Gillian Anderson Initially Turned Down the Role of BBC Journalist Emily Maitlis in ‘Scoop’ Because It “Seemed Like a Really Bad Idea”

Maitlis’ 2019 ‘Newsnight’ interview with Prince Andrew ended his career as a working royal—and life as he knew it.

Gillian Anderson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

BBC journalist Emily Maitlis is one of the lead characters in Netflix’s Scoop, about the controversial 2019 Prince Andrew interview on that network’s Newsnight program that effectively ended his career as a working royal (and life as he knew it). Maitlis is played by Gillian Anderson, but she almost wasn’t—People reports that Anderson initially turned down the role in Scoop because, she said, it “seemed like a really bad idea.”

"Scoop" on Netflix

Anderson as Maitlis in 'Scoop' alongside Rufus Sewell, who plays Prince Andrew.

(Image credit: Netflix)

At an April 3 screening and Q&A in New York City, Anderson said “I said no initially. It felt Emily Maitlis is known very well in the U.K. She’s been on our screens and in our ears and podcasts for a long time, and she’s kind of known as a superwoman about town. There’s a comment or an off-the-cuff comment in the film about how she swims and she jogs and she interviews world leaders and all that. And all of that is very true, and she is quite a formidable presence, and I know lots of people who know her.”

Anderson continued “I played a few people who are no longer living already, and the prospect of not only playing somebody who was living but living in my neighborhood seemed like a really bad idea. So I said, ‘No, thank you.’”

Prince Andrew and Emily Maitlis on "Newsnight"

The real-life Maitlis and Prince Andrew during the interview, broadcast on November 16, 2019

(Image credit: BBC)

Thankfully, though, Scoop’s director Philip Martin and writer Peter Moffat changed the actress’ mind on a Zoom call. Anderson said she “explained to them why I wasn’t going to do it. And they both looked at me and said, ‘That’s exactly why you have to do it.’ Actually, I kind of knew as it was coming out of their mouths. I kind of thought, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Yeah.’”

This isn’t Anderson’s first time working on a project about the royal family for Netflix—she played U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on The Crown, a performance for which she won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy. 

Gillian Anderson

Anderson at the premiere of 'Scoop,' which was released worldwide on April 5

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gillian Anderson

Anderson won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher on "The Crown"

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While, yes, Scoop is about Prince Andrew, it’s really about the women who made the interview happen. Martin—a British television director and screenwriter who worked on The Crown alongside Anderson—told Netflix “I want to put the audience inside the breathtaking sequence of events that led to the interview with Prince Andrew—to tell a story about a search for answers in a world of speculation and varying recollections. It’s a film about power, privilege, and differing perspectives and how—whether in glittering palaces or high-tech newsrooms—we judge what’s true.”

Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew attended church with the royal family on Easter

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the immediate aftermath of the Newsnight interview with Maitlis—which focused on his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and allegations that he had sexually assaulted a 17-year-old—Andrew resigned from royal duties in November 2019. In January 2022, Andrew’s mother, Queen Elizabeth, stripped her son of his military titles and royal patronages, and Andrew settled the case with accuser Virginia Giuffre soon after out of court. He continues to deny any wrongdoing, and is slowly being accepted back into the royal fold, appearing alongside his brother King Charles, sister-in-law Queen Camilla, ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and other members of the royal family at the traditional Easter church service at St. George’s Chapel this past Sunday.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.