Gillian Anderson interview: ‘The First Lady,’ ‘The Great’

“I feel that I’ve been unbelievably and perpetually lucky in my career,” declares Gillian Anderson. The  two-time Emmy winner– most recently for her role as Margaret Thatcher on “The Crown”– has had three high profile television projects this past season. Anderson stars as Eleanor Roosevelt in the Showtime limited series “The First Lady,” and as the imperious mother to Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) on the Hulu comedy “The Great.” Anderson is being submitted for Emmy consideration for both projects. She also appears as a sex therapist and mother on Netflix’s “Sex Education,” which is being submitted for consideration at the International Emmy Awards. Watch our exclusive video interview with Anderson above.

In “The Great,” Anderson appears in two episodes as Johanna, Catherine’s doting and scheming mother. The character very publicly disapproves of Catherine’s choices and goes so far as to seduce her own son-in-law (Nicholas Hoult). Anderson says that her reaction to the script led to her enthusiastically accepting the job. “I just thought the scenes were so delightful and her arc was so delicious that I just couldn’t say no to it,” she recalls. “I just wanted to be in room with Elle getting to play together and to play some of these scenes.”

In thinking about her role as a sex therapist on “Sex Education,” Anderson marvels at the continued fascination with the idea that older women on television can still be seen as sexual beings. “I don’t know why it seems so unusual,” she says. “Why still today it’s unusual for it to be accepted and embraced and assumed and celebrated for women of my age to be sexual.”

When it came to playing Roosevelt, Anderson did extensive research on a the woman who helped redefine the definition of a first lady. “I fell more and more in love with her the more I dived into her life and the work that she did throughout her entire life and what an extraordinary humanitarian she was,” she says. “So I felt unbelievably privileged to be asked to be a part of that and to get to be in her shoes.”

The actress says that she was startled by how insecure Roosevelt was despite having a persona of strength and determination. “That was really profound to me that somebody who’s as revered as Eleanor Roosevelt and has impacted so many people’s lives from all walks of life across the country and internationally through the years could still have doubt inside and could have that level of doubt and shyness,” explains Anderson. “And yet she still knew that what she has to say is more important than her fear and that she will do it anyway.

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UPLOADED Jun 14, 2022 8:33 am