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

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital