While her most famous role involved chasing aliens and government conspiracies with David Duchovny on “The X-Files,” Gillian Anderson has kept busy over the years with other projects. Her latest casts her as the long-suffering wife of Captain Ahab as he obsessively tracks down the whale that maimed him in Encore’s re-imagining of “Moby Dick” in a 2-part mini series that premieres Aug 1. Anderson sat down with CableFAX’s Michael Grebb at TCA in L.A. to discuss the role, her X-Files legacy and of course how we can start a campaign to get her a guest spot on Showtime’s “Californication.”
CableFAX: First of all, what drew you to this role?
Anderson: William Hurt was already attached, and they were in discussions with Ethan Hawke. That fact alone intrigued me. I think if they had not been attached, I might not have read the script. Then there was the script itself. I had not read the novel before. I couldn’t relate it to anything, so I didn’t know if it was a good adaptation of the actual novel. But I liked the script. I liked the story. I felt like I understood the character. And I thought it might be fun to perform it.
CableFAX: It’s just so interesting to tackle this novel, which was written 150 years ago when attitudes about whales were so different.
Anderson: Ethan was just saying yesterday when we were talking to the foreign press that even when John Houston shot his version of it, they used real whales. The actually killed real whales live for the filming of it. So the attitudes from even the 1950s to today are very different.
CableFAX: So do you have to approach the role differently because of that?
Anderson: If I were the director of it and were having to shoot it, I’d have those thoughts but for me and my character, I didn’t think about it very much.
CableFAX: This is Encore’s big entrée into original cable programming. But did it feel like TV or just doing another big-screen movie?
Anderson: It felt very much like doing a movie, especially with the production values they had. Mike Barker, the director, has a really broad personality and he was very interested in how it was shot and the cinematic look of things. So it felt like being more part of a film than a mini-series. And it had William Hurt and Ethan Hawke and Donald Sutherland, so…
CableFAX: You’ve done everything from comedies to dramas to thrillers to period pieces lately. Do you have a favorite genre?
Anderson: I’d like to do more comedies. I did a comedy movie a few years ago called “Boogie Woogie,” and that was fun to do.
CableFAX: Of course, that movie was about the art world. And you’re an art collector yourself. Is that what attracted you to it?
Anderson: Yeah, it was that, and I actually knew the producers, and I liked how the cast was coming together. It looked like it would be a fun thing to be involved in. I’d like to do more comedy. I think people don’t really know me yet as that. The funny thing is that a lot of “The X-Files” scripts were comedy scripts, and I don’t think people realize that. We used to have a lot of fun with some of those episodes.
CableFAX: And you just did another X-Files movie in 2008. Do you and David Duchovny keep in touch during the down times?
Anderson: Oh yeah.
CableFAX: Great. I’m going to start a campaign to get you a guest spot on “Californication.”
Anderson: OK, please do because we’re actually doing a question-and-answer thing tomorrow at a charity event, and that’s one of the questions I have: Why haven’t they offered me a guest spot on Californication?
Anderson: It’s a no brainer! How funny would that be to be a completely, completely different character.
CableFAX: Right. It can’t be anything like Scully.
Anderson: And it has to be sexual—because how weird would that be? It would just be weird to see this person who was Scully, and anyway… we’ll start the campaign.
CableFAX: Are they going to do another X-Files movie?
Anderson: I think everybody hopes that they will. I don’t know who’s manning that campaign. I don’t know who’s writing the script, but I hope somebody is. I think we’d all be up for it. It’s just a matter of the studio getting on board, I think. That’s another campaign. We’ll have to do that campaign too.
Anderson: Ok, great.
CableFAX: X-Files still has such a cult following, and it’s certainly your most recognizable role.
Anderson. Yeah, well it was 9 years long, and 101 episodes.
CableFAX: Right, so do you still get constantly stopped in the street by crazed X-Files fans?
Anderson: I get stopped for other stuff more than I do for X-Files, I think. But I think when people get star-struck around me, it’s because they were fans of The X-Files.
CableFAX: This particular production of “Moby Dick” is European. And you’ve done a lot of British TV because you live there now. How are British productions different from American ones?
Anderson: Well, I haven’t done an American mini-series, which is very different from doing an American series. But the crews are kind of different in both places, the energy of the crews are different in both places. But I don’t know if it’s really that much different.
CableFAX: What’s it like working with the BBC?
Anderson: With the BBC, there’s just no budget. So you’ve basically got 3 takes to get it right. That has an impact on your focus and how prepared you are, and you’ve got to be more prepared than anything else.
CableFAX: Does it change your technique?
Anderson: Not really because I like to be prepared anyway. But you’ve got to be on the ball. And you’ve got to be okay with that kind of speed. But having done a speedy show before, which is what we did, I don’t think anything I do could be as hard as what we did back then. [LAUGHS]. With all the dialogue—sometimes it was 7-pages of monologue for Scully, Ms. Brainiac, so I would have to memorize it the night before after just having done a 16-hour workday. So I don’t think anything I jump on board to do is going to be as hard as that.
CableFAX: Despite those 16-hour days, would you be interested in doing another TV series?
Anderson: I might. My passion is film, and I do a lot of theater. But I could do it potentially. I look at stuff every once in a while, and if it feels like it’s right… I’m not really interested in a full-year, 24-episode show. I’m more interested in a 13-episode type thing. A comedy in that realm might be a good venue. So I look at comedy stuff every once and a while.
CableFAX: So much of that development is in L.A. To what degree does living in London make it more of a challenge to stay involved?
Anderson: I’ve got pretty good agents. It would probably behoove my career to come out here more often, but I’m pretty happy with the decisions that I’ve made.