Interview date: 08/25/2009
Run date: 08/28/2009
As an actress, Pamela Adlon has been treading the boards since the early ‘80s, doing time on “The Facts of Life” and “Wiseguy” and securing small roles in films like “Grease 2,” “Say Anything,” and “Sgt. Bilko,” but it’s arguable that her most famous work has occurred in the recording studio. As a voiceover actress, she’s contributed to several Disney series (“101 Dalmatians,” “Recess,” “Pepper Ann”) and a few for PBS, too (“WordGirl,” “Jakers!”), but her longest running gig – playing Bobby Hill on Fox’s “King of the Hill” – will be coming to close on September 13, when the one-hour series finale airs.
Fortunately, Adlon will still be able to keep busy with the new season of “Californication,” which returns to Showtime on September 27th, and Bullz-Eye talked to her briefly about what we can expect from Marcy Runkle this time around. Unfortunately, the key word is “briefly,” since most of Season 3 is still being kept under wraps, so the majority of our conversation was about the significant developments in Marcy’s character during Season 2…which, not coincidentally, was released on DVD this week. But don’t worry, we also found time to ask a bit about her favorite Bobby Hill moments as well as her experiences on the short-lived but fondly-remembered HBO sitcom, “Lucky Louie.”
Bullz-Eye: It’s a pleasure to talk to you. I’m a fan of both “Californication” and “King of the Hill.”
Pamela Adlon: Awesome!
BE: And “Lucky Louie,” too, for that matter.
PA: Thank you! Me, too. I miss it. (Laughs)
BE: I can imagine. In fact, that was one of the first things that one of my Facebook friends posted when I mentioned that I was going to be talking to you: “Ask her about ‘Lucky Louie’!”
PA: I know. (Sadly) I know. It was so good.
BE: So Marcy had quite a year on “Californication” this season.
PA: Oh, yes, sir, she did. (Laughs)
BE: When did they approach you about the cocaine-addiction storyline? How far in advance did you know that was going to be happening?
PA: Actually, I guess I had E-mailed Tom Kapinos before we started production for the second season, and I was, like, “Come on, give me a little taste! Let me know what’s going on!” And he said, “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Marcy had kind of…well, she had a bit of a drug problem back in the ‘80s. And she gets into that again.” And I went, “Oh….!” I wrote him back and said, “Yes! Marcy had a thirsty little nose!” (Laughs) And we just kept E-mailing. So I knew that it was coming up, but I didn’t know that I would end up ingesting copious amounts of this big vat of white powder that the prop girl would bring me…without having it analyzed or anything!
BE: Given the relationship between Charlie and Marcy during Season 1, I guess it wasn’t the biggest surprise in the world that there would’ve been divorce proceedings by the end of Season 2, but were you surprised by it? Did you think that they might have a bond that would continue to survive, given that it had survived so much already?
PA: No, I actually…every single week, I would be be, like, “What’s going to happen?” And you always think, as an actor, “Well, there’s got to be something that keeps me in this world, so I can come back and do this show.” So I guess they leave it hanging, so you never know what’s going to be. But I wasn’t surprised by it. I actually liked the way it ended.
BE: How quickly did you and Evan Handler develop your relationship onscreen? Did it come together pretty easily?
PA: Yeah. Y’know, it’s just one of those things: when it’s on the page, it’s on the stage. And Tom Kapinos just makes that so easy.
BE: The character of Daisy was an interesting addition to the cast in Season 2.
PA: Oh, yeah. (Laughs)
BE: Did you get any feel for how her storyline was going to play out when her character was first introduced? Was there any forewarning that she was going to stick around for more than just a single episode?
PA: Not at all. I never knew that I was going to become as big a part of this show as I have, either! I just was offered a role in the pilot, and I never thought I’d be in any more. Tom Kapinos just kept writing for me, and it became, like, the biggest present ever. But Carla Gallo, who plays Daisy, I guess we knew that she was gonna be in a couple, but then she ended up doing that whole storyline, and she’s fabulous. I just think she did such a good job. And I love it. I loved how it played out, and how we ended up shooting the porno in my house, and I ended up financing it! It was really funny. Well, I found it funny…and, usually, when you’re acting in your own stuff, you kind of look around and go, “Can somebody give me the Kool-Aid? ‘Cause I don’t get it.” But this is something where I drank the Kool-Aid, and I think it’s just amazing stuff.
