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From sinister to minister: politician's drug trafficking jail time revealed

From sinister to minister: politician’s drug trafficking jail time revealed

From sinister to minister: politician’s drug trafficking jail time revealed By Michael Ruffles and Michael Evans September 9, 2019 — 5.00am
When the newly appointed minister fronted the cameras in July, he explained away questions about a criminal past in Sydney, saying he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was 1993 and he had just landed in the Harbour City. He had been at his friend’s Bondi hotel room for only a few minutes when police swarmed, and, he says, he knew nothing about the drugs they were dealing.
It was only a few months later, in his version, that he was set free.
However, the Herald and The Age can reveal that a newly appointed senior member of Thailand’s ruling party spent four years in a Sydney jail in the 1990s for his role in trafficking 3.2 kilograms of heroin into Australia. He was deported on his release from Parklea prison.
Thammanat Prompao, a key ally of top generals and an enforcer in the coalition cabinet, was a young soldier known as Manat Bophlom when he pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of heroin with a street value of up to $4.1 million.
When reports of a previous conviction surfaced in the Thai media in July, days before he was sworn in as a minister, Thammanat downplayed its significance, saying he was found guilty of a “minor offence”.
Thammanat Prompao spent four years in a Sydney jail in the 1990s after pleading guilty to conspiring to import more than three kilograms of heroin. Photo: Bangkok Post
He acknowledged that he had been arrested in April 1993 but said he spent a limited time in custody before resuming a normal life in Sydney selling sanitary products.
“I didn’t import, produce or deal heroin,” he told the media. “While on vacation in Sydney, I was properly cleared by immigration. But I was unfortunate to have been in the same place at the same time as some drug offenders.” In a statement at the weekend, Thammanat stood by his version of events.
However, court documents show Second Lieutenant Manat, as he was then known, was a central figure in the drug trafficking operation.
The court file reveals Manat met key Thai underworld figures and his Australian co-accused in Bangkok before the deal, was involved in arranging the visa and buying Qantas tickets for the female drug courier, was recorded saying he was present when she packed the drugs into her luggage, and later helped transport that bag across town to the buyers in Bondi.
While in Parramatta jail awaiting sentencing, Manat told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand, had been an army spy under the identity “Yuthaphum Bophlom”, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general. In exchange for leniency in his sentence, he also gave up details about Thai drug operations, saying former soldiers named Wera, Manop and Pisarn were intimately involved, according to the court file.
In late 1992, he and his half-brother and business partner, Sorasat Tiemtad, discussed sending people to Australia as Sorasat wanted to set up a “young coconut” importing business, he told investigators. In January 1993, Sorasat asked Manat to help arrange a visa for a woman known as Pa to visit Australia. The two went to the Kings Coffee Shop outside the old Australian Embassy in Bangkok, where they met Pa and a man named Pisarn and lodged the application. The next day, Sorasat handed Pa an airline ticket – paid for by Manat.
In February, two of Manat’s associates joined Sorasat at a Bangkok restaurant where a criminal figure known as Wera introduced two “farang” or foreigners, one “tall and good-looking” who “looked like Rambo” and the other “fat with a beard” missing some teeth, the court file shows. The two Australians, Sam Calabrese and Mario Constantino, met Sorasat several times in the following weeks.
“Although [Sorasat] Tiemtad did not tell me directly that it was heroin, I suspected that what he was trying to send to Australia was illegal,” Manat told police. Later he added: “I knew that Wera was a smuggler who also dealt in drugs.”
Thai cabinet minister Thammanat Prompao at the July press conference concerning his Sydney drug conviction. Photo: Palang Pracharat Party
Sorasat flew to Sydney first, and on April 8 checked into room 1011 of the Palage Hotel Bondi. The courier Pa would fly out of Bangkok two days later and Manat was later recorded telling Sorasat he was with her the night before her flight.
“That night we didn’t let her out of sight, she stayed in our sight all the time from 7pm til 5.30am,” Manat said, according to a translation of surveillance material collected by the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Drover.
