Don't expect Gillian Anderson, 52, to enter the political arena anytime soon.
She may fill the shoes of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, aka The Iron Lady, for Season 4 of The Crown , but she has no doubt what kind of prime minister she'd make.
"Oh, I'd be a horrible prime minister. I've got such a bad memory, I'd give everything to everybody, and I wouldn't be very diplomatic," she laughs. "In trying to save the world I'd make tons of mistakes in the process. I don't envy anybody that role, prime minister or president. It's a thankless, thankless role, and particularly in this day and age where the new leaders around the world have inherited such a mess."
Anderson is in London via Zoom, where she lives with her three children (from two previous relationships). It's late at night and her significant other, The Crown showrunner Peter Morgan, wanders by with a can of Coke for Anderson. "He's helping me stay awake," she smiles.
She says of her Thatcher transformation, who she plays from 1979 to 1990, "There were many discussions about wig colour, lots of trial and error with make-up, and a fat suit. It would take over an hour-and-a-half just for the hair and the glue that goes on around the wig. And then came the make-up.
"She also had a very particular way of walking," she says. "It was daunting. You hope you're on the right track, and I have to admit, it's a bit freaky. But it wasn't as if suddenly they do me up and it's, 'Oh, there she is!' in the mirror. It was a long process but I think in the end we ended up with something that feels Thatcheresque."
A polarising figure, Thatcher was the first female British Prime Minister – as despised as she was beloved. "She's an historic and iconic character and people love to hate her and hate to love her and the chances of getting it wrong were so great," Anderson says. Evidently though, the actor had nothing to fear as early reviews would attest she's done her best work.
In The Crown, we witness Thatcher's contentious relationship with Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), which couldn't be more different from Anderson and Colman's relationship. "It was difficult to focus sometimes when Olivia and I were together in the same room, because we like to chat," she laughs. "Olivia is much better than I am at snapping into character after one's been chatting away."
Thatcher appointed only one female cabinet member during her 11 years in power. Given her position, and her feminist stance, she could have helped other women climb the political ladder of success.
"She was a self-made woman and it's hard to know why she wasn't more active in terms of electing or surrounding herself with women," Anderson says.
"I've got many women friends who are very powerful, and while I wouldn't necessarily classify myself as powerful, I have a very strong personality," she laughs.
Speaking of female leaders, Anderson says: "I met Julia Gillard. She was amazing to listen to and she was specifically talking about women leaders and the impact of women leaders. It was really interesting."
Anderson is twice divorced and has been in a relationship with Peter Morgan since 2016.
"It was Vanessa Kirby (who played Princess Margaret in The Crown, Season 1 and 2) who kept saying to me, 'You have to meet Pete.' I kept saying, 'No, he's too posh, he's too fancy, too smart and I'm a goofball. I'm an idiot,'" she laughs. "But actually, he's funny and quirky and goofy."
Best known for her role as Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files, which ran from 1993 to 2002, and then again for a six-episode season in 2017, Anderson has also appeared in The Fall, Hannibal, American Gods, and currently stars in the Netflix comedy, Sex Education.
She famously had a difficult relationship with Hollywood and never enjoyed her celebrity. She grew up in both the United States as well as London, but she always felt more comfortable in England.
"Everything that we've seen about Hollywood in films portrayed over last few decades is somewhat based in truth. And at the various times of my life, I've really struggled with that aspect of it. And I certainly found coming to London quieter, more manageable, more grounded, more honest. And that was the kind of world that I wanted to be in."
Anderson was hounded by the tabloids during the height of The X-Files' popularity.
"Back then, becoming so famous so young and seeing the worst part of what the industry can be like, I had a real struggle with it. I really hated it. It was like, 'Get me the f**k out of here!'" She left for London and remained there. "I had a complicated relationship with the business in LA and I didn't want it to be at the forefront of my every waking thought. People were dumbfounded that I left." She pauses. "But let's just clarify, as far as working in it, I haven't left Hollywood yet."
Sex Education is shot in England and Wales, and she took on the role in part so she'd be closer to her children.
"First and foremost, my kids matter to me. And usually, before I take on anything, I will be very transparent about what it means to hire me in terms of me needing to be available for my kids, and so that is very important."
Anderson has a daughter, Piper, 26, from her first marriage to X-Files assistant art director, Clyde Klotz. She also has two sons: Oscar, 13, and Felix, 12 from her relationship with businessman Mark Griffiths.
"As far as my career, I feel like I'm just getting started. It doesn't feel like I'm at the end of something at all. I feel really fulfilled with the work I've been doing lately, with Sex Ed, and The Crown."
She is enjoying the hilarity and outrageousness of Sex Education.
"It's been a godsend," she says. "So, I'm afraid, I'm still going to be acting for a little while yet."
Catch season 4 of The Crown on Netflix in Novemeber