'Aquarius': David Duchovny on His Flattop, the Show's 6-Year Plan
The summer TV season has begun: In NBC’s drama Aquarius, premiering this week, David Duchovny stars as homicide detective Sam Hodiak, a man who, in 1967, agrees to look for an ex-girlfriend’s missing 16-year-old daughter (Bunheads’s Emma Dumont) — who has been lured into a band of drifters led by wannabe rock star Charles Manson (Game of Thrones’s Gethin Anthony).
Related: 'Aquarius’ Review: David Duchovny Meets Charles Manson
In the video above, Duchovny speaks with Yahoo TV about why he’s happy NBC is putting all 13 episodes online right after the premiere and how difficult it was to maintain his character’s flattop during 14-hour shoots. Below, he chats more about what drew him to the show, its tone and use of music, and creator John McNamara’s plans for the series.
Why was this a role you wanted to play?
I was coming off playing a hyper-articulate verbal character on Californication, and I was attracted to the lesser workload of a guy who didn’t say much at all. [Laughs.] No. John McNamara and I were looking at the films from the '70s and the quiet anti-hero, noir kind of a guy, and I liked the challenge of acting without the words. We try to have Hodiak not say so damn much, but it’s hard on television to be quiet. It’s easier in movies to say less. So there was that. I liked the idea that he was an anti-hero, a tough cop that knew right from wrong but wasn’t above bending the rules to get the desired effect and the desired outcome that he wanted. And most of all, I loved the set-up of the series, which was to use Manson as a symbol of where the ‘60s went dark, or where America turned right, really, after having gone left in the Summer of Love. I love being able to revisit that time, because I think as a country, we keep coming back to it. I think we come back to the '60s not just for the bell-bottoms and the tie-dye. We come back to it — such a revolutionary time, such a pivotal time — and [ask] why did we make that move right? Why did history take the form that it did?
Hodiak has a dry sense of humor. Was that in the first script you read, or is it something you helped bring out?
McNamara appreciates funny stuff. The Miranda Rights scene was in there. Especially in dramas, I’m always trying to massage funnier stuff in there. I think also, it was important that Hodiak, my character, be the lens for the audience, that we’re seeing these stories, this time, through his eyes. And I want him to be human enough, and humane enough, and funny enough, for people to want to stay with him. Because Manson is very charismatic, and he easily could steal the show — not just the show, but the viewers’ sympathies in a way. I wanted my guy to be somewhat charming, if he could be.
You’ve said that you always go into a series kinda hoping your character will die in the end. Hodiak is a fictional character — did you know his fate when you signed on?
That’s a good question. I think I do know Hodiak’s fate, and I don’t believe that he dies. That could always change. John McNamara has six seasons in his head — so six 13-episode seasons that he’s already mapped out in his own mind. Whether or not America or NBC will put up with us that long, we don’t know, but I would love to play the full story out. It’s such a big story, kind of an epic tale, the way McNamara pitched it to me. I would talk to him and say, “Well, we’ve got to do enough in the first season to hook people.” He’d say, “No, that happens in year three.” I’m like, “Well, we’re not gonna get to year three if we don’t put some stuff in year one.” [Laughs.] It’s a struggle with trying to hook people into the show with the big happenings and then really letting it play out in a more relaxed and realistic vein. Luckily, I don’t have to think about it.
One of the things the show does well is its use of music: Really twisted, dark things happen to songs like “Danke Schoen” and “Daydream Believer.”
To use music as an ironic counterpoint to what’s going in — Tarantino does that so well. I think he really re-introduced it, or introduced it, into the mainstream that way. Was it “Stuck in the Middle With You” when Michael Madsen is walking back and forth and he’s going to cut the guy’s ears off or whatever [in Reservoir Dogs]? People are acclimated to it and they like it. It’s a dark and ironic show, so to use the chirpy upside of the '60s-type music as that kind of ironic counterpoint works well.
The two-hour premiere of Aquarius airs May 28 at 9 p.m. on NBC. Immediately afterward, Season 1’s 13 episodes will be available for binging on NBC.com, the NBC app, and video-on-demand platforms.