“She said Manat took her to the house and she had a shower. Something was put into her bag,” Sorasat said. Manat replied: “I was there when she did it.”
When Sorasat and Constantino went to collect Pa from Sydney Airport, she was nowhere to be found. Her failure to appear set off a flurry of calls between Sorasat and Thailand. Manat was angry, and later told Sorasat, “You couldn’t do the job as I wanted.”
Sorasat sought to assuage Calabrese’s concerns, joining him on a visit to Bondi Beach and catching up in Coogee in between looking for Pa.
The heroin was left in room 713 of the Parkroyal Hotel in Darling Harbour, shown here from the early 1990s. Photo: Andrew Meares
She turned up at the Gazebo Hotel in Kings Cross, having left the heroin in room 713 of the Parkroyal Hotel in Darling Harbour. This gave the AFP time to substitute the drugs and plant listening devices.
Sorasat tracked down Pa at the Gazebo. She gave him the key to room 713 and a box of matches with the Parkroyal’s address.
Another key player, Manop, who was preparing to fly to Sydney with Manat, baulked after Pa didn’t show up as planned. Manat went ahead alone.
When he walked through the arrival hall at 8.18pm on April 14, AFP officers were watching – and listening. The police statement of facts in the file records that Manat and Sorasat left the Palage Hotel, taking a case via taxi to the Parkroyal.
Sorasat checked into room 609, and handed Manat the key to room 713 to fetch the package hidden under the bed. Sorasat placed the brown package into a black suitcase, and they took it back to the Palage in Bondi, stopping at a hot dog stand in Campbell Parade before making a series of phone calls and dining at the Tuk Tuk restaurant.
“It’s not good to keep the stuff with us for long,” Manat told Sorasat back in the room, waiting for the Australians.
Constantino arrived first, making a gesture of prayer and laughing when he saw the bag. After Calabrese arrived, the four spoke about flights and women.
Shortly after midnight, just hours after Manat had arrived in Australia to finalise the deal, officers from Operation Drover, who had been trailing the group for nearly a week, stormed the room.
The four were charged with conspiracy to import heroin and refused bail.
Sorasat pleaded guilty first and by November Manat had been committed to stand trial when a judge indicated he faced nine years’ jail. After that, he began co-operating with police and pleaded guilty. In one police interview he promised, “I’m going to tell the whole story about Wera,” including that Wera has people killed. Police asserted that Manat told them couriers smuggled drugs into Australia by swallowing condoms of heroin.
Manat and Sorasat were sentenced to six years’ jail with a non-parole period of four years. Manat’s deep connections in Thailand were underlined when he produced character references from a judge and a police lieutenant-colonel who each said he “always has good behaviours [sic], honesty and is reliable”.
After Constantino received a 2½-year minimum sentence, Manat and Sorasat appealed the severity of their sentence. The Court of Criminal Appeal rejected it unanimously, noting the evidence “casts considerable light upon the role of the applicants in relation to the importation [of heroin], and upon their relationship with what might be described as the head supplier in Thailand.
“The evidence of the applicants was that the negotiations in Thailand, and in particular the discussion about price and quantity of heroin, were all conducted by Calabrese.” Calabrese’s charges were later dismissed.
Manat and Sorasat were released on April 14, 1997, and immediately deported.
Back home, Manat slipped into army fatigues under the name Patchara Prompao, and the next year was promoted. He later became Thammanat Prompao, and has been quoted saying changing his name helps clear away bad karma. Controversy and further allegations followed as he rose through the ranks in business and politics.
Another serious allegation was levelled against him in 1998, when he was charged over the rape and murder of a gay academic at an office he owned. After another three years in custody, Thammanat was acquitted of those charges. One of his subordinates was convicted. Reports from 1998 refer to the then supreme commander of the Thai armed forces saying the army had been lax in allowing him to return to the fold given the serious nature of the charges.
After his acquittal, he was aligned with powerful military figures and has been described in the Thai media as a mafia-style figure – a reputation he has tried to downplay.
