Returning to play Agent Dana Scully in Fox’s X-Files reboot, Gillian Anderson talks about what’s changed, what hasn’t, and why she’s looking forward to the old-age home.
You started playing Scully in 1993, when you were just 25. Does it feel different all these years later?
I don’t think the role is any different—the writers are writing Scully as they always wrote Scully. But I have changed, and I think that naturally, she would change, too. Women change when they get older, and so part of what this season has been about has been figuring out how to play Scully and still retain elements of her personality, even if most of the elements of her personality wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for an adult to express.
There was a lot of eye-rolling. She had a very nonchalant attitude with Mulder. How do you maintain that dynamic between the two of them, while at the same time honoring the fact that she’s a full-grown woman now?
How do women change as they get older?
Do you think there’s a softening that happens? I think it’s the other way around. Maybe we soften when we get into our 60s and 70s, but I think at my age, a lot of women harden. You have history and pain behind you. You’ve experienced loss and anger and frustration and sadness.
You’re turning 50 this year—does it feel how you thought it would?
I’m not sure I ever projected forward to what it might feel like to be a 50-year-old. I definitely didn’t think the signs of aging, like wrinkling and going gray, would happen to me. But in a way, getting older and being in a care home has always been incredibly appealing to me.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say she was looking forward to an old-age home.
I work, I run, and I do and I do. I like the idea of actually being in a place where you can’t do that. There’s bridge and bingo. Somebody prepares the food for you. You can read books, and it’s acceptable to do those things. I have always had a hard time giving myself permission to do those things amidst my busy life. A lot of what I do is selfish. It’s just doing for the sake of being busy.
Why do you stay so busy?
I don’t really have any hobbies. To me, a hobby would be just allowing myself to read a novel, as opposed to a script or working in some way. When I’m not with my kids (Piper, 23; Oscar, 11; Felix, 9), there’s always lines to memorize, a script to read, or there’s material to research on a character that I’ll be playing in 2019. I have to constantly work at pulling myself back and allow myself to do an hour of yoga. There’s a part of me that’s still a child who needs to be reined in, pulled around with one of those leashes.
Are there any women in your field who you think get it right?
I don’t know her at all, but I love Tilda Swinton and the choices she makes—she develops relationships with filmmakers and often works with them again and again. And yet her home life is separate from the world of the industry and is full and fulfilling—it seems to me, from the outside, that she’s got a really good balance. And Frances McDormand I love. I think she chooses very, very carefully the films that she does.
How do you find that balance?
I try not to be away from my kids for more than three weeks. I’ll go back to London, even if it’s just for three or four nights, just so that three weeks doesn’t extend into six weeks.
How do you make the most of your time when you are home?
It’s about looking at how we spend our time, how we spend our money, what are the things that will fill us so much more than Instagram and Facebook—which are at our fingertips and so hard to pull away from but actually leave us feeling like our lives are empty and we have a gaping hole in our stomachs. I don’t have Facebook or Instagram or Twitter on my phone, because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to control myself.
We know scrolling social media makes us feel bad, but we can’t stop doing it.
Everything out there is going to look better than where one is. I’m posting a picture on Instagram of me smiling on set on The X-Files, but that’s not an indication of anything. That doesn’t even mean I’m happy. Who knows what’s going on at home in London: how much I’m missing my children, whether one of them is sick, how powerless I feel in that, or what’s happening on set. None of it is an indication of anything real.
I think a lot of people feel that way about social media, but we assume that celebrities don’t, because your lives are awesome.
There are some very, very unhappy wealthy people out there.
You’ve been in the public eye for a long time, but what’s something most people still don’t know about you?
If I get nervous during interviews, it looks like I’m not enjoying myself, like I’m very serious and grumpy. And I am those things, but most of the time I’m also really silly, really goofy, and really clumsy. I’m not one or two things—I’m 25 things.