Actor Appreciation: Gillian Anderson

Michael Duckworth celebrates a legend, icon and star of TV

Michael Duckworth
16th November 2020
Credit: Netflix, IMDb
What do an FBI agent, a sex therapist and Margaret Thatcher have in common? One insanely talented and highly influential actress with phenomenal range.

Gillian Anderson OBE (born 9th August 1968) is a writer, producer, director and an actor of stage, television and film. She is a feminist activist and devoted charity worker, a patron and supporter of a multitude of organisations from The Trevor Project (supporting LGBT+ youth), SAYes (South African Youth Education for Sustainability) as well as being an avid supporter of women's reproductive rights, indigenous peoples rights and environmental advocacy.

Her rise to prominence began as the legendary FBI Special Agent Dana Scully, in the supernatural mystery series The X-Files, the longest running science fiction series in US television history. Anderson won several awards for her portrayal of Scully including an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series.

Credit: 20th Century Fox, IMDb

Scully was a complex and detailed character who, throughout the 11 series and 2 movies, grappled with her conflicting beliefs. Her job requires a scientific scepticism, yet she is a devoted Catholic, and through her adventures with Agent Mulder, she has seen phenomenon beyond her wildest dreams. Gillian Anderson embodies this character with such conviction, succeeding in creating emotional beats (for example, Season 1 Episode 13 "Beyond the Sea" in which she confronts the passing of her father) while also using a dry, sharp wit that'll keep you chuckling through all 150 hours of the show.

Though the term may be considered a cliché in 2020, Scully is the epitome of a strong female lead: intelligent and independent, a higher up in the FBI and a medical doctor. Scully is saving Mulder and saves herself in a majority of episodes, she is by no means a damsel in distress. Anderson took the role exactly for this reason, and in the process became a role model for me and I'm sure for many young people across the globe, inspiring what many called "The Scully Effect" a cultural phenomenon that encouraged many young women to pursue careers in science, medicine and law enforcement.

She is by no means a damsel in distress. Anderson took the role exactly for this reason.

Credit: Netflix, IMDb

Anderson's most notable role in the past few years has got to be that of Jean Milburn, sex therapist and mother of lead character Otis in the Netflix original series Sex Education. A hilarious and heartfelt portrayal of a single mother that isn't defined by that same status. Anderson is the perfect casting choice, delivering classic lines like “Why don't you start by telling me your earliest memory of your scrotum?” with the deadpan Scully-esque delivery that will have you cringing in the best way possible.

On November 15th 2020, Anderson joined the cast of The Crown in the role of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and though at the time of writing it has not yet been released, the trailers and preliminary reviews suggest this will be another in a long line of outstanding performances by this incredible, talented woman.

Feature Image Credit: Netflix, IMDb

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