Freshman Series: Californication

Duchovny brings back the '70s antihero

Where is the ’70s antihero of cinema today? Who is the Warren Beatty?

These were questions Tom Kapinos posed to himself when he began writing “Californication,” the story of a Los Angeles lothario author with writer’s block.

However, if you think “Californication” is just another Hollywood insider series ladened with sex, then you’re missing the point. With the protag of Hank Moody, Kapinos has bottled the woes of middle-aged male angst: the regret over a failed relationship with one’s wife, the ability of a father to save face with his daughter, the price a man pays for his lustful indulgences.

“People approach me and say, ‘You’re writing about me. You know my story.’ It has that effect out there,” Kapinos says. “Every character on the show is a sliver of my personality.”

Kapinos originally conceived “Californication” as a feature, but later found that the first 60 pages of the script worked better as a TV pilot. For Showtime, “Califorincation” turned out to be the edgy companion piece the pay cabler needed to complement “Weeds.”

“The show grew from my personal experience of coming to L.A. to be a screenwriter, getting a job on ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and making a lot of money and then discovering that I was miserable,” says Kapinos, who felt the need to tell a personal story after writing about characters he felt disconnected from.

Showtime ordered “Californication” on a cast-contingent basis. In Kapinos’ eyes, if there was a 1970s antihero of today, it was David Duchovny.

“Girls want to screw him, but guys don’t begrudge him because they think he’s cool,” the showrunner says.

Reps from both Duchovny and Kapinos’ camps say the actor was a tall order given his waning interest in TV roles. But the character wound up speaking to the former “X-Files” headliner. This became apparent when Kapinos received a personal letter from Duchovny after their face-to-face meeting with some notes about the script.

“People ask me if this was specifically developed for Duchovny,” Kapinos says. “The pilot script never changed. It was just one of those serendipitous occasions where an actor fit into the role seamlessly.”

So far, the marriage between script and thesp has borne Duchovny an actor Golden Globe for TV musical or comedy.

The sex scenes in “Californication” arguably rival those in HBO’s “Sex and the City.” Aside from two menage a trois in its first season, there’s a pivotal point in the pilot when an underage Lolita punches Moody in the face to trigger his sexual climax.

Commenting on his inspiration for the steamy sequences, Kapinos quips, “They’re purely wishful thinking. I’m a married man with three kids.”

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