Deborah Starr Seibel
“When we first started X-files,” says Anderson, “I was so green. It was only my second time in front of a camera. I desperately needed someone to show me the ropes. And he did that. He was wonderful.”
David Duchovny is not happy. He stands behind Gillian Anderson in a barebones photo studio, resigned to having roll after roll of pictures taken on what promises to be another 16-hour day. Now that The X-Files has been crowned with a Golden Globe for best drama and is emerging from cult status to become a mainstream hit, the world is descending upon Vancouver, British Columbia, where the Fox series is shot and in all the X-citement, everyone wants a piece of the costars.
Anderson, sensing Duchovny’s mood, looks down at his hand on her left shoulder and tries to brush it away, as if it were a mosquito. Then she turns and jumps into his arms, laughing, looking like a little girl making trouble for a protective older brother. Startled to be holding her, the smile on Duchovny’s face is forced no longer. “When we first started X-files,” says Anderson, “I was so green. It was only my second time in front of a camera. I desperately needed someone to show me the ropes. And he did that. He was wonderful.”
Little wonder, then, that Anderson, 25, turned to David again when she was pregnant. It was last winter, they were still in the thick of their first season in a series showing real promise, and Anderson was worried about losing her job. “I went into his trailer,” she recalls, “and I said, ‘David, I’m pregnant.’ It looked like his knees buckled. I think he said, ‘Oh, my God.’ And he asked me if it was a good thing. I said, ‘Yeah, it is.’ “No one else knew, and Duchovny kept it that way for weeks, until Anderson was ready to tell her producers and deal with the professional consequences. “We really trust each other,” Duchovny says simply.
There is, between these two, a real-life camaraderie born of necessity, a friendship strong enough to survive too many work hours, and a chemistry powerful enough to rearrange the atoms on-screen. “Whenever we’re acting together,” says Anderson, “it’s there.” As FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, their sizzle packs a wallop not because of any romantic involvement-which the show carefully avoids-but because their characters’ remarkable brainpower, each is incomplete without the other: He never tires of branding the mind-bending, hair-raising crimes they investigate as paranormal or supernatural. She insists that he root his out-of-this-world theories in science. “It’s just suddenly dawned on me,” says wardrobe supervisor Gillian Kieft, “that the way Mulder and Scully are on-screen is the way David and Gillian are in person. They help each other, they respect each other.”
“But we don’t hang out,” cautions Duchovny, 34. “We are very wary of the fact that at any moment the other can turn into a psychotic human being because of the demands that are put on us, the 16-hour days. So I know when she is very tired and irritable, and she knows the same about me. We have a great respect for the fine line the other is walking all the time.”
They are walking that fine line now, near midnight, at a creepy downtown high-rise construction site. Chilly and damp, Duchovny and Anderson are exhausted but show virtually no signs of the usual Hollywood afflictions: no need for hand-holding by assistants, no entourage, no preening between takes, no temper tantrums. They don’t even seem to understand that they are, in fact, stars. “One of the things about Vancouver is that we don’t have a lot of people hanging around watching us, “says John S. Bartley, the X-files director of photography. He reconsiders: “Or if we do, they don’t get too close. There is something about this city, perhaps a Canadian reserve. They don’t seem to bother people who are famous.”
“Did you see when we won the Golden Globes?” asks hairdresser Malcolm Marsden. “Gillian stood up, and she was in an absolute daze. She just never expected it.” Anderson agrees. “I had no clue about it. I just don’t get it. And ultimately, I think that’s good because it keeps my head small.”
That may change. “The other day,” says David, “a production assistant came up behind me and said, ‘Robin Williams would like to meet you, David.’ And as I was turning, I said, ‘No, he wouldn’t.’ And he was standing right there. And he goes, ‘ Oh, yes he would!’ So that was kind of funny. But you know, it is more satisfying to me to deal with the people who tried to help me a long time ago, who believed in me, who told me to just hang in there.”
Which is what Duchovny and Anderson are telling each other now. They have developed a sort of shorthand communication: few words, very focused, very relaxed. “They both have a quiet side,” says Bartley. “David can be very funny, very sharp. But mostly, he holds back and just watches and listens to the people around him. Gillian shows a little more emotion. She laughs just like a little girl. They are terrific together.”
But no one could have guessed from their rocky beginnings in a tiny audition room at Twentieth Century Fox Television that this twosome would take off. “I already knew I had the part, so I was totally loose,” says Duchovny with Mulder-esque sardonic humor. “This was my room, these were my people, this was my part. I was just fantastic. I wish I’d been that good when the cameras were rolling. So I played the scene in a kind of sarcastic way-much more sarcastic then it was written-and Gillian was just completely thrown by it. I was toying with this person, because Mulder doesn’t really care whether she stays or goes. And she was shock that anybody would talk to her that way.” He smiles at the memory. “That’s exactly how she should have reacted. It was perfect.”
Still, the network needed to be convinced. “They wanted somebody leggier,” says Anderson,” somebody with more breasts, somebody drop-dead gorgeous.” Even after she got the part, she knew-and the crew knew-that she was swimming up-stream.
