Gillian Anderson was asked a strange question this week. After winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the Netflix series The Crown, an American reporter wondered: “Have you talked to her (Thatcher) about this role at all?”
Instead of replying that it would be difficult to talk to the Iron Lady on account of her having died eight years ago, Anderson simply stated that no such consultation had taken place.
Still, the graceful response to this faux pas was so typical of Ms Anderson. How do I love thee, Gillian? Let me count the ways.
In the past week alone, I have revisited her award-winning performance as Thatcher in The Crown, marvelled at her poise when replying to that strange probing by the American Urban Radio Networks hack and been exhilarated by her standout performance in the third season of the hit Netflix show, Sex Education.
For me, she can do no wrong.
Older readers will recall how she burst on to the scene playing FBI agent Dana Scully in the sci-fi tour de force The X-Files, which ran between 1993 and 2002 and became one of the most popular series in TV history.
Before Sex Education, she had already enjoyed a distinguished career on stage and screen. Whether it was Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Lady Dedlock in the BBC miniseries Bleak House or DSI Stella Gibson in the Scandi-style crime drama The Fall, she was always mesmerising, enchanting and inspiring. And sometimes a bit scary.
Tall poppy syndrome, however, remains rife in popular culture. And despite – or more probably because of – the 53-year-old icon continuing her sweep of awards for her portrayal of the former prime minister, the knives are out.
All of a sudden, tabloid stories have appeared about her “banning” her kids from watching Sex Education.
Then there were sneering pieces poking fun at her ever-changing accent – after she gave her Emmys acceptance speech in an American one, despite speaking in an English accent for the majority of her recent TV appearances.
For some reason, reporters constantly mention that she used to date, or is still dating – who knows and who cares? – The Crown creator Peter Morgan. And a great deal was made of her celebrating her triumph with a “very crude cake”.
This is all very tedious.
What she actually said about her kids was: “I am living happily in the denial that my children do not watch the show.”
This is because it’s not the kind of show, however great, which parents and children should be watching together.
And Anderson is bidialectal. She was born in the US, raised between Puerto Rico and London, then moved back to the States at age 11; she is proficient in using two dialects of the same language – a London accent and an American one.
Tall poppy syndrome is an unpleasant phenomenon. If something grows too tall, it is cut down to size.
It’s not just being applied here to Anderson, but to Sex Education itself.
As soon as season three dropped, it was binged and then backlashed. According to some critics, it was full of twentysomethings pretending to be teenagers.
And it was too dependent on American high school movie clichés. And too worthy, covering issues such as LGBTQ+ relationships, gender identity and class inequality.
In the cast interviews to promote the new series, all the young, British actors and actresses admitted to being in awe of Anderson.
Granted, it is an ensemble show. But Gillian is its guiding light.
I know I am not the target audience, but to me it remains a hilarious, entertaining and thought-provoking exploration of the joys of self-expression.
It’s about finding out who you are and where you fit in – whatever age you are.
In fact, it says more about friendship than sex.
Most of all, I like it because it gives me another reason to worship at the altar of Ms Anderson.