Crowning glory 'It made sense to me that they offered me the role of Thatcher,' says X-Files star Gillian Anderson
She has played a sceptical alien-hunter in The X-Files and a frank therapist in Sex Education, but this may be the star's toughest challenge yet - portraying Margaret Thatcher in The Crown.
She first sprang to fame in the 1990s supernatural drama The X-Files, but sex symbol Gillian Anderson (52) has come a long way. Here, we catch up with the legendary US actress, who chats about her latest role.
Q: How do you feel about this season of The Crown being released during a global pandemic?
GA: "It's very strange. It feels very much that we are launching something into a void. We don't get the same kind of celebrations and premieres but, on the other hand, there's a lot of people at home waiting for content. I think there is a lot of fans desperate to start watching this. I'm happy we are providing entertainment to people who may not be able to leave their houses for some time."
Q: How excited are you to be part of this new season?
GA: "Very excited. I'm a big fan of the series. I'm a big fan of all of the cast and of the writing. It's a dream come true because it's such a quality show. And, obviously, it's very exciting to jump into a character like Margaret Thatcher."
Q: How did you first react when they approached you for the role?
GA: "I think my first reaction when I was asked to do The Crown was that it made sense to me. I didn't have to think very hard about it before saying yes. There have certainly been things that I have been offered before where I have thought, 'Why are they offering that to me?' This wasn't one of those."
Q: How did you go about playing such an iconic and controversial character?
GA: "Well, so much of that is in the scripts. The Crown investigated Thatcher as a career woman, as a mother and a wife, as well as Thatcher as leader of the Conservative party. It gives quite a well-rounded version of Margaret Thatcher the human being."
Q: What was your view on her before taking on this role?
GA: "I didn't really have that much of an impression because I moved from the UK to the States in 1979, the year that she became prime minister. So most of my impression was from hearing the multi-faceted opinions that people have about her and from understanding just how divisive she was. But one of the things that I have found useful in playing historical characters is to put aside all preconceptions and opinions. That was particularly the case with regards to Margaret Thatcher."
Q: What aspect of Thatcher did you find most fascinating?
GA: "The fact that her father was an alderman and that she worked in the family shop. She started as a shopkeeper's daughter and ended up as the prime minister of the United Kingdom, faced with pretty hard-line Tories and a strong Labour Party against her. That is where the fascination lies. Essentially she was a self-made woman and, against all odds, she became the first woman PM."
Q: Is there any pressure in playing an historical figure many people remember so well?
GA: "I think there is because there are people who have very strong opinions about Thatcher. The rest have grown up hearing years and years of cursing about what she did to their family. So it is daunting because you want to be as accurate as possible while also being respectful to the series and the particular story that is being told. This isn't a Thatcher biopic, it's a slice of her as prime minister."
Q: How much did the hair, make-up and wardrobe help you get into character?
GA: "Getting into that wig definitely helped (laughs). I'm not sure about the clothes but, certainly, walking in her shoes helped because never in my life would I wear any of the shoes that she wore (laughs). Those shoes and the nylon stockings that I found in the bottom of a box in the Salvation Army, helped. Margaret was interested in clothes for the majority of her life. I was fascinated by that."
Q: How did you go about finding the right wig and makeup look?
GA: "It did take a lot of trials, a lot of fittings and there were a lot of things that they needed to figure out in terms of the density of the wig and which particular colours that they were going to use. There were two wigs that were chosen - one for the beginning of the season and one for the second half because her hair changed slightly. Fortunately, I didn't have to think about that too much and it was actually fun to wear."
Q: How would you describe Thatcher's relationship with the Queen?
GA: "Complicated! There was certainly a lot of very striking similarities but there were a lot of differences between them too. From what I understand, their relationship was fractured at times. I can understand why, given their particular roles, how they were brought up and how they attacked problems."
Q: Everyone still remembers you as Scully from The X-Files, of course, but would you say that this is a new high in your career?
GA: "Yeah, it probably is. There's a really wonderful diversity to everything right now. I feel incredibly lucky to be given access to these types of characters and to be able to work with the people that I have."
‚¨§ The Crown season four is out on Netflix now
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