TV.com Q&A: Madeline Zima of Californication

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As Mia in Showtime's Californication, actress Madeline Zima really gets to play-act. Zima comes off as courteous and intelligent and the kind of girl you can bring home to mom. But once the cameras start rolling, she gets down and dirty for the role of Mia, a calculating, manipulative, and saucy woman who steals Hank's (David Duchovny) novel for herself.

Oh, and she punched Hank in the face while having sex with him. Did we mention she just turned 17?

Californication is four episodes into its second season, and Madeline talked with TV.com about what's in store. [Note: This interview took place just prior to last week's episode.]

TV.com: Hey, Madeline.

Madeline Zima: Hey, Tim. What's going on?

TV.com: I'm just halfway through the next episode and you just broke the news that Hank is probably the dad.

Madeline Zima: Oh, really? How did you get that episode? That hasn't aired yet.

TV.com: We're sneaky. I'm in the business. I know people who know people.

Madeline Zima: Oh, sneaky, sneaky Tim, very sneaky.

TV.com: Well, let's go ahead and talk about your character. She's awesome. She's a bit of a sneaky bitch. Is it fun to play her?

Madeline Zima: Sometimes. It's a little more challenging than you might think because I'm actually not a sneaky bitch. Actually, I got recognized the other night. And it's funny because you wouldn't expect it, but mostly women come up to me and are like, "I love your character on the show." And I'm like, "Whoa, really?" All these women love Californication apparently. But she's like, "What's it like playing such a slut? Are you having so much fun?" I have to say, "Oh, yeah, so much fun," because otherwise I think I would disappoint her, because I think she wants me to be having all that fun playing a slut. But really, it's kind of challenging to justify a lot of things that Mia does, but I have met a lot of people like her in my life. So, I model it on a few different people, and I'm just trying to justify the things that she does, make them make sense to me in a way that I can, just not judge her for them.

TV.com: Do those people you model her after know that you're modeling her after them?

Madeline Zima: One of them does. One of my sisters is very precocious and not necessarily manipulative, but very calculated in almost everything she does. So, I won't say which one, but for the people that know us, I guess it'll be obvious.

TV.com: What can you tell us about the rest of season two and what fans can expect?

Madeline Zima: Well, that bombshell in episode four is kind of awesome. It's one of the best episodes I think we've ever done. You can expect more to come out of that, as far as the disruption of Karen and Hank's relationship. I mean, I think most people are like, "OK, how long is this going to last?" And you'll see how much longer it lasts after that. But, it's this slow devolution of Hank, I think, trying very hard to be the guy that he's supposed to be, or that everyone wants him to be. And then his slow devolution back into the lower parts of Hank, who sort of does what he wants.

TV.com: Yeah. What about your character? What specifically is going on with you?

Madeline Zima: My character is having a dual journey going on, where on the surface she's enjoying the notoriety and celebrity and kudos that she's getting for the book, but I think she's tricked herself into believing that that's really real and just going along with it so that she can feel like she's not such a fraud. But on another level she's seeing, as it's going on, how thinly veiled that illusion is. How it's not all roses and sunshine if you get famous. It's not everything you want comes to you if you have this certain amount of power. It's that, as you go on down that road, another part of you starts to shift and you're seeing like, "Oh, I don't have very much that's really keeping me here. I don't have very much that's making me feel very good right now about this." So, she's going along that road but another part of her is yearning for more, either conflict or more connection, you know. So, she's looking for something. She's still searching.

TV.com: Let's see, where shall we go from here. I've got to ask about the infamous punching scene.

Madeline Zima: As you must!

TV.com: How did your friends and family react to seeing that for the first time?

Madeline Zima: Well, my dad didn't watch. It was obviously a little bit disturbing to my sisters and my mom as well, but it made my mom laugh. So, that's a high compliment. It's hard for me to watch sometimes. But, my friends all thought it was an awesome moment. So. Most people love it, so I can't really escape it.

TV.com: You're 23 and Mia is 17. What's the key to playing five years, five, six years younger than you actually are? Is it easy?

Madeline Zima: Well, I was sort of wild when I was 16, so I remember those years very clearly and how destructive I was. So, destructive thinking I was having such a great time. And I was having a great time, but I can't do that stuff anymore. The secret to that is just having real fun, wild, teenage years to remember. And just fond memories, I guess.

TV.com: Why do you think the viewers root for Hank, even though he's just such a douche bag?

Madeline Zima: He's fun to watch. David's really natural onscreen and he's having a good time, so we're having a good time watching him. And people love to see people devolve and be downtrodden, and when he gets whacked in the balls in the first episode by the cop, everyone's laughing and loving it. So, people love to watch. He's like a Holden Caulfield-type of character getting beat up all the time. The more this character gets whacked around the more you love them. It makes us feel all better about ourselves I guess.

TV.com: How tall are you? You seem to tower over most of the cast.

Madeline Zima: I know! Well, I'm tall to begin with and most of the cast members are on the shorter side to begin with. And then they put me in gigantic heels. I had a picture taken the other night, where I'm not that much taller than all the other people in the picture, but I look like a linebacker. It's terrible! I'm only 5'8". I mean, I'm not like crazy, crazy tall.

TV.com: Isn't David something like 6-foot-five?

Madeline Zima: David's 6-something, I don't know. But he's not short, so luckily I can be in heels and still stand next to him without feeling like too much of an unfeminine creature. But, when I'm in scenes with Evan Handler and Rachel Miner, I do feel like kind of a giant.

TV.com: Does it cause any problems? Do they have to put them on milk crates or anything?

Madeline Zima: No, they don't put them on anything and it makes me look like you said, like I tower over the cast. But also Natasha is very tall. I think she's even taller than I am. Some of the cast is very tall and some is more on the short side, but it's pretty funny.

TV.com: What future projects do you have coming up? Where else can people see you?

Madeline Zima: Well, I'm just about to start filming a movie called My Own Love Song with Renee Zellweger and Forrest Whitaker. It's the writer-director of La Vie En Rose. So I'm really excited. It's a beautiful story. It's the kind of story that I like to see unfold. It's more of a "reaffirming your faith in humanity" type of story. I like that kind of thing.

TV.com: Thanks for talking to us, Madeline.

Madeline Zima: Thanks!

Californication airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on Showtime.

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