Gillian Anderson did the unthinkable when she achieved pop culture fame as sceptical FBI agent Dana Scully in the landmark The X-Files. When the series ended in 2002 after nine seasons, she walked away from American television, moved to London and began taking on a variety of smaller-scale theatre and film projects. Now, a year after the 20th anniversary of the start of The X-Files, Anderson is more visible than ever in three TV series. She stars in BBC Two’s The Fall as a senior police detective investigating serial murders, and NBC’s Crisis, in which she plays the chief executive of an international IT conglomerate whose daughter is kidnapped. She also appears in a recurring role as serial killer Hannibal Lecter’s psychiatrist in NBC’s Hannibal.
All of a sudden, you seem to be everywhere at the same time.
Yes, it’s a little crazy, but it seems to be OK. I don’t know how it’s managing to work out. But I’m not dead yet.
Was it a conscious decision to leap back in and do a lot of things at the same time?
It all started with a decision to do The Fall. That was something I didn’t feel inclined to turn down — the quality of the writing and the character were so intriguing. It really felt like it was a gift in many respects. Around the same time, I started conversations with NBC about a development deal. Shortly after that, I got offered a short arc in Hannibal. That was very difficult to turn down. Then the script for what would become Crisis came along. The pilot was impossible to put down. I gave it to my 19-year-old and she said, “Mum!” That was a good indication.
But they all seem to have collided at once.
There were conversations between the writers and the networks, and everyone was adamant that they would be able to work it out, and I’d be able to go back and forth. It just all fell into place.
What was so intriguing about Crisis?
The idea as a whole was compelling. The character I play is very complicated, and I love playing complicated women. It was something I felt I hadn’t done before. There were elements to Meg Fitch that were new to me, and I always find that compelling.
Having done so many projects overseas and then returning to America, do you see a big difference in the two TV worlds?
Yes, there’s a big difference in the making of them, the marketing, how it’s run. It’s very much two different worlds.
Was it a bit like riding a bicycle, getting back onto the whole entertainment machinery?
I’ve always been a bit kicking and screaming when it comes to that. But working on the projects is like working with family. It’s stepping back into something that’s family.
You really seem to enjoy playing Stella on The Fall. And it’s a pretty provocative role, very sexual. But it appears you have a connection with her.
I enjoy being in her skin so much. She’s a cool chick, and she’s very comfortable with herself and her sexuality. I feel like I have expanded and matured and grown as a woman as a result of playing her.
What do your young kids think of their mum flying all over, doing all this TV?
My kids don’t know what I do. I was in Belfast [in Northern Ireland] for The Fall, Skyping for the first time from my trailer and my seven-year-old said, “Where are you?” I could be a travelling salesperson for all they know. But I still have to have good chunks of time at home.
Of course, I have to ask you the inevitable and unavoidable question — is there going to be more of The X-Files? Are you amazed it’s still a phenomenon that people are interested in?
I’m very aware of it. I did a year’s worth of Comic Cons for the 20th anniversary when I could fit it into my schedule. There are still all the die-hard fans, and there’s a new generation that’s watching the show for the first time. They’re obsessed. That’s wonderful.
It all depends on the script. But we’ve all said if it happens, we’ll be there.
But in the meantime, your dance card seems full.
I feel very lucky to have all these characters at the same time. Everyone has been working very hard on the ground, trying to make this happen. So far it’s fine.