Californication vs. Kalifornia – Hank Moody and Brian Kessler

David Duchovny as Hank Moody on Californication (left) and a slightly more '90s version of a similar character, Brian Kessler in Kalifornia (right). (The Californication screenshot is from Episode 2.01,

David Duchovny as Hank Moody on Californication (left) and a slightly more ’90s version of a similar character, Brian Kessler in Kalifornia (right).
(The Californication screenshot is from Episode 2.01, “Slip of the Tongue”.)

Californication returned to Showtime last week, beginning its seventh and final season. Around the same time, David Duchovny finally joined Twitter, immediately racking up thousands of followers.

Vitals

David Duchovny as Hank Moody, womanizing and borderline alcoholic novelist
Venice Beach, Spring 2008

Series: Californication
Episodes:
– “Slip of the Tongue” (Episode 2.01, Director: David Duchovny, Air Date: September 28, 2008)
– “The Raw and the Cooked” (Episode 2.04, Director: David Von Ancken, Air Date: October 19, 2008)
– “Vaginatown” (Episode 2.05, Director: Ken Whittingham, Air Date: October 26, 2008)
– “Going Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (Episode 2.08, Director: Danny Ducovny, Air Date: November 16, 2008)
– “In Utero” (Episode 2.10, Director: David Von Ancken, Air Date: November 30, 2008)
– “La Petite Mort” (Episode 2.12, Director: Bart Freundlich, Air Date: December 14, 2008)
Costume Designer: Peggy A. Schnitzer

and

David Duchovny as Brian Kessler, aspiring crime writer and grad student
Pittsburgh to California, Summer 1993

Film: Kalifornia
Release Date: September 3, 1993
Director: Dominic Sena
Costume Designer: Kelle Kutsugeras

Background

Ask someone about what to watch if you want to see David Duchovny playing a carefree writer who journeys out to California in search of paradise and finds the result to be the total opposite. Chances are, you’ll be told to either:

a) watch Californication, or
b) check IMDB, you lazy bastard

Despite the role of Hank Moody on Californication cementing Duchovny’s post-X-Files stardom, many forget about a similar role he had played the same year that The X-Files debuted. In 1993’s Kalifornia, Duchovny played Brian Kessler, an ultra-liberal psychology grad student hell-bent on writing the ultimate serial killer book. Without the drinking and womanizing that would be Moody staples, Brian could be considered an early version of Hank with his devotion to an artistic girlfriend and the attire – mostly black shirts, jeans, and a leather jacket. Additional parallels are in the timing; Hank supposedly went out to California in the mid-1990s, just around the same time as Brian’s road trip.

Of course, the content of both are wildly different. Californication is a dramedy about Hank’s struggle with his addictions and his writing, while Kalifornia is a brilliantly warped thriller about Brian and his girlfriend unwittingly taking a cross-country road trip with a redneck serial killer Early Grayce (Brad Pitt, before he was someone) and his childlike girlfriend Adele (Juliette Lewis).

As a Californication fan, it was fun to revisit Kalifornia and see some of the subtle Hank-isms present. For this post, I’ll break down a standard Hank Moody look – black T-shirt and jeans – from season 2 of Californication and compare it to Brian Kessler in Kalifornia.

What’d He Wear?

Hank Moody

Throughout season 2 of Californication, Hank adds a few new pieces to his wardrobe, but on the whole it stays the same. In episodes 1, 4, 5, 8, and 10, Hank wears his standard black cotton short-sleeve t-shirt and dark blue zip-fly jeans.

Hank understandably takes it easy after his vasectomy.

Hank understandably takes it easy after his vasectomy.

In season 1, he had often paired his brown smoking jacket with this look, but he keeps it pretty minimal in season 2, only whipping out the smoking jacket with button-down shirts.

His accessories remain the same with the silver ring on his right index finger and the black leather studded bracelet and accompanying thinner black braided leather bracelet on his left wrist. Both are available from Urban Wrist in both black and brown leather.

Hank's ring and studded cuff bracelet.

Hank’s ring and studded cuff bracelet.

