8 Questions With Gillian Anderson

The star of The X-Files on why she agreed to take on a new case

On Jan. 24, Fox will revive The X-Files. Whose idea was that?
It was first brought up by a fan at New York Comic Con in 2013. My reaction was “Over my dead body.”

So what changed your mind?
It was that we were doing six [episodes] instead of 24. To me, somebody saying, “Do you want to do The X-Files?” meant signing my life over. It wasn’t until the commitment was less than eight episodes that I could consider doing something, based on my other commitments—including children!

The series was perfect for its moment in the 1990s. How does it fit into 2016?

There are a lot of topics in the dialogue today that are excellent fodder for our show. And the nature of social media and the fact that it’s a Democrat in the presidency contribute to a certain freedom of speech around current events that makes it possible for us to push buttons.

So you need a real-life Democratic President in order to tell a conspiracy-theory story?
Were we trying to get the show up and running during the Bush presidency, we would not be able to have some of the conversations. The broadness of story lines has expanded to such a degree that anything can be discussed in the world of art in the West right now. Anything is possible.

You haven’t worked with David Duchovny since 2008’s X-Files film. How does your chemistry stay intact over a hiatus?
It’s got nothing to do with us. It is beyond. It existed there through the years of us being mad at each other, not talking to each other. Whatever was going on with us, it was there and tangible. It materializes. It precedes us. Does it purely exist so that the show can exist? Maybe.

In 2016, you’re also appearing in a miniseries adaptation of War and Peace. Have you read the book?
I started reading War and Peace when I received the offer to do it, scrambling to get it read in time. But there’s a certain point where there is a script you’re working with that is going to have its limitations. At what point am I servicing myself by loading in all this information, and at what point am I making it too difficult, and should let go and embrace what exists in front of me?

Has playing Dana Scully made you more open to the idea of extraterrestrial life?
I’ve always been a believer. I’ve been a believer in many different realms of alternate reality, the human capacity to move out of different planes of reality. It’s something that has been with me since I was a child.

Scully blazed a deep trail as a feminist hero. Do you see characters like her on TV today?
The path that Scully carved for women in television is still dug in. There might not be anyone right now who specifically resembles Scully, but she was one of the first of her ilk. If you see a quote-unquote strong female character in a TV series, you’re on the same path.

This appears in the December 28, 2015 issue of TIME.

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