Acting is OK, but watching the show?
Here are the ups and downs of being a teenage actress on a television show with strong adult themes: Your training at a prestigious ballet school has to be dropped, bad. But you get to spend your summers on the beach in California, good.
You get to kiss the boy you’ve had a crush on because it gets written into the script, good. But this is your first kiss -- like, ever -- and so your first kiss will take place on camera, beneath a boom microphone and in front of the crew . . . along with your mom. Bad.
You’re on TV, cool. Your Mom still won’t let you watch the entire show. Uncool.
This is the yin-and-yang of Madeleine Martin, a 16-year-old from New York who plays the daughter to David Duchovny’s bad-boy novelist on Showtime’s racy “Californication,” which will complete its third season next month.
“I’m sure she’ll watch the show in a couple years as she gets older,” said Margaret Martin, Madeleine’s mother, “but I usually have the remote and I just fast-forward” past the raunchy stuff to Madeleine’s scenes, most of them opposite Duchovny and of the PG-rated variety.
OK, maybe PG-13.
In the show’s pilot, one of Madeleine’s first scenes involved the following exchange with her on-screen dad:
Can I ask you something?
Anything, my love.
Why is there a naked lady in your bedroom?
You wait right there, OK?
(There was a bit more, but nothing printable.)
Remembering the scene, Martin blushed. “They were laughing about it for days,” she said of her friends back in New York, who aren’t allowed to watch “Californication,” either, but the exchange had made it onto a commercial for the show.
Before “Californication,” Martin was a regular Broadway actress, appearing in six shows -- innocent shows, shows her friends and family could see.
Now she gets stopped on the street for being on a series that’s notorious for the adult misbehavior to which she isn’t privy; she gets to read only about half of the scripts, and at table reads before filming, she must listen to her iPod when the raunchy stuff is discussed or rehearsed.
Her character, Becca Moody, is a little less innocent herself, dabbling with weed, mushrooms and booze. In Sunday’s episode, she lets a friend borrow her bedroom for unsavory activities, which leads to an emotional confrontation with Duchovny’s Hank, who, of course, uses his home as a sort of bordello.
Off screen, Martin insists that she’s a good kid who never really gets into trouble. Her mom agrees.
“Her biggest indulgence, which she didn’t get to have a lot of when she was in ballet school, is chocolate tea” from a French boutique on Madison Avenue, her mother said, also noting that Madeleine did not return to Broadway this fall so she could prepare for the SAT test.
On set between scenes, Duchovny and show runner Tom Kapinos agreed that Martin does come off as fairly reserved and shy, which would seem to be odd characteristics for an actress cast to play the daughter of such an eccentric character. But, Kapinos said, “then we saw her [audition] tape from New York. She was just so unique. She seemed like this little, I don’t know, she was like Emily the Strange meets Christina Ricci or a young Janeane Garofalo.”
Her look -- the pale skin, the straight bangs, the dark eye makeup -- was a little more Goth and a little less magazine-cover perfect than most of today’s (and yesterday’s) television teens. This intrigued Kapinos, who was once a show runner for “Dawson’s Creek.”
“When I worked on ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ ” he said, “I always wanted to cast unusual kids but you were never allowed to. Just casting Busy Philipps was a trial because she didn’t look like Katie Holmes or Michelle Williams. So yeah, the idea that I could put a kid like that in my own show, that was a thrill.”
Standing nearby, Duchovny noted, “I tease her because she never makes a mistake. Never shows nerves, always prepared and she cries at table reads, which is ridiculous. If it’s called for, she’ll sing, she’ll cry, she’ll do anything. She’s ready at the table read to shoot, which makes you want to shoot her.”
Kapinos grinned. “And it makes me love her.”