Hank also wears his same sunglasses as usual, a pair of brown-tinted Izod 725 shades that fold easily into a jacket or jeans pocket.

hank2blk-shades

Hank’s shoes are the returning pair of brown sueded leather Timberland “Mt. Washington” Chelsea boots, but he also wears a pair of black Puma Whirlwinds with white piping while interviewing Janie Jones by her pool in “Going Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (Episode 2.08).

Hank's footwear is best seen in these screenshots, each featuring very different-looking co-stars.

Hank’s footwear is best seen in these screenshots, each featuring very different-looking co-stars.

His socks and underwear are also black, just as they were when the show started.

You just had to be there to get it.

You just had to be there to get it.

We’ve already seen how Californication portrayed Hank in 1994, preferring a grungier look than we’re used to seeing on our hero.

Brian Kessler

In 1993’s Kalifornia, Duchovny’s Brian Kessler dresses more like the contemporary Hank, with the exception of baggier clothes and black jeans as the fashions of the mid-1990s would dictate.

The staple of Brian’s wardrobe is a well-worn black leather motorcycle jacket with epaulettes, a zip front, flapped hip pockets, and ribbed waistband and cuffs.

Brian, like Hank, wears his leather jacket with either a button-down shirt and/or a t-shirt.

Brian, like Hank, wears his leather jacket with either a button-down shirt and/or a t-shirt.

Brian’s jeans are traditional Levi’s denim jeans in a light blue wash, although he also concedes to the ’90s trends with a pair of black jeans. Unlike Hank, Brian prefers a belt, wearing a black leather belt with a square silver clasp in the front.

Although denim is generally timeless, this overall look is very indicative of ’90s style (without the dangerous foray into Saved by the Bell territory.)

His shoes are a pair of plain gray sneakers with white laces and soles.

Brian has a rolling collection of plain crew neck t-shirts in various shades of gray, blue, and – of course – black. He wears all of his t-shirts tucked into his jeans.

Brian occasionally layers over his gray t-shirt with a solid black long-sleeve button-down shirt with two flapped chest pockets. In the pilot episode of Californication, Hank wore a similar shirt, except with a black t-shirt underneath it.

kbrian-bdlayers

For the finale, Brian sports a proto-Moody look with a baggy black v-neck t-shirt with short sleeves down to his elbows, paired with the blue jeans.

kbrian-blackT

The shirt’s fit and style are remarkably different than anything we ever see Hank Moody wearing on Californication, but it is interesting to compare the difference in what sounds like a simple look – a black T-shirt and jeans – over the course of just 15 years.

Brian has a pair of dark tinted sunglasses with metal rims. Much like Hank, he wears them both when it’s sunny out and when he is too hungover to deal with life.

This is what depression looks like.

This is what depression looks like.

Brian doesn’t have the standard Moody-issue brown smoking jacket, but he does wear a boxy black sport coat at a party when he is first seen, with padded shoulders, long notch lapels that roll down to the 2-button front, and 3-button cuffs. He looks more like Chandler Bing than Hank Moody.

One of the major differences of the two characters: Brian is fine mixing up some margaritas, but Hank would just go for some straight Scotch.

One of the major differences of the two characters: Brian is fine mixing up some margaritas, but Hank would just go for some straight Scotch.

Perhaps the most Moody-like of all – and definitely the accessory that urged me to make this comparison – is a black leather cuff bracelet with dulled metal snaps. Worn on his right wrist, the bracelet is very similar to the flashier studded bracelet that Duchovny would wear throughout Californication as Hank.

Brian's cuff bracelet, a dulled-down version of the usual Moody cuff.

Brian’s cuff bracelet, a dulled-down version of the usual Moody cuff.

Brian wears the bracelet on his right wrist since a plain white-faced analog watch is on the left.

Brian consoles Carrie after her weird proto-porn photos weren't accepted into an exhibit.

Brian consoles Carrie after her weird proto-porn photos weren’t accepted into an exhibit. Her choice of Absolut marks her as more of a yuppie than the artiste she aspires to be.

