David Duchovny talks about this film that skewers the television industry
David Duchovny became an icon for movie and TV fans everywhere with his layered acting work as Fox Mulder on the much lauded TV show, The X-Files. However, he is almost unrecognizable in his most recent role as Mike Klein in Jake Kasdan's The TV Set. Wearing a beard and looking heavier than we ever seen him, Duchovny plays a television writer going up against the dreaded network to keep the vision of his show intact.
On the eve of its DVD release, we recently sat down with Duchovny to discuss this character as well as The X-Files 2.
Did you base any of Mike's experiences on your own experiences working in television?
David Duchovny: Not so much for me because I had not, although I did write and direct a movie, not so much the television experiences of somebody taking a project from zero to the end. Most of my experience is as an actor, or as a director of a long running show like when I directed X-Files. I kind of had to base what I was doing as the writer Jake Kasdan did on his own experiences; that he and Judd Apatow had, he's one of the producers of the movie, doing shows like Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Where they actually did take it from an idea to a network show.
Having said that, over the years, I knew my way around it. I knew the truth of what they were writing and the comedy of it.
Were there a lot of conversations with Jake Kasdan or Judd Apatow where you said, "Guys, did this really happen?"
David Duchovny: No, but they would volunteer it. Of course they think their lives are really interesting or else they wouldn't have made a movie about it. Jake would say to me, "This was actually said to me that spouses are not necessarily a fixture of the schedule." Things like those lines from the movie were verbatim from studio heads or actors. So I know that pretty much everything in the film happened to one of those two guys.
I love that your character had principals. He was a good guy but he also seemed very affected by the industry. Especially in the beginning of the movie when he's outside complaining... I was wondering if that attracted you to the character at all?
David Duchovny: I get what you're saying and I think that you're right. Mike sees, as I see and as Judd and Jake also see, these executives who are telling you these things, who are making you crazy, are really trying to make the best show that they know how to do; while they're trying to keep their jobs. As you're trying to make the best show that you know how to do while you're trying to feed your family. So everybody is kind of in the same game. Everybody's got the same things on their mind. Nobody gets up in the morning and says, "How can I make the sh*ttiest television show I can make today?" Everybody gets up and tries to make the best show they can make. It just so happens that when so many people are involved and there's so many different segments of the population you're trying to please, when that happens it starts to get gray and everything feels like you've seen it before because of the fact you have.
It's like in trying to be everything to everyone you end up having nothing.
David Duchovny: That's kind of what the movie is about. It has to begin and end with the creator. If Mike Klein... well you can't say if with the guy because he's got a baby coming, he's got to feed the family so he's really got to do these things. He's got to make these compromises. In hindsight, if the guy had just stood his ground in the end he would have made more money because the show would have been better. That's all hindsight, you don't know.
Where did the beard come from? Was it your goal to be almost unrecognizable?
David Duchovny: Jake had said, "I know Judd Apatow a little bit and he said a lot of the stuff like the back going out and that kind of stuff has happened to Judd." I said, "Judd is actually a really interesting sort of a character to base this on." So Judd has the beard, Judd's a little overweight, I wouldn't gain weight for these guys because they weren't paying me enough but I wore a fat pad. At the time when I was doing the movie I would volunteer to people, "You know I'm kind of doing Judd Apatow and people would kind of look at me blankly like, 'Who the f*ck is that?'" Now everybody seems to know so it's kind of funny, you base it on somebody that nobody knows and now he directs a couple of movies and everybody knows who he is.
Looking at your work on The X-Files, it ran for a very long time, are there still things that you would like to see Mulder do? Is that maybe why you're interested in doing another X-Files movie?
David Duchovny: Well, I had always kind of wanted to segue the television show into a movie franchise. I never really wanted the show to die or to quit it. I got tired of the grind of making a network television show but I never tired of the character or the possibilities of the show. I would love it if we were able to expand it into a movie franchise because I love playing the character and I love the show.
Can you talk at all about The X-Files 2? Maybe where that's at or what people might expect from that?
David Duchovny: It's at... the script is written and as far as I know we're all trying to shoot in December at some point. We would all love it if we could keep it a secret and just give everybody a fresh experience of not knowing what the movie's about. I know if I was a fan of the show I would kind of be excited to be surprised.
What do you think is the biggest thing you've learned working in television?
David Duchovny: It's a scary thing and I think it's all you have is your gut, in the end. You can learn a bunch of sh*t and you can tell yourself a bunch of rules, but in the end it's like listening to a song, you either like it or you don't. You've gotta be able to keep your own counsel. You can't come into a room saying, "I like that song," and leave going, "I don't like that song." You've got to stick to your gut which is all you have. That's why everybody is so crazy out here, because there's no formula and all anybody has is their gut. That's a terrifying thing to have to feed a family on.
What do you have coming up next?
David Duchovny: Well, I've got Californication on the air on Showtime. We've got like 7 more episodes to air then I have a film coming out in October called Things We Lost in the Fire with Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro.
The TV Set is currently on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment.