The Stunning Transformation Of West Duchovny

If you've been watching Hulu or Netflix lately, perhaps you've come across a television series starring West Duchovny. The young actor has been making quite a splash in Hollywood thanks to her breakout roles in projects either highly anticipated or rife with legendary Tinseltown talent. "I'm really lucky in getting trusted to represent all the complexities that exist within these women, and I think I want to keep getting roles that explore that and expose the realness of what it means to coming of age and hardship and confusion," Duchovny told Schön! of two of her major roles, both of which featured her as a young woman in some sort of precarious position. "And I'm younger so I'm going to get younger roles, and I think that that's when you're in that 'who am I?' stage. I think that's really, really interesting!"

Duchovny isn't the only person who finds self-discovery interesting, and she's not the only one curious to know who she is. The daughter of two seasoned television actors, Duchovny has spent her life avoiding acting, but, as you'll learn, it was a calling she couldn't ignore. Because of that calling, fans have gotten the opportunity to learn more about her as an artist, and in turn, they want to know more about her as a person. From her childhood avoiding the spotlight to her burgeoning acting career, this is the transformation of West Duchovny.

She is the daughter of two famous parents

Before we ever knew Madelaine West Duchovny, or West Duchovny as we know her now, we knew her parents — David Duchovny and Téa Leoni. David, an Emmy-nominated actor known for his roles in hit series like "The X-Files" and "Californication," and Leoni, an actor with notable credits of her own like "The Naked Truth" and "Madam Secretary," were married for 17 years, and during their relationship, they welcomed two children, West in 1999 and Kyd Miller Duchovny in 2002. The two maintained a solid co-parenting relationship, and even years later, there's no love lost between David and Leoni. "Listen, David gave me the two greatest gifts on the planet; I don't know how I could ever hate him. We've always loved each other, and we adore these kids," Leoni told Parade in 2014.

Despite having two high-profile actors for parents, not everything in West's life as a young girl was as glittering as it might seem. While she spent the earliest years of her life in California, West moved to New York with her family at 10 years old, something she's grateful for now, but wasn't happy about at the time. Of course, no famous family is immune to negative headlines. In 2008, West's father went to rehab for a sex addiction amid strain in his marriage. He was also publicly accused of having an affair, an allegation he vehemently denied.

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West Duchovny had a relatively normal upbringing

Aside from the fact that her parents are two of the most recognizable television figures from the '90s and '00s, West Duchovny's childhood was, by most accounts, regular. Although her parents were talked about in the press, she and her brother stayed out of the spotlight — the most informational pieces of news being printed about her were tales of her family having an outing at the park. And West will confirm that her parents' careers were of no matter to her. When asked about their jobs by WWD, West said, "I didn't really care about it. It was my parents' thing. People were asking me about it a lot, and that made me be like, 'why are you asking me this? That's not my life.'"

And his child having little concern for his career doesn't matter to David Duchovny, either. In an interview with The Guardian, the former "X-Files" star said, "You know, I get asked, 'Are your kids proud of you?', and I'm like, 'I don't understand that question. I don't care. I'm proud of them. It's reversed. I'm watching them. I couldn't give a s**t if they watch me." David and his ex-wife Téa Leoni didn't try to expose their children to the wild world of acting as children, either, as some stars do. West's first paid acting role wasn't until 2018, well after she was out of childhood.

She spent quality time with her parents as a kid

Even though she wasn't acting with her parents or chasing the spotlight like some children of famous actors, West Duchovny's upbringing wasn't totally normal. She still was able to attend events that most adults don't even have access to, let alone kids. For example, West attended the 2013 Snowflake Ball for UNICEF along with her mother, Téa Leoni, who serves as an ambassador for the organization. The actor also spent quite a bit of time at sporting events with her father, David Duchovny, who played basketball in college. From the Knicks to the Yankees, David is a New York sports fan, and he shared his fandom with his daughter by taking her to games. And West appreciated it. As she said to her father in a since-deleted Instagram post, "Thank you for the constant inspiration, support, and love — for sharing with me your passion for baseball, literature, music and now acting."

