Sunday, April 13

AV Club: Pamela Adlon on Californication 7 and meeting Duchovny for the first time

The actor: Pamela Adlon (or Pamela Segall, for those who’ve been following her work from the very beginning) began her acting career when she was just a youngster, making her film debut in Grease 2 at 16. From there, she popped up in a variety of movies and TV series throughout the 1980s and ’90s, eventually carving herself a niche as a voice actor (Recess, King Of The Hill) while also continuing her work in the world of live-action entertainment. Although Adlon is in the home stretch with her role as Marcy Runkle on Showtime’s Californication—the series’ sixth season is now on DVD, with the seventh and final season premiering on April 13— she continues to serve as a consulting producer on Louie, which returns to FX on May 5.

Californication (2007-present)—“Marcy Runkle”
Pamela Adlon: I had actually been offered two pilots that season: David E. Kelley had this pilot called The Wedding Bells, and then Californication came around. Actually, [series creator] Tom Kapinos originally wanted me to read for Karen [Natascha McElhone’s character], and I read it and said, “No, no, no. I’m not right for that! There’s no way!” The pilot was so interesting to read, because it was so well written, but it was super dark. And I didn’t know what the tone of the show was, you know? It was one of those things that I remember reading when I was at my daughter’s gymnastics place, and I sat there and I closed it, and I was like, “What the fuck…?” [Laughs.] “What is this? This is not a comedy. At all.” It was sodark.

Besides that, I feel like the way a lot of television is now… I guess when they break it down to the silliest thing, which is awards season, they say, “This is a comedy, and this is a drama,” and I feel like with shows like Californication and another show I work on, Louie, they’re not. I don’t feel like you can say they’re comedies and not dramas. Do you know what I mean? I didn’t think I would be right for Karen, and I said, “No, I’m not gonna go in and read for Karen.” Then they just offered me this role in the pilot to be Charlie Runkle’s wife in this one scene, and that’s what I did. Then the show got picked up, and Tom Kapinos kept writing scenes for me. He ended up writing me into, I think, seven episodes of the first season. It was fun. He found a place for my voice, and I was able to start doing all this crazy shit. [Laughs.] And eventually I became a part in the show.

The A.V. Club: To say that some crazy shit happens on the show is actually an understatement, but you’ve literally been around Hollywood since you were a kid. How exaggerated is the show, or would it actually disturb people to realize how close to reality it sometimes hews?
PA: It’s not the kind of California that I’ve been coming up in. [Laughs.] At all! Yeah, it’s L.A., but it’s a heightened kind of L.A. It’s like when you watch Shahs Of Sunset or Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills, people think that’s Los Angeles. I think it is, but I don’t really know those kinds of people. It’s just… all the things, all the trappings that are in the show, are definitely there. I do go get waxed, and the lady who waxes me, I based my thing on her when they said, “Marcy’s a waxer.” I was like, “All right, well, let’s go see Cindy and do a thing with her!” [Laughs.] But all the money and the Hollywood-y stuff… I’m an old-school kind of a writer, we came from New York, and my dad’s from Boston, so we would come in and out of California, and then I became a kid actor and all that stuff. But in terms of what’s reality, I’ve been a mom for so long, just a straight-up soccer mom, that it’s not myreality. Like, my friends and I don’t walk around in dresses and makeup like that!

AVC: You said the role of Marcy basically evolved out of nowhere. That being the case, how quickly did you and Evan Handler find your chemistry? If they offered you the role outright, presumably you didn’t actually test together.
PA: Yeah, we didn’t actually test. I went in, because they wanted me to do the pilot, and the first time I met Evan and David [Duchovny] and Natascha [McElhone] and Stephen Hopkins, who directed the pilot, we met at that big Veterans Center place in Westwood. And we read through the script, and then when we ended up shooting, it was like, “Oh, this is fun! This is great!” I remember I had chemistry with David right off the bat, because we became buddies that day. Natascha and I never did a scene in the pilot together. But I remember David asked me what my last name was, and I told him. And he said, “Well, what’s your maiden name?” And I told him my maiden name was “Segall,” and he just looked at me and went, “JEWWWWWWW!” in a very high voice. I laughed so hard, and I was like, “Oh, my God, this guy is nothing like people would even expect.” [Laughs.]

I think Tom’s very organic, and he’s extremely prolific in the way he writes. When he’s inspired, it just comes out. And it was kind of this thing that just kept happening. I was like, “This is fun! Let’s keep doing this!” Hoping that the show was going to get picked up, and knowing I didn’t have a contract and that they may just go without me or whatever. But they just kept going with this character.

AVC: So what’s been the most awkward moment for you in playing Marcy?
PA: Oh, my God. Are you kidding me? How should I… [Starts laughing.] Shit! I mean, doing coke off a gross fucking table in a house in Hollywood… Like, fake coke that the prop girl came by with and just had a bucket of, and I was like, “What is this? What are we ingesting?” And she’s like, “I don’t know!” And then making out with Evan after I did it… like, close up with our mouths. That was probably the first awkward thing. And then just walking out in my nothing—just, like, no clothes—and sticking my ass out and going, “C’mon, let’s go!” Fucking on a sink, and then falling on the floor, and then the dirty water from the studio, freaking out that it was going into my vagina, because the sink broke and the plumbing was spraying.

Oh, there was this one where Natascha and I were… I think it was in David’s apartment in one of the episodes, and we were going to surprise him or something. And we walk into the bedroom, and there’s, like, a human totem pole of naked people on the bed and Charlie is at the bottom, and he’s eating out this young girl, and then David’s underneath her at the top. And we walk in, and she’s supposed to be a squirter. [Laughs.] So they had this rig that sprayed us, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Sea World, but it was like dinner with Shamu. Like, it was like a fire hose sprayed us in the face. And we shut the door, and they’re still rolling in the room, and Natascha and I sit outside the door, and she has to sit in a chair, because she had to get her bearings, and she looked at me and she said, “Oh, my God: We’re doing porn. We’re in porn.” And I was like, “Yeah, we’re in porn. We’re doing porn. We’re professional porn people.” So there was dealing with that, and you see, like, the boom guy holding the boom up over the naked human totem pole and yawning. And you’re like, “Yeah, this is really porn: They’re actually bored, because this is so just a job.” [Laughs.]

AVC: You probably can’t say much about what we’ll see in the final season of Californication.
PA: Yeah, I don’t want to ruin anything for anybody, but, like, Hank [Duchovny] is a writer on this show based on the movie he worked on in a previous season, and that’s this whole other storyline that my character wasn’t involved with. But my character, Marcy, got back together with Charlie. The previous season we got married onstage at the Greek Theater, which was totally insane, because we were really at the Greek! So the Runkles are back together, which is sweet, because I know a lot of people wanted to see Charlie and Marcy get back together and with our little son! And then Stu Beggs [Stephen Tobolowsky], who’s my ex-husband and a huge producer guy, can’t quite detach from Marcy. And he gets involved in our relationship. It’s always nasty. [Laughs.] It’s always nasty and fun. I don’t know what else to say without ruining it for everybody!

AVC: Are you comfortable with the show wrapping up at this point? Do you think it’s a good time to close up shop?
PA: Yeah. I mean, I could just keep going forever on everything, because I loveworking. It’s great, and it’s fun. If these guys are done telling the story, I definitely feel like we’ve told a lot of fun stories. It’s been amazing, but there’s only so much coke you can do and so many nasty sexual situations you can get yourself into. [Laughs.] So I think it’s a good time to move on. I think it’s been really fun, and I know that for everybody on the show it’s been a hoot.


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