Monday, February 14, 2011

An Interview with the Cast of Californication

By Kristin Dos Santos, Wikimedia Commons

Showtime's Californication, now in its fourth season, has a rabid fan base, especially when it comes to the lead character, Hank Moody played by David Duchovny. Prior to this series the actor was best known as a transvestite DEA agent on Twin Peaks and FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files. Now he has found a new home as the sex-addicted, alcoholic author, ex-boyfriend, friend and dad. And while Duchovny drives the show, it all comes together with the support of the ensemble cast featuring Pamela Adlon, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler and guest star Carla Gugino.

We spoke with them, as well as series creator and producer Tom Kapinos, at a recent press event about what is it that makes Hank so likeable, what pushes Becca away from him and what lies in store for Marcy and Charlie.

During the course of four seasons of Californication Hank Moody has committed some pretty deplorable acts, mostly brought on by his inability to say "no" to sex, drugs and alcohol. And yet the other characters, and viewers, find it in their hearts to come back for more Moody week after week. David explained his theory for the reaction he gets, "In terms of likeability, that's something that I don't think about as an actor when I approach a role. But I've always thought… that if this guy is likeable, what makes him likeable is that he's honest… that he's only had one secret the whole time and that's the thing that happened with Mia that we deal with this year. And other than that, he will speak the truth to his own detriment. And to me that's the wish fulfillment also of the show… You can go through life and actually speak your mind and do it in an articulate fashion and with a really intelligent point of view. So if he's likeable, I think it's because he is who he is in every situation that you find him in."

One character that seems to have the most difficult time liking him is his daughter Becca played by Madeleine Martin. The actress divulged why she thinks Becca and Hank are at odds, "I've always thought the problem with Becca and Hank's relationship is that Becca sees Hank as an extension of herself. So when he does something self destructive, she takes it very personally, so she's learned to separate herself from him. But that may make her seem cold and critical of him, but it's actually her form of self preservation."

Madeleine was only 14 when she was cast in Californication and so fans have watched her grow both as an actress and as a character. The most recent episodes of the show have seen Becca trying to find herself and get distance from her parents, but she does not always make the right choices. Madeleine noted, "I think this season Becca steps out of the shadow of her parents and into the shadow of her peers. She gets involved with drugs and rock and roll. And she never really becomes her own person. But I hope to see her eventually forge into a strong character separate from her parents and her friends."

The actress also acknowledged that when she began acting on the series, she was too young to watch it due to its adult content. But now that she is older she began tuning in. However she revealed, "I realize it's easier to relate to the other characters on the show if I don't see scenes that Becca wouldn't see… Like Becca wouldn't see Hank naked, so I don't need to, so I stopped."

Her fellow castmates also stated that they were unsure if Madeleine could handle the subject matter. Pamela Adlon, who plays Marcy Runkle a family friend, recalled an early table read, "I felt very maternal towards her.  And I called Felicia Fasano, the casting director, and I was like, 'How are you going to do this? Is she going to sit there? Is she going to listen?'… But she had her iPod buds, and every time that she would turn the page, she wouldn't even look at the dialogue… and then it would be her scene. And she was just so focused on who she was and who her character was. And for me, the whole show is about [David Duchovny and Madeleine Martin]. This is the most amazing thing about the show and his redemption. So she blew everybody away from the beginning."

David added, "From the beginning… it was Madeleine all the way. And I think it's a combination of Tom's very clear conception of who that character is and, luckily, Madeleine's unique ability, as far as I can see, to be able to play that kind of intelligent child."

But despite Pamela's declaration that this is the Hank and Becca show, they are not the only character's fans are tuning in to see. This season finds Pam's character Marcy and her on-again-off-again husband Charlie, Hank's best friend and agent, facing some interesting news regarding his vasectomy. Evan Handler, who plays Charlie, talked about what viewers might see as this season winds down, "I think certainly through the season, Charlie hopes for reconciliation. He balances that with his quest for a hundred [women]. Which might take a season or two, but it's out there."

He continued, "Tom's great creation and balancing act, is a relationship with two people that you want to see get together, and yet you love the things they get into when they're apart."

Tom agreed, "This show is always about hope in that department. There's so much craziness going on, but there's always, the hope that two people who got it right the first time somehow, and they screw it up, and how do they find their way back to each other?"

Guest actor Carla Gugino, who arrived this season to play Hank's defense lawyer, commented, "I think that is the thing that really I was taken with when I first saw the show, was the fact that you have this amazing balance between these really shocking sex scenes and ideas and a kind of comedy that functions on one level and then that you also really are genuinely moved. And I can't really think of another show tonally that straddles that. And it's exciting, and it's really fun to act in because of that as well."

Evan interjected, "Highbrow and lowbrow at the same time."

"It just becomes brow really," David joked.

See Californication on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. Central on Showtime.

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