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Gillian Anderson awkwardly discussed the highs of her career

In a wide-ranging and at times stilted conversation, actress Gillian Anderson discussed her past, present and upcoming roles with Alice Kelikian (FILM/HIST/ITAL), the chair of the Film, Television and Interactive Media Program. Anderson discussed the various high points of her career throughout the talk. 

Anderson met with Kelikian virtually on Friday, March 5 for a chat that lasted only 45 minutes. The interview was rocky from the beginning and only seemed to get worse. Kelikian struggled to ask relevant questions, and Anderson seemed a bit confused on how to answer the ones asked. Despite these challenges, viewers of the panel still were able to learn about Anderson and her works. 

“I’ve been incredibly, incredibly lucky in my career,” Anderson said, referencing her ability to transition between different art forms throughout her career. She was grateful to have been able to work in television, film and theater. In fact, theater was responsible for the role she seemed most proud of: Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” 

The National Theater performance of the play was live streamed on the company’s YouTube channel in 2020. Anderson described having always wanted to play this role, referencing as far back as high school, where she performed one of Blanche’s monologues. Anderson has been drawn to this character, saying “it almost feels as if we share DNA somehow.” She said that she actively pursued putting a production together because of her passion for this role and claimed that it took about 10 years for it to actually come to fruition. 

Anderson also discussed some of the various roles she’s felt lucky to have throughout her career, many of them highlighting women’s issues and empowerment. Her current project is a film called “White Bird.” The production is currently filming in Prague. Anderson plays the mother of the main character, a young boy in France who helps a young Jewish girl during the German occupation of WWII. She expressed excitement about the upcoming movie and the team she’s working with, which includes Helen Mirren and Mark Forster. 

She also lightly touched upon an upcoming work called “The First Lady” in which she will be portraying Eleanor Roosevelt. Anderson has “always been enamored with Eleanor Roosevelt” and “drawn to her wisdom and her activism.” Roosevelt is not the only important political woman Anderson has played in her career, though, as she also plays Margaret Thatcher in “The Crown,” a performance for which she recently received a Golden Globe award. While discussing “The Crown,” she explained the tricky balance of truth that exists within the historical drama genre: “[it’s] not factual, but it’s true.”

Besides “Streetcar,” the show Anderson talked most about was “The X-Files.” Kelikian asked Anderson about the “Scully effect,” in which girls who admired Anderosn’s “X-Files” character Scully were drawn to STEM fields after the show. The show inspired a “crazy cool” number of girls to show interest in and enter STEM fields.

Anderson also spoke passionately about women in the film industry. Apparently, she has only ever worked twice with women behind the camera, a number she seemed disappointed in. “We need more women writers,” she declared.

Anderson offered advice to young women entering the film industry: “Try as hard as possible not to take anything personally,” she said. As a notoriously fickle industry, there is a lot of rejection for actors and actresses. She reminded viewers that even “in good times, only five percent of working actors are actually working.” A lot of the process, Anderson said, is about building up one’s self esteem as an actor so that “when the knocks come, they don’t knock you over.” 

Anderson’s words of wisdom were well received—if only we had gotten to hear more of them. While Anderson made a lot of great points in the interview, the conversation was unnatural at best as Kelikian often jumped around from topic to topic with no clear transition. Anderson is a gifted actress and an intelligent woman, but the interview left little room for her to show it.

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