The untold truth of Gillian Anderson

You probably know her best from the Fox network's longstanding cult sci-fi dramedy, The X-Files, or perhaps you've seen her in The Fall, the British/Irish crime drama that's currently available streaming on Netflix for American viewers. No matter how you know her, American/English actress, Gillian Anderson is sure to have left an impression for her unique beauty, grace, and talent.

As often happens when gorgeous, talented women do sci-fi, Anderson has enjoyed a dedicated male fan base over the last few decades. What's special, though, is that she has also become a feminist role model for her strong female lead roles and her extensive charity work. In fact last year, Bustle declared her portrayal of The X-Files' Dana Scully character to be "one of TV's greatest feminist role models." Men, women—everyone loves her!

And perhaps it's because even though she is the pinnacle of beauty and talent, she is very open with the fact that she has lived a less-than-perfect and storied life. She is a TV, stage, and movie star (as well as a mother of three, according to The Guardian) who is brave enough to show her imperfections along with her beauty, and we love her for it!

Chicago born, British bred

Gillian Anderson entered the world through a Chicago hospital in 1968 to computer analyst, Rosemary and production company owner, Homer Anderson. Although she was an Illinois baby, Anderson and her parents soon ended up in London for nearly a decade, where her father attended the London School of Film Technique.

In a profile by NPR, Anderson confirms that her family moved back to the U.S. when she was 11, and she then went to an American high school (where she was in her first play!) and then spent many years acting in the U.S. and Canada.

Anderson has lived in the UK for the last several years, and considers herself to be both British and American. "In my mind, [London] was home," she told NPR, ". . . London was always going to continue to be in my life as an adult and I knew that."

She was a teenage punk

In the 2013 profile by NPR, Anderson explains why she was voted "most likely to be arrested" in high school, and why that prediction ended up coming true: "I got my nose pierced and I started to shave my head and dye my hair and wear a lot of black. And so I looked like somebody that might be arrested . . . I was a bit of a class clown, usually the one that people would get to do the things that they were afraid to get in trouble for. So the mixture of those two things contributed, no doubt, to that vote." Do all class clowns grow up to be Emmy-winning actresses? Certainly not! But this one did.

She elaborates: "And, in fact, on graduation night, I was arrested . . . I had a boyfriend at the time who was a couple centuries older than I was and I'd convinced him that we should go and glue the locks of the school so that people couldn't get in in the morning. And lo and behold, they had a security guard because it was graduation night and they were concerned that idiots like me might try and do something like that."

Maybe it's because she lived a varied, imperfect life as a teenager (let's face it, she wasn't exactly America's sweetheart back then) that she's able to play complicated characters now with such believability.

She never meant to be a TV star

Anderson told in 2014 that she never intended to work in TV. Her education and most of her experience was in stage acting, having attended the BFA program in acting at DePaul University in Chicago, and she loved the "'moment to moment' focus that takes place in live theatre. "First of all I swore I'd never move to Los Angeles and once I did I swore I'd never do television," she said to interviewers.

However, after a move to NYC (in her what she told Variety was her "parents' old VW Rabbit," no less) in order to try to make it on stage, she had her first major break in the NYC theater world. A 1991 issue of the New York Times reports on her "groundbreaking" stage performance as Evelyn in Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, which won her a "Best Newcomer Award." After this early success, she moved to Los Angeles (with a guy) and began auditioning for films. "It was only after being out of work for almost a year that I began going to TV auditions," she told Express. She had one or two small successes in film (including her leading performance in the 1992 Puopolo-directed movie, The Turning, which suffers from very poor reviews on IMDB), but it was her successful audition for The X-Files that catapulted her career.

Gut feelings from both her and show creator, Chris Carter, clinched the deal and made sci-fi history, even though network executives originally wanted more of a "bombshell" actress, over Anderson's slim, petite, and delicate build. The X-Files creator Chris Carter "fought tooth and nail to get me," she told Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, rather than the blonde, busty female leads that were typical on TV in the early '90s.

She and co-star David Duchovny had instant chemistry

If you're an X-Files fan, you know that the Mulder and Scully characters are famous for whipping fans up into a "shipping" frenzy, as is discussed in detail in Gizmodo. And if you ever let your geek flag fly, you know this means that fans desperately hoped for a romantic relationship between the two characters, as a well as the two actors off the screen.

While I won't give you too many spoilers about the fate of the TV duo, fans have been disappointed to hear that although they are now good friends, Anderson and Duchovny never got together. As Duchovny once told Entertainment Tonight, "The whole thing about Gillian and I dating is so weird. It's never happened, it's not going to happen, we're friends."

