Gillian Anderson on Getting Into Character and Donald Sutherland’s Acting Advice


“I’m always nervous, I always think I’m going to be fired. Sometimes it’s more than just a first day, it can be a first week.” – Gillian Anderson

It seems to becoming a tradition that one of the most famous Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, is portrayed by American actresses in media. The latest Yankee to play the Iron Lady is X-Files star Gillian Anderson, who portrays the Prime Minister on Netflix’s The Crown. In an interview with Collider, Anderson spoke about getting into character and what she learned from her Moby Dick co-star Donald Sutherland about preventing first day jitters on a set.

Thatcher had a very recognizable persona — especially for those who live in the UK — and Anderson explains that it wasn’t difficult for her to get into character. She reveals,  “Once you’re focused on it and immersed in it, it’s not hard to, that’s just part of what one does. But there are certainly takes that you do where you go in and out of it. Where in a particular take, you might realize that you said a sentence or you did things that weren’t particularly her. You ask for another take because you slipped out of her in the process, I think that’s perfectly understandable. I think I certainly had many of those experiences where I was like, ‘Nope, sorry. I think we’re going to need another one. I was being Jean Milburn during that take,’ or something like that.”

Despite decades of experience as an actress, Anderson admits that she still hates that “first day” feeling whenever she starts a new project. She confesses, “Oh, well, I hate first days. I absolutely… I’m always nervous, I always think I’m going to be fired. Sometimes it’s more than just a first day, it can be a first week. And so I would say every job between the first one and five days, I’m freaked out.”

However, Anderson points to a tip she received from Emmy Award-winning actor Donald Sutherland about why he insists on filming scenes from the middle of a script first instead of his character’s first scenes. She shares, “Donald Sutherland once told me that in his contract has it that any scenes that he does in the first two weeks are from the middle of the script… Isn’t that interesting and incredibly smart and must come from someone who’s worked a lot and knows what happens and decided to protect himself. He said, ‘because if the audience believes you for the first period of time, you can not necessarily be all there in the middle and they’ll buy it because you’ve gained their trust in the first third of the film.'”

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