“It's lighthearted even though it's about a guy in despair,” Duchovny told Dish during this year’s TCA Press Tour in Los Angeles. “It's still got a light touch to it because at its heart it's a comedy, and I think that's what makes it not a sitcom. Even compared to Sex and the City or something, that's much lighter. This is a seemingly stark world, but it still has this buoyant heart which is what I want this character to be. There's something fun-loving about him.”
Sometimes the actor adds comedy to dark moments himself. In the first episode, he decided to laugh after taking a punch to the face “This guy's response to chaos is laughter because that's actually what he feels all the time. So when it actually turns out the way that he thinks the world is, it's actually pretty funny to him. Rather than get outraged that I've been punched in the nose or horrified, I said to the director, ‘You need to stay on me because I need to laugh at this.’ It became one of the best moments in the pilot and that's something that we're trying to continue. There'll be scenes that we're doing and I'll say, ‘We need to show Hank laughing here, at the worst possible time.’”
As far out as Duchovny is willing to go, he still worries about likeability. Extinguishing a cigarette in holy water may not endear Hank to viewers, but series creator Tom Kapinos has no qualms about pushing audiences further and further away from Hank. “I'm always the one who says, ‘Wait, can we recover this guy?’ It's always that question of whether he can come back next week and will you still like him.”
Hank must be an intense role to play day in and day out for 11 straight episodes, but it has not prevented him from going home and enjoying a happy family life. Duchovny comes right out of the dark place, if not completely out of his own self-criticism.
“I guess that some actors are like that, but it's never really been a concern for me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm no good, but I think that sometimes what happens during the day, it's just like a workplace. I'll be driving home and I'll be like, 'F***, that sucked' but it's not because of the character. It just didn't go the way that I wanted it to go. That's hard to shake because you take your work home with you, but I don't take the character home with me. I certainly take the work home with me because I love it and I'm into it and that's where I'm at.”
In real life, Duchovny is married to actress Tea Leoni. Their two children complete a happy home. With the toddlers, Hollywood is barely on the radar.
“They like craft service,” he tells me, laughing. They think it's fun to come visit the set. Obviously my kids aren't going to see this show for a number of years and even The X-Files they're not going to see before five or six years, even if they want to. I've done one job that my kids have seen basically, Beethoven, which was the movie about the dog. They haven't even seen Jurassic Park 3 with Tea in it yet. So they know that we're actors and they know that sometimes people know who we are and they understand why they know who we are, but I'm sure they wish that I was on like Hannah Montana or something.”
To further solidify their ten years together and counting, Duchovny and Leoni got tattoos on their last anniversary in May. Body art is more permanent than wedding rings anyway, Duchovny explains.
“I hate wearing the metal because I bang it everywhere and I hurt myself and then losing it. So we made a compromise. I said, 'If I get a tattoo can I take that ring off?' She said, 'Sure.' She liked the tattoo and she went ahead and got one for herself. It's a phrase that we say to one another, but I don't actually tell anybody. It's AYSF which stands for ‘something we say.’”
Family life is a happy routine for the Leoni-Duchovnys. Most days end early, unlike Hank’s hard partying ways.
“[After work I] sit down and have a drink with Tea usually. She has a cigarette. I have a drink and around 9:30 we're both like half asleep. An actor’s life is a lot of no routine. So we get a lot of time off and we get no time off and so we just kind of try to make it normal and routine. We try to create a steady life for the kids.”
Then at work he gets to play at dysfunction. "It's a show about an adult trying to function in an adult world. He has certain vices, certain abuses that he's following. Therefore, you see him smoking. You see him drinking. You see him drugging. You see him having sex. These are important things for the guy's state of mind and for the show. It's not done in a gratuitous fashion. It's part of the character."
Californication airs Mondays at 10:30 pm et/pt on Showtime