Is ‘The Crown’ and ‘The X-Files’ Star Gillian Anderson British or American?

Actor Gillian Anderson has close ties to the United Kingdom. She spent much of her childhood in London, where she’s also resided as an adult since the early 2000s. In 2016, she was given an honorary title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). Anderson has played numerous British characters, most recently the late UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Netflix’s The Crown. So when Anderson won a Golden Globe for her part in The Crown, audiences were shocked when the star spoke with a very American accent in her acceptance speech at the 2021 Golden Globes. As one of Anderson’s past characters — FBI Special Agent Dana Scully in the TV series The X-Files — would have famously said, “the truth is out there.”

Gillian Anderson smiling in front of a white background
Gillian Anderson | Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

Anderson rose to prominence in ‘The X-Files’

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Anderson first started to dabble in acting when she joined a high school actor’s group, reported IMDB. Some of her earliest acting roles were in the theater, appearing in various 1990s productions like The Philanthropist and Absent Friends. “Her big break came with The X-Files (1993) as Dana Scully,” notes the site. The science-fiction series ran for 11 seasons and spawned two movie spin-offs, all of which Anderson was involved in.

The role would win her numerous awards, including an Emmy Award and multiple Screen Actors Guild Awards. After the show wrapped, Anderson’s career focused on many film projects set in the UK. “She was widely praised for her starring role as Lily Bart in the film The House of Mirth (2000), a British adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel,” explains Britannica. She also took on an array of British TV roles, including numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’s works.

Is Gillian Anderson British?

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Gillian Anderson spent much of her childhood growing up in London, and she moved back to London in 2002 simply for “a complete change of pace.” This, along with the UK emphasis on her career, may lead some to believe that she’s British. There’s just one catch: Anderson is actually an American. The actor was born in Chicago, Illinois, and even did her acting training in the United States. “She earned a B.F.A. degree at the Goodman Theatre School at DePaul University, Chicago,” reports Britannica.

Anderson has difficulty keeping track of her British and American accent

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Because Anderson is American, but has spent much of her life (and most of her acting career) in the UK, she says she has trouble sticking with just one accent. Journalists pointed out the oddities of her speaking style as far back as the mid- to late-2000s. “The first surprise is Gillian Anderson’s accent,” wrote one reporter at The Telegraph in 2009. “I have heard about how she can slip from English to American as effortlessly as silk runs through fingers.” In response, the actor told the publication that “even on the phone, my accent will change” and that she “wishes I could control it.”

That didn’t stop viewers of the 2021 Golden Globes from being very confused while watching Anderson accept her award. “Gillian Anderson baffles The Crown fans by accepting her Golden Globe in American accent,” exclaimed the Daily Express. “Gillian Anderson’s rare natural accent making an appearance,” said one viewer, as quoted in the newspaper. Another one noted, “I just found out that Gillian Anderson is actually American and I love her English accent so much I’m actually disappointed.” And a third fan bemoaned that “tonight’s biggest upset is that Gillian Anderson has an American accent.”