The Californication star—who plays Charlie Runkle, agent and best friend to Hank Moody (David Duchovny)—talks to Maxim about the new season, working in TV, and getting recognized by guys for Sex and The City (whatever THAT is). Plus, we subject him to The Same 10 Questions We Always Ask Everyone!
Photo: Jordin Althaus/Showtime
Who’s the bigger sex addict, Charlie Runkle or Hank Moody?
I’m flattered just to be asked! I think most people perceive the show as all this randy behavior on Hank’s part, and I guess Hank winds up with a lot of women, but except for once in the season, early on, it tends to be like “kiss and fade to black,” and we’ve joked for the last three seasons that Charlie is engaged in way, way more sexual activity than Hank is.
Californication has had many notable guest stars over the years. Any favorites?
It’s hard to say who stands out; I’d have to give you a list. The Kathleen Turner stuff was certainly adventurous. I grew up in her heyday. Accidental Tourist is one of my favorite films. But there have been many. From Peter Gallagher to Peter Fonda. The guy who’s coming up in Season 6, Tim Minchin, is gonna be a revelation to a lot of people. Tim is a guy who is tremendously well-known in Australia and England (he’s from Australia and he lives in London). He’s kind of a comedic musical performer. Not musical comedy, but comedic musical performer. He gives concerts of cutting, biting parody songs. But he plays Atticus Fetch, a kind of Bowie-esque rock legend, in our show this season. And Tim tears it up—he’s great. He’s a real gifted rock and roll guy who’s also very funny and a damn good actor, and I think he will get a lot of attention for the stuff he does on the show this year.
Is there anyone else we should look out for on the new season?
Yeah, Maggie Grace, of Lost fame…. For most of this season, Hank and Charlie descend into the world of rock and roll. Hank is convinced by this character Atticus Fetch to turn one of his books or screenplays into a musical. And the character played by Maggie Grace is a muse—like someone who’s devoted her life to being a muse for rock and roll stars—and she eventually invites Hank to take pleasure in her charms and gifts. And actually Jorge Garcia, who I worked with on Lost years ago, comes on for several episodes. And I believe Rob Lowe comes back as Eddie Nero.
Would you hire Charlie Runkle to be your agent?
[Laughing] I don’t wanna talk about anyone in particular, but, when the show first started out…what was Jeremy Piven’s character on Entourage called?
Yeah, Ari was still very prominent and on the air. So I really thought Charlie Runkle was a much more realistic rendering of most of the agents I’ve had in my life. Rahm Emanuel’s brother has never been my agent, so I don’t know how he conducts himself, but most of the guys that I’ve known have been kinda stocky if not pudgy bunglers who live vicariously through their clients, and were not, uh, top of the food chain. I actually found Charlie to be very accurate as far as my knowledge of agents go.
Have you ever been as close with one of your agents as Hank and Charlie are on the show?
No, I don’t think I’ve ever been as good friends with anyone as Hank and Charlie, who are practically a romantic couple. I did have a manager who I was close to for some years, but it was never to that extent.
Is it easier to shoot sex scenes on a show like Californication?
The broader answer is that Californication has been the most easy-going, comfortable work atmosphere that I’ve had, so it’s been great that it’s also the longest-lasting as well. I’ve certainly been on things that I was quite pleased when they got cancelled after 12 episodes.
We were just watching It’s Like, You Know, in the Maxim offices…
Well, that’s not one of those! It’s Like, You Know was pretty fun. But no, I did a show called Woops! some years ago that I took to calling “Ouch.” And then that was published someplace and people got cross with me. But, you know, come on. You take these things based on one 30-page pilot script, and you don’t know what the creators are able to sustain—or what they have in mind, even.
Do you prefer working on a premium cable show versus network TV?
Well, it’s certainly what I watch as a viewer. It’s nice to work on things that fit your tastes as well. As time has gone on I guess I have some increasing ability to pass on things, but my career has largely been that I choose among the options presented, and the options are not always multiple. So I’m really, really pleased that the last decade has turned me into this premium cable guy, cause it’s been a great world to exist in.
