David Duchovny Interviewed (Page 1)
David Duchovny, who was Agent Mulder for almost a decade, plays Detective Sam Hodiak in the new period crime drama, Aquarius. Based on the infamous Charles Manson and “The Manson Family“, the entire first season of Aquarius is now available on iflix.
Thanks to iflix, we have the ITV Studios transcript of their interview with David Duchovny on his role in Aquarius. Take a look!
David Duchovny On Aquarius
What was your first reaction when you were approached with this? What were your thoughts on it?
Well, it’s funny. I guess I’ve done four series, if you count Red Shoe Diaries, but at that point I would have taken any job that I was offered, so I don’t count that as a decision. It was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be able to eat.’
But from The X-Files to Californication to Aquarius, going in, usually what I say is, ‘Oh, this is really good but there’s no way that they are ever going to go for a series. So I won’t have to do it.’
So with X-Files I thought, ‘Oh, aliens. May be interesting for a day or two, but what’s going to happen? Are they going to show the aliens? And if they don’t, will people feel frustrated? So, this is pretty safe. I’ll be able to do this cool pilot and then it will all disappear.’ But that didn’t work out!
And then with Californication I thought, ‘Well here’s finally an adult male, who is not acting like a child, doing comedy. Not like a Jim Carrey movie, for example, a Dumb and Dumber, but more of an adult comedic performance that Warren Beatty might have done in the 70s in something like Shampoo.’ And then I thought. ‘There’s no way anybody is going to watch this because that time has passed.’ So I get to do this great character for half an hour and move on. And that didn’t work out.
And then with Aquarius I thought, ‘Oh my God. Manson. Hmm… There’s just no way. I mean, people know the ending. Why are they going to watch if they know the ending?’ And, hopefully, I will be wrong again.
This has been set in 1967, two years before the Tate-LaBianca murders, and John McNamara, who wrote it, has hopes and plans to do more series of Aquarius covering a six year period. It’s a long range plan and it’s an epic vision for the show.
So, for the first time that I have ever done a series, I would feel really sad if we didn’t get to do all the things that we wanted to do. Because there are plans to go forward in time, there are plans to look backward in time. There’s a lot of storytelling.
This can be symbolised by Woodstock sliding into Altamont where there was a killing while the Stones were performing. Or you can just rely on Charlie Manson as this hippy-seeming, peace and love music playing individual who slides into anarchic and senseless violence and murder.
And then after that there is a real contraction, not just in America but worldwide, that leads straight to Reagan and Thatcher and whatever you want, and to Bush. And I think that a lot of it can be traced to that moment where the media took hold of this petty conman in Charles Manson, who was a frustrated rock and roller and said, ‘This is what’s gonna happen if the kids continue to take drugs and have sex and grow their hair long.’ And I find that fascinating because that’s not true. But there you have it. That’s history. And that’s the world that we are opening up to and delving into.
But did you have any reservations about the material sounding too dark, because Manson is a real guy?
No, I don’t share that because I feel like it’s part of the narrative of our human life. We’re not glorifying Manson. We’re not trying to rehabilitate him or make him into a hero of any kind. I think, on the other hand, it’s irresponsible for people to say things like, ‘He is the devil.’ Or ‘He is evil,’ because there are explanations for his conduct.
It is a person who was born in innocence, who was treated in a certain way, raised in a certain way. He is not the devil. He is not evil incarnate. That glorifies people rather than treating them like the human beings they are. It’s not treating them with kid gloves or saying that he’s misunderstood or he’s really a good guy or anything like that. But to say that somebody is evil is irresponsible and lazy.
Do you know if Manson has any idea that this series is taking place? Have you had any feedback at all?
Well, if he follows me on Twitter, he does. He seems to be someone who is very happy to be talked about; happy to be in the limelight. To be honest with you I don’t really think of the man. I think of him for how he was interpreted and what he came to mean to the country and the world in the 60s after he did what he did. The man, to me, is much less interesting. So, I don’t know. I’ve never had any contact with him.