Marsden chopped the long, wavy, ash blond hair that reached to the middle of her back and turned it into a sleek, strawberry-blonde bob. But that was just a surface alteration – Anderson, an award-winning Off-Broadway actress, also had to learn how to move, how to speak scientific jargon with ease, and how to cope with the crushing demands of an hour-long series.
“In the beginning,” says Marsden, “she had trouble with her lines, and I think it kind of upset David because he is so accomplished. He’s worked in feature files. He’s worked with Brad Pitt. And he can learn his lines”-Marsden snaps his fingers-“like . But I know he appreciates how hard she works.”
Then came the emotional roller-coaster ride of Anderson’s life. Within six months of starting the series, she met and fell in love with Clyde Klotz, then the production designer-a man crew members describe as “very talented, very gentle”-and married him on the spur of the moment on New Year’s Day, 1994, on the 17th hole of a magnificent Kauai golf course (“because that was the most beautiful place we could find on short notice,” says Anderson). Even her hairdresser didn’t know what was going on. “I didn’t have a clue she was getting married,” says Marsden. “It just really stunned me.”
Anderson was a little stunned herself. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the happy couple conceived their daughter, Piper, who is now 6 months old. on their wedding day. When Anderson got back to the mainland, she says, “I was at a party that Fox gave for at a Burbank Airport hangar, and there were fortune-tellers. So I sat down, and the fortune-teller said to me: ‘You are going to have a little girl soon.’ And I said, ‘I am not!’ A month or so later, I started feeling nauseous.” And happy. And very, very worried. A pregnancy would mean limitations on her work schedule and missing episodes – no one could predict how many – in the second season. “I knew I needed to make my decision about the pregnancy first, before broaching the subject with the producers,” says Anderson. “I couldn’t be wavering. Having this baby was the right decision for my husband and me. But it was like, ‘Oh, my God. They did all this for me and now look what I’m doing to them.’ So many things go through your mind. So yes, I was worried.”
Apparently with good reason. According to several sources, executive producer Chris Carter was not pleased. “He went ballistic,” says one source. “He wanted to get rid of her.” Two other insiders back up that claim. “They were considering recasting,” confirms Anderson. “I heard a lot of stuff through the grapevine, and it was not comforting.”
Not so, says Carter. “I never, ever considered replacing her. It’s a lie. If anything, I was the loudest voice saying: We have to protect this show and this person. Scully and Mulder are two characters that the audience has invested in, they are the secret to the success of the show, and we have to find a way to make this work.”
How did all of this affect Anderson? “She’s grown up,” says wardrobe supervisor Kieft. “Getting married and having the baby has matured her, I think, and given her a bit of stability. When she was pregnant, we did have a bed standing by, and whenever we could, we would get her to lie down. But she is quite a strong little person.” In fact, Anderson missed only one episode and was back to work – after an emergency C-section – in just 10 days. “I was getting restless,” says Anderson. “I wanted to get back to work because it was really hard on David, and it’s the two of us up there, you know?”
In the meantime, Duchovny – whose pre-X-Files career included the feature films “The Rapture,” “Chaplin,” and “Kalifornia” – had his own crosses to bear. For this sometimes homesick New Yorker, the idea of living in Vancouver for at least five years is not heaven on earth. “There are some days,” says Duchovny, “when it is really a terrible prospect to me. I never imagined myself on a television series because I always imagined hopping from one glorious movie to another. When we were signing contracts to do the pilot, my agent said, ‘You really have to think about what you are getting into.’ And I said, ‘I have thought about it.’ But I never thought about it. Because I didn’t know how hard it would be.”
Making matters worse is the fact that his girlfriend, actress Perrey Reeves, still lives in Los Angeles – “although I’m not sure I’d see any more of her if she lived up here,” he says. Duchovny, who dreams of one day “having a wife and three kids,” consoled himself by becoming the proud owner of a fluffy Border collie/terrier mix he named Blue – for the Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue.” “The idea was that she would help me with my blues,” Duchovny says. “People think that you listen to the blues when you are sad, but actually, the blues kind of help alleviate sadness. It was a totally selfish thing.” Did it work? “Oh yeah,” he says, as he pets her and her tail goes crazy. “She’s a living thing. And training her is like training for being a dad. I see aspects of myself in the way that I handle Blue that I would want to curb a little bit when I have a child. I don’t get fed up, but sometimes I don’t want to give her all the time that she needs, you know? I’ve got a dog staring at me every morning saying, ‘ Let’s go play Frisbee.’ And I have to say, ‘Don’t you know how hard Daddy works?'”
Mommy’s pretty busy, too. Anderson heads back to her trailer immediately after each shot to check on her baby girl, who’s now sleeping. “I have had the best over this past year,” whispers Anderson. “And , I am beat. I have thought that all of was too much. But having Piper has saved my life.” How? “It took the focus off of me and put it on something much more important.”
A knock on the door and it’s time for another take. Anderson hurries back to the dank basement of a high-rise, where Duchovny is waiting. “You OK?” he asks her. “Fine,” she smiles. Just like Scully and Mulder. And the camera isn’t even rolling.