GISH OF THE DAY (January 2002)
Lined up as a replacement for Gillian Anderson on THE X-FILES, actress ANNABETH GISH tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo about settling into her "aggressive" new role.
With Gillian Anderson still anchoring The X-Files for the ninth season, Annabeth Gish has the unenviable job of making some room for herself on the drama as Agent Monica Reyes, who works with both Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Scully. A look at her impressive resume shows she's up for the challenge. Gish first gained the attention of critics and moviegoers a the tender age of 13, when she delivered a stunning performance in the film Desert Bloom. She co-starred with Julia Roberts in her breakthrough movie Mystic Pizza before taking a four-year break from her career to attend Duke University and graduate cum laude with a degree in English. Included in her extensive list of credits covering theatre, television and film are the movies Double Jeopardy, Wyatt Earp, Nixon, Beautiful Girls and the mini-series True Women, opposite Angelina Jolie, and Scarlett.
Dreamwatch: Are you related to the great hollywood actress Lillian Gish ?
Annabeth: Just distant by marriage, I think. My grandmother became Lillian Gish by marriage so I am a bit of a legacy, but not directly. There is a great genealogy book called Gish Footprints in the Sands of Time and we're on opposite sides of the tree, but I did correspond with her when I was young and starting out.
Dreamwatch: When you got the call to audition for The X-Files were you already a fan ?
Annabeth: I had been a fan since when the show first came on. I would go every Sunday to my girlfriend's dorm room in college and watch the show. So I was nervous and I was honoured. I thought it always felt like a good fit to me actually, because it just instantly felt like I belonged. But I was nervous and wanting to do a good job, so I had to audition my butt off !
Dreamwatch: Do you still feel the pressure of being the new girl ?
Annabeth: Just in terms of being a new cog in a wheel that is so well run, which is The X-Files of course, there is a little of that. It is unsettling at times, but you just have to refocus on the work. That's all I'm here to do. Of course I was thrilled to be asked to join the show !
Dreamwatch: How do you compare working on The X-Files with other projects ?
Annabeth: I've been working since I was 13 and I don't think I've had such full, rich excitement every week or two weeks when we open up a new script to see what's going to happen. It's a little bit like living on the edge, but it's exciting.
Dreamwatch: Was there any discussion to make sure you are physically very different from Scully in terms of hairstyle and mannerisms ?
Annabeth: I think those things probably were at play when I was cast initially, but not a lot. Gillian and I are different physically anyway -- and I'm talking height, hair colour and everything. Hopefully it's different in a complimentary way, but I don't think it's been the focus. It's amazing every week, with all the actors brought on the show, you can tell that Chris Carter and everyone has such a great eye for casting people. It's always about the integrity of their talent more than just a physical kind of superficial element.
Dreamwatch: So what did you discuss with Chris about how this character would develop when you first got the job ?
Annabeth: I had a great conversation with Chris over the summer. I was vacationing in Hawaii, but preparing [for the role]. I was relaxing before I had to work because when I got the job Robert Patrick said two words to me: "Sleep now!" And those words have proven to be true because we work so long. But Chris had a conversation with me over the summer, just kind of planting some seeds about who Monica Reyes is. Big strokes, which is kind of what we have to do, because they really week by week let us know our evolution in each script. I basically had to strap myself into this rollercoaster, hang on for the ride and just see where they take me.
Dreamwatch: Would you describe the big strokes about who Monica is ?
Annabeth: She's an instinctive, psychic, spiritual FBI agent who uses her intuition on cases. I would say she's more of a believer than a sceptic. She has come to the X-files to continue her work with ritual abuse and that kind of thing, but also because she has a tremendous 'care' for John Doggett. And I'm not saying anything about what that means!
Dreamwatch: So how is it going so far ?
Annabeth: I've shot five episodes so far and I've done things for the character that I've never done in my life and would never have known how to do, so that's been exciting.
Dreamwatch: Such as ?
Annabeth: Well, just in a nutshell, I've had to be a bad ass a couple of times, which I am not normally in my personal life. You know, like holding a gun and being aggressive and tough. Those kind of things.
Dreamwatch: Do you regret that you don't also get to solve mysteries with Agent Fox Mulder ?
Annabeth: I did get to work with him. I had one episode last season where we worked together and I think the legacy of Fox Mulder will never die. He's down there in that room forever. In fact there is one scene in the season premiere where I look up from my desk and see his pencils stuck up in the ceiling. That was sort of a little kiss to him. But are you kidding? I have Robert Patrick to work with every day so I'm not complaining. It's a gift.