After her portrayal of Agent Dana Scully, the actress wasn't sure if she "wanted to be on a set again ever."

By Jolie Lash
June 02, 2021 at 06:22 PM EDT

Gillian Anderson cemented her status as a TV icon playing Agent Dana Scully on Fox's The X-Files, but when she left the show behind she refused to look back — at first.

"I had a good couple of mini breakdowns during that, and at the end, could not talk about it, could not see it, could not see pictures, could not," Anderson said during the latest Hollywood Reporter actress roundtable published Wednesday, which featured The Crown actress alongside Cynthia Erivo, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Mj Rodriguez, and Sarah Paulson

Anderson went on to say she found the respite she needed by turning to the stage.

"I needed to immerse immediately in theater in another country," she continued. "And then after a while, I was able to embrace it again, but when I started to embrace it, it was almost like I separated myself so much that I was looking at the image as if it was another person. When you immerse yourself so entirely as we can, and we do for such long periods of time, there's not going to be no consequence to that. Of course, there's going to be consequence to that."

Anderson's remarks came after Erivo answered a question from THR, whose reporter asked the Harriet and Genius: Aretha star about her own past comments about a "mini-breakdown," as the journalist put it, following the biopic about the abolitionist. Erivo had said that her preparation to play Tubman "took time to just dissipate" after filming, something that also happened to her with her Franklin TV role. 

"And it's little things, like mannerisms, that stick with you," Erivo said. "The lilt in her voice when she's speaking to people. Like, that's not me, but I was stuck with that for a bit." 

Gillian Anderson
Gillian Anderson
| Credit: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Similarly, Anderson felt some anguish after wrapping the role of Blanche in a theatrical production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which she played in London and New York City.

"I felt like I'd lost my best friend. I was grieving. Some friends of mine in New York had a brunch for me the weekend after [I finished my run], and I arrived like a complete wreck," Anderson told her fellow actresses. "It was so profound. I also knew it was unlikely I was going to do it again because I knew that I'd probably lose my mind. I got really close. Like, I'd survived by the skin of my teeth, and if I did it again out of ego or attachment or not wanting to let her go, there would be consequences. So I knew it was the end, and it was so sad."

During a bit of a lovefest between the actresses, who shared their admiration for each other, Paulson praised Anderson, saying, "When I look at Gillian's career I just go, 'Well, I want that.'" But the Crown star admitted her career wasn't at all mapped out — especially after The X-Files first wrapped in 2002. 

"On the one hand, I feel like there is some degree of design, but I've also never really gone after things," Anderson told Paulson. "And when I finished with X-Files, I didn't know if I wanted to be on a set again ever. So aside from having grown up in the U.K. and wanting to go back, I knew it would take time before I could if I was going to. And in London, you could move between theater and TV, and that was always my dream. But every actor has the thing that they'd want more than the thing that they have, and I'm a cinephile, and so I [wonder], 'Why do I keep doing TV? All I want to do is do film.' And I'm still doing TV."

Anderson has been open in the past about her fight for pay equity and the topic of mental health, co-authoring the book We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, with Jennifer Nadel.

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