Go Big or Go Home

Comparing the similarities between Hank Moody and Brian Kessler reveals just how much of Duchovny is in each character. Both are charming, practical, and quick-witted with a tendency toward strong, passionate romances. As Brian is younger, he is more optimistic, but his plight in the Mojave Desert against a serial-killing redneck Brad Pitt reveals a potential for the cynicism that Moody is known for.

Both writers also drive classic black convertibles; Hank has his Porsche and Brian drives a beautiful 1963 Lincoln Continental four-door convertible with a big 430 cubic inch V8 engine and three-speed Turbo Drive automatic transmission.

kbrian-car

Interestingly, although both men skew liberal on the political spectrum, they show a guilty interest in their reckless new acquaintances’ firearms. Rock producer Lew Ashby allows Hank to fire a round from his Ithaca 37 shotgun to end a catfight at his party, and Early lets Brian pop off a few .45 rounds from his Colt Mk IV Series 70 pistol.

Hank's blind warning shot takes out a vintage chandelier, but Brian just manages to pop a few holes into an old barn... for now.

Hank’s blind warning shot takes out a vintage chandelier, but Brian just manages to pop a few holes into an old barn… for now.

Early even goes so far as to offer Brian his gun while Hank just helps himself to the soon-departed Lew’s t-shirts.

On the contrast side, Brian abstains from exhibiting Hank’s major vices. He displays little penchant for drug use, he actually tries to curb his girlfriend’s smoking habits, and the only time he really drinks to excess is when Early takes him out for Lucky Lagers. Hank, in his infinite wisdom and liver abuse, would probably drink Early under the table… although Early would probably kill him for it.

Technology-wise, Brian uses a Realistic brand tape recorder throughout his adventure with Carrie, Early, and Adele. Hank has updated since; this being 2008, Hank’s Motorola RAZR cell phone and Apple MacBook laptop with a 13″ screen follow the trends of the day. He isn’t as cutting-edge as possible, but he doesn’t want to be either. As Surfer Girl told him, he’s an analog guy in a digital world.

Hank learns to embrace both modern technology and the women who use it.

Hank learns to embrace both modern technology and the women who use it.

Naturally, though, Hank only uses technology if it comes in black.

But while the cutting-edge technology changes, both writers prefer to commit to their hobby using old-fashioned methods like a pen and pencil in the field and a typewriter in the home office.

Although Hank's

Although Hank’s “field work” is infinitely more inviting than Brian’s morbid tours of murder sites.

How to Get the Look

The Hank Moody/Brian Kessler look sounds similar, but the details of each era and each character set them apart.

  • hank2blk-fullBlack short-sleeve cotton T-shirts
    • Hank Moody wore slim-fitting crew neck t-shirts, but Brian Kessler preferred baggier v-neck shirts
  • Blue denim jeans
    • Hank preferred dark wash jeans, but Brian wore the standard light blue Levi’s jeans
  • Dark sneakers
    • Hank wore black Puma Whirlwind sneakers (when he wasn’t wearing his brown Timberland suede Chelsea boots), but Brian wore a lighter pair of gray sneakers
  • Black socks
  • Black boxer briefs
  • Izod 725 sunglasses with brown lenses
  • Silver ring with two ridged bands, worn on the right index finger
  • Black leather bracelet with silver hexagonal and round studs, worn on the left wrist (or the right wrist, if you’re channeling Brian)
  • Thin black braided leather bracelet, also worn on the left wrist

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the second season of Californication and the film Kalifornia for two different takes of Duchovny as a troubled black-shirted writer reluctantly headed to California.

For reference’s sake, Hank sports a black t-shirt and jeans in the following second season episodes: 2.01, 2.04, 2.08, 2.10, and 2.12. It’s his staple “uniform” throughout the show, but this particular post has a second season focus because why not.

The Quote

Brian’s thoughts about California reflect what Hank was probably thinking before he and Karen made their move:

What the hell did I know about California? For some people it was still a place of hopes and dreams, a chance to start over. The idea was if you could get there everything would be okay, and if it wasn’t okay there, well, it probably wasn’t going to be okay anywhere.

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

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