Annabeth Gish on her return to The X-Files, a new role on Scandal, and the most important role of her life
Annabeth Gish and I had an immediate connection. Jealous?
Gish popped in many memorable films like Mystic Pizza and Nixon and had pivotal roles in such hot television shows as The West Wing, Sons of Anarchy, and of course The X-Files. But she attended college at Duke University, which is just down the road from me here in North Carolina, where she majored in English with a unit in women’s studies with cum laude honors. Taking the time to pause her acting career and focus on education was an important step in her personal evolution. It gave her roots outside of Hollywood and the acting business. It helped her become a more well-rounded and grounded individual.
Not to mention it made her a life-long Blue Devils fan.
She carries that stable, mature air with her today as she inhabits the most important role of her adult life – that of a dedicated and nurturing mother.
But Annabeth Gish still finds time to take a break from motherhood and come out to play. She just started a recurring role on ABC’s hit serial Scandal as Lillian Forrester, a reporter writing a feature on the Scandal POTUS’s (Tony Goldwyn) last days in office.
However, it’s her return to The X-Files that has the Internet’s tongues wagging. Gish’s pivotal role as Monica Reyes in the supernatural drama’s final seasons was designed to transition the series, along with Robert Patrick’s John Doggett, beyond the core characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out that way, and X-Files shuttered in 2002.
Gish returns as Reyes on Monday’s X-Files limited series finale to add a crucial piece to the series’ broad mythology.
AwardsDaily TV: You have a tremendously diverse body of work in both television and film. How did you get your start in acting?
Annabeth Gish: Well, I grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and I started doing local theater when I was eight. It was something I somehow knew I wanted to do. I’m not sure how, but I did. I told my parents I want to act. Then, there was an open casting call for a film called Desert Bloom, which I got when I was 13. And that sort of opened the doors of Hollywood for me.
ADTV: Knowing people who have gone to Duke University, that’s not an easy task to negotiate – having an active acting career and attending a prestigious university. How did you manage between the two?
Gish: Both my parents are educators, so education has always been incredibly important to me. So, I took four years off, essentially, and it was right about the time Mystic Pizza came out. But, somehow, it was a very good thing for me to do to mature and stay grounded. Those four years at Duke were invaluable to me for so many reasons – academically, emotionally, and socially.
ADTV: You’re returning to The X-Files this Monday night for the limited series finale, coming back home to the show you joined in 2001. How did your involvement with The X-Files originate?
Gish: I joined Robert Patrick in the last two seasons of the show during a bit of a transitional period. They were wondering if they could continue the franchise, and I had an amazing two years with Robert… and David and Gillian. David came back and directed some episodes and was still around the set. It was a huge gift.
ADTV: Were you a fan of the show before joining the cast?
Gish: Yes, in fact, I remember distinctly being in my dorm at Duke when The X-Files premiered. I remember being captivated and intrigued. I don’t think I’m quite astute in all of the mythology, but I certainly had a vested interest in the show personally as a fan beyond being an actress in it.
ADTV: You mentioned coming into the show during a transitional phase from David and Gillian. What was the atmosphere like given the pressure to pick things up from their departure and reduced involvement?
Gish: Well, you can’t really focus on that. That show for nine years is an exhausting show. It wears you down because of the physicality of it, the thought, the dialogue behind it. There’s a lot that’s going on, so, for nine years and twenty-two episodes a season, they were tired I’m sure. But, as the show comes back, you see there’s so much love in the creation… and the overall franchise of The X-Files. The success of the overall experience is a testament to their dedication and love for it.
ADTV: Your character of Monica Reyes was so uniquely different from a standard FBI agent. What drove your interpretation of the character?
Gish: Well, Chris [Carter[ and Frank [Spotnitz] had very specific direction that they wanted Monica to be a “sunny” character. I remember that adjective being used – “sunny.” And I think think inherently, like Mulder, Annabeth Gish is a believer, and Reyes is as well. There’s sort of a positivity and buoyancy that they wanted Reyes to have. We just focused on adding some lightness to the overall series.
ADTV: One of the things I found incredibly endearing about Reyes is that she was constantly trying to quit smoking, which is interesting given the show’s main villain – the Cigarette Smoking Man. Was that something you added to the character or was that written in the script?
Gish: Oh, are you kidding? No, everything on The X-Files is very strategically created and placed. Monica smoked Morley’s, if you recall. [Morley’s are a fictitious brand of cigarette best known for its usage in The X-Files.]
ADTV: That’s right! See, you know more about the series mythology than you think you do.
Gish: (Laughs) Oh yes. After a certain amount of time, yes. But I don’t know know all of the randomness and the deeper corners of the series mythology.
ADTV: What was your favorite scene or episode from the original series?
Gish: Well, my two favorite episodes that I have personally are “4-D” and “Audrey Pauley.” “4-D” was so fascinating to me – the concept of what would you do if there were four dimensions that we could actually be living in. That’s fascinating to me, and the subject matter really helped focus my excitement and attention on the material during that episode. “Audrey Pauley” was great because it was so surreal, this miniature world in the hospital.
ADTV: You mentioned Annabeth Gish is a believer. When you looked at some of the scripts you were given, did they seem outlandish to you? How did you find some grounding in reality in terms of how to play the character?
Gish: Well, that is sort of the amazing ability that Chris and all the writers have with these crazy situations that seem totally implausible somehow, as an investigative agent, you had to buy into. Remember The Brady Bunch episode (Season 9’s “Sunshine Days“)? It was sort of very abstract, but you go along with it because it’s a ride and it’s so creative and intelligent and imaginative.
ADTV: Let’s jump forward to your appearance on Monday’s revival finale. How did you find out you were written into the new series?
Gish: Well… (pause) I think Monica’s piece of the puzzle is a crucial, integral part, and it reveals a lot about what’s been going on for the past 10-12 years. So, while it’s a small role, it’s very meaningful and has a lot of import.
ADTV: I can tell you’re trying to tiptoe around spoilers.
Gish: (Laughs) Yes, I’m trying to choose my words carefully.
ADTV: Ok, so without giving away any spoilers, how do you think the character has changed over the past 14 years?
Gish: Well, I think Monica had to make some hard decisions and made her choices. As with any woman who makes those choices, you’re life changes accordingly. So, I think there’s a harder tone to Monica this go-round. She’s worn down some of her brightness.
ADTV: How have you changed personally within the past 14 years?
Gish: Well, I got married. I’ve had two children. I think as with any woman you go through a deepening and get wiser and smarter and care less about the bullshit. (Laughs)
ADTV: And you’re still a believer?
Gish: Yes, I am. Perhaps a more critical, wiser believer, but yes, I am.
ADTV: So, you were on ABC’s Scandal this week. What can we expect from you there?
Gish: I don’t know! I’m going to play over there for a few episodes in a recurring role.
Gish: Well, X-Files more frank and dense. Scandal is a nighttime drama, a beautiful drama, and it’s really very different given how polished it is. But it’s really very fun too!
ADTV: So, outside of Scandal and The X-Files, what’s next for Annabeth Gish?
Gish: Well, I have two features coming out soon. One coming out April 8 which is a wonderful horror-esqe film called Before I Wake with Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns) and Jacob Tremblay (Room), and a movie called with Vince Vaughn called Term Life (due April 29). But you know, I’m really focused on raising my kids – I have two sons – and they’re my first priority… But that’s a good thing. It’s great that I get to sort of dabble in these roles, but I’m predominantly a mom first.
ADTV: And then watching Duke basketball games…
Gish: Oh yes, my kids are already, you know, Duke fans and have their Blue Devil gear. Fans by proxy.