Wednesday, February 10

Californication Season 4: Interview with David Duchovny

Q: It is a pivotal time for Californication. Set the scene for us - how does Season 3end and Season 4 start?
Hank had gone to bed with Mia [Madeleine Zima] at the start of Season 1. He doesn’t know at the time, but she’s sixteen. She’s also the daughter of the man that his ex-girlfriend Karen [Natascha McElhone] is living with. So it’s just wrong on every level. When we started the show, I said, “I don’t think this guy lies about anything.” He usually tells the truth because he doesn’t care about what people think of him. But there is this one lie that he’s been telling, and he’s been withholding this truth for three years. During the last episode of Season 3 the s**t hits the fan. He’s got to tell Karen the truth that he was with this under aged woman, Mia. The cops come to break up a fight after the big revelation. He ends up taking a swing at a police officer and he’s put in jail overnight. Season 4 picks up the day after the Season 3 finale, and things are looking really bad for Hank.

Q: In Season 4 the stakes are higher than ever for Hank. He’s facing serious charges that could land him in jail for years. What’s that like to play?

There are crimes that you can be funny about; statutory rape is not one of them. And yet we remain a comedy. So, the line that we dance on is how to keep it as real as possible and as funny as possible and sometimes stretch it to the absurd. But we always come back to the fact that it’s a show with a sentimental heart. It’s about this relationship between Hank and Karen and their daughter. Not that you should watch it with your family, but Californication is a show about a family. So in Season 4 we are taking it to this new level. We are in a high-risk legal situation, which we’ve never been in before. The trick is to maintain not only the humor, but the heart of what Californication is about.

Q: What do you like about Hank?

I like that he doesn’t lie. I like that he doesn’t adjust his story to fit the circumstance, or to gain any kind of advantage over another person - except in the case of sleeping with Mia. So he’s a fantasy character, because I think in life we all know that we can’t be brutally honest in all situations, and yet Hank is that person and is willing to accept the consequences of his honesty. It’s fun to be able to play a character with that kind of strength. It’s a weirdly heroic quality when somebody tells the truth to their own detriment. And he doesn’t tell it to be mean, he just tells it because he has a certain kind of strength about himself. Damn the torpedoes, you know?

Q: Is there anything you don’t like about Hank?

I don’t think of me as him, or him as a real life person. There are aspects of him that would be a drag to be around if I was his friend or his brother or whomever. I don’t think it’s important for me to think of Hank that way just because I play him.

Q: It looks like it is great fun to play Hank. Is it?

Yeah, but not so much in what he does, but more in what he says. What’s fun for me is the humor, particularly the kind of humor that we do. It can be verbal and articulate and sometimes childish too. I also enjoy the physical comedy. For me it’s about the challenge of what it is to service really funny material and to make it work - that’s what I really enjoy when I come to work on the show. Californication is a comedy. It remains, to some extent, a writer’s fantasy.

Q: In Season 4 Hank’s agent Charlie Runkle [Evan Handler] seems to be using his client to resurrect his faltering career. Has their relationship changed?

I don’t think it’s changed, I just think it’s more explicit. I think what’s kind of wonderful and funny about their relationship is that Runkle would say the same. It’s like he would love to ride on Hank’s coattails. Not only because it means Hank is doing well again, but because he is the kind of person that knows who he is and knows his limitations. He has no desire to be an artist or to be a writer or anything like that. He just wants to make money and be an agent. He has his own brand of honesty. I think that’s why he’s so loveable as well.

Q: Hank hires a sexy lawyer called Abby Rhodes [Carla Gugino] in Season 4. Will she turn out to be another love interest for Hank?

As happens on our show, when people spend time together they tend to get involved. So, she abuses her lawyer-client privileges and we have a kind of relationship that lasts throughout the year. It’s probably the first time in the four years of the show where Hank has real feelings for somebody else, aside from Karen. And Karen, at the same time, has a love interest herself this year. That’s an interesting wrinkle that we haven’t had before, where Hank’s heart is a little more open to going elsewhere. His body has been open to it before, but not his heart. That’s one of the things that sets Season 4 apart.

Q: Rob Lowe is a guest star in Season 4. Who does he play?

Rob is playing Eddie Nero - a movie star. The book that Mia stole from Hank - and later published - is being made into a movie. In the film Hank is going to be played by Eddie Nero - that’s Rob Lowe’s character. Rob wanted to wear this beard, long hair and a wool hat. When Tom [Kapinos] and I heard about we were like, “That doesn’t sound very good.” And then he came on set and it looked great. Oddly, he looked just like Brad Pitt - and then these tabloid shots of the two of them surfaced. I think people made the assumption that we were really spoofing Brad, which is not the case at all. The character has nothing to do with Brad Pitt, it’s just this weird thing that when Rob put on that beard and that hat he looked like Brad. I never knew they looked alike, and yet they apparently do.

Q: Tommy Lee makes a cameo appearance in Season 4. What happens?

He’s been playing Tommy Lee for a while – so he’s really good at it. He’s singing a song on the show. It’s an old Mötley Crüe song. He does it on the piano, kind of unplugged. It’s a nice version of “Home Sweet Home.”

Q: Hank seems to be craving to have his family back in Season 4. Is he growing up and turning his back on his playboy lifestyle?

I don’t think I would describe it as “growing up.” A lot of the fun of the show is that Hank is who he is. In Season 4 you see events looming for Hank and you realize, “Oh no, he’s not going to do the right thing.” Watching a show about a guy doing the right thing is not so funny - it’s not our show. I think he’ll continue to make mistakes. That’s the fun of the show. For Hank, growing up might not look like making the right decision. Growing up might look like something else.

Q: If Karen would have him back, is Hank capable of settling down?

I’ve always thought that the show is about salvaging that relationship. I thought if we know we’re ending the show, that’s how it would end. That’s why we ended it the first season with Karen and Hank getting back together because we didn’t know if there was going to be another season. So I still think that that’s probably the end of the story, but it will just look a little different than it did the first year, very different.

Q: Californication is one of those TV shows that leaves you wanting more every season. Do you think one of the strengths of Californication is the fact that we get just 12 episodes a year?

Absolutely. I know that from doing the X-Files. It wasn’t that we would set out to make a bad episode, but it was apparent to us that some of the scripts weren’t as good as the others. And you didn’t panic because you thought, there’s twenty-five of them, they can’t all be winners; it’s just not humanly possible. But when there are twelve, you really want them all to be winners; you don’t want to go easy on one of them. And it’s tough when you’re writing an arc to the season, some shows have to set stuff up, and some shows deliver on that stuff. Obviously the shows that deliver on it are going to have the advantage because s**t happens in them. S**t is just being set up in the other ones. So you want all twelve to be stand-alone and be really good, and that’s a trick. And that’s something we do. We have twelve weeks, so you don’t have to take any episodes off, you know, you can really just go for it; you don’t need to rest.

Q: Finally, tell us why die-hard Californication fans will love Season 4.

We’ve been lucky enough to continue making the show for four seasons, so we’ve all settled into it and we get better and better at it. I say that knowing I don’t have to write the show, which is tough on Tom [Kapinos] and the writers every year. Every year we’ve had great guest stars and their characters have led us into amazing stories. This year we’re let into the world of Hollywood with the movie being made of Hank’s book, whereas last year we were in the world of academia. So the place lends us the story and the characters lend us the story. I have a soft spot for every season and all the past guest stars, but I think Season 4 is the best year. It takes Hank back to he Hank that he was in the first year. He’s a little more down and out than he was in the last two ears. The fans are going to love it.

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