There’s a big back drop of race riots, social unrest, gay rights, equal rights… and Sam is of a certain age. A man in a suit. Is he a character who feels at unease in this kind of free-love, drop-out society?
He’s not at all at ease with any of it. He’s a guy who fought in World War II to save a world and a country that he sees as being torn apart by this kind of social movement. And the fact that his son is apparently AWOL from the Vietnam war is completely unacceptable morally to him. He does not know that the Vietnam war is different from World War II. He is a man out of step with his time and he’s trying to save a world that is already dead, which is what I find tragically beautiful about being able to play him.
There is good on-screen pairing with Grey Damon who plays undercover officer, Brian Shafe which can be seen as representing ‘older generation’ and new ‘hippy generation’.
Yeah but it’s not so black and white because as the series moves on you’ll see that even though Shafe may have a more progressive, social vision than Sam, he certainly wants to make drug busts. He wants to enforce the law. And in one of the episodes he is offended by homosexual behaviour. He’s not a left-leaning liberal. What I like about the characters of the show is that they are surprising in that way. They are not programmatic. I find that people in general are not programmatic. I like that.
What’s the background to Sam’s love of Grace. Is she just an ex-girlfriend?
Yeah. She’s the one who got away, in many ways. The way I see it in the show is that its part and parcel of the same thing he is doing as a cop. He is trying to stop time. He is trying to save a world that is already gone. And with Grace it’s the same thing. It’s like he feels, ‘If only I could get back together with her then things are gonna be perfect.’ If only he can keep these forces of anarchy at bay.
There is some great music played in the series – The Who, The Stones, etc. Are you a fan of that 60s music?
Where was Aquarius filmed?
In LA. Unlike shooting in New York, which does change and people build and there’s scaffolding everywhere, LA is so big and sprawling that physical change hasn’t come to a lot of places. Much of it looks very much like it did in the 60s, especially where Hodiak is working in Hollywood.
Are there any action/fight scenes in this for you?
Yeah, there’s a lot of fighting. Sam’s a guy who doesn’t hesitate to use his fists. This is a time where I think that kind of casual police use of force was winked at a lot more. He is definitely an ends justifies the means guy. If he knows that this bad guy did it then he doesn’t care about his rights. He’s just there to put the bad guys away.
We know he has had problems with alcohol and he’s estranged from his wife. Is he a man with demons from his past? A troubled man?
Very troubled. You look at that scene in the opening episode where Shafe is trying to make Claire Holt’s character, Charmain Tully, feel better after she has joined him on an undercover mission which is very threatening for her, and she says, ‘No, you don’t get it. I loved it. I loved all that danger and darkness.’ Well, Sam is the opposite.
He knows that if he opens up to darkness he has no control. It’s either ‘on’ or ‘off’with him. He knows better and he wants to stay ‘off’ because if he turns ‘on’ that way then there’s no telling what he’s going to do and there’s a few episodes where that happens, especially one where he has a physical altercation with Manson and nearly beats him to death. And there you are confronted with this idea of, ‘Well, if only he had beaten him to death.’
David Duchovny On Singing & Song Writing
As well as acting, you like singing and song writing and released an album in the US called ‘Hell or High Water’. Is that available in other countries?
It’s not out in Europe yet. I will tweet as soon as it’s available. I’m gonna go shoot The X- Files now and after that I plan on touring a little bit and I definitely want to tour in Europe. I love performing. It’s one of the great joys in my life.
You have done a few performances live. How did they go? Were you nervous?
Oddly enough I haven’t been nervous. I don’t understand it. I think it’s probably the most potentially terrifying thing I’ve ever done so the fact that I’m not nervous at all… I don’t care to unpack it because then I might get nervous about it. I think I just really believe in the songs that I am singing and I concentrate on that and not anything else. I’m not pitch perfect and I have accepted that early on.
