As soon as Gillian Anderson took her seat on the dais, she had a question for the audience: “Someone told me to ask you about Waffle House,” she said, drawing knowing laughs from the assembled super fans.
Though Anderson has the type of career that spawns head shakes and “How does she do all of that,” –type comments given her recent role on “Hannibal,” in the British crime drama “The Fall” (returning this year to Netflix) and on stage for a rave-earning performance as Blanche DuBois in a recent Brooklyn revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” she’ll never shake Special Agent Dana Scully, the beloved science-minded skeptic on “The X-Files.”
At her Dragon Con appearance Sunday – which filled the ballroom at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel to its capacity of 2,000 – Anderson was humorous and thoughtful as she fielded questions from the crowd.
A few fans asked about “The Fall” (“Stella reveals a little bit (about herself). I think it’s enough,” she said of that stoic detective) and her favorite character to play (more on that in a moment). But most wanted “X-Files” scoop.
Anderson shared that the best thing about returning to the series for this year’s run of episodes was, “working with David (Duchovny) again in the new incarnation of our friendship…which is enjoyable.”
One of her favorite “X-Files” episodes to shoot was “Bad Blood” in season five (1998): “Having Luke Wilson with us, that was a fun episode to do,” she said (during her 45-minute Q&A session, Anderson also reminded fans that a young Ryan Reynolds guested on the show in 1996. “I must not have been filming that day,” she joked as she struggled to remember the episode – it was “Syzygy” from season three).
Anderson also spoke candidly about the nervousness and stress she still feels the first day on any set or stage. When asked how she felt, at only 24 and a self-described acting novice, on her first day at “The X-Files,” she said, “Probably exactly the same way I feel the first day of anything – petrified.”
She never thought about Dana Scully becoming a feminist role model, but is proud of the character’s enduring impact.
“I was 24 at the time of Scully and SO self-obsessed. I didn’t even know what it meant for a series to be ‘picked up,’ never mind ‘picked up’ for eternity!”
Anderson also didn’t shirk from a question about equal pay for women – a cause she has been vocal about.
“There was a point when I started to get a fee closer to David’s because we were literally equally successful and that was a struggle to get there,” she said. “When the first feature (“X-Files” film) came around, I was offered half of his pay and I said no…it happened again in the last series. It doesn’t make sense. But I think because there is so much attention on it – Meryl Streep and Patricia Arquette and Jennifer Lawrence all shined a timely light on something that has existed a long time. Knowing people who are in the area of making those decisions, it’s complicated. The idea of equality, it’s a very big issue. At the very least, people in position to make those decisions are looking to make changes.”
As for that favorite character, Anderson pondered the question for a few seconds and then answered, “If Blanche (DuBois) weren’t so nuts…!” She shared a story about how she grieved the character after the show ended its New York run, crying as if someone had died.
“Stella (from ‘The Fall’) resides in my life somewhere. Scully resides in my life somewhere. There is no room for Blanche,” she said with a laugh. “I never had that experience, saying goodbye to a character, so that must mean she was meaningful.”
Note: Anderson was originally scheduled to appear at Dragon Con Sunday and Monday, but she noted on Twitter Sunday that she had a “slight change in plans” and had to leave Sunday evening.