Are you ever surprised at how many guys recognize you from Sex and the City?
I would not say that I’m surprised by the number of guys that recognize me from Sex and the City. But I am surprised by the number of guys who recognize me from Sex and the City and feel it’s necessary to preface it with, “I only watched it because my girlfriend made me, but I recognize you from Sex and the City.” But it has been really interesting being on one show so dominated by a female demographic, and, then another that is dominated by guys. I don’t think the split is as wide, but they’re each sex comedies, to one extent or another; Californication’s probably more purely that. And both are really big overseas. My wife is from Bologna, Italy, so we travel, and I go to Europe, and Californication is even more popular outside the US I think. Because there people don’t have to subscribe, it’s on broadcast television in other countries. Here, you have to be a subscriber, and you have to be a subscriber specifically to Showtime, which isn’t the highest subscription rate of those big two networks. So it’s really interesting. The amount of emails and communication I get is largely from Eastern Europe. It’s really strange.
What can we expect for Charlie and Marcy (Pamela Adlon) on the new season?
Charlie and Marcy continue to participate in each other’s lives, and I think the question of whether or not they end up back together is increasingly addressed as Season Six goes on. The first part of the season Charlie pretends to be gay in order to sign an openly gay movie star client who wants a gay agent. So once he climbs out of that morass, the Charlie/Marcy question comes back again.
Photo: Jordin Althaus/Showtime
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
Wow. The last thing will probably be so mundane compared to other things in the past. But I guess the last thing I had to apologize for was apologizing to my wife that I hurt my back again. Can you believe that? Apologizing for my own physical suffering!
What’s your favorite curse word/phrase?
Huh. That’s a better question for Pamela Adlon! So maybe that’s my answer.
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
Oh, they were bad. The worst hangover I ever had was when I was a student at Julliard at 18- or 19-years-old, and I was invited by Jann Wenner’s personal cook to go to his birthday party at the Lone Star Cafe, I think it might have been. And I found myself standing next to Mick Jagger, and at the time he had a big reddish beard, and I got myself drunk enough to be able tell him that it was a pleasure to be in the same room with him, which is really not much to come up with anyway. And Jann Wenner played in the band that night where they did reworked versions of current songs. So Bob Dylan’s “You Gotta Serve Somebody” became “You Gotta Suck Somebody,” and at the end they smashed all the instruments, and I stole the bass and went home to the East Village, and had to call in sick for school the next day because I was in such bad shape.
What was your first car?
Well, the first car I was given to use was…I don’t remember the year, but it was an old Saab that looked like a spider, that I quickly punched out each of the headlights to. Kind of Hank Moody-style, I guess. But the first car I ever bought and owned, I still own. I bought it 12 years ago I think. It was bought here in LA. I had had been to LA many times but I moved all my belongings to LA for the first time in early 2002, and 4 days after moving to Santa Monica, I flew back to New York to audition for Sex and the City. So I wound up going back for a year. And this car has come with me back and forth.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
Oh, good lord. I have many scars that tell many stories. I don’t think anyone wants to hear those stories. But if they do want to, there are two books published about them. Mostly people think I look very young, and it’s amazing to me, in terms of everything I’ve been through. I tell them the scars are on the inside.
Do you have a party trick?
I do not, no.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
Well…It’s not the biggest thing, but I used to have a really disgusting game I would do. As a kid I ate a lot of candy. I think it was the age when people just didn’t know it was that bad for you. But you could buy a box of 25 of those rectangular pieces of Bazooka bubble gum, and I used to enjoy putting them all in my mouth at once, 25 at a time. Chewing that wad of gum. It would, like, burn the flesh of my mouth.
What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
I’ve succeeded fairly well at remembering not to get into fist fights.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
Either my wife or my 6-year-old daughter.
Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
Hmm. That’s the widest license, and I have the least to say. But if I ruled the world for the day, I guess I would fire a lot of people. That’s what I would do.
Californication: Season 5 is out on DVD now. Season 6 premieres Sunday, January 13, on Showtime. Evan Handler's two memoirs (“Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors,” and “It's Only Temporary...The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive”) are newly available for digital download.
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