“I started inside out, mostly because I knew I was playing her for such a long time prior to when I was, and there weren’t scripts yet.” – Gillian Anderson on Portraying Margaret Thatcher
In season 4 of the historical drama The Crown, The X-Files star Gillian Anderson received rave reviews for portraying Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (a role that has earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series). Anderson’s portrayal has received rave reviews as a complete transformation, with many viewers feeling that Anderson is unrecognizable in the role.
On how she initially approached playing Thatcher, Anderson started researching her life on her own before she received material and resources from the production. She reveals, “I started inside out, mostly because I knew I was playing her for such a long time prior to when I was, and there weren’t scripts yet. I started reading about her childhood, reading about her prior to even joining the Conservative Party. As we got closer, the production team provided me with research people extraordinaire — and also movement people, a voice coach, etc. I got very lucky, because around the same time that I was doing research, there was a six-part BBC documentary about her that came out, and it was behind-the-scenes stuff that you never normally got to see. I think that started slightly changing some people’s opinions about her, and seeing an element of humanity in her and having a bit more compassion towards her. Then I started with the wigs and the makeup, and then all the bodysuit and stuff.”
One of the physical aspects that Anderson brought to the role is the way that she utilized her mouth to speak, which actually meant that she wouldn’t have to use prosthetics. Anderson explains, “We were thinking about teeth prosthetics, and so we tried three or four different shapes, sizes. She was notorious for having bad teeth. And because she has such an overbite, I was just wanting to explore that. Everything just looked wrong. And so then it became, is that something that I can just do with my mouth, and how I hold my mouth? I actually found that, yes, that was enough. And that informed how I spoke. It was actually a gift to have made that choice, because that informed everything.”