Whenever I sing a song it’s possible that I am going to go flat or sharp at times but I kind of let go of trying to be perfect and instead just focus on telling the story of the song. And once I started concentrating on that, I felt all the attention of my performance and how I sang fall away. When I get on stage I think, ‘this is happening in the moment, right now, tonight, it’s me and this number of people and we’re gonna go through the journey of these songs. Let’s have a good time.’
What sort of things do you find you tend to write about most?
For me, music is universal and the way it becomes universal is by being personal, which is an odd bit of sleight of hand, in a way. I don’t see my music as confessional or autobiographical but the more personal I can make it, oddly enough, the more universal it becomes.
And writing lyrics for songs is a really interesting enterprise because they don’t always jump off the page at you. But when they are combined with music something magical happens. And there’s a fine line between over writing a lyric, which can fight the music, and under writing which just makes it a dumb lyric.
How would you describe the music itself?
Well I guess I’m a little loathe to describe my own music because that sounds like I am comparing myself to people who are wonderful. But I will say that it has been compared to Wilco or REM or Tom Petty. I’m not unhappy when those names are thrown around but personally, I am not saying that. I’m merely referring to what other people have said.
Has the band you play in got a name?
They like to say ‘We are David Duchovny!’ But actually, when I’m not around they call themselves Weather.
David Duchovny On New X-Files Series
I read that Chris Carter said he would use some of your songs in the new The X-Files series.
I hope so. He said that there were a couple he thought could work. But if it doesn’t work out I would totally understand because it might be a little confusing. A little weird. But I’m just tickled that he would consider it.
Are you excited about doing a new The X-Files series after it ended in 2002?
Yes I am excited. I am just very curious as to how it’s all going to go. It’s like going to a High School reunion and having to put on a play.
I read that you cried when you started reading the first script of the new series, because it brought it all back to you.
Well, it’s because I’m a nostalgic person. But yeah. We are only doing six episodes. There are so few and there is so much that has to be done. So we are going to mix stand alones with the extension of the mythology of the show and I just hope it’s going to be great and I just look forward to giving it a shot.
There is still such a fan base for it after all these years. It’s astonishing that it has stayed there after all this time, isn’t it?
It is. I don’t know why but I’m not unhappy about it at all. It’s just one of those things that happened in my life and it made an impact and people associate a lot with it. A lot of people say – and hate it when they say it – ‘I grew up watching you.’ I love and I hate it. I think it was one of those shows that a lot of people watched with their parents. It kind of spanned generations in that way.
David Duchovny On Writing
You are also writing books. Your first, ‘Holy Cow’, about a cow, a pig and a turkey who escape from a farm in search of a better life, was published in February and you have another one coming out next year.
Yes, it comes out in the late winter. It’s called ‘Bucky F**king Dent’, but you can’t really say that! And it takes place in 1978 during the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees baseball rivalry. There are no animals in it and it’s what I consider to be a proper novel. It’s my attempt at writing a proper American novel.
‘Holy Cow’ was on the best sellers list of the The New York Times.
So I am still kinda in shock that it reached any kind of audience and I am so grateful. I have a couple of other ideas that I hope to find time to turn into real stories. It’s nice because it’s something that I can do anywhere, anytime and I don’t need anybody else to make it. It’s a real self-reliant enterprise. Just me and the words.
Writing is an early love of yours.
Yes. I would have identified myself as a writer. It was what I wanted to do when I was 17 or 18. I always thought that was what it was.
David Duchovny On Working Out
You look in good shape at the moment. Do you work out?
Yeah I have to at my age. I can’t stay in good shape without working out but it’s something that I love doing. I always have. I’ve always loved sports and playing and sweating. It helps my head and I hope that I can be around for my kids for as long as I can be. I look at it as part of my job and part of my responsibility.
Do you hit the gym or do you prefer to play sports?
Well I would prefer to plays sports but again, at my age, if I play a sport I tend to hurt myself. Little things that you didn’t even know you had, hurt. So I am leaning more heavily towards the controlled environment of the gym these days.