By: Melissa Girimonte
With the season finale of Showtime’s hit series CALIFORNICATION just around the corner and the recent news that KING OF THE HILL is preparing to end its highly successful twelve year run on FOX, we could not have picked a better time to chat with actress Pamela Adlon about her CALIFORNICATION character Marcy Runkle and what it’s like having an animated teenage boy for an alter ego.
What was it that attracted you to CALIFORNICATION?
Pamela Aldon: Well, mostly because they offered it to me (laughs). And it’s one of those things that people go, “When you signed on to this show, were you okay with all the stuff they were going to have you do.” The reality is, from the pilot to now, I never knew what my involvement in the show was going to entail, never knew that it was going to have all these twists and turns and all the craziness. It’s not like I had a crystal ball and could look into it and say, “Do I really want to get myself into this?” It’s one of those things that Tom Kapinos just kept writing for me, and my character morphed into something that was important to the storyline and to the show. I don’t think that they ever knew that I was going to be such a central part of everything.
Some of the storylines are really over the top, but at the same time, the characters are very human and familiar. As a viewer, I really think a lot of people, on some level, can relate to the characters and what they’re going through. Did you expect the viewers, especially the female contingent, would respond so favorably to this show, especially with subject matter that takes “the line” and just throws it away?
That’s actually one of the things you’ll hear me say over and over, when I first read the pilot and saw a rough cut of it, I said to my husband, “This show is not for women at all. There’s no way, this is just a guy’s show.” And the people who love this show the most are women. They go crazy. They love it. They just relate to it so much. And it’s not only the women who want to have sex with Hank (David Duchovny); it’s totally the opposite. It’s women who relate to Hank as a character. Everything from that, to women who love this relationship between Hank and his daughter, or with Karen (Natascha McElhone). I think women have a more visceral response than the men.
Women who have a Charlie for a husband?
Exactly! Who knows what their reasons are, it’s just amazing to me how people react. I was in a store yesterday shopping for clothes, and this woman was like, “Oh my god, my husband’s going to freak out.” It’s great, because I love being involved in something that people have a passionate reaction to, as opposed to “You’re on that show, right?” It was the same way with Lucky Louie. People were like, “It’s so real, my husband and I watch it together, I watch it with my grandmother who loves it and thinks you’re a dirty little girl.” I get such a kick out of the fact that people have such a strong reaction.
Now Marcy Runkle has ventured into some interesting territory, from threesomes, to cocaine addiction, to encouraging her husband’s porn debut. If you could choose Marcy’s future path on CALIFORNICATION, where would you like to see your character go?
Well, I like the fact that she’s got her own business. I’d like to see her head in the direction of the mogul she’s meant to be. I also think it’s funny because you think of her as a diabolical character, but she’s really very sweet and very loyal to her husband and her marriage. You never know what you’re going to get when they hand you a script. You never think they’re gonna go to that dark, dirty place – and they always do.
Is there any scene that really stands out in your mind, that was either a fabulous experience to film, or that really made you say “wow” when you saw the finished product?
My favorite is the finale of the first season, Natascha and I getting stoned before (her character) Karen gets married. The director really let us choreograph where we were going to shoot the scene, what we were doing, and I’m really happy with it. Natascha and I made all these discoveries. She’s the most generous actor ever, and a beautiful person. We adore each other, so it was great. It was win-win all over that scene. We were like, “What are they going to let us get away with?” And they let us get away with the whole thing.
On the flipside, have there been any scenes, that when you’ve seen the script, that you’ve actually gasped?
Every single week, we would gasp. We would be looking around, basically at the network executives and the guests who are at the table and say, “Yep, this is the way we roll!”
I’ve always wondered what a read through of a CALIFORNICATION script would be like. To be a fly on the wall …
Hilarious. They’re always hilarious.
In addition to being a fantastic actor, you’re also a mother of three girls. Do they ever happen to hear people discussing CALIFORNICATION, then come home and tell you stories that they’ve heard?
You know, people aren’t the smartest in the world when it comes to commenting on my on-camera stuff when I’m with my kids. We just had a premiere for Tinkerbell (Pamela is the voice of Vidia in that Disney DVD). I did the “Green Carpet” and brought my daughters, and all the reporters wanted to talk to me about CALIFORNICATION. We were talking in code, it was very funny. You know, at school, people bring it up, and it’s just not the right time and place. It’s one of those things that people get really excited about, and you would think that parents would be the smartest, but they’re not.
Besides CALIFORNICATION, you are an Emmy winner for KING OF THE HILL (as the voice of Bobby Hill), and it’s coming to an end really soon …
Well, we don’t know. We were told that, and then we were told that ABC might buy it.
I was going to ask if there was any truth to those rumors. I just heard over the past few days that it might resurface on another network.
It’s just the life of an actor. Up one day, and you’re down the next, then you’re up even higher the next day. It’s really crazy.
You’ve already recorded the final Fox episode. Was it an emotional experience, thinking that it could be the end of that era?
You know, it’s probably the third time we’ve been cancelled. It felt more like a celebration to me than anything. I can’t really look at it and think, “This is terrible.” I had a job for 12 years on one show.
I heard recently that you’ve teamed up with Louis C.K. again for a new series. I loved Lucky Louie, thought it was hysterical, and your character had some really priceless lines. Can you share any details on this project?
Yeah, we actually wrote a pilot, which is really good. We were kind of trying to see if we could do what we did on HBO (with Lucky Louie), but do it in a network-friendly way, without f-bombs, and d*&% and b#$%s. We’re very happy with the script. Right now, we have it with Paramount, and they’re shopping it with us to different networks. It’s very exciting. You know, it was a challenge to be able to do it without the language and some of the situations, and I feel like we really created something good. Being an actor, you have to wait for everything. Right now, I’m waiting to see if KING OF THE HILL is going to be picked up by ABC. I’m waiting to see if CALIFORNICATION is going to be picked up and if they’re going to have Marcy back. And I’m waiting to see if we can sell our pilot. If not, it’s on to the next thing.
*(Showtime announced on December 3rd that CALIFORNICATION will be back in 2009 for a third season, but didn’t mention if Adlon will be returning.)
Thank you so much, Pamela, for sharing all of this with us. Best of luck to you with all of your projects. We’ll be keeping track of what happens.
Of course! Thank you so much.
Melissa is a Toronto-based TV blogger and music journalist. A TV fan since birth, it was only in recent years that she discovered her love for writing about what she was watching. After contributing to several online and print magazines as a freelance writer, she started her own TV blog, The Televixen, in 2008. She’s also founder and editor of Toonage.ca, an online music magazine.
Photo Credit: Photo: Mark Seliger/Showtime