Her face is pale and completely beautiful. She has an air of fragility but also a voluptuousness of spirit; there is something wayward about her, and a sense of mystery and great depth.
What you see is not necessarily what you get, and what you get is certainly not all there is.
I would like to thank Jessamy Calkin for a perfect, refreshing and professional interview with Gillian Anderson. It was way overdue and I am so thankful for her. It is a perfect article with thoughtful writing and high respect towards Gillian, and her work.
It is clear that she spent time preparing for this meeting, read a lot about her subject and was keen to provide new information to the reader while introducing Gillian Anderson’s work, passion and talent. Upon having an opportunity to interview Gillian, this is exactly how it should look like. She is a mother, an activist, a feminist, one of the greatest TV, - and theatre actress, and an inspiring role model.
And this is exactly what one can learn from this article! Thank you, Jessamy Calkin for doing a splendid job, I really loved reading your piece in the Telegraph.
PS: Don’t even get me started on that photoshoot. I’m still recovering from that…
Americanah took five years to write. ‘For a long time I’ve wanted to write about two things: a love story that doesn’t apologise for being a love story, in the grand tradition of the Mills & Boon novel; and I also wanted to write about race in America. I hadn’t felt ready until now.’ The title refers to an immigrant who has become Americanised – Ifemelu gets called ‘Americanah’ by her friends. Adichie writes with great affection for her subjects but she is not sentimental. Americanah is a dense story with a very light touch – it moves effortlessly between time frames and countries, making acute political points without haranguing.
Adichie has compared America to ‘a very rich uncle who doesn’t really know who you are, but all the same you can’t help being fond of him’.
‘I like America but it’s not mine and it never will be,’ she says now. ‘I don’t really have a life there. I travel and I speak and I sit in my study trying to write, but in Nigeria I have a life. I go out, I have friends, I feel emotionally invested in what’s happening.’
Last year Adichie was the youngest person to deliver the annual Commonwealth lecture at the Guildhall, and her TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) lecture on national identity, The Dangers of a Single Story, is one of its most popular. She is an eloquent person with big ideas, who is very interested in pan-African politics. ‘The idea of aid as a solution to Africa’s problems is something I don’t agree with at all. When you look at countries that have succeeded, aid didn’t do it. Aid creates dependency.’ She resents how applying for aid has become a job in itself. ‘It’s not looking for money to start a business, it’s writing a proposal so someone gives you money. Nigeria is not like that yet, and I hope we don’t become like that as it’s unhealthy. If we had electricity every day and it was constant and we had good roads and water, people would do things, they are full of initiative.’ It would, she believes, make a huge difference to productivity, self-esteem, motivation. Instead they are plagued by inconsistency in the most basic infrastructure.
‘I am very much a social engineer at heart,’ she says. ‘I love Nigeria and Africa and if you love a place that you know is kind of broken, you want it to be whole. I am always watching. For example, when I have my hair done I am watching the women in the salon, wondering how things could be better for them. The salon has to close at seven because they turn the generator off. And diesel is expensive so what they have to pay to maintain the generator is already taking a lot from what the salon makes, which in turn affects how much the workers in the hair salon are paid.’
On the surface, Gillian Anderson appears icily controlled, but under the cool facade, there’s a wild side. On the eve of The Fall’s third season she speaks to Jessamy Calkin.
One night in the summer of 2014, during the Young Vic’s sell-out run of A Streetcar Named Desire, Gillian Anderson, playing Blanche DuBois with a rapture that seemed to almost deify the role, took to the stage for the customary standing ovation with blood coursing down one leg.
Her knee had been hit by a splinter of china from a plate hurled by a furious Stanley Kowalski (Ben Foster), and the wound had split open when she dropped to the floor. ‘Never have I seen a production of the play that was so raw in its emotion, so violent and so deeply upsetting,’ said the Telegraph critic Charles Spencer.
I was in the audience that night, on my feet and cheering what was an incandescent performance. Now, two years later, Anderson shows me the scar on her leg. It had been bandaged up backstage and she thought it would be fine. The next morning, she lifted the bandage to take a look, and ‘I lost consciousness.
I went so far away. And when I woke up there were four people standing over me. I’m a bit phobic about blood. There’s been quite a bit of blood in my life with my kids over the years, and I would rather be the one who’s strong rather than the mother who turns away or passes out…’ She passed out several times.