““I don’t knoooow if I handled it gracefully,” she says between self-deprecating laughter (her infectiously goofy laugh has its own special place in X-Files history as a notorious instigator of crew-wide giggle fits). “I just remember yelling at people a few times, which I don’t normally do. It was pretty stressful back then. The pressure was humongous for the show. It wasn’t popular yet, it was costing a lot of money, we were shooting ridiculous hours. Twenty-four episodes [a season] and there was barely enough time to change clothes before having to get back to set to say another six paragraphs of medical jargon. It was a lot.”
By the show’s fourth season, however, Anderson had struck gold, taking home both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her work as the breathtakingly brilliant scientist. Scully had become a shoulder-padded feminist icon at a time when few women like her were lead characters on TV. She was fearless, complex, and minced words for no one. Her story arcs carried weight equal to Mulder’s. And, despite her petite size, Scully was never intimidated by men.
But while Scully asserted her authority at every turn, Anderson found herself fighting just to stand on (literal) equal ground with her male co-star. The studio initially required Anderson to stand a few feet behind her male partner on camera, careful never to step side-by-side with him. And it took three years before Anderson finally closed the wage gap between her pay and Duchovny’s, having become fed up with accepting less than “equal pay for equal work.”
“I can only imagine that at the beginning, they wanted me to be the sidekick,” Anderson says of Fox’s curious no-equal-footing rule. “Or that, somehow, maybe it was enough of a change just to see a woman having this kind of intellectual repartee with a man on camera, and surely the audience couldn’t deal with actually seeing them walk side by side!”
She laughs again, this time at the absurdity of the notion of Dana Scully as anyone’s mere sidekick. “I have such a knee-jerk reaction to that stuff, a very short tolerance for that shit,” she says acidly. “I don’t know how long it lasted or if it changed because I eventually said, ‘Fuck no! No!’ I don’t remember somebody saying, ‘OK, now you get to walk alongside him.’ But I imagine it had more to do with my intolerance and spunk than it being an allowance that was made…”