In fact, while they are friends now, during the show's 1996-2002 run, they sometimes fought openly onset. Anderson famously compared their relationship to a "forced marriage," saying, "Did David and I hate each other? At times yes like any brother and sister, husband and wife, co-worker and co-worker forced to spend that much time together under such strenuous circumstances."

She hid her pregnancy while filming season two of The X-Files

According to Anderson's official PR website, when Anderson unexpectedly became pregnant with a surprise baby with her first husband, the show's assistant art director Clyde Klotz, after the end of the first season, producers weren't sure if they were going to recast the role or write her pregnancy into the script. "My feet were swelling and I was exhausted, sleeping between scenes," Anderson is quoted as saying on her PR website.

They ended up attempting to conceal her pregnancy with some fancy shooting angles and some baggy trench coats, and it's debatable whether or not this tactic worked. Fans may remember a series of early episodes where Scully wore a lot of giant clothes, and looked a bit rounder than usual. "The contrivance gave Anderson space for an abbreviated maternity leave (just for a single episode, '3')," Vulture reported.

Her pregnancy inspired the show's central storyline

Inspired by Anderson's need for a short maternity leave, producers and writers came up with the idea that Scully should be abducted by aliens, which ended up sparking a major storyline that drove the plot during the entire rest of the show, and provided a reason why she didn't appear in several episodes.

What's really unique is that, in season two's sixth episode, "Ascension," the show used footage of Gillian Anderson's real pregnant belly to represent bizarre tests the aliens were supposedly conducting on her during her abduction. In a fan Q&A that was originally posted to Anderson's official webpage in 2002, she lists filming the scene as her answer to the question of her most memorable X-Files moments.

"Shooting the scene where Scully's stomach is pumped with air in an abduction sequence and trying not to reveal that it was actually a pregnant belly being shot. I'll have to show that scene to Piper one of these years."

She helped The X-Files become an institution

Nine seasons, two movies, and a revival season later, fans still fawn over Gillian Anderson's graceful and compelling rendition of medical doctor and FBI Agent Dana Scully on The X-Files. In fact, many sources over the years have proposed that it is the compelling relationship between Mulder and Scully that kept the show afloat and so beloved over the years.

For instance, the Washington Post published an article in 2016 saying that the biggest conspiracy among fans of the X-Files over the years was whether or not Anderson and Duchovny were dating in real life, suggesting that the way these characters interacted on screen became one of the major reasons why fans tuned in week to week.

As is listed on her PR website, Anderson received several dozens of award nominations for her performance as Scully over the years, including bringing the show attention for her 1997 Golden Globes win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama, as well as primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

She kicks ass in The Fall

If you haven't yet seen Anderson's killer starring performance as The Fall's Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson in a role that, according to The Telegraph, was written especially for her, then get thee to a Netflix stream! Amy Sullivan for The Atlantic famously called The Fall "the most feminist show on television," and as someone with an academic background in gender studies, I agree!

"Refreshingly, none of the tropes we've been trained to expect in a story about a powerful woman play out. Nobody resents Gibson's appearance on the scene or questions her authority," Sullivan said. "Her gender is a non-issue; subordinates hop to when she enters a room and they follow her commands without question. Gibson doesn't try to submerge her femininity and stomp around barking out orders. In Anderson's restrained yet compelling performance, Gibson is cool, calm, and always chic, with the most fabulous coat in detectivedom."

She has fallen for both men and women

In a now famous 2012 interview for Out, Anderson revealed that she has had relationships with women in the past, and that the early death of her former female partner spurred her to speak out about the fact as a way to honor her. Anderson has also had long term close friendships with now-out lesbian stars like Jodie Foster.

She's a badass activist

Anderson has long been a mouthpiece for amazing organizations supporting women, children, and other vulnerable populations. In addition to routinely using her own Twitter account to speak out for activist organizations such as Taught Not Trafficked, which works to end human trafficking and instead provide education to young women and children around the world, her longtime support and advocacy for women has recently culminated in a new sort of feminist guidebook for women on "how to live a meaningful life" out this spring from Simon and Schuster.

WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is by Anderson and her longtime friend, the feminist journalist Jennifer Nadel, and is meant to serve as the "road map they wish they'd had for how to live a meaningful life."

According to the publisher, "WE is a rallying cry for women to join together and create lasting change in our own lives, our communities, and across the world." I can't wait to read it!

She's come a long way

So how does a teenage troublemaker (who told FACE Magazine in 1997 that she once didn't brush her hair for about four years) turn into the graceful, international award-winning, philanthropist, awesome mother and badass activist we know her as now?

Her journey has been long, but full of heart and generosity toward others. I for one will be reading her new book to find out more. We love you, Gillian!