Gillian Anderson

"I don't show my face in LA very much. And producers need to see you in the press, and in their face, in meetings, auditions," says Gillian Anderson, explaining why she doesn't appear in blockbusters.

At 24 the Chicago-born actress became very famous, very fast as Agent Dana Scully in the The X-Files, a sci-fi series with an unusually high count of weird conspiracy theories. The TV star could have chased major league screen success on the back of the show's profile, but being a non-conformist with a rebellious streak she chose to up sticks from Hollywood in 2002 and take a different route.

Gillian entered the world on August 1968, two years before her parents relocated to London. Nine year later the family moved back to the US, where they settled in Michigan. These days her speech bears traces of this Atlantic crisscrossing. Her accent is crisply British peppered with Americanisms - situations are "challenging" or have a "negative impact".

A tomboyish child who cut up worms out of curiosity, Gillian initially dreamed of a career in science. "I have no idea how the transition was made from wanting to be an archaeologist or marine biologist, to wanting to be an actress - it just kind of happened," mused the thesp.

Her mother Rosemary can, however, pinpoint the exact moment when her daughter - then 14 - began to show theatrical promise. "Her teacher assigned her the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene. Gillian had no background in Shakespeare or acting. But she studied that scene and mastered it with no effort whatever," recalled the proud parent. "My jaw just dropped."

After graduating from drama school she landed the X-Files role, never dreaming Agent Scully would be part of her life for almost a decade. By the second season she'd married and was pregnant by the programme's lighting director Clyde Klotz. Ever impulsive, Gillian flew with her lover to Hawaii where their wedding took place in the presence of a Buddhist priest at the 17th hole of a golf course.

Fox executives were shocked by news of the pregnancy, but the series creator Chris Carter stuck by his protégé and refused to allow her to be replaced. Ten days after giving birth to her daughter Piper on September 25, 1994, she was back on set. "I couldn't imagine not having Piper," declared the happy mum, who asked Chris to act as godfather.

Despite the tally of awards she racked up as the sci-fi heroine - among them a Golden Globe and an Emmy - Gillian was relieved when the time came to turn her back on 16-hour days. Her marriage to Clyde having ended after three years, the single mum decided on a change of scene and set up home in London.

Since then she has become known for her fine line in repressed, corseted characters, such as Lily Bart in turn-of-the-century drama The House Of Mirth and Lady Dedlock in the BBC's Dickens adaptation Bleak House in 2005. Out of the Hollywood goldfish bowl for some time, the Emmy winner is, "perfectly happy to let things happen slow". So there have been small, independent movies like The Mighty Celt and The Last King Of Scotland.

But in Gillian's personal life things have continued to move rather more quickly. She tied the knot on a Kenyan beach with journalist Julian Ozanne in December 2004. The union lasted 16 months before the attractive performer surprised fans by announcing their divorce. Shortly afterwards Gillian revealed she was pregnant by her new love, businessman Mark Griffith. Asked if she planned to stay in Britain with her expanding family the actress gave a typically free-spirited response, saying: "Maybe we'll be here in 20 years. Or maybe I'll fall in love with Spain. Or India. Who knows?"
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