“The word ‘mafia’ in my view is not as dark as many think,” Thammanat told the Bangkok Post. “Mafia means someone who has connections with many people and who keeps his word.”
His assets and family have grown, too; a parliamentary declaration of assets in August named two wives and seven children, wealth of about $42 million, a fleet of cars including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla and Mercedes along with 12 Hermes and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches and Buddhist amulets. The 54-year-old’s second wife, 24-year-old beauty pageant winner Thanaporn, accompanied him on the campaign trail.
Thammanat Prompao and his second wife, 24-year-old beauty pageant winner Thanaporn, and on the campaign trail. Photo: Facebook
His appointment as deputy agriculture minister belies his importance to the pro-army party ruling Thailand in a tenuous post-election coalition. It is a powerful and politically sensitive department, and as an ally of current and former army chiefs Thammanat wields influence; in recent weeks he has been deployed to keep minor parties in line.
In a 20-minute press conference and a sit-down interview in July, the minister defended himself against accusations spanning more than 25 years. He put the arrest in Sydney down to bad luck. Related Article The newspaper clipping that confirmed a criminal politician was bluffing
Asked last week to respond to details in the court file, Thammanat’s office issued a statement calling the case an “unfortunate event” that “went through the proper course of the Australian judicial system where all parties were held accountable fairly and justly”.
“The facts regarding this matter were also given through numerous interviews and was publicised through various media channels in Thailand as well as abroad in the past. Our statement still remains unchanged as we have always been truthful to the public.”
His co-offender Sorasat was interviewed in July and backed Thammanat’s version of events.
In July, Thammanat told reporters: “I lived a normal life in Australia, in Sydney, for a full four years. You can ask the court in Sydney whether what I’m saying is true or not.”

McDonald’s is giving away free breakfast McMuffins this week

Share By Rachel Pugh Money-Saving & Consumer Writer 11:02, 9 SEP 2019 What’s On McDonald’s is giving away free breakfast McMuffins this week (Image: Instagram/McDonalds) Get the biggest What’s On stories by email Subscribe We will use your email address only for the purpose of sending you newsletters. Please see our Privacy Notice for details of your data protection rights Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email Getting a decent breakfast fix before work in the week can be an absolute nightmare.
However, for this week only, McDonald's will give you a free breakfast McMuffin when you buy any hot drink through the app.
McDonald's is giving away free breakfast McMuffins this week The offer, which is available in restaurants nationwide, is running from today (September 09) until Friday (September 13).
The following single McMuffins are included in the deal:
Sausage and Egg McMuffin (usually costs £2.39) Bacon and Egg McMuffin (usually costs £2.39) Egg and Cheese McMuffin (usually costs £1.89) McMuffins are only available as part of the McDonald's breakfast menu – which starts at 5am and runs up until 10.30am in most restaurants. There are 122 resturants nationwide which are trialling a later finish time of 11am for the breakfast menu, so it's best to double check with your nearest restaurant if you're going to risk heading there after 10.30am.
Read More Amazon is selling a year's supply of Lotus Biscoff biscuits for less than £9 Read More Manchester restaurant deals and drinks offers for September 2019 To get your hands on your free McMuffin you'll need to download the My McDonald's app – this is free to download on smartphones.
You'll need to order through the My McDonald's app to get your hands on the deal (Image: MEN/Rachel Pugh) Once you have this, you'll need to go to the deals section and order a hot drink of your choosing.
If you order a PG tips tea you'll only need to spend 99p to get your hands on a free McMuffin.
But before you start planning a week's-worth of Maccies breakfasts, you should note that it's one free McMuffin per customer.
Shopping news, deals and money-saving tips For all the latest shopping news, deals, beauty tips and fashion trends, and the best money-saving tips from our shopping, money-saving and consumer writer Rachel Pugh, who you can follow here .
You can also join our Manchester Money-Saving Facebook group here .

