West Duchovny never dreamed of becoming an actor. In fact, she spent most of her first mature life rebelling against her. To the great satisfaction of her Hollywood parents Téa Leoni and David Duchovny, she focused instead on science with plans to study medicine after graduating from high school. But then that pesky spring semester game got into last year’s picture. She entered the production for the sake of helping a friend, and then caught the infamous acting mistake. “As soon as I did the play, I was like, ‘Oh no,'” Duchovny says from his mother’s Connecticut home. Nothing had felt more effortless for the 18-year-old at the time. Knowing that she would never stop thinking about it or wondering “what if”, she made the pivot. The rest, as they say, is history.
Well, she had to get her parents’ blessing first. Her mother, who was aware of the trials and tribulations of a woman in the fickle entertainment business, had her agitations and was naturally protective at first, but she became Duchovny’s main supporter. Her father, on the other hand, was just glad that she was really good. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how to record this, but I think thank you,'” Duchovny says with a hoarse laugh.
He’s right! Duchovny is very good-even if she herself doesn’t quite believe it yet. The 24-year-old Los Angeles native has been working regularly for the past six years, but has a habit of telling people that she is “still trying” to act, her impostor syndrome raising her ugly head. I suspect that all this will change shortly. In a Spring-Summer double header, Duchovny entered the small screen in April in Hulu’s eight-part psychological thriller Saint X, a series based on Alexis Schaitkin’s Novel of the same name, and this month she is starring alongside Matthew Broderick and Uzo Aduba in the Netflix limited drama analgesic.
Focusing on the origins of the opioid crisis in America, Painkiller follows its perpetrators (Purdue Pharma), its victims and the search for the truth by an investigator. Duchovny delivers a breakout performance with Shannon Shaeffer, a new college graduate and new recruit to The Purdue sales team.
I should mention that this is not the first time this story has been told on the screen – and it probably won’t be the last. Last year, Hulu released the Emmy-nominated miniseries Dopesick, which highlights the same origin story. The opioid crisis remains a widespread problem for Americans, and Painkiller demonstrates this effectively by telling real stories of families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction at the beginning of each episode. It is a reminder of the ongoing struggle and the seriousness of the situation. “I am delighted that this story is being told as it is,” Duchovny says. “Let’s keep talking about it. Let’s keep doing it. Putting this on Netflix is claspe because so many people open their Netflix at the end of the day, and if this, along with everything else, can be part of educating people, then go ahead. Let them come.”
Knowing how this very real story unfolds, it’s easy to judge a character like Shannon from the start. Duchovny knows this, but the actress also found it easy to empathize with her. Shannon is a young woman who has just left college and has dashed her gymnastics dreams due to an injury. She is trying to escape from an unstable family environment when she is offered this seemingly great opportunity to earn money and help people.
“She was told that she would relieve people’s pain and that the better she was at her job, the more people would no longer suffer,” Duchovny says. “It becomes more complicated when the red flags appear.”