But West might've been too focused on other issues to care as intensely about sports as her father. The actor has been concerned with environmental issues since a young age, as evidenced by a letter she wrote at age 11 to the producers of the short-lived game show "Downfall." "Your show is obviously good at making people laugh, but I think that your show can be funny and less wasteful at the same time," her letter said.

She had an unusual introduction to acting

As previously mentioned, West Duchovny's attraction to action wasn't present while she was a child. In fact, her parents tried to deter her from pursuing the craft as a career. "My mom used to say to me, 'Do whatever you want, just don't be an actor,'" West said to W Magazine. And up until college, the "Painkiller" star had every intention of following that advice. And not just for fear of disappointing her parents — she had other dreams. Duchovny was set to attend college and study a pre-med major, but after acting in a play on a whim, her dreams changed. "I had never felt that way about anything. I never loved anything I had tried so effortlessly. I felt like I had been pushing myself to love school and love academics. But [acting] felt like the first thing that I wanted to commit to really getting to know and doing," West told WWD.

Eventually David Duchovny and Téa Leoni got on board, and today they're two of West's biggest fans. "Now I'll call her if I want advice — they're both super supportive now. I think it just took them a little bit to take me seriously. Because it felt so random. But [I told them], 'No, guys, this is what I need to do,'" the actor noted.

She used her connections to land a paying gig

Being a nepo baby in Hollywood definitely has its advantages, chief among them the connections that can garner an audition. Some nepo babies seemingly bypass the audition process, though, at least for their first gig, and get cast automatically, especially if it's in a project their parent is involved in (think the Apatow girls in many a production of their father's or Tina Fey's daughter in "30 Rock"). While we can't say for sure, we have a strong suspicion that West Duchovny's first paid gig as an actor had something to do with her father, David Duchovny. David starred in nearly 200 episodes of "The X-Files," the same show that happens to be West's first credit on her IMDb page. West appeared in Season 11, Episode 10 of the show, and she played the character Maddy.

As of 2023, "The X-Files" is the only time the Duchovny father and daughter have appeared on screen together. That reality, though, is something David seems to have been surprised by. As West told Schön! of her decision to act, "My parents were shocked. They were like, 'Oh my God. That came out of left field — what's happening?' ... My dad has now admitted that before he was so nervous for me, and then he saw the play and he was like, "oh, thank God, she's good." So I think that's kind of where he was at."

She had to work for her next roles

While being a nepo baby can get an actor in the door, it doesn't necessarily mean the actor gets to stay there. As evidenced by West Duchovny's start, nepo babies aren't immune to the slow beginnings of an acting career. After appearing in "The X-Files," Duchovny was cast in smaller roles in projects like "The Report" and "The Magicians." In February 2020, it was announced that Duchovny had been cast in an HBO project called "Vegas High," seemingly reaching a career high many actors only dream of. Unfortunately, the pilot was canceled before making it to air.

The small projects Duchovny acted in weren't totally in vain. In addition to allowing her to add credits to her resume and sharpen her skill, Duchovny was able to act alongside some incredible Hollywood stars, and she undoubtedly picked up a few tips from simply being in their presence. In "The Report," Duchovny was cast among the likes of Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm, all of whom have either been nominated for or won a major acting award. And while she didn't act alongside uber-famous actors in "The Magicians," Duchovny did have a three-episode arc on the Syfy original series.

Another advantage Duchovny has had her entire career is being able to seek guidance from her parents. "To have two people who have been in it for so long to consult with them and to share my fears, it's a blessing," she explained to ABC's "On the Red Carpet."