Stunner Sunrise; Incredible Fire Images; River Fun: In Photos | Patch

community corner Shared from Napa Valley, CA Stunner Sunrise; Incredible Fire Images; River Fun: CA In Photos It’s your state; It’s your shot. This is California — in photos. By Maggie Avants, Patch Staff Sep 8, 2019 7:24 am ET {{ replyButtonLabel }} Reply {{ replyCount }} Mark Alan Ritter Photography; Ray Sherrod; Al Francis/Napasonomaphotos.com; Lori Minnick; Janet O’Brien (Collage photos courtesy of) CALIFORNIA — From its beaches to its deserts and mountains, from its lakes and forests to its small towns and big cities, there’s just so much to see in California! And we got to thinking: Why not share the photos we receive, and see elsewhere, with you?
Thanks to several Patch readers who’ve been very busy lately with their cameras, we’re able to share the below photos taken across the state. Take a look at this week’s “California In Photos” for glimpses of daily life and scenery up the coast in Northern California and down the coast in Southern California.
Walton Lighthouse Graces Santa Cruz: Patch Photo Of The Week Ducks Enjoying Life: Photo Of The Week 40 Incredible Images That Show The Magnitude Of The Tenaja Fire Stunning Jenkinson Lake Sunset: Photo Of The Week Twilight In Rohnert Park: Photos Of The Week Keeping Cool In Napa: Photos Of The Week Mid-Week Smile: Dancing Pelican: Pacifica Photo Of The Week Stunner Sunrise: Lake Elsinore Photo Of The Week Morton’s Warm Springs: Still The Sonoma Valley Place To Be (PICS) Skyline Aglow: Lake Elsinore Photos Of The Week Celestial Reflection: Photo Of The Day Sunset Over Quarry Lakes: Photo Of The Day Sunrise At The Reservoir: Photo Of The Day Serpentine Waterway: Photo Of The Day Cutest King Charles: Palos Verdes Photo Of The Week Conejo Clouds: Agoura Hills Photo Of The Week Marina Del Rey Jetty: Photo Of The Week Rewards Of Camping – The Views: Mt. Baldy Photo Of The Week It’s Your State, It’s Your Shot! It’s your turn, photographers. Whether you’re an amateur, a professional, an Instagrammer or just the one who always has their phone or camera ready so as not to miss that perfect shot, we’re excited to view and share your work. If you have an awesome photo of nature, breathtaking scenery, kids caught being kids, a pet doing something funny or something unusual you happen to catch, we’d love to feature it here on Patch.
We’re looking for high-resolution images that reflect the beauty that is California and that show off your unique talents. Share your best photos with Patch and your work could be featured in your community as well as in this weekly collection of California in pictures. Email your submissions to autumn.johnson@patch.com. Be sure to include your name, the city, location of the photo and date.
Did you miss our most recent “California In Photos?” It is worth another look:
Sailboat Silhouettes; Iconic Waterfront; Fire & Fog: CA In Photos Subscribe Back to the Livermore Patch More from Livermore Up next on Livermore Patch 17 New CA Laws Just Signed By Governor Newsom 20h Worst CA Cities To Drive In: Report 1d Ease Into Fall With These Incredible Autumn Deals 2d Read more local news from Livermore
What Latest News Nearby Livermore, CA News Local Weather Forecast For The Week Ahead Livermore, CA News Peek Inside 5 Houses Now On The Market: PICS Castro Valley, CA News 6 Beautiful Front Porches In CA Napa Valley, CA News California In Photos Banning-Beaumont, CA News 17 New CA Laws Just Signed By Governor Newsom Get Tickets Nearby 2019 San Francisco 49ers Season Tickets (Includes Tickets To All Regular Season Home Games) Saturday, Sep 21 at 3:30am
Florida Georgia Line, Dan and Shay & Morgan Wallen Friday, Sep 27 at 7:00pm

Stunner Sunrise; Incredible Fire Images; River Fun: In Photos | Patch

community corner Shared from Napa Valley, CA Stunner Sunrise; Incredible Fire Images; River Fun: CA In Photos It’s your state; It’s your shot. This is California — in photos. By Maggie Avants, Patch Staff Sep 8, 2019 7:24 am ET {{ replyButtonLabel }} Reply {{ replyCount }} Mark Alan Ritter Photography; Ray Sherrod; Al Francis/Napasonomaphotos.com; Lori Minnick; Janet O’Brien (Collage photos courtesy of) CALIFORNIA — From its beaches to its deserts and mountains, from its lakes and forests to its small towns and big cities, there’s just so much to see in California! And we got to thinking: Why not share the photos we receive, and see elsewhere, with you?
