Talking with David Duchovny About Californication and Family Values

Actor, writer and director David Duchovny became a household name playing Agent Mulder on the hit cult series, “The X-Files.” Now he’s achieved the rare act of starring in a second hit series– this time on Showtime. He stopped by the SiriusXM studios last week to talk about the new season of his hit show, “Californication.” What follows are some excerpts from that interview.

Ron Bennington: David Duchovny in studio with us and this is the fifth season now.

David Duchovny: Yea, it’s crazy. Because we only shoot for three months it even seems like less time. When we shot The X Files it was like ten months so it seemed like five years.

Ron Bennington: So three months, and you’re done so its kind of like doing a movie for you. But the cool thing is, after the first season of Californication, I was like, that’s great but we’ll never be able to do another one. But every year is like a separate movie.

David Duchovny: Every year there’s new guest stars that come in, so there’s a new kind of situation for my character to be in. So Tom Kapinos, the creator and executive producer of the show who writes nearly every one of them, every year he comes up with a new kind of set of twelve episodes that he can put somewhere.

Ron Bennington: Always great guest stars too. RZA this year

David Duchovny: RZA this year, and we just are really lucky that people want to come and do our show.  He’s a strong presence and a smart guy and a really interesting actor and a guy who’s just starting out as an actor. And as a director too, he directed a film. So I wouldn’t sell RZA short in anything. I think he can do whatever he wants.

Ron Bennington: You’re still happy to play Hank after all this time?

David Duchovny: I love it because, I like doing a comedy. I like trying to find ways to be entertaining in that way and to be funny. And as I said, at three, three and a half months a year, it’s actually quite fun to be able to come and work with people who I’ve gotten to know over the last five years. The other actors and the crew, Natasha and Pam and Evan and not only to have them but to also look forward to new guest stars like RZA, so for me, it is kind of like doing a movie where you just take the same character into different situations.

Ron Bennington: And I don’t think I ever expected the Runkles to go out as far as they have. I think Pamela Adelon is one of the strongest people in Hollywood in terms of just laughs per beat.

David Duchovny: She is, she is. Pam is…I don’t know if she’s appreciated enough. Pam, and we’ve had Judy Greer come on a few times. These are two actresses in comedy who are underappreciated.

Ron Bennington: You say it’s a comedy because it is, but it’s also this weird…I guess it’s like a family thing. But it can also be heartbreaking at times.

David Duchovny: Well that’s kind of the key to the show for us is this balancing act between– almost absurd comedy sometimes– at least out there comedy, and the real heart of the show which is the relationship between the Runkles but also between Hank and Karen and his family. When I was thinking about doing the show, I said to Tom Kapinos, I get the comedy and I get that this guy is a single guy out there in Venice but what’s the show really about?  And he said it was about this love story. This love story between Hank and Karen and their daughter. And I said, well I think the heart part of it can make it last. The other thing would just be episodic and as you say, after one year, you’d think that would be it. But the heart of the show which I think is that relationship and that love story, I think has enabled it to continue to go five seasons.

Ron Bennington: Well the weird thing is, I don’t think Hank cares about anything else. I mean there’s no ambition…

David Duchovny: Well he cares about writing, but he doesn’t really care about other relationships or even staying out of jail or whatever. He truly is a sentimental character. He appears to be the most cynical and opportunistic of characters but he’s not. He’s probably the most sentimental character I can think of on television.

Ron Bennington: You brought up the writing, and that used to be a staple in film. If you look at films from the thirties and forties, that was the American job to kind of pull out that novel. And we’ve kind of gotten away from that, but I still think it’s the single most impressive thing that you can do in the arts.

David Duchovny: Well, when I was considering doing the show, I had been sitting on my ass looking for a comedy to do because I had been doing the X Files and movies that were not necessarily comedies and I thought that I could exist in that world. And anything that would come my way… a lot of the comedies were in the vein of man children. Like, you know like Ben Stiller characters and Will Farrell, they do such an amazing job at this particular thing. And I didn’t see any kind of comedy that was like the kind of comedies that I enjoyed from the seventies that were more, not adult in terms of x rated, but adult in terms of verbosity. A man rather than a boy. Like what Warren Beatty used to play or these movies that we love from the seventies, Harold and Maude, things like that. So this was the only thing that came my way where you had a hyper articulate grown up existing in a comic universe. And I thought, well they’re not making movies like that and they’re not even making tv shows like that so that’s the reason I took it.

