Gillian Anderson brings uncanny ‘Iron Lady’ to ‘The Crown’

Lynn Elber

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gillian Anderson’s portrayal of British political leader Margaret Thatcher in The Crown was built step by step, from distinctive voice to helmet-hair wig to padded wardrobe.

Olivia Colman, who as Queen Elizabeth II goes coif to coif with Thatcher, found Anderson’s Thatcher so uncanny that it was “quite scary”.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) first female prime minister and Conservative Party leader died at 87 in 2013.

“Sitting opposite her, especially with the light behind her a bit, it was” – at which point the Oscar-winning Colman paused, shivering dramatically and widening her eyes – “like she was there”.

“It was like having a ghost around,” concurred Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret, the queen’s sister, in the drama’s 10-episode fourth season.

The actor, who gained fame and awards for The X-Files, is Chicago-born but spent her childhood in Britain. She’s made England her home for nearly two decades, appearing on a variety of TV shows and the London stage.

While she moves easily between the accents of her native and adopted countries, Anderson worked at evoking Thatcher’s cadence and mannerisms with film and audio recordings as guides. The actress said she didn’t bring “massive preconceptions” to the role because her family moved back to America from Britain in 1979, the year Thatcher took office.

“Normally, when working on either a historical character or literary character, I find that it’s good to start from a blank slate anyway,” Anderson said. “It was helpful to have less to wipe away.”

This combination of photos shows Gillian Anderson (R), portraying Margaret Thatcher in a scene from the fourth season of ‘The Crown’, and Margaret Thatcher in Scarborough, England on March 18, 1989. PHOTO: AP