Thanks to several Patch readers who’ve been very busy lately with their cameras, we’re able to share the below photos taken across the state. Take a look at this week’s “California In Photos” for glimpses of daily life and scenery up the coast in Northern California and down the coast in Southern California.
Walton Lighthouse Graces Santa Cruz: Patch Photo Of The Week Ducks Enjoying Life: Photo Of The Week 40 Incredible Images That Show The Magnitude Of The Tenaja Fire Stunning Jenkinson Lake Sunset: Photo Of The Week Twilight In Rohnert Park: Photos Of The Week Keeping Cool In Napa: Photos Of The Week Mid-Week Smile: Dancing Pelican: Pacifica Photo Of The Week Stunner Sunrise: Lake Elsinore Photo Of The Week Morton’s Warm Springs: Still The Sonoma Valley Place To Be (PICS) Skyline Aglow: Lake Elsinore Photos Of The Week Celestial Reflection: Photo Of The Day Sunset Over Quarry Lakes: Photo Of The Day Sunrise At The Reservoir: Photo Of The Day Serpentine Waterway: Photo Of The Day Cutest King Charles: Palos Verdes Photo Of The Week Conejo Clouds: Agoura Hills Photo Of The Week Marina Del Rey Jetty: Photo Of The Week Rewards Of Camping – The Views: Mt. Baldy Photo Of The Week It’s Your State, It’s Your Shot! It’s your turn, photographers. Whether you’re an amateur, a professional, an Instagrammer or just the one who always has their phone or camera ready so as not to miss that perfect shot, we’re excited to view and share your work. If you have an awesome photo of nature, breathtaking scenery, kids caught being kids, a pet doing something funny or something unusual you happen to catch, we’d love to feature it here on Patch.
We’re looking for high-resolution images that reflect the beauty that is California and that show off your unique talents. Share your best photos with Patch and your work could be featured in your community as well as in this weekly collection of California in pictures. Email your submissions to autumn.johnson@patch.com. Be sure to include your name, the city, location of the photo and date.
Did you miss our most recent “California In Photos?” It is worth another look:
Sailboat Silhouettes; Iconic Waterfront; Fire & Fog: CA In Photos Subscribe Back to the Castro Valley Patch More from Castro Valley Up next on Castro Valley Patch 17 New CA Laws Just Signed By Governor Newsom 21h Worst CA Cities To Drive In: Report 1d Ease Into Fall With These Incredible Autumn Deals 2d Read more local news from Castro Valley
What Latest News Nearby Castro Valley, CA News Local Weather Forecast For The Week Ahead Castro Valley, CA News These 5 Local Houses Just Hit The Market: PICS Castro Valley, CA News 6 Beautiful Front Porches In CA Napa Valley, CA News California In Photos Banning-Beaumont, CA News 17 New CA Laws Just Signed By Governor Newsom Get Tickets Nearby Anastasia Saturday, Sep 14 at 2:00pm
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday, Sep 29 at 12:05pm

Gillian Anderson: ‘I fall in love with my characters’ | Global

She’s played a host of strong female leads, from Miss Havisham to Blanche DuBois – and now Margaret Thatcher. Gillian Anderson talks about living in Britain, obsessive fans – and dating Chewbacca. G illian Anderson is a woman of many duelling qualities, and it is hard to know quite what to expect when meeting her. Her old interviews are displays of either surprising candour or frosty reserve. She can be earnest and thoughtful, sometimes to the point of seeming grave, yet she peppers her social media with “penis/yoni of the day” posts, pictures of things that happen to look like genitals, even when they are not. She speaks with an American accent when with Americans, and with a crisp British accent with Brits, though she retains a US sheen on only one word that I clocked: “process”. She is extremely famous and has been for more than half her life, yet has maintained a sense of mystery and intrigue, and is keenly private.
