Parade Interview (2014)
Gillian Anderson: My Kids Don’t Know I’m An Actress
by Jason Lynch
Gillian Anderson has been busy since the X-Files ended in 2002, and this spring, she returns to TV in the new NBC drama Crisis, about a group of teens—all children of the Washington D.C. elite—who are kidnapped during a field trip. Anderson plays Meg Fitch, the high-powered CEO of a multinational IT corporation, whose estranged sister (Rachael Taylor) is an FBI agent working on the case.
Anderson is also back on NBC’s Hannibal this season, returning as Hannibal’s psychiatrist Bedelia Du Maurier. What’s more, she’s doing another season of her BBC2 crime drama series The Fall, in which she plays a senior police officer investigating a string of murders in Belfast. And as if that wasn’t enough, she’s also co-writing a sci-fi book franchise called the EarthEnd Saga and is currently working on the first novel in the series, A Vision of Fire.
The busy actress and writer chatted with Parade about juggling her many projects, how X-Files fans react to her today, and why her kids don’t know what she does for a living.
You’ve always kept busy since X-Files, but your projects weren’t always high profile. Now you have Crisis, Hannibal, The Fall—was that a conscious decision to amp up your workload?
“I don’t know about a conscious decision to amp up my workload. Everything has kind of fallen together at the same time, and it seems doable. I think in the past, when my little ones were younger, it seemed less doable. And on top of that, the fact that I’ve been approached with some projects that were difficult to turn down—I think the mixture of the two of them. If they were difficult to turn down and I didn’t find that they were doable, then I wouldn’t be doing them. But it seems manageable at this point. Talk to me in April [or] May…”
Crisis shoots in Chicago, Hannibal is Tornoto, The Fall shoots in Belfast. And you live in…
“London [laughs]. Is there a problem with that?”
And on top of this, you signed a deal to do a sci-fi book?
“Yeah! Actually, we’re on Chapter 14. We’re already a good way into it, and I write on airplanes most of the time. My schedule for Crisis is such that I’m on a lot of airplanes and there’s a lot of space where I’m also at home with my kids. Now through March I’ll be working on the books as well, and hopefully that will conclude them because once I jump into doing The Fall, I’m not going to be able to focus on anything but that. So I think it will work out.”
Have you always wanted to write?
“I’ve always wanted to write. I wasn’t intending that this would be the venue that my first writing would be. I’ve worked on screenplays before…I really enjoy the writing process; I’m very happy when I write. This came up completely out of the blue and felt like something that would be fun to dip my toe into. It became much bigger than even I had anticipated. I don’t think I really even thought through it all that much, and so it’s been a little bit of a surprise, but a very pleasant surprise. And now, the potential is actually quite humungous. Again, if it’s any good, I want to preface that by saying [laughs]. But we’ve got a lot of plans for the ways that books can go in different areas and follow different characters in a different series, and comics, and all of that kind of stuff.”
As a parent, watching kids in Crisis is tough—and your oldest is the same age as the teenagers in the show.
“I think that NBC is handling it well in that there’s always an understanding and a sensitivity to the real world and what goes on out there. Same thing with watching things—I was watching Prisoners recently, where the kids were the same age as my little ones. I think on the one hand, I need to compartmentalize it to such a degree to even be a viewer. The minute I start to project my kids in that scenario, I’m gone. I can’t even for a second watch any of that. So I think so much of our world we compartmentalize. We compartmentalize when we watch the news, when we watch what’s going on in Afghanistan. We stick it somewhere and get on with our lives, and I think we’re so used to that…you know, look at Dexter!
Do your kids have any sense of what you do for a living?
“No. [laughs] The older one, who’s seven, might know I’m an actress, but I don’t think he even knows what that means.”
They have never seen your picture on a billboard or magazine?
“Not yet. For The Fall, BBC doesn’t publicize. There is going to have to be a point this year, when Crisis hits the UK, where my face will be up a billboard, and that’s the first conversation we’ll be having about, “Mommy, why are you on the side of a bus?”
What do they think you fly around doing?
“They know that I work. I go to work.”
You’ve been helping celebrate the X-Files 20th anniversary at Comic Con and other events. What has that been like?
“It was sweet. We got together in San Diego, we got together in New York. I think we were all shocked at the continued enthusiasm. The amount of people that ended up showing up and continuing to remind us that they’re there for us when we get the film going, and all that kind of stuff…It’s touching, it’s slightly profound, and it’s awesome. It’s awesome that we’ve continued to have that strong of a fan base for such a long time. I’m constantly reminded of what it was that I was a part of back then, and the steps we all took in being a part of that. That moved television forward, on so many different levels. That’s a cool thing to be a part of, and I’m very proud of that fact, and grateful.”
Crisis premieres Sunday, March 16 at 10/9c on NBC and Hannibal returns for a new season on Feb. 28 at 10/9c on NBC. The Fall will air on BBC2 in the U.K., but U.S. viewers can catch up on season 1 on Netflix.