BE: That actually ties into something I was going to ask. Where do your comedic sensibilities lie? Because this is definitely a darkly funny show. Does your sense of humor generally tend to veer toward the black?
PA: I would say. I would definitely say. I like finding flowers growing up out of poop. It’s my favorite thing.
BE: (Laughs) Continuing about the Daisy storyline, I thought the whole thing with her former manager showing up for reparations, and the realization of just how much cocaine Marcy had purchased over the course of time, was pretty awesome.
PA: Yeah, exactly. It’s just unbelievable. And I’ve known people who’ve done that! I had a friend when I was growing up whose mom gambled away all of their money, and those kind of addictions…it’s a really insane thing that I guess a lot of people don’t know about. But it’s just around you all the time. You can blow all your money on something really stupid.
BE: I’m presuming that, at least at some point during your career in Hollywood, you’ve endured some experiences resembling those on the show. I mean, as far as drugs and the people around you.
BE: So is there at least some semblance of reality to “Californication”?
PA: Um…I think it’s, like, a heightened reality. A heightened L.A. Like, people are just kind of giving in to things, throwing morals out the window to a big extent, exploring as much as you possibly can. And when you read the scripts, you’re, like, “I don’t think they’re gonna go there,” but then you get the next script, and you go, “Okayyyyyyy, they went past there. It’s a little crazy now!” (Laughs)
BE: With the detox portion of your storyline…well, you didn’t really get to play that part of Marcy’s story.
PA: No, I don’t think they really showed too much of that. It just goes from, like, total debauchery to rehab. And then it’s…said. I mean, I talk about what I did to get where I was. But you never know when she’s gonna fall off the wagon or anything.
BE: Were you at all concerned about the possibility of having to play that aspect?
PA: Uh, yes. (Laughs) You always white-knuckle it before you get the scripts, but then…actually, there were a couple of situations this year where I had to call my producer and say, “Um, how is this gonna be shot?” And he would say, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it with that in mind.”
BE: What’s been the most disconcerting scene for you to have to film?
PA: Oh, God. There have been so many! I guess in the first season, when we had the threesome with the nipple clamps, I was, like, “I don’t get this, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it.” And then, all of a sudden, there’s a crane with a camera hanging over our heads, and you’re, like, “Okayyyyyyy. But how are you gonna sell this? How are you gonna make it work?” And they end up shooting it brilliantly, cutting it together, and it just all ends up working without me having to compromise my own personal morals. (Laughs)
BE: “Californication” definitely seems like a show which requires a lot of trust in its creators.
BE: Given that you’re a fan of the show yourself, do you have any regrets about any plot developments this season? I know a lot of people have complained about the fact that Lew, who was a very interesting character, was killed off.
PA: Yeah, and it was so amazing to watch that play out, because it really…for me, I loved it. I loved that whole storyline. But at the beginning, I was, like, “This is…why is he kind of like the Hank Moody character?” It was a little bit crazy. (Hesitates) Can you hold on for just a second?
PA: (Vanishes for a few moments, then returns) Okay. I’m running in and out. I’ve locked myself in a closet so that I can talk to you… (Laughs) …because my kids are out here! So, yeah, the Lew Ashby character just became a prolific, enduring beacon, and it was just…I loved that storyline. I mean, we shot it in a house that I had been driving past for the past twenty years. I couldn’t even believe this house. It was in Laurel Canyon, and it was just unbelievably epic to be there and to be a part of it. So, yeah, that was the choice they made, and it’s hard, but nowadays there’s a lot more license. You don’t have to hang on to people to have them endure and survive in your show.
BE: Was that a development, though, that left you going, “Aw, that’s a shame”? Or if not, were there any developments that made you react that way?
PA: No, I just take it as it comes. I always expect it to be me! (Laughs) So I’m just grateful that it wasn’t!
BE: Okay, I have to ask you a little bit about “King of the Hill,” because I’m extremely depressed that it’s going off the air.
PA: Oh, I know!
BE: I was actually there for the table read that you guys did during the TCA tour, when you guys read the script for the 250th episode before an audience.
PA: (Excitedly) Oh, you were there?
BE: I was. And it was awesome.
PA: Oh, my God, for us, that was just the most incredible experience, being able to do that live. We’d been wanting to do that for years. For years. And a lot of the animators brought their kids, and…it just felt so good, to be able to share that with everybody.
