IT’S THE LAST LOCATION SHOT BEFORE Christmas, and you can feel the restlessness of the X-Files crew. The script requires Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny to lift an extremely realistic severed head that is dripping into a stainless steel tub. “All right, let’s kick it in the ass!” shouts the director. But the actors’ feet are having a hard time locating the scene’s buttocks, and the crew has become concerned. “I don’t know how many more takes that head has left in it,” the effects guy whispers. Finally the stars hit their lines, and the relieved production staff exchanges holiday farewells and hugs. Duchovny snags my tape recorder and, proving he’s read too many articles about the show, reels off a mock opening sentence for this story: “As they say goodbye for the Christmas holidays, they all seem to really like one another.”
Anderson, finishing up some hugs of her own, is more sincere. “I really love this crew,” she tells me, sounding a less skeptical note than the character she plays on TV. “They are all incredibly wonderful, human, selfless people. And they’re all a family.” I follow her back to her trailer, where she changes into street clothes —– fuzzy V-neck, jeans, glasses, baseball cap –— and looks less like a celebrity than a study partner. Which is part of her appeal. I ask if she has special plans for the holiday break, and she tells me that she’s off to spend two days at an ashram. A few minutes later she adds, “I think that we are all connected by a universal rhythmic energy,” and I understand that after nearly 100 X-Files episodes, the danger has never been of her turning into Scully; the danger is that she’ll turn into Duchovny’s character, Mulder.
I hear you’re tired of always being asked the same questions.
I don’t know what questions would be more fun to answer. But for the longest time, everybody has asked, “Do you believe in UFOs?” “Are Mulder and Scully going to get together?” I’ve heard my same responses to all those questions so many times that I just can’t do it anymore.
So let’s start with something new: I saw on the Internet that you’re angry because David Duchovny’s salary is twice as high as yours.
Oh, boy. [Laughs] So we’re gonna start with that one? I knew –— going into this season — that was the way it was going to be. It was something that I was attempting to handle privately and just make some kind of statement about the lack of equality not being OK. And somehow it got public. I haven’t actually talked about it that much at all.
Have things always been so inequitable?
Actually, I originally got even less than half than David. It was OK at the time. He was coming off 10 features, and I was coming off of nothing. But things have shifted, in that we’re now in the fourth season of a two-person show. And we’re continuing to do the same amount of work. A lot of people have actually come up to me, just kind of quietly, and said, “I’m glad that you’re taking a stand.” On the other hand, it’s obviously not doing any good.
Most people on the Internet took your side. Did you catch any of it?
No. But I did see on the Internet that someone is selling an independent movie called The Turning –— that was my first on-camera work. The British papers are calling it a porn film. There’s one very innocent scene between me and [the person who plays] my school sweetheart. He’s come back from running away from home, and they have a very intimate scene, making love on the kitchen floor. What they end up showing is nothing. I mean, he takes my shirt off – I don’t even know if he actually takes my bra off. And then you see my naked back on the floor. So if people buy it, they are going to be sorely disappointed.
Learned any other interesting things about yourself from reading the papers?
A pet name which I had completely forgotten about until I saw it in the tabloids. In a relationship I was in while I was in high school, my boyfriend called me Grae.
Where do you think that came from?
I have no idea. What’s funny is, emotionally I went from gray to black to white. Gray was London, where we lived until I was 11. And the black thing was high school in Grand Rapids, Mich. That’s when I became a punk, but there was a whole summer before, when I wore sweaters and jeans and an olive-drab Army jacket, and it was almost as if I’d trained my body not to sweat. And white has been the past couple of years.
There was a punk scene in Grand Rapids?
It was small –— for a while, my boyfriend and I were like the couple in the Grand Rapids underground scene. It spread to Kalamazoo [Mich.], which is close by, where underground bands go to play. And we’d see people like Butthole Surfers and Circle Jerks there.
Would you like Scully if you ran into her at a party?
I think so, but I’m not sure how much we’d have to talk about. She’s not very spontaneous; I am. She can live without close personal relationships; I cannot. She is obscenely intelligent, and I am not. She is at least 5 foot 6, and I am not.
How many more rounds do you think you can go with her?
It’s hard to keep being the skeptic. I’ve had this conversation a couple of times with [X-Files producer Chris Carter], where I’ve just said, “I have a feeling that the audience is laughing at me because I’m saying essentially the same stuff over and over again.” And the answer, via Chris, is that she is a scientist; she is a forensic pathologist; she is a medical doctor. And he’s right: I mean, that’s the formula that works.
So have you been doing anything that’s not Scully?
I just recorded a single. I did the narration for a nine-part BBC documentary series called Future Fantastic. And I would hear the track from the series, and I kept saying, “My God, what is that music? That’s fabulous.” And I went to the producer about it. I said, “This music is great. You have to put together a CD.” And he said, “Well, would you be willing to put together some vocals on it?” And I said, “I don’t sing. But I’d be willing to do something on it.” So he presented me with some samples of stuff I could say, and it was quite poetic and erotic, and we came up with what I think is a really great dance single. It’s hot. It’s not a new career move by any means, but it made me feel fun and alive while I was working on it. It’s coming out in March.
Chris Carter mentioned to me that he might not stick around after next season – that he might follow some new career paths. What do you make of that?
Chris is our life force. I mean, he will settle for nothing less than the best, and because of that, the series is what it is. So my fear is that when he’s gone, that life force will be sucked out of the show. He’s an octopus, and without him … we’ll become plankton drifting in somebody else’s sea.
AFTER FOUR YEARS, THE STARS HAVE WORKED OUT SOME TRICKY UNDERWATER patterns of their own. “It’s complicated,” Anderson says. “We can be very in sync. And there are times when we are just in two different worlds and just coming in to do our work.” Duchovny has contributed story ideas; Anderson has not. She feels that –— because of her first-season pregnancy, which required a conspiracy malevolent enough to keep her offscreen for two weeks —– she inadvertently turned the show toward its mythology episodes. “There are certain people on the show who are aware of that,” she says. “And there are certain people on the show who don’t want to admit that.” Duchovny has yet to speak with Anderson about her salary dispute.
You can feel the competitiveness on the set. Duchovny is obviously the favored child. He kids around with the prop coordinators while Anderson accepts a massage from the set’s masseuse and tries to focus. Duchovny seems surprised and mildly hurt that I’m here to talk only to Anderson. When he and I do speak for a moment, it doesn’t get by her. As she collects her things and shuts her trailer’s lights for the last time in 1996, she has a question: “What did you just talk about with David?”