“I had no experience whatsoever. I’d only ever done, you know, a couple of plays and scenes in college.” – Gillian Anderson on ‘The X-Files’
On the X-Files, Gillian Anderson played Dr. Dana Scully, even though when the series started filming the 24 year-old Anderson was younger than most medical doctors would be (and also four years younger than the character). So how did she land the role?
Well, as Anderson told NPR, “I lied about my age on the first audition. So I said that I was 27. So that’s how you get that job.”
Of course, there was more to getting the job than just adding a few years to her age, especially since the network wasn’t sold on her as the series’ female lead. Anderson went into more detail:
“I was sent in on an audition, like any other audition, and then kept getting called back and, eventually, you know, went to network with all the other girls who were also trying out for the role, going to network and getting to read with David Duchovny, who they had by that point chosen as Mulder. But they weren’t convinced – Chris Carter, who created the series, was convinced that I was his Scully, but the network wasn’t.
And so all of a sudden, they started to fly in all these other actresses from the theater community in New York. And I’d been living in LA for a little while when I did this audition and had been living in New York beforehand, auditioning with all these young women in the theater community. And all of a sudden, they were being flown in because I wasn’t good enough for The X-Files (laughter). And so I was auditioning, suddenly, with Jill Hennessy and Cynthia Nixon and all these women.”
Reflecting on what The X-Files has meant to her and her career, Anderson spoke about how she felt that she didn’t know what she was doing when filming the first few episodes and learned about both acting and herself from the experience. She says, “I mean, it was – you know, it was the beginning of such a huge part of my life. And I had no experience whatsoever. I’d only ever done, you know, a couple of plays and scenes in college. And so it was – you know, it was a big deal. And I didn’t know anything about, you know, lighting and hitting your mark. And so I was – you know, if she comes across as being a little bit cocky and at the same time green, it’s all, you know, real (laughter). It’s me trying to pretend like I know that I am the person that I say that I am, as the forensic pathologist.”