same subject matter that we're still contending with today, whether it's a separation of the classes or greed, it continues to be identifiable."

It is Anderson's most recent role as DCI Stella Gibson, however, that had audiences gripped watching The Fall. A woman that could give DCI Jane Tennison run for her money, Gibson is icily self-assured and highlighted the idea of stereotyping women in crime as either victims or vamps.

"Alan Cubitt's writing is so complex and multilayered on a more psychological, subconscious level. It's pleasure to work with that kind of material. It was clear from very early on that the world he was creating was with these multi-layered female characters and that's where his talent lies: In his huge respect for women and his opinions about how they should be treated in the world today."

DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) in The Fall DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) in The Fall The show's tone has been described as "Post-Scandinavian" (Time Out) and indebted to those other dark, slow paced, psychological dramas such as The Bridge or The Killing.

"That darkness started with The X-Files. It was the very first TV show that turned the lights off and kept you in the dark. So the stuff that has been coming out in Denmark and Sweden feels quite unique to people and feels like a modern trend but it's not like it hasn't been done before, I just think that we're in the mood for it again."

Anderson's voice flits from an American drawl to prep school English due to her itinerant past. Born in Chicago and raised in London from ages 2 to 11, she attended high school and college in the US where she started her acting career only to return to London at the age of 35. Does Anderson feel British or American? "Ultimately, I probably feel American but I also feel like a foreigner in America. It's a tricky one but it doesn't bother me. I chose to live in the UK because London feels like home; it's the home of my childhood and it's where I feel I identify with the most."

By the end of The X-Files series, Anderson had been married twice. First to X-Files assistant art director Clyde Klotz, with whom she had a daughter, Piper, and then to documentary filmmaker Julian Ozanne. She then had two children, Oscar (four) and Felix (six) with British businessman Mark Griffiths. During the production, Anderson's gruelling schedule meant returning to the set only 10 days after giving birth to Piper. Her mid-twenties were swamped by 16-hour days with rare downtime spent with her child.

"I had no control back then and I think making these choices and continuing to work after having that experience makes it paramount that everyone understands what my priorities are."

That sentiment has continued to inform her choice of roles into the new decade. She tackles another serial killer in Hannibal as Dr Bedelia du Maurier, the psychiatrist to the Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen). It is her first role in an American television series since 2002 and describes her psychological sparring partner, Mikkelsen as "a master of understatement".

"It's the complexity of those characters and the things going on under the surface that make it so interesting to me as an actor. Conflict creates great drama," she says.

Actress Gillian Anderson attends the 'Les Miserables' World Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on December 5, 2012 in London, England. Signing up for the second series of Hannibal, Anderson is now busy filming NBC's action thriller, Crisis. "My role is more in the thriller bit than the action bit. It's very high-paced and intense because you're dealing with the government and FBI, and kids have been kidnapped so it's quite dramatic." It sounds like familiar, dark territory. "It just so happens that anything that crosses my lap tends to be darker in nature; it's not that I go looking for it. It's no mistake that I end up playing 'MI7 boss' or 'MI5 boss', and I can do that, but what people don't often see me in and what I don't get to do very much of is comedy because I also am very slapsticky and I love that."

Would Anderson consider signing up to an Edgar Wright comedy? "Yes, I'd love that, absolutely," she says.

While Anderson's two youngest children cannot yet watch the majority of her TV and film roles, her latest film from Studio Ghibli is of a lighter fare. Lending her voice to From Up on Poppy Hill, it is a deft coming-of-age tale set in 1963 Yokohama, "I did a voiceover with Miyazaki before on Princess Mononoke and I've been a big fan of his animation for a very long time so any time they approach me, I jump at the opportunity because I just think he's so talented."

Would Anderson make more movies for her children? "Yes and no. If the right thing came up I'd consider it, but all they're into is Lego Star Wars," she laughs. Would you consider a role in the new Star Wars movie? "Yeah maybe," she says, "More likely Star Trek; I'd do Star Trek."

Perhaps that would be a good way of exercising her sci-fi credentials whilst reaffirming her status as a hero of a different kind to her young family. "Maybe, but only if I was made out of Lego."

'From Up on Poppy Hill' is on general release

Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Jess Glynne is UK number 1

music

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor