FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in the return of the sci-fi series The X-Files. Picture: Supplied

In the 90s, an era before live/online streaming or binge-watching, The X-Files was among the most popular TV shows.
Gillian Anderson, looking even more ravishing a few months shy of her 50th birthday, looks back on her TV character, Dana Scully.

She says: “When I started on the series, I knew absolutely nothing. I was so green, I had no experience. I didn’t know what hitting a mark was, I didn’t know what network television was, I didn’t know that things were aired in seasons.

"So everything that I did felt completely brand new and by the seat of my pants. And so we arrive to where we are now - we’ve done hundreds of episodes - that’s a lot of screen time.

“And learning my craft was very much in front of the public, including the mistakes I made. Sometimes I watch early episodes and you can see, in my way of dealing with the fact that I was meant to be the one in charge, there was ego in there, there was flair. Until I found my way with it, you can see the trajectory of how I suddenly finally got comfortable with her and everything that was asked of her.”

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Taking a similar trip down memory lane, David Duchovny, better known as Fox Mulder, says: “I tend to remember quite a bit. But what happens with fans is they take stuff and they make it their own, and then it becomes something to them that is way more than it ever was to us.

"So then they’ll give it back to me, like a line that has become popular with them, but it’s like a throwaway from years and years ago that I don’t remember. So that can happen, and I’ll go: 'Can you tell me what you’re talking about?'

"If you tell me an episode, I can remember.

"But with those kinds of inside jokes that happen organically among fans, or certain episodes that become important to fans that I’m not aware of, then they’ll remind me about that.”

As for her fondest episodes, Anderson recalls: “Well, the comedic ones are always so much fun to do. And if they’re episodes by writer and producer Darin (Morgan), they’re not just funny - they’re also very smart. So I would say those are probably the most fun.

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“For an actor, when there are complex story lines and emotional connection to things, those can be rewarding as well - and that would probably more likely fall into the mythology episodes.

"But I’m not in general a huge (fan of those) - it’s usually the diehards that are attached to the mythology story lines and I can’t say I pay that much attention to it.

"There’s only so much one can hold in one’s brain and usually when we do Comic-Cons and someone asks a question, I have to refer to the audience for the answer because I don’t remember (laughs) and I’ve always found it kind of confusing,” she admits.

When she returned for season 10 of The X-Files two years ago, she revealed that she was initially offered only half the salary of her male co-star, but negotiated for more.

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On this ongoing problem faced by her female peers, she says: “I am in an extraordinarily privileged position where I get to say: ‘You either pay me the same or I’m not doing it,’ which means they don’t have a show.

"My version of these events does not equate to pretty much everybody else’s, where their livelihood, their house, their jobs and everything is on the line and the stakes are so much higher. So I’m not for a second going to approach: ‘So how do you talk to your boss?’

"I have huge respect for anybody who has the balls and courage to stand up and say: 'This is not fair.' Because the consequences, as many people have found over the years, can be great.

“I think what’s happening now is that there’s attention being paid to policy change, legislation, fairness, accountability - all of the things we wished for for such a long time, which is starting to fall into place.

"Women and men are at the forefront of making sure there’s a shift taking place inside big business, small business and our industry. And, hopefully, it will become easier for everybody to be able to have conversations about fair practice.”

Interestingly, this will be Anderson’s last season with the show as she has other projects she wants to pursue, apart from being more present in the lives of her three children.

* The X-Files airs on Fox (DStv Channel 125) on Saturdays at 7.40pm.