“Californication” returns to Showtime for a sixth season of the often mind-altered, ego-bent and unclothed misadventures of novelist Hank Moody and his inner circle. For a not-so-sobering account of what to expect, we turned to a trio of the men intimately involved in how the show exposes itself.
David Duchovny, star and executive producer: This year we've got this amazing guest star named Tim Minchin who's a... how would you describe him? He's kind of a musical comedian, so he writes funny songs that are also GOOD songs. He's an excellent piano player. I'd never heard him or heard of him: he's an Australian guy who's big in England, I'm told, and he has enlisted Hank, my character, to write a musical from one of my novels – which is of course not what I want to do, but I need the money. So now I'm palling around with a rock star who has his own airplane, and as last year was set in the rap world, this is kind of the U2 rock star world. We call it Tom Kapinos Fantasy Rock and Roll Time.
Tom Kapinos, creator and executive producer: (Hank) partners up with this crazy rock star, who's kind of a weird combination of Bono and David Bowie and Axle Rose, and together they're working on this musical. So it's just another sort of crazy playground for Hank to be in, and that's part of what's made it fun and relatively easy for the show to evolve, that we always just find a new playground for him, every year. It's difficult because it's almost like doing a pilot every year, starting over from scratch in some ways. But that's what makes it a lot of fun.
Evan Handler, co-star: Oddly enough, because in the last few seasons there was so much of Charlie Runkle having sex, David made the joke to me the other day, I don't even think he meant it as a joke, he said, 'I don’t have sex anymore. It's been like four seasons since I've had sex on the show.' But with Charlie, I'm so grateful for this because now if I take off my clothes, not only does there have to be the Marcy tramp stamp tattoo, but there has to be a scar applied to my arm for the bullet that I took last season. So Charlie has disrobed many fewer times this season, and Charlie's sexual activities have been less. The scenes have been about other things.
Kapinos: A lot of people said, 'Did you develop this for David Duchovny?' That wasn't the case. The script existed way before he did, but it's just one of those really nice, serendipitous examples of actor meeting material and it all just fitting together. So, I feel like I just kept writing Hank the way that I knew him and he kept fitting right in there. That said, I started to hear little things in my head that were something David might do. I'm sure it worked it's way in there early on in the first season, but Hank was so much an example of the voice in my head that that's the only way that I know how to write him.
Handler: Charlie Runkle appeared in exactly one scene of the pilot episode and it was a scene that we shot in houses and it was the four of us, I think. It was Natascha [McElhone] and David and me and Pamela [Adlon], the two couples. That's all I saw, the pilot script, and so there was no knowledge that there was going to be anything other than the husband of one of these two couples. I don't think it was until Season Three that Charlie started carrying the B storylines, so, no, I had no notion how far it would go. I wasn't completely inexperienced, because I had done a couple of seasons of 'Sex and the City' where I had some humiliation thrown my way, but I think the durability of the Charlie Runkle whipping post was certainly not clear from the beginning. It didn't become clear until a couple of seasons in.
Kapinos: I can go to places with Charlie that I just can't with Hank. Otherwise the tone would get so bizarro, but with Charlie it definitely allows me to push the envelope comedically without tarnishing Hank's character, for lack of a better way of putting it. Evan is such a trooper about it. He's up for anything, and really, with Charlie: some days you wake up and feel like Hank, but most of the time you wake up and you feel like Charlie. It's really the two sides of me battling.
Duchovny: I think if you have a show named 'Californication' and you kind of led in the beginning with a certain amount of sex, they get an idea in their heads about what the show is, the quality of the show. It's unfortunate, but those of us who make it, all know what we're doing and I think we understand what the show is to us and to people who talk to us, the fans or whatever. I'm just not sure that it's the kind of show that will get awards, which is really too bad because as you know, Evan does some crazy, brave stuff on the show. I always tell him I don't understand what's going on. Pam Adlon is a treasure. Pam Adlon is f***ing funny and why isn't she getting nominated? It doesn't make sense to me.
Kapinos: She's incredible. She's someone who had a very small role in the pilot and that's a real classic example of watching what someone does and just falling in love with them and then they really inform the character and you start writing towards that. Then they become a bigger part of things than you ever imagined.
Handler: Working on 'Californication,' the joy has been that there doesn't seem to be the hierarchical insanity that you can run into on other television shows, especially on a network where different departments are dictating things based on demographics. They've given Tom his show to do. Tom does what he thinks is funny. I don't think Showtime is dictating very much to him, and Tom doesn't dictate in the manner of a traditional dictator. Tom hires people who he really likes what they do and he seems to get great joy from what they bring to it. And he's very clear about what he wants and doesn't want, but more often than not he seems to want what the people hired bring.
Duchovny: Every year we never know if we're coming back or not. The way that Showtime – and I assume most cable networks do it – is that by the time you air, you're already out of production. So if your ratings suck, or whatever, and you get canceled then that's too bad. Your last show was your finale. So for the past couple of years – and I think even from the beginning, if you go back to the first year: that was really a finale; that could've stood as the end of the show – it's kind of on Tom Kapinos every year to give himself and us a satisfying ending to the entire show. Then you paint yourself into that corner and every year you have to crawl out of it.
Kapinos: I have (this year's ending) roughly. I have it vague. As soon as I know for sure that this is it, I know how to get to it – but we're having so much fun, we all still like each other, which is a minor miracle, and so I'll do it forever and run it into the ground. It's not that often that a good thing comes along. David and I were just talking about that, like, 'Why stop? This is still fun.'
Duchovny: You kind of want to be able to end it on your own terms rather than having made the final show of the season and then finding out that it has to stand in for the entire six years. So, I hope we get to know when we're going out so that we can do it [right]. It's rare that a show knows they're going out, but it's nice for the full artistic experience, just for the people who are making it and probably for the people who are watching it, to be able to end it.