Gillian Anderson ‘The Fall’ Q&A: “I couldn’t really say no to it” (2013)
by Morgan Jeffery
A veteran of quality television on both sides of the Atlantic, Gillian Anderson‘s latest role sees her play the lead in BBC Two’s new crime thriller The Fall.
The Belfast-set psychological thriller follows Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (Anderson) and her hunt for a brutal killer – one Paul Spector, played by Once Upon a Time‘s Jamie Dornan.
Digital Spy and other journalists spoke with the former X-Files star about why she’s turned down law-enforcement roles in the past, her own Irish heritage and the differences between working in Hollywood and the UK…
“Primarily it was the script – I think I was given the first three [episodes] right off the bat. Americans had tried to do [their own] Prime Suspect – I read that script and wasn’t crazy about it.”When this script came along… I have a tendency to assume that something’s not going to be very good before I read it! Then I started to read it and it was just so well-written, so powerful, so psychologically stimulating and I really liked the character of Stella.
“She felt very different to other law-enforcement officials that I’ve played before, which is always key to my final interest in something! I couldn’t really say no to it, and after meeting with Allan [Cubitt] and hearing him talk about his process of writing – how he came up with the characters and the forensic way that he approaches his material – I thought, God, it sounds amazing – I have to do it!”
Have you turned down a lot of scripts where you were offered law enforcement roles?
“Yeah, I have. That generally seems to be the direction that people want to put me. It’s odd, because I did a short arc on Hannibal which is an NBC series – not playing an investigative officer, playing a psychiatrist.
“That ended up airing before this and therefore the way that they’re selling it is that it’s my ‘return to television’ – whereas I feel like… I have been doing a bit, here and there!”
“It definitely does. I hope what it ends up doing is unveiling Belfast in a new way. We properly show the city – it’s not just interiors the whole time. It gives a really positive spin on the beauty and complexity of the city itself, rather than just the history and the politics of it.”By filming there as opposed to filming in London, you’re not seeing the same locations you’re used to seeing all the time if you’re watching British series. But also, there’s a tension – just the fact that it’s in Belfast, there’s a tension. It’s just there – it breathes in the city and I think it comes across on-screen.”
Is it true that you have some Irish heritage yourself?
“I do – that’s weird! I keep contemplating whether to do Who Do You Think You Are? just to find out more. My Mum’s really into genealogy… and she’d heard years ago that we have some type of Irish royalty in our blood… but I don’t think that’s true!”
“Oh yes. What I find intriguing is that there’s not that many degrees’ difference between all of us and somebody who is able to do something like Spector – and I find that fascinating.”That becomes quite evident in the way this is written and shot, with the parallel storylines. I think she absolutely knows where he comes from, and it’s not from ‘over there’ – it’s from somewhere closer.”
You’ve worked a lot in UK drama in recent years – why is that?
“Well, first of all, I live here! And in order for me to make myself available for the ones across the pond… that’s a completely different mindset and means uprooting the whole gang.
“And there’s such great material over here. I’ve read a few that have come from that side and they haven’t grabbed my interest as much as this did.”
“I think they probably could make it, [but] I think it would feel different. I don’t know what it is that’s different about American dramas compared to UK and European series – there’s just a different feel and I actually often try to figure out what that is.”I don’t know whether it’s purely the different sensibilities, depending on where you are and how things land differently. Certainly, in terms of The Killing and the darkness in that… there was plenty of darkness in The X-Files.
“There’s just something that’s different and I don’t know whether it’s quantifiable, but thank God that there’s that choice.”
The Fall begins on Monday, May 13 at 9pm on BBC Two.