Eventually, she started gaining traction

Work begets work, and after snagging roles in some movies and television series, West Duchovny was cast in two more films with major stars. In 2021, "A Mouthful of Air" starring Amanda Seyfried and featuring Paul Giamatti premiered, a film that included Duchovny in the cast. And in 2022, we were able to see Duchovny on screen again in "Linoleum," a Colin West sci-fi dramedy starring Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn and featuring "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" alum Tony Shalhoub. But filming "Linoleum" wasn't exactly smooth sailing for Duchovny and the entire cast. Filming took place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which undoubtedly brought about several challenges. "The whole process was funny because it was kind of during COVID, and we were in a bubble in Kingston, New York, and the whole thing was funny because of the environment," Duchovny said in an interview with FabTV.

Despite its challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions might have been a great learning experience for Duchovny in the end, especially given she worked next to seasoned professionals the entire time. The actor gushed over the dedication each person working on set had to the project. "Everyone's so passionate that they just want to show up and work, and as long as everyone feels that way, then it gets done," she said.

She landed a major role in Saint X

While she hasn't yet had a long enough career to have a defining role, West Duchovny does now have a couple of projects that she's been associated with, both of which were streaming originals that came out in 2023. The first of those roles was "Saint X," a Hulu television series based on the novel of the same name. In this series, Duchovny played a young woman named Alison Thomas who mysteriously dies while on vacation (we promise that's not a spoiler — you find that out in the trailer). Duchovny was attracted to the role for a couple of reasons, one of which was the opportunity to play a girl who isn't perfect. And as she told Schön!, she also thought "['Saint X'] shows all the complexities of the themes of like, race and like colonialism and white privilege and the economic disparity, and I thought it did that in such a smart way."

While Duchovny was quite optimistic about "Saint X," the critics weren't quite on board. The series didn't score well on Rotten Tomatoes, and there was little hype about it online. Still, Duchovny relished the opportunity and appreciated her character. As she told WWD on the roles she chooses, "I think I like just having a character who really accurately represents the complexities of what it means to be a young woman in various scenarios in the world."

West Duchovny had a starring role in Painkiller

The second major role for West Duchovny in 2023 came by way of Netflix. The actor starred alongside Matthew Broderick, Uzo Aduba, and Taylor Kitsch in "Painkiller," a six-episode dramatization of Richard Sackler's crusade to make OxyContin the most prescribed and dispensed opioid in the United States. Duchovny played Shannon Schaeffer, a pharmaceutical representative grappling with her drive for success and the realities of the opioid crisis. Duchovny found the role rewarding in multiple ways. As she told W Magazine, "The scenes that felt so significant were the ones where she was like, 'Oh my god, I'm helping people, I'm doing good.' And then suddenly she gets confronted with the possibility that maybe she's not doing good, maybe she's not helping people, but actually hurting people."

The reviews for "Painkiller" weren't great, but they were better than those for "Saint X," and the show as a whole garnered lots more attention (perhaps because of the stellar cast). Duchovny also got positive feedback from critics for her performance. A critic from Roger Ebert, for instance, said Shannon was played by "a promising West Duchovny, who seems like she could have handled more challenging material." Overall the role was positive for Duchovny. As she said, "It's cool when art can incite action or make you feel like you want to do something differently. I want people to be angry."

She has a promising career ahead of her

While much of West Duchovny's 2023 was spent waiting for the writers' and actors' strikes to end to find more work, she also had an exciting year with two major projects being released. Fortunately for West, she made a good impression on those she worked with on one of her projects. "She blew us away in her audition and is a bright light in our show," Eric Newman, producer of "Painkiller," said of West, as reported by the Daily Mail. And Newman isn't the only person who believes in her. "My daughter West is acting. She majored in English in college, just like I did. I'm always scared of anybody I love getting into acting. Especially a child of mine. But I think she has a toughness to her that can help her survive," David Duchovny said of his daughter to Closer.

If her career thus far is any indication, West should have no problem booking more jobs in the future. Perhaps we can expect more dark, intense roles from West, and likely some that explore what it's like to be a woman in modern times. As she said to WWD of her roles thus far, "The commonality is just this cacophony of fear and motivation and desire and self-consciousness. All the things. It's fun for me to explore." We'll be watching to see what West Duchovny explores next.