Naturally, then, in a photographic studio in a tiny back street in north London, talk has turned to tattoos of Anderson’s face on strangers’ buttocks. It started with one of her own cashmere jumpers, part of her new capsule collection for the London brand Winser (she turned designer for them in 2018, adding another string to an already creaking bow that includes activist and author, as well as actor) that features a familiar-looking mouth emblazoned across the chest, accented by that Monroe-esque beauty spot.
“It is a strange thing, yes,” she agrees, adding that of all the pieces, she probably won’t make a habit of wearing the one with her own face on it. It’s an impish design, but this being Anderson, there’s more to it than a bit of self-reflective fun: some of its profits will go to Women for Women , which helps support female survivors of conflict.
‘The silly side of me has always been there’: Gillian Anderson wears dress by Prada. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Observer
“Well, the way that started was, a fan showed up with a T-shirt that she had made with my mouth on it. Which I recognised, and I went, ‘Wait, is that…?’” That might be an unnerving experience for most people, but Anderson has to admit that for her, it is not so out of the ordinary. “I’m kind of used to it,” she shrugs. “Especially because of my old job. The enthusiasm of the fans, from being in something that’s remotely science fiction, is more intense. And so I’m used to tattoos on calves and buttocks and stuff like that.”
In 1993, The X Files arrived on television, with Anderson at the helm as the sceptical FBI agent Dana Scully. She had just turned 25, and she found herself at the frenzied frontier of a cultural phenomenon. The tattoos soon followed.
“It was really early on, actually. I had gone to Australia to do press, and somebody had David Duchovny and me on their buttocks, and were offering to show us.” She laughs. The thought of what they might look like now tickles her. “I don’t know whether we are both less… chubby-cheeked?”
Anderson has been wrangling with what is public and private for the past three decades. Recently, she has found herself having to think about it again. The X Files came back in 2016, after 14 years away, and now there is Sex Education , the Netflix teen comedy-drama in which she plays a sex therapist. “This has gone to a completely different level,” she smiles. “And it’s been a while since I’ve been in something that is so universally watched as this is. Even when I did The Fall , it was popular, but it wasn’t Netflix popular, you know? So the level of recognition has gone up to what it was when I was younger.” The trouble is that she forgets. “I’m so used to sliding under the radar that there have been some situations recently where it’s just been… a lot. Travelling with kids and stuff. You don’t want to be that person. You want to be like, ah, thanks!”
‘The enthusiasm of fans, from being in science fiction, is intense’: in the X-Files, which aired from 1993 when she was 25. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/20 Century Fox
She has three children; two boys, Oscar and Felix, aged 10 and 12, while her daughter, Piper, is 24. At the height of X Files mania, when Piper was young, Anderson was followed constantly by paparazzi. “I couldn’t take my daughter to the park without long lenses and stuff. If that were the case here, I would not live here. I cannot stand it,” she says, crisply.
She was born in the US, but spent her early childhood in north London, before moving back to the States when she was 11. She speaks fondly of London, of its green spaces and its vibrancy, and it is where she has lived for most of her adult life. “In my formative years, my experience of private life was quite public. And I had a very different experience here in the UK, if one knows what neighbourhoods to stay out of and what restaurants to stay away from. And also, it’s just always felt like this is where I belong.” She is superstitious enough to curse herself for what she is about to say, but here, she explains, she doesn’t have photographers on her doorstep. “It’s that part of it that has made me really hate the business that I’m in, at times.”
When she is working, Anderson says, she can be quite unpredictable. “Depending on the day and what I’m working on, and my need to focus or whatever, I can be very relaxed and jovial, and then sometimes I can be serious and slightly shut down. I’m sure that must be confusing for people.” I tell her I wasn’t quite sure, from reading old interviews, who I was going to meet. She says that if she were to read an old interview with herself, which she doesn’t, she could tell you which ones happened during periods of intense paparazzi interest, based on how frosty she was. “It makes you paranoid. I just completely clam up.”
