Gillian Anderson’s Revolutionary Third Culture Experience and the Struggle she Faces

Best known for her roles on the X-Files and Sex Education, Gillian Anderson is an acting powerhouse. She has starred and performed in many forms of media, everything from theatre shows to independent films. While much is known about Anderson’s on-screen persona, many fail to realize the complexities of Gillian Anderson. One important thing to know about Anderson though is that she is a Third-Culture Kid (TCK).

Anderson’s Childhood

Image of Gillian Anderson at Film Festival
Photo labeled for reuse. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Born in Chicago, Ill., U.S.A Gillian Anderson is considered an “American” but she isn’t thoroughly an American. As detailed in an article with Hello Magazine Anderson spent the first five years of her life in Chicago and in Puerto Rico. At 5-years-old she moved to London, England with her family. She moved back to the U.S when she was 11 but she still spent her summers in England. Since she was 18 Anderson has been splitting her time between the U.S and England, both equally as important to her.  Because of her tumultuous childhood, Anderson is one of the select people who can call themselves a Third-Culture Kid.

Third-Culture Kids are people who have spent their developmental years experiencing 2 or more cultures outside of their native country. Anderson is a TCK because she experienced and interacted with the culture in the U.S, England, and Puerto Rico. Her experiences abroad have heavily influenced her life.


Gillian Anderson and Scott Lawrence discuss Anderson’s varying accents

“I was in Los Angeles recently with a couple of Brits and I thought, I’m going to see what it’s like to talk among Americans with a British accent, and I felt so uncomfortable. It felt so disingenuous, and I kept thinking they must think I’m a complete twat. But when I’m here, it’s nearly impossible for me to maintain an American accent.”

Says Gillian Anderson in an interview with The Guardian

As a result of her childhood experiences, Gillian Anderson is bidialectal. Biadelectism is defined by Merriam-Webster as the “facility in using two dialects of the same language.” Anderson communicates in an “American” accent and an English accent. It is natural for TCK to be bidialectal as a result of their tumultuous upbringing. This is not the only thing that Anderson shares with other Third Culture Kids. 

Third Culture Experience

Third-Culture Kids all around the world struggle with belonging in one place. They have known many different cultures and many different “homes”.  They often struggle with loneliness and the grief of knowing that they have lost their chance to belong. Ruth E. Van Reken co-author of one of the first books written about the TCK experience is well aware of the struggles TCK’s face. Reken writes about how TCKs may suffer from unresolved grief. This grief can manifest itself through rebellion.
Gillian Anderson’s unresolved grief manifested itself through a rebellion during her teenage years.

As detailed in her interview with The Guardian Anderson “went off the rails.” She struggled with drug addiction, she had an addictive girlfriend and a significantly older boyfriend. Anderson broke into her high school on Graduation night and got charged with trespassing. Anderson experienced the TCK struggle and it has made her and millions of other TCKs stronger.


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