Wow! David Duchovny is back with a vengeance.
Forget the laid back The X-Files agent or the Californication slacker. In his new TV series Aquarius starring as the hard as nails investigating cop, Duchovny is electrifying.
When I tell him so, he’s not overly impressed. Now in his mid 50s, newly divorced from Tea Leoni, he seems to have hit his stride.
When it comes to talking about his divorce, he requests privacy, but years ago before his marriage, he told me: “I believe it’s better to divorce than to stay with somebody that you can’t live with anymore.
“I think I’m happier that my parents got divorced. My hope is that I would not repeat the same mistakes they made, but as I’ve told my mother many times, ‘If you hadn’t made those mistakes, you would have made different ones.’”
And then ironically he added: “I don’t know which ones I’ll make, but I’m sure I’ll make them.”
Is this a good time for you now?
I feel good about the place I am at. The past year was really fulfilling in that I have my album called Holy Cow which came out in February and another novel coming out in about seven months; so I am just kind of expressing myself in different ways and doing work that I am enjoying because I don’t feel I have anything to prove.
How did the album come about?
It came out of the blue. I started about five years ago. I had some time on my hands in-between seasons of Californication. I was in New York and had never played guitar before.
Initially all I wanted was to play well enough so I could sit in my room and sing some songs that I liked. I never thought I would write one. And then as I got better at it and I wrote these rock and roll songs.
I brought them to my friend Kenton Simians who suggested we record them in my garage, and that was it. I was just going to have songs on my phone, and it was cool, but then I met this guy Brad Davidson through Kenton who said, “this is an album, keep working and work on your voice”.
I am not a singer, but I worked my ass off with my voice and do so every day. I do my scales and I practise; I have never been as disciplined at anything as I am with the singing which is funny, because I really am kind of bad at it naturally. But just organically, one step in front of the other, I had an album. I really loved it, and I would love to do more.
In choosing a project, do you have different criteria for doing TV as opposed to movies?
I think it’s mostly instinctual really, whether it’s TV or film. You read something, and you get a sense of “I could really do something with it.” If it speaks to me personally I’m on board.
But unlike making movies, TV is an ongoing process.
True, you can’t control that part. Sometimes a show starts out the way you saw it, and then it gets way better or sometimes worse. If it goes on for too long, it’s hard to sustain great work for as many years as is asked for.
But what’s interesting about television is I would shoot a pilot, and the show becomes something else; you really have to stay conscious. With a movie, you do it that one time and it’s done. But a television show is more like an adolescent kid turning into something else.
You are returning to The X-Files … how is it different this time around?
The difference is I have changed and Gillian (Anderson) has changed. I am a better actor and Gillian is a better actor, and we get to bring those changes and abilities now to the roles as they are written 20 years ago. So that’s interesting, it’s not going to be the same, it can’t be the same, and we are not the same.
And working again with Gillian after all those years?
It feels familiar. We worked together for so long, a long time ago, but then we worked together again about eight years ago. I think there’s just something about us, the fact that we did that show at that time in our lives for so long. We are always going to have an acting connection to fall back on, and it feels that way.
What was that first day on the set like?
Unfortunately I had about five pages of expositional dialogue, I hadn’t been asked to say that kind of crap in a long time. I mean, electrogravitic propulsion. That’s just the tidbit. There were five pages of that. So it was kind of great that first day, because it was like OK, this is how this guy speaks, this is the world we are in, let’s get in shape for it.
You’re looking so great. What is your secret?
People tell me I look young. I guess I do take care of myself, but it must be just genes, there’s no special secret. My sister who’s 46 still gets carded (asked to show her driver’s license).
You’re living in New York again. How’s that working out?
My kids (Duchovny has two children aged 16 and 13) go to school here, my mum’s here, she’s 84. My sister’s here. I have family here. Last year I attended my high school reunion – there’s a lot of my past here. It was the first high school reunion I’ve ever been to and it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be. It was actually fun.
Were you the most successful in your class?
I can’t say that, but it was really nice to see some of the guys, although you needed name tags to recognise them. They had seen me on TV so they knew what I looked like but some of the guys, thank goodness they had a name tag.
Playing a sex addict in Californication, did you have a lot of explaining to do to your children?
Oh, yeah. That was a tough issue. I did not prepare them specifically for the show, but of course Tea’s done movies where she’s married to someone else or has a kissy scene with somebody else; so we both kept them from seeing those moments because I’d be uncomfortable watching it with them.
But they’re used to us being famous; I was famous when I had them so it wasn’t an adjustment they had to make. They were kind of born into it. I’m sure it’s a pain in the a** and a source of confusion if somebody’s taking our picture, but they’re aware it’s part of their lives. They’ve never known anything else.
For instance, I’ll walk down the street with my mother and random people will say, “hey, David” or “hey, X-Box” and and my mother to this day still says, “Where do you know him from?” My kid would never do that. My kid understands the life, but my mother who obviously knew me before I was well known does not make the adjustment.
You are one dessertation away from your PhD. Do you ever regret not having completed it? (His uncompleted thesis is titled Magic And Technology In Contemporary American Fiction And Poetry concentrating on the works of Normal Mailer, Ishmael Reeve, Thomas Pynchon, and Robertson Davies)
Would he ever go back to complete it?
The only motivation would be a sense of completion.
You taught English Literature for three years. What made you give up teaching?
My heart wasn’t really in it. I liked teaching a lot, but I didn’t want to do it forever.
Were you always drawn to acting then?
Not at all. I was interested in writing plays while at Yale, and I thought I could learn something about it by acting. I tried it and enjoyed the collaboration. Writing is a very lonely activity. I wasn’t ready, at the age of 24, to sit in a room 12 hours a day. I wanted to be with people and create rather than create alone. Acting seemed the way to do it.
Philip Berk, eight-time president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, hobnobs with celebrities to report exclusively from Los Angeles.