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Gillian Anderson and The Scully Effect- The Dana Scully Who Continues to Inspire

Reviewed By Celina Bravo, Editor

By Modern60, Editorial Team

Published On June 11, 2024

Beauty & Fashion

Gillian Anderson and The Scully Effect- The Dana Scully Who Continues to Inspire

While watching Margaret Thatcher on The Crown, it was easy to forget for a minute that someone as well-known as Gillian Anderson was playing the character. That’s the brilliance of Anderson! If you have followed her work, you know of her many remarkable performances. But it was her portrayal of Dana Scully on The X-Files that inspired a generation of women. Such was the impact that the phenomenon has a name—the Scully Effect.

Why we can’t get over Anderson

Anderson’s role in The Crown is certainly not her only performance in the last few years that has blown people away. You might have caught one or more of her exemplary performances in movies like The Great, Scoop, and, of course, The First Lady, in which she lives, rather than plays, the role of Eleanor Roosevelt. The NPR’s review of The First Lady states: “Gillian Anderson as Eleanor conveys so much even when saying nothing…” Clearly, Anderson has established time and again that she is an actor par excellence.

Why we can’t get over Anderson
Source: Instagram/gilliana/

With such strong roles, Anderson does much more than essay a character on screen—she brings to life the determination and courage of that character, making every portrayal somewhat inspiring. What is more remarkable is that even after over 30 years in the industry, Anderson continues to set new benchmarks for her younger contemporaries.

But did you know that this phenomenal actor, who has managed to inspire Gen Y and Gen Z audiences, started out as a waitress in New York? Let’s go back in time a bit to understand how the then 22-year-old transformed into a self-made star, who struck a chord with hundreds of ambitious women with the “Scully Effect.”

The making of Anderson and Scully

With dreams of making it big in life, Anderson moved from Chicago to New York at 22, struggling to support herself and, finally, taking up a job as a waitress. That’s when she got her theater break in Alan Ayckbourn’s play Absent Friends at the Manhattan Theater Club. The play earned her the Theater World Award for “Best Newcomer,” after which she went on to star in Christopher Hampton’s play The Philanthropist.

The making of Anderson and Scully
Source: ABC News

In a 1995 interview with TV Week, Anderson talked about this phase of her life, saying, “First of all, I swore I’d never move to Los Angeles, and once I did, I swore I’d never do television. It was only after being out of work for almost a year that I began going in [to auditions] on some stuff that I would pray that I wouldn’t get because I didn’t want to be involved in it.” But thankfully, she persevered, and her reluctant guest appearance on the collegiate TV drama Class of ‘96 paved the way for a role that was about to change her life—and the lives of many others.

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Her guest appearance in Class of ‘96 led to Anderson being shortlisted for her pathbreaking role as Dana Scully in the science fiction TV series The X-Files. In the interview with TV Week, Anderson recalls auditioning for the role because “for the first time in a long time, the script involved a strong, independent, intelligent woman as a lead character.”

The role of Special Agent Scully won Anderson several awards and accolades, including an Emmy, but more importantly, it encouraged a generation of women to realize their potential and determine their career paths.

The Scully Effect

Dana Scully in The X-Files was strong and courageous, determined to believe in science and logic over everything else. The character hails from a close-knit Catholic family in Maryland. While Scully does share a bond with her family, she’s her own person and fiercely dedicated to her career and the field of science and medicine. Her courage was a breath of fresh air at a time when you rarely came across strong, career-oriented female characters on TV.

The Scully Effect
Source: Fox News

The show’s portrayal of such a dedicated character seemed to push a generation of women to pursue STEM careers and fulfill their aspirations. At the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International, Anderson opened up about the impact that her role as Scully had: “We got a lot of letters all the time, and I was told quite frequently by girls who were going into the medical world or the science world or the FBI world or other worlds that I reigned, that they were pursuing those pursuits because of the character of Scully. And I said, ‘Yay!’” Well, “Yay!” is right, more so because Anderson’s roles are as inspiring for youngsters today as they were a generation ago.

Fun fact: Anderson lied about her age while auditioning for her role as Scully! She was 24 but pretended to be 27 to bag the role. Thanks to this teeny-tiny and a pretty much harmless lie we got to witness the genius of Dana Scully that we love so much.

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Besides her exceptional performance as Dana Scully, Anderson has a few rather interesting and commendable roles to her credit. A couple of noteworthy examples are her short yet impactful role as Sarah Merrit in the movie The Last King of Scotland, for which her co-star Forest Whitaker won an Academy Award. Second, she played Miss Havisham in the 2011 series Great Expectations, for which she won the Artistic Excellence Award.

For now, you can keep an eye out for Anderson’s upcoming projects, including a role in the sci-fi Walt Disney movie Tron: Ares.

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Editorial Team

The Editorial Team at Modern60 is a group of highly skilled professionals with diverse backgrounds in journalism, content creation, editing, and digital media. They bring a wealth of experience and expertise to ensure that every piece of content meets our strict editorial guidelines and quality standards. The team is dedicated to delivering accurate, well-researched, and engaging content across various subjects, including health, wellness, lifestyle, and current events. With their commitment to upholding the highest standards of journalism and content creation, the Modern60 Editorial Team is the driving force behind our mission to empower and inspire our readers.

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