How Gillian Anderson Learned to Appreciate The X-Files as a Fan

E! News was on-set of the hit sci-fi show's revival to get all the exclusive scoop

By Chris Harnick Jan 20, 2016 5:30 PMTags
The X-Files, David Duchovny, Gillian AndersonFox

All was still in a dark loft apartment until two beams from flashlights appeared in a window. The front door opened and Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully entered the open-concept living area. They're back. The X-Files is back with Chris Carter at the helm and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their iconic roles. But why is The X-Files back more than 13 years after going off the air?

"I thought there seemed to be a demand for this show, so we always talked about getting back together. We talked about doing it as movies and then the TV landscape changed, so you could do short seasons and it became possible to do it on TV in that case," Duchovny told E! News on set in between scenes. "I always liked the idea of taking a character into different ages, really, and the possibility of having played this guy almost 25 years ago and now today, it's interesting as an actor to approach it that way. I guess that's what I was hoping to accomplish, some kind of continuity."

Anderson is first to admit she wasn't completely sold on the return and that Duchovny, along with the reduced episode count, helped sway her to the side, but The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the second movie, also helped bring her around.

"I think we all felt like the second film wasn't closure enough, but not necessarily that we had more to say, but that wasn't necessarily the way to end it. But also the show is lots of different things. You've got your mythology and your standalone monster stuff, but there are humorous episodes as well," Anderson said. "You're never going to be able to cover that in one film, so this also gives us the opportunity to further explore and also experience again—to put out there a little sampling of everything it was and can be."

The team is well aware of the eyes on them—even if they're not necessarily paying attention to the hype surrounding what's poised to be a triumphant return to television.


"I know intellectually, and I've heard it for years, 'Fan, fan, fan, fan,' but there's something different that's in the air with this…it sparked something. It's awakened something in people that I think even they're surprised by, in a way," Anderson said. "There's something different. You think, 'Yeah, there's been other things. There's been this, there's been that.' There's something very specific about this and all aspects of it."

She's right.

The awakening involved almost constant scrutiny over every little piece of footage, every photo (official or paparazzi) and every vague detail or storyline reveal. Fans voiced displeasure over the color of Scully's hair and how it was parted (and that Mulder and Scully are broken up, but that's another story).

"That was a little—I guess I was a little surprised, Not by the [hair] redness, because I felt the same thing, but the fact that it was parted in the middle rather than an inch over," she said with a laugh. "Which has since been changed, yes it has. [Laughs.] That was surprising. I don't know. It's hard to know what percentage we're really talking about who really cares. It's probably the same 1,000 people on Twitter that are that committed."

Don't look for a Scully hair sympathizer in Duchovny. "Well, that thought didn't cross mine. I don't think I've ever thought about her hair. Is that what happened? They didn't like her hair?" he said. "We've been a long time gone, so there's going to be some changes that time has wrought. They should just be happy that it's not gray."

For both stars, the revival is something they can experience with their families. Duchovny said it's a piece of his work he can watch with his kids (if they want to) and Anderson said one of the reasons she signed back on was for her boys.

"There will be a point where my little boys are old enough to start watching some of the stuff that I do, and even though there are horror elements to this, it's not the same as Hannibal…I guess there's part of me that is looking forward to a time where they can kind of join in on the enthusiasm about it."

While she waits for her boys to get there, there's certainly plenty of fan enthusiasm out there. On their first day shooting outside in public they were met with hordes of onlookers and paparazzo.


"Even though I say that I haven't really felt the pressure while doing it, I think ultimately we're all just hoping that we're meeting everybody's expectations," Anderson said through a laugh. "I think they're potentially quite high."

A conversation with Simon Pegg helped open her eyes to what the fandom is looking for, she said. "When we hit TV, we were the beginnings of a new way of lighting, a new way of seeing intelligent characters interacting, a new way of presenting TV, a new way of storytelling—everything was so new...," she said, adding she thought there would be expectations for the new round of episodes to "push boundaries." "And [Pegg] said, 'No, no. They want exactly what you gave them. They literally want exactly what you gave them before.'"

At the end of the day, both Duchovny and Anderson know The X-Files has impacted millions of lives, including their own.

"Well, it's hard to separate my feelings for the show and the character from my career and my life because it was such an impactful thing," Duchovny said. "It took me from an early job to this phenomenon. I have nothing but appreciation for the impact of it on me, and the character, I think, is a lasting one. This guy who wants to believe, I think that resonates with people."


"I guess I constantly feel like I'm learning how to appreciate it through the eyes of the fans. I remember doing a panel at a comic con recently and they played the tune and it was the first time that I've ever actually put myself, in my mind, on the couch with the fans, imagining it coming up on the TV again with the trailer, et cetera, et cetera, and I understood for the first time. I got the sense of the hit and the excitement. I can't do that unless I put myself in their shoes, otherwise it's this," Anderson said with a laugh, gesturing to the lights and crew around her. "It's being picked up at 5:30 and working 17-hour days [Laughs.]. So every once in a while I get a little hit of it when we're on set and we do a quintessentially Mulder and Scully scene, I get a hit of the—not only the importance of it, but…the perspective from a fan standpoint of how cool this is right now, here we are and won't they be happy. [Laughs.]"

The X-Files premieres Sunday, Jan. 24 on Fox at 10 p.m. and moves to Mondays at 8 p.m. on January 25.

Watch: Joel McHale Reminisces About Favorite "X-Files" Episodes