LOS ANGELES — David Duchovny says he's a changed man.
"I'm filled with humility and gratitude," says the actor, who shot to fame on The X Files before being treated for sex addiction in 2008. "Before, I was focused on winning and deserving. I would say, 'Oh, I deserve that.' That's not grateful. Grateful is, 'Wow. I'm lucky. That's fantastic.' "
Duchovny, who turns 50 in August, is sitting in a West Hollywood hotel suite discussing his new film, The Joneses (in theaters Friday). He plays Demi Moore's fake husband in this romantic comedy/biting satire about stealth marketing.
As he discusses his character's adolescent-like approach to life, Duchovny can't help but reflect on his own final push toward maturity.
"I still feel like I haven't grown up," he says. "But I can judge from my work that I'm a lot more of a man than I was five years ago. Maybe I'm late. Maybe I'm on time. I'm happy it happened. It's something you have to do. I paid attention. I didn't coast. I asked some hard questions. I took some hard answers. I learned humility."
Looking fit in slim-cut jeans and a nondescript pullover, Duchovny speaks quietly and calmly. "In this country, oddly, we have images of men as arrogant and aggressive," he continues. "Humility is considered an unmasculine quality. What I found in the last five years is that humility is a beautiful thing."
During Duchovny's "maturing" period, he and his wife, actress Téa Leoni, separated. But they are back together, and he says, "things are terrific at home."
He drops Leoni's name into the conversation every few minutes. For instance, "Téa and I have a production company, and we're developing projects." Or, "Téa and I parent together, although if the kids had one phone call to make, they'd call their mom, probably."
An 'odd paradox'
Duchovny and Leoni met when they were both auditioning to be on The Tonight Show. Leoni, "a real extrovert," Duchovny says, got the gig and the guy. They have two children, Madelaine West, 10, and Kyd Miller, 7.
The family now lives in New York, but Duchovny will return to Los Angeles to shoot Season 4 of his Showtime series, Californication, to air in the fall.
"Last season we left my character, Hank, going to jail," he says. "We went about as far down as we could, so I think this year we'll be rising up."
Duchovny is fascinated with Hank and his problems. "He's an odd paradox. He was with this woman he does love, and when they were together he was committed and monogamous. Since they split up, he's kind of drifting passively. ... Most people misread the show. They see it as a guy who's always after women when, in fact, it's the women who go after him, and he just doesn't say no.
"I hope we can go six seasons. I think it'll get canceled before I get tired of it."
Duchovny calls The X Files "a cultural touchstone" and his official introduction to Hollywood.
"Sure, I'd worked before that. I'd played a transvestite on Twin Peaks. But in terms of mass appeal, it was The X Files, and the overwhelming feeling of The X Files is dark and brooding that attached itself to me."
In The Joneses, Duchovny actually smiles on occasion. As Steve Jones, he charmingly tries to persuade everyone he meets to buy all the latest products he, his wife and two teenage kids are showing off. The "family" is actually a team of sales agents selling a very expensive lifestyle.
Wanting vs. getting
"My character (a former used-car salesman) is just smart enough to get this job but not smart enough to know he shouldn't take it," Duchovny says. "It's a tough character to play. He's both a winner and a loser."
Duchovny understands the lure of wanting something you can't quite afford. "I've seen things and thought, 'Oh yeah, that's a nice-looking island,' " he says. "Marlon Brando had that (Tahitian) island. I've had the fantasy to own a rock off the coast of Manhattan."
The message of The Joneses, Duchovny points out, "is that keeping up with the Joneses is a fool's errand. Money can't buy you love. It's all the things we say that we know, and yet the way we live puts the lie to it."
Duchovny says he considers the film one of the high points of his 22-year career, along with The X Files and Californication.
"And I loved directing House of D (with Robin Williams)," he says, "no matter that the box office was not so good."