Few Hollywood performers have maintained a protective layer of imperturbable likability better, or for longer, than Gillian Anderson. To see Anderson pop up in something—Hannibal, American Gods, the revived X-Files—is to know that you’re going to see something interesting, if only because Anderson has made it clear over the years that she’s really only going to do a part if it’s personally fascinating for her. (Whether that breaks the hearts of devoted X-philes or not.) Which brings us to today, when Netflix announced that it was recruiting the actress for the role of a woman whose long-term likability, such as it is, could be considered significantly purturbed: Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in the upcoming fourth season of The Crown.
Let’s start with the obvious here: Anderson is going to absolutely nail the role—whatever version of Thatcher’s infamous Iron Lady persona she’s asked to play. The Crown has derived some of its most potent drama from the sometimes-fraught relationship between the Queen and her PMs (most notably with John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill in its first season), and watching Gillian Anderson and Olivia Colman (stepping in for Claire Foy as Elizabeth as the show’s timeline advances) maneuver around each other is going to be a delight.
At the same time, though, Thatcher’s name is still a dirty word for many people both in the U.K. and in the wider world, representative of a pointedly cruel era of British politics that saw the country’s social services slashed, and its public empathy diminished. It’s going to be interesting—in a cognitive dissonance-y sort of way—to see Anderson embody that level of calm disdain for her fellow man, or find sympathy for a person who, for many people, remains a symbol of casual inhumanity to her fellow man. (It’s also, given Anderson’s status in some corners of the internet as a go-to nerdy sex symbol, likely to result in some pretty interesting Google search terms for some folks.)
The Crown’s fourth season is currently in production.