Gillian Anderson, Lily James in a promo shot for "All About Eve."
Anderson as Margo.
Anderson and Jamie Dornan in The Fall.
Asa Butterfield, Anderson .
'If it's something that is daunting in one way or another or could potentially arouse fears, then I have a tendency to force myself to say yes'
It is a truth universally acknowledged: There isn’t anything Gillian Anderson can’t do. From sci-fi to drama to comedy (most recently, in Netflix’s Sex Education ), from television to film to now, the stage.
Anderson finds herself this season in London’s West End. There, she stars in the classic “All About Eve,” based on the 1950 film, as theatre darling Margo, opposite Lily James as Eve. Adapted and directed by Ivo van Hove, the production is set to broadcast several performances live over the next month across Canada, beginning May 18th in partnership with Cineplex.
I spoke with Anderson over the phone about her versatility, the confidence her work requires and trusting life’s sense of timing.
Q: Your career has moved seamlessly from television to film to stage; that’s not something that’s always afforded to women as they get older in Hollywood. Have you felt a shift in the industry?
A : It seems to be something that has become a bit more evident over the past couple years with people trying to hire more diversely. I still think there’s a big question mark as to whether it’s going to be a lasting thing, whether there are policies to be made in the business as a whole to hire more equally than there has been historically. It’s certainly not a good time to be a white middle class male in the industry, but time will tell as to whether it’s not just ticking boxes.
Q: Especially in the light of “All About Eve,” which is such a rich story about the evils of the industry and how it treats women. Does playing Margo feel self-reflective in that sense?
A : It does. It’s an interesting thing because, on the one hand, it’s a feminist tale, but then she’s also a woman who declares that women are not women unless they have men. And so, it’s complicated. I made some adjustments to the dialogue just to take the edges off of that. So, it’s more of a personal choice that the character’s making rather than a universal declaration.
Q: How does performing feel, knowing you’re being broadcast live around the world?
A : Well, I’ve done that before with “A Streetcar Named Desire” and when you add this whole other live element to it, it’s exciting. I think it’s really important that theatre gets to be seen by as many people as possible, even if its local people who can’t afford a ticket or can’t travel to see a Western production. It’s just the most fantastic thing.
Q: Since the days of The X-Files , you’ve had an incredible depth and confidence to your performances. It’s very distinctive to you, where does it come from?
A : Well, thank you firstly, and to be honest, I don’t know! I mean, I think my mom will tell you that I came out of the womb with a certain degree of it. There are certainly peaks and valleys in terms of confidence or desire or ability or the wherewithal to drive forward. I’m very aware of how fortunate I am to be working at any given time, especially when I try and have any influence over moulding my destiny at all.
When I choose to do theatre, if it’s something that is daunting in one way or another or could potentially arouse fears — and if there’s one part of myself that wants to say, “No way. That’s too scary” — then I have a tendency to force myself to say yes and not allow any of that stuff to come in. If all the elements are there otherwise outside of my fear, I jump in and deal with it at a later stage. So I don’t know whether that style was something that I had decided was going to be, you know, a true line in the face of any fear.
I feel determined in some way to continue to find and embrace characters going forward who can feed me and feed the public in the same way. I mean, with Sex Education, Hannibal, “ All About Eve”; they all seem to fit somehow together in the same puzzle.
Q: Speaking of Sex Education , what a genre shift for you!
A : You know, I haven’t been offered much comedy over the years. I don’t think people necessarily think of me as comedic even though a good percentage of The X-Files were comedic. So it was nice to be offered something that felt like I could embrace. I mean, I’ve been in a couple of comedies but I generally am offered the straight man. It’s really nice to get to explore that side of me. I feel very blessed to be a part of it, it certainly hit a wave with people of all ages.
Q: There were rumours that you might want to take on James Bond, or play some type of action heroine. Is that still in the cards for you?
A : For a while, I was looking at something that was almost like a female Jason Bourne thing, but I’ve gotten to a point where life’s too short and I’m not really interested. There’s no point talking about it. There was something in talks a few years ago, but it’s no more. I don’t usually chase after things because I feel like there’s a hole in that arena in my career or in my life. I don’t tend to work that way. Everything has happened at the right time, and I trust it to.
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