Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan return to BBC Two in Allan Cubitt’s intense psychological thriller (2016)
Interview with Gillian Anderson (Stella Gibson)
How would you describe The Fall?
The premise of The Fall is that you see a serial killer at work, Paul Spector (played by Jamie Dornan). I play DSI Gibson from the Met police who comes to Belfast to look into cases of murdered women. In the first instance it seems two of the murders are linked and then it becomes clear that it is a serial killer. From that point on they are on the hunt for Paul Spector.
How would you describe Stella?
She’s very focused, particularly intelligent. She’s described as cold and she keeps herself to herself and is not interested in work politics, but she tells it like it is. She expects the same of others and expects the team around her to work hard and when they do she warms up a bit.
What I like most about her is how unique she is, different from anything I’ve read or seen before. I find her elusive and mysterious and that’s not very often the case. Often my enthusiasm about working on a series is to find out more about her from Allan, as well as getting an opportunity to play her again. We’re not very similar in many ways, she has a lot of attributes that I aspire to, but it’s fun to get to play those and to live in the skin of somebody who is so smart and forthright and peculiar.
Tell us about Stella’s journey
This is still a span of a short period of time, it’s over just a few months that the whole three series take place. She doesn’t really change; a lot of things happen to her within the journey of the case, but I don’t think she’s changed very much.
What attracted you to The Fall?
How good the writing was – Allan is a talented writer. I don’t know how he manages to infuse so much of each character within the scene and the dialogue without description; it comes out in their personalities and their actions which is a hard thing for writers to do. He just intrinsically knows how to do that so the characters are unique and individual. That was it first and foremost. As an actor, anytime you are told something was written with you in mind it adds to your ego, but also to the enticement of it. It makes you prick up your ears.
Where do we find Gibson and Spector in series three?
Spector is in an ambulance bleeding out and Gibson is by his side, hoping that he doesn’t bleed out so he can go to trial.
Describe Gibson’s relationship with Spector
The Gibson/Spector relationship is strange. They have an equal obsession for each other. It’s very much a cat and mouse dynamic. They confound each other, frustrate each other, and infuriate each other. One of them is always slightly on top and I think that is the nature of their relationship at any given time. They’ve both caught each other out, surprised each other with their tactics and that psychological interaction is titillating for them at the same time. Stella has been violated by him a couple of times and she’s not used to people having that power over her. She’s used to being the smartest one in the room and she can hold herself in any situation. So to be tripped up, caught out and exposed is a huge knock for her.
How has it been working with Jamie over the three series?
Stella and Spector don’t really work opposite each other at all until the end of the second series so Jamie and I barely saw each other until that point. There’s been a tiny bit more interaction this series. It’s been interesting to watch Jamie’s growth as an actor, and it may not even be growth, it may be what was there all along. He’s just very good so that’s really enjoyable to watch.
Did you have any favourite moments on set?
There are a lot of favourite moments. It was nice to work with Richard Coyle, I’m a fan of his work and he’s a great actor. The task force that we have and all the actors and actresses that are part of that team are really wonderful people and a wonderful support, which makes doing pages and pages of dialogue less stressful, because they’re so lovely and accommodating of my mistakes. But mainly just getting an opportunity to play Stella again.
What makes The Fall unique?
Ultimately the writing. Allan is very good at writing unpredictably. No matter how many conversations we might have prior to the series about what might or might not happen, what ends up on the page is so much more interesting, unlikely, unsettling and out of left field than pretty much anything I could have come up with.
What’s it like filming in Belfast?
Belfast is a wonderful city and I generally don’t get to see any of it! My life is back and forth between mostly interior locations and my hotel room. But I really appreciate being there. From an outsider’s perspective it feels very much like a like a neighbourhood. Everybody seems to know everybody else and with the intensity of the history there are sub-levels that are fascinating.
Stella’s become a bit of a fashion icon…
Can I tell you something? I don’t look good in a silk shirt unless I’m wearing a silk shirt for Stella Gibson. I swear to god! It’s the weirdest thing. I never buy them because I look nothing like she does in silk shirts! There’s something about the mixture of the whole get-up and her hair and make-up but I’m really sloppy and it just never works for me. So I too would like to be able to wear a silk shirt like Stella Gibson, but it’s impossible basically.
Are Stella’s clothes important?
I always think that the choices that people make about clothes says a lot about who they are. Stella’s clothes are very much a statement of who she is. You don’t get the sense that she spends hours and hours thinking about it. On camera it feels like she gets changed in crappy bathrooms but takes care of her dry cleaning.