BE: I even had a piece of the show’s birthday cake.
PA: Oh, awesome. *I* didn’t!
BE: So have you guys more or less been waiting for the other shoe to drop for some time now? Because the show has felt like the red-headed stepchild of the Fox animated line-up just by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t “The Simpsons” or created by Seth MacFarlane.
PA: Oh, yeah. And it’s always been that way. For years, Fox moved us around. We weren’t even prime time. They would say, “Prime time starts at 8 PM,” and we’d be on at 7:30. And they pushed us around so much that we were canceled four times before this. But we kept growing back up from the pavement, like a flower. It’s just a testament to the show itself and its writing that it’s survived this long.
BE: Do you have any particular Bobby-centric episodes or plotlines that stick with you?
PA: Oh, sure. I love the one where they choose him as the new Dalai Lama. And the one when he falls in love with the mannequin head. And the Husky Bobby episode. And where Bobby goes nuts. There are so many. I love the one where Hank and Peggy are trying to quit smoking.
BE: I will tell you that our personal favorite episode here at Bullz-Eye is probably when Bobby is put on Ritalin. Specifically, when he says, “There's some milk in the fridge that's about to go bad...”
PA: (Bursts into laughter) Oh, that’s funny! Oh, God, that’s so funny. I’d forgotten that! That’s hilarious!
BE: “…and there it goes.” (Laughs) Anytime the words “King of the Hill” are mentioned to our music editor, David Medsker, that’s the first line that comes out of his mouth.
PA: Hilarious. I love that!
BE: I should also mention that I keep waiting in vain for more seasons of the show to come out on DVD, because they stopped dead in their tracks after Season 6, and even then, the last few seasons were totally devoid of special features. I guess Fox wasn’t putting up the dough to pay for them?
PA: Oh, no. I mean, one of our producers…the fact that any DVDs are out at all are amazing, because he’s the one who’s responsible, doing it all on his own.
BE: Wow. So all things considered, if Fox did come to you and say, “We’d like to do a full-length ‘King of the Hill’ film,” would you be in?
PA: Oh, are you kidding? In a heartbeat. All of us would.
BE: So let’s get back to “Lucky Louie.” It seemed like the show didn’t really get a chance to breathe, which is surprising, given that most cable shows are at least given a second season to find an audience.
PA: Absolutely. I mean, it’s generally just, like, either “right place, right time” or “right place, wrong time,” but in terms of “Lucky Louie,” the whole thing about it was that we were at least given a chance, but then the network kind of imploded after that, and now four people do the job that Chris Albrecht used to do. It was just one of those things where…I mean, I kind of called it. I knew that we would do something and it would kind of resonate for a long time after, but it was too good, almost. Too raw and too great to survive. Like a, uh, butterfly. (Laughs)
BE: You’ve done a lot of other voice acting besides “King of the Hill.” For one thing, you were on “The Oblongs,” which I always thought was pretty underrated in its own right.
PA: Absolutely. Great show.
BE: Do you have any other cartoon work that you’ve done that you’re particularly proud of but that we might not have seen?
PA: Oh, yeah. Well, for one thing, I’m in these new “Tinkerbell” movies. I don’t know if you know about the one that came out last year on Disney…
BE: I do, because I have a 4-year-old daughter.
PA: Okay! Well, yeah, I love that. And I have three daughters, too, so for me, being a part of that is awesome. I’m Vidia. I’m the one who’s, like, Tinkerbell’s nemesis. I love being able to do stuff that my kids can watch. I’ve also been doing a lot of “Phineas and Ferb,” and all that kind of stuff that my kids can see. So that’s fun.
BE: I’m also very pro-“Jakers!”
PA: Yeah! That’s a good one. (Adopts her character’s voice) “I’m Hector!” I think I’m a badger. (Laughs)
BE: Last one: what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
PA: It would have to be “Lucky Louie.” Hands down.
BE: Excellent. Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Have you got anything else in the works besides the third season of “Californication”?
PA: No, that’s about it! I’m just concentrating on my kids and on making other things happen.
BE: Anything you can tell us about the upcoming season that you won’t get shot for telling us?
PA: I can tell you that Marcy is trading one addiction for another. It’s not drugs anymore. It’s exercise!
BE: So has that forced you to get into shape, then?PA: Yeah, but, y’know, I run around so much with three daughters, anyway, that I stay in shape just from doing my mom stuff!