‘I had a very different experience here in the UK – it’s always felt like this is where I belong’: wearing her own Gillian Anderson for Winser London roll neck. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Observer
Today, she is perfectly open and friendly. Women, particularly, do seem to like her. “I do feel like a woman’s woman, and I go out of my way to be one. And actually I get so shocked and shaken when I come across women who aren’t. It really unsettles me.”
Anderson has played so many iconic characters, and almost all of them have shared a solitary, mournful quality, from Miss Havisham to Stella Gibson , from Lady Dedlock to Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire , who is not always played as a model of restraint. Sex Education , though, has given her the chance to be funny. Her character Jean is a nightmarishly frank parent, for whom oversharing does not exist, and Anderson has run with it. Her Twitter bio is still Shag Specialist. “Oh, is it?” she says, coyly. “I guess I’m still the shag specialist. At least until Sex Education is off the air.” Her social media has certainly taken on a fruitier twist. “Mostly, that’s the penis and yoni of the day,” she says. People send in images of accidental genitalia, and her team backlogs them, and posts them. “It’s important!” she laughs. It also shows off her sillier side. “I mean, I feel like the silly side of me has always been there. Just in terms of the kind of humour. For a long time, Chewbacca was my boyfriend. I don’t know if you know that, but we were dating for a long time.”
She says this so matter-of-factly that it almost passes me by. Hold on, I say. Chewbacca? “I can’t remember whether it predates me taking a picture at a comic-con with the real Chewbacca. That might have been the beginning or it might have just been our first outing.” Either way, it turns out, she enjoyed a longstanding digital relationship with the Star Wars stalwart, which led to fans sending her a wild selection of Chewbacca memorabilia.
‘I guess I’m still the shag specialist’: as the no-boundaries therapist in Netflix’s Sex Education. Photograph: Sam Taylor/Netflix
“Then, when I knew that I had started to date somebody in real life, I had announced at some point that Chewbacca and I had broken up.” That was quite the declaration of commitment, to leave Chewbacca for your boyfriend. “Oh no, no, no. Let’s be clear. They didn’t overlap.”
Anderson’s boyfriend – no overlap – is Peter Morgan, the screenwriter and playwright who is currently at the helm of The Crown . Anderson is about to start work on the fourth season, in which she’ll play Margaret Thatcher; she is both keen to talk about it and wary of letting anything slip. “I haven’t quite figured out how to talk about her yet.” She has immersed herself in reading and watching everything she can find. “To a certain degree, it’s very helpful for an actor, at least in my experience, to slightly fall in love with the character you’re playing, regardless of what your opinion might be of them, if it’s a historical character, particularly. So I have.”
She is finding Thatcher “absolutely fascinating. Mostly because of her childhood. You could draw such a clear line from how she was raised and what she was exposed to in their religion, and how she was raised in the shop, and how she worked, and their work ethic and their beliefs. Just everything that came later stems so entirely from her childhood. But that in and of itself is fascinating, and – I’m not going to use the word forgivable , but one can find compassion.” She is excited to work with Olivia Colman, who will be her Queen, for the first time. “I’ve seen the third season, and she’s amazing.”
‘I like to think I am a women’s woman’: Gillian Anderson for Winser London silk georgette blouse; stretch wool trousers by Stella McCartney; shoes by Rupert Sanderson and earrings by Alighitheri. Photograph: Gustavo Papaleo/The Observer
In February, she appeared in London’s West End as Margo Channing, the role made famous by Bette Davis, in Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation of All About Eve . It is the story of a famous woman facing the horrors of age in an industry that is not sympathetic to it, and I wonder if Anderson felt any significance in playing her when she herself was 50. “No,” she says, firmly. “In the film, Margo had just turned 40. The point wasn’t that I as an actress was trying to do something younger. In fact, we raised the ages of everyone by 10 years.” Her eyes flash, and she suddenly gives the impression of a cat teasing its prey. “Is there another part to that question?” she purrs.