Ron Bennington: You just did a film a couple of years ago– The Joneses, which I think should have been a national debate after that. I thought, particularly the premise of that and the way it unfolded– this should get a lot of people talking. The timing was perfect. And yet, I don’t know whether people want that from film anymore.

David Duchovny: Yea, well that’s an independent film, so it doesn’t have the publicity, it doesn’t have the amount of theaters, if it doesn’t catch fire, like occasionally a film like Little Miss Sunshine or My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or whatever. And this happens once every three four or five years. And if that doesn’t happen then the movie will disappear like a stone in the water. So, that would have been a very interesting debate and I actually think they’re making a television series out of it. So it might have its chance in that vein to be able to be a debate. Because that’s what attracted me to the movie in the first place, because it was a brilliant idea that nobody’s ever done. And it’s so rare that you come across a movie idea that’s that original.

Ron Bennington:  And to go back to Californication, Moody doesn’t give a shit about anything like that. There’s nothing that he’s looking for in terms of money, in terms of assets. But back to that almost Kerouac experience, after experience, after experience.

David Duchovny: And not only that, because you don’t associate Kerouac with family values– to sit here and say that Californication I would say has family values. Where if you took a more superficial view of the show you would say it’s anti-family values. I think that this is a character that prizes family over everything. And he appears to be a loner and on the road, and this kind of show, but that’s the heart of the show, as I said.

Ron Bennington: Even now with his daughter getting older, it’s the first time he’s seeing, “I’m not going to be able to get away with stuff like I did my whole life.”

David Duchovny: Yea but he has an inability to stop. So that’s the funny part. His struggle is, he’s desperately an honest person. One of the things that we said when we were starting the show, is Hank doesn’t lie. Even though he’s told a couple lies over the years he doesn’t lie like most of us lie. He owns up to who he is, and he actually takes a lot of pleasure in speaking the truth at all times, even if it’s going to land him somewhere he doesn’t want to go. So to me that was always, not only is that a source of comedy because you’ve got a guy speaking his mind everywhere, but it was also a source of real pleasure for me to be able to play because it’s almost like a wish-fulfillment thing. A guy that’s just going to speak his mind wherever.

Ron Bennington: But I also love it now because that parenthood check comes in. It happens to every father. Hey wasn’t that fun, and they’re like, well some of it.

David Duchovny: The amazing thing with him and his daughter is, that even with her, he doesn’t lie. And there’s a million different ways of parenting and we all are going to make terrible mistakes and have victories and defeats. But this is a guy who decided that he was going to treat this kid like a smart adult that she appeared to be even at the age of eleven or twelve. And he’s been remarkably consistent with her, and there’s been terrible pain that he’s caused because of his behavior, but he’s also been brutally honest with her and who is to say what’s the right way to raise a kid. I mean, I don’t know.

Ron Bennington: You’re going back to Sundance soon too. What’s that film?

David Duchovny: Goats, it’s called. It’s from a novel by Mark Porier. It’s kind of a coming of age story. It’s a bout this kid who is growing up in Arizona. He’s about 16 and he’s been thinking about going east to go to a boarding school. Smart kid, and I’ve been the goat herder that’s lived with his family. I grow pot, I tend to my goats, and I’ve been his mentor– his father figure– his father doesn’t live with him. And it’s about him transitioning from this existence in Tucson where he smokes pot with me and we trek around with the goats, to becoming a serious human being and studying back east. It’s kind of the way me and his mother figure out that we rely on him more than he was relying on us. It’s bittersweet in that sense.

Ron Bennington: And back to family again.

David Duchovny: So goat man is ostensibly this kids father. And they call him goat man. They don’t really know his name. I say my name’s Javier. I’m obviously not Spanish but I say that I’m Mexican, and I’m not.

Ron Bennington: Who’s all in the film with you?

David Duchovny: Vera Farmiga…

Ron Bennington: Love her, just love her in everything she does. And it’s another independent small film. That’s always your thing.

David Duchovny: Well I can do that because having Californication allows me to not disappear completely, so I can do movies that interest me.

Ron Bennington: Fifth season and no reason to think that it’s going to stop any time soon– it keeps getting better.

David Duchovny: We’ll keep going as long as people will have us.

Ron Bennington: Thanks for coming in man, we’ll see you next time.

FONTE: The Interrobang (USA)


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