Gillian Anderson is best known for playing straight-laced Dana Scully in The X-Files and also starred as MI7 agent Pamela Thornton (code-named Pegasus) in Johnny English Reborn. The Chicago born actress has three children: Piper, Oscar and Felix. She shares her experience starring in the X-Files and Johnny English Reborn:
After starring in The X-Files, you must be an expert on the inner workings of the FBI. Were you able to transfer this to the British Secret Service?
You’d think! I don’t know, it’s so hard to know what one uses for what. I have to imagine on some level that there was some influence there. But it’s British, it’s a fake agency and there’s a lot of humour there. I, as Pamela Thornton, was able to be even more serious than I was able to be as Scully. But, you know, there’s a chance that there was some overlap there on a psychological level.
Have you met a lot of people in the course of working on The X-Files or working on this who work in those shadowy worlds?
I haven’t. I did meet a female FBI agent years ago, who wore blouses and heels and had a little gun in her purse. I haven’t met that many of them. I’d like to.
How would you describe Pegasus (as she’s called throughout the film)?
Serious. Controlling. Single-minded. Well organised. Not sure if there is much more than that!
Were you inspired by real-life spies? She kind of reminded me of Judi Dench’s M character in the recent Bond films…
It’s funny because people keep saying that, and I wouldn’t have thought so. Just because when I think of Judi Dench, I think of her as very quiet and floaty. It seems like she doesn’t even need to raise her voice at all to express her power, whereas I think Pamela has to work quite hard. Even though you don’t see her working at it, she comes with a lot of it, whereas somehow Judi manages to be in control of everything and whisper at the same time, so I haven’t really found where those comparisons are. I want to go back and actually watch Judi playing ‘M’ and see where the comparisons are, because people keep bringing it up, and it may possibly be more than just the fact that it’s the same type of character.
So was your character Pamela inspired by career women you’d met in the past?
I don’t know. This is one of those times that depend on the role which dictates how much research I end up doing on something, and I didn’t really do any research on this. It felt like it was on the page. It felt like I had a pretty clear understanding of who she was, from the beginning. I didn’t really feel like I needed that much more support, or that much more depth to her than I felt like I already had or understood.
Have you ever fantasised about being in a Bond film, or being a Bond girl? Did you ever get close at any point?
Not a Bond girl, but definitely a Bond or a Bourne type character. I’ve been involved in developing stuff like that in the past, and so yeah, it’s always been a little bit of a fantasy of mine.
Is there any chance of a third X-Files movie?
There might be. I don’t know. I’m not usually one of the first people that are called on that, but there is constant talk about it. Whether it actually comes to fruition is out of my hands.
I must talk to you about Rowan. How much time are you on set in hysterics around him?
Oddly, not that much. I think that’s down to a couple of things. One is that most of the time when I’m on camera, it’s because we’ve already shot all of Rowan’s stuff. So I’ve seen it so many times already that’s when it’s my turn to have to react, I’m in a safe zone, so to speak. But also this character has to be so serious and not see very much. There’s a certain degree to which as an actor in playing a part you take in less than you might if you were meant to see what’s in front of your eyes. So I was protected in that way.
Were you impressed by his serious approach to comedy?
Very, very impressed. I hadn’t had such a technical experience of comedy myself and it needed to be approached with a heightened degree of technique. You had to show up on set having figured it all out already, at home or in your trailer or wherever, because it’s so specific, and it’s fascinating that way. It really felt like I was working a different muscle, even though I don’t get to be funny. I’m very much a straight man in this, as are a lot of the characters.
Are you good at not laughing during takes?
I’m good at not laughing, unless I’m the one playing the joke. If I play a joke, in order to make other people laugh, I’m more likely laugh first which is really bad and really embarrassing.
Finally, what was the funniest scene to film?
Probably the chair scene, I would say that was the funniest to film. But for me the funniest scene in the film is the ‘mole-vole’ scene in the helicopter. I could laugh at that endlessly.
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