Well, some of the reviews had an issue with the idea of you as an ageing actress at all; you weren’t “ageing” enough to be worried about ageing. “But that’s not really the point,” she says, with a sigh. “Firstly, so many of our issues about ageing, as men and women, have absolutely nothing to do with reality. It’s so much to do with our own perception or what we think other people’s perception is, to the point that 20-year-olds are having plastic surgery and Botox, because they believe that if there’s some sign of a wrinkle, or if they’re flat-chested or whatever, that that’s bad. So for a 50-year-old woman to be concerned about it makes sense, especially given that that’s her career.”
She is on a roll; she loves talking about her characters. “But also it wasn’t just about that. It was about her value, her value in her work, her value to her husband, not her value to her public, necessarily. So I was shocked at the small-mindedness of some of the reactions to it, in terms of just not understanding the psychology of human beings, and where lies fear, and one’s currency in one’s personal life and in one’s work life.” She takes a big breath, smiling. “Anyway!”
It will be a while before we see her on stage again. She likes to break up theatre roles, leaving gaps of a few years in between them. “I’ve had such fear and anxiety around it, and there have been so many times when I’ve been in the middle of it thinking, I must be mad to be doing it again.”
Blanche DuBois, in particular, was tough. “ Streetcar was something else entirely. Even in the short runs that we did here and in the US, it really takes it out of one. I mean, there was a point where I thought I might be losing touch with reality, which is known to happen during that play.” Has she thought about doing a comedy? “Well, Sex Education is a gift in that way. There’s funny stuff in this second season.”
During Sex Education ’s first run, Anderson’s hair was icy white. Today, it’s a light strawberry blonde again. She went white initially just to try it, for herself, and it seemed to fit Jean’s character, so she kept it. “But then my hair started to fall out.” She lifts up her hair to show me her roots. Her natural colour is a mousey brown, with only the odd grey strand, though she has thought about going grey. “Oh, I would, yes, and I’ve thought about it quite a lot, actually, when I had that hair. I absolutely would. It’s occurred to me that to decide to have it natural, as an actor, is quite a big decision. But it’s interesting, because when I first did it, I thought, it’s kind of cool, in an Annie Lennox, Billy Idol-ey kind of way.”
For a second, Anderson offers a glimpse of the teenage punk she was. “But when you’re in your 50s, it just looks like you’ve got grey hair. So I look forward to that, but I’m not ready yet, to deal with the consequences of it, which would be, presumably, that I would naturally be cast in a different zone of characters.”
‘I’m a bit of a hermit’: in A Streetcar Named Desire. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian
We meet a few days before her 51st birthday. She celebrated the big day last summer with three small parties, in London, in Canada and in the US. “But it was only five people, six, and 13,” she says, merrily. “Those are all the friends I have.” She likes to be alone, and is a happily solitary person; the idea of a big party felt both presumptuous and like it was inviting “too much attention. It’s possible that were everyone in town, I would have chosen to do something with 30 people, but I don’t have hundreds of people in my life. I don’t have 300 people to invite. I mean, I probably do, but I wouldn’t imagine inviting people to fly over from LA.” She looks horrified at the prospect. “It felt better to gather in small groups.”
That suits her personality, anyway. “I think because I was an only child for so long, I don’t like to share,” she laughs. “I have spent a lot of my life being a bit of a loner and a bit of a hermit, and that’s my preferred state of being.”
She has chosen a funny career for someone who needs a lot of alone time. “Yeah, but when I’m not doing this, I don’t leave the house,” she beams. “It’s true! I really don’t. I work, or I’m with my kids. When I’m with my kids, I take them out. But I’m likely to sit in the corner.”
Styling by Hope Lawrie; lighting by Joe Stone; production by Emma Allan at Lemonade Productions; Waddington Studios; hair by Nick Irwin for anticollective.com ; assisted by Ellie Bond; makeup by Florrie White at Bryant Artists using Surratt Beauty
Gillian Anderson’s new collection for Winser London launches today on winserlondon.com
Topics The Observer Television features

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