“Telling my kids we were getting a divorce was the worst moment of my life.”

David Duchovny was born in New York in 1960 and graduated from Princeton with a BA in English Literature before receiving an MFA in the same subject from Yale University. After a small role in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, he landed the lead role of Fox Mulder in the 1993 hit UFO series The X-Files, starring Gillian Anderson. From 2007 to 2014—a period that coincided with treatment for sex addiction—he played troubled womanizer Hank Moody in Californication. He has also written five novels and released three music albums. He has two children: actress West, 24, and son Kid, 21, with ex-wife Téa Leoni.

Best childhood memory?

I think it’s probably just playing football or baseball with my dad in the park, in New York City, on 21st Street and Second Avenue, where I grew up. It conjures up memories of being with my dad and enjoying the simple connection that can be had through play. I did the same thing with my son, who was good at baseball for a while.

Best day of your life?

There is no specific day, but in my mind I see the beach and my children. I don’t know if I’m thinking about a specific day; It’s just one of those summer days. This could be a vacation or a trip to the States; it’s really just a feeling of lack of structure, summer time and no school for the kids; being in the water and feeling the waves and I have to protect them a little bit and teach them about the water.

Best moment on TV?

About two or three years after I started working on The X-Files, I was on The Larry Sanders Show with my friend Garry Shandling, although he wasn’t my friend at the time. He didn’t know me, but I liked his show. The producers told me, “Oh, Gary loves you.” Then I got there and it was clear that he had no idea who I was, and that was okay. We did this scene—maybe half written, half improvised—and Gary said, “How old are you?” I said, “32,” and he asked, “What took you so long?” and that was a blessing to me because to me he was the king of a certain kind of comedy performance.

Best Hollywood party ever?

I didn’t really go to many events, especially during the peak of The X-Files’ popularity. The series was filmed in Vancouver for five years, and in many ways it was a blessing to be out of that world, but I had some interesting, if nerve-wracking, moments at awards ceremonies. I remember going to the Golden Globes and sitting at the same table with my very good friend, director Bart Freundlich and his wife Julianne Moore. My ex-wife Thea was sitting there and Thea went to the bathroom and she came back and said, “Did I miss anything?” I said, “Yes, they announced my award. I won and you missed everything. Which was completely untrue. I only kept it in the dark for a couple of seconds as it quickly became apparent that I didn’t have the statue.

Best moment of self-realization?

In many ways we are still children no matter how old we are, and a lot of my reactions were based on childish things; not necessarily something I’m ever going to change, but something to be aware of and keep an eye on. It’s a fine line between realizing that most of your personality was created a long time ago, before you really understood or knew about these things. And this is the same for everyone – but this is not a reason to continue to react like a child. So, for me, life is a balancing act between respecting this child and not allowing him to drive the bus.

Best personal characteristic?

Perseverance. There were many times when I wanted to give up everything, but I didn’t. I do not give up. I think at some point I gave up trying to become a professional athlete. I loved baseball and basketball, and before college I still had secret dreams of becoming a professional.

The best decision?

This is going to sound negative towards education, but I have to leave graduate school and try to figure out what else I want to do besides academia. I don’t want to disparage scientists, but for me it was a difficult and good decision, albeit a scary one. I was a dissertation short of a PhD. I studied for four years as an undergraduate and almost four years as a graduate student. Eight years to a certain life; a good third of my life I point at a specific goal and then say, “You know what, I’m going to do this where none of this matters.” At that moment it seemed to me that I was throwing it all away. But in the end, I think